As a Jewish person, Hogwarts Legacy and the Potterverse as a whole have been a sore talking point. Though I did not grow up as a fan of the series of books and films, I am intimately aware of how popular it is, and many of the facts surrounding the Potterverse. One of these that feels inescapable is the blatant anti-Semitism that exists within the franchise.
Goblins are openly depicted using classic anti-Semitic tropes of being short, greedy, and corrupt entities responsible for the world’s ills. They are also bankers, and control much of the wealth of the Wizarding World, in the Potterverse, and in Hogwarts Legacy.
The design of Rowling’s goblins were designed after Middle Age era stereotypes, and this game was an excellent time to change course. This is one problem Jewish people have noticed within Hogwarts Legacy.
I am in no way telling you, the player, to boycott the game. I’m also not suggesting that you avoid playing it or scream at players who are enjoying it. It is worth highlighting these things as something Hogwarts Legacy could have avoided, and chose not to.
Disclaimer: This article reflects the opinion of the writer.
How Hogwarts Legacy let down its Jewish fans, but could have course-corrected
The depiction of goblins has been negative and used anti-Semitic typing since the beginning of the Potterverse. Alongside Middle Age stereotypes, they were also designed similarly to how the book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion portrayed them. The caricatures of Jews in that book are how goblins look in Hogwarts Legacy.
Rowling’s works aren’t unique in this either - it’s incredibly common across fantasy writing and video games. World of Warcraft has done something similar with its own greedy depiction of goblins.
Recently, it was brought to light that a “Goblin Artefact” existed in the game, and it was done in perhaps the most tasteless way that Hogwarts Legacy could have. There’s a horn that exists in the “Hogs Head Inn” within the game. It’s designed similarly to the Jewish shofar, which is typically made of Ram’s horn and used for religious ceremonies.
Now, I could have perhaps overlooked one coincidence. The horn, for example, exists as a Goblin artifact, which could have been fine. But it was also placed in an inn, named after an animal that isn’t kosher in the Jewish faith.
It’s used to “annoy witches & wizards,” instead of being a sacred object of the people in question. This “war horn” was also stuffed with a wedge of cheese to silence it. Specifically, it was Gorgonzola.
Stuffing the object with cheese could have also been fine in Hogwarts Legacy.
Unfortunately, the deliberate choice to name a cheese, and also one that isn’t kosher, felt like another deliberate, pointed attempt at mocking Jewish culture. Even these on their own could have possibly been overlooked and taken on in good faith.
Although, it is hard to come by when you consider how the goblins have been portrayed across the history of the Potterverse. Finally, there’s also the date used in the horn.
“Horns like this were used by goblins during the 1612 Goblin Rebellion to rally troops and generally annoy witches and wizards.”
1612 was the year the Fettmilch Uprising began in Frankfurt. Vincenz Fettmilch led a mob to the Judengasse (Jews’ lane) to plunder their homes and steal from them. The Jewish people of Frankfurt were also exiled from the city until Emperor Matthias intervened himself.
This date wasn’t created by the developers; it is already a known rebellion in the Potterverse. Here, the goblins of the Wizarding World rose to fight against the discrimination they were receiving. This was a moment in time that the developers of Hogwarts Legacy could have simply removed from the game.
Avalanche Studios could have opted not to feature the Goblin Artifact in the first place, with all the baggage it comes with. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only instance of anti-Semitism in Hogwarts Legacy either. The entire story revolves around a goblin uprising.
In the Potterverse, goblins, despite being capable of magic, are denied access to wands. This occurred after the 1612 Goblin Rebellion, as a way to punish them. Why? Because "no non-human creature is permitted to carry or use a wand." It reads as another way to oppress these races in general, and goblins in particular.
They are downtrodden and treated as second-class citizens, being oppressed by witches and wizards. When the anti-Semitic design of the goblins is combined with a group of entities that simply want to exist safely, it doesn’t read as quite an enjoyable experience.
In Hogwarts Legacy, a Jewish-coded race rises up and is being put down by the powerful wizards and witches of the same setting. The developers of the game could have easily chosen a different antagonistic force. There are plenty of dark wizards in the Potterverse that could have been the primary antagonists.
They could have instead portrayed the goblins in a different light and not focused on the negative stereotypes that already exist. It’s clear that this race in the Potterverse has emotions and feelings. They aren’t really that different to humans. Yet they are treated poorly and oppressed at every turn.
Hogwarts Legacy was an excellent time to change course and use fewer of these negative stereotypes, but that did not happen. Some people can separate the art from the artist. However, that doesn’t change how the goblin race is depicted in the Wizarding World.