Harry Potter: The Good, the Bad and the Balanced (Part 1)

Harry J.K. Rowling is a member of the Church of Scotland. She vows that she does not believe in magic (CNN Interview). She claims to have been inspired by the Christian apologist C S Lewis. Yet her Harry Potter series is often viewed with suspicion and at sometimes strongly denounced. Those who support Rowling’s Harry Potter points out that C S Lewis was equally denounced for writing Chronicles of Narnia. Those who oppose her argues that comparison with Chronicles of Narnia is superficial. Sakshi begins it series- Harry Potter: Good, Bad and the Balanced.


Harry  the Good 

Symbolism of Harry Potter:

Excerpt from the National Review’s article “Deconstructing Rowling”. 

Dave Kopel, contributing editor for the National Review writes, J K. Rowling is an Inkling. That's the well-argued thesis of John Granger's fine book The Hidden Key to Harry Potter. (The Inklings were originally a group of Oxford dons who wrote Christian fiction. The most famous of them are J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series never mention Christianity overtly, and in Tolkien's books, religion itself is absent from the plot.) 

The most useful parts of The Hidden Key are the author's extensive discussion of symbolism. Harry lives in Gryffindor House, founded by Godric Gryffindor. "D'or" being French for "of gold," we could translate the name as "golden griffin." The griffin has a lion's body and an eagle's wings; a hybrid of the animals that are master of the sky and of the earth, the griffin was traditionally a symbol of Jesus, master of the spiritual and temporal worlds. 

The unicorn, too, is a traditional Jesus symbol; pure and powerful, it could only be tamed by a virgin, as Jesus could only be incarnated by a virgin. In Sorcerer's Stone, drinking its blood brings life, and its killing is an especially hideous crime. The phoenix (which saves Harry's life in Chamber of Secrets) rises to life from its own ashes, and is described by T. H. White as the "resurrection bird." This explains the title of the almost-released book five, The Order of the Phoenix — that is, the alliance of people who band together to fight for resurrection values. "Order" also evokes the fighting Christian religious orders of the Middle Ages, such as the Order of the Knights of Malta. 

Harry's father James was nicknamed "prongs," for his ability to turn himself into a stag. In Prisoner of Azkeban, when Harry conjures a magical patronus to drive away the soul-stealing Dementors (Latin for mind-removers), the patronus appears as a stag, shining "as bright as a unicorn." The stag is also a medieval symbol of Jesus.  John Granger recaps the plots of the first four books, explaining each of them as a form of trial in which Harry's purity of heart is tested.

In The Sorcerer's Stone, Harry is able to find the power of immortality (concealed in a magic mirror) only because he does not want to use it for selfish purposes. The villain in Chamber of Secrets is Gilderoy Lockheart — the gilded, or false, king ("roi" in French) with a "locked heart." Lockhart, best-selling author of a string of false books, is, Granger suggests, modeled on Philip Pullman, the militant atheist and best-selling real-life author of the Dark Materials children's series — books that were written as a deliberate refutation of Narnia.  In the climax of Chamber of Secrets, Harry descends to a deep underworld, is confronted by two satanic minions (Voldemort and a giant serpent), is saved from certain death by his faith in Dumbledore (the bearded God the Father/Ancient of Days), rescues the virgin (Virginia Weasley), and ascends in triumph. It's Pilgrim's Progress for a new audience. 

Prisoner of Azkeban revolves around two characters (Sirius Black the magician and Buckbeak the hippogriff) who are falsely accused and condemned. Jungian and Freudian themes abound, as Harry begins by fleeing from his fears (running away from the Dursleys), confronts his hidden memories of his dead parents, forgives the man who betrayed his father, and triumphs by mastering his fear. "Expecto Patronus," invokes Harry — or in Latin, "Expect the little father." As Harry achieves identity with his father James, the luminous stag appears and drives away the soul-killing Dementors, rescuing Harry's godfather Sirius. 

Granger reveals the meanings of the names of all the important characters. Draco (dragon/serpent in Latin) Malfoy (faith in evil, in French); Harry's parents James (the brother of Jesus) and Lily (the Easter flower), nasty journalist Rita Skeeter (read a bloodsucking pest), and more.  And "Harry Potter"? Well, the name does evoke Harry Hotspur, the prince Hal of Shakespeare's histories. But if you say it with a French or Cockney accent, it also reminds us of "heir." For "Potter," Granger tells us to look to the Bible's "potter verses" (e.g., Isaiah 64:8), in which God is described as the potter who shapes man out of clay. Granger's summary of Rowling's theme is that we are all heirs of God. 

Values of Harry Potter:

Excerpts from Rowling Pulls It Off by Meghan Cox Gurdon  in the Wall Street Journal.

 It has been widely observed that J.K. Rowling owes a creative debt to Christian fantasists J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (apart from their fondness for initials). It's odd now to remember that, at the same time, some parents have objected to the magic depicted in the Harry Potter books as a glorification of satanic practices.

For "Harry Potte

r and the Deathly Hallows" confirms something else apart from the well-thought-out-ness of Ms. Rowling's moral universe: It is subtly but unmistakably Christian. The principal Hogwarts holidays have always been Christmas and Easter, but it took five books before Ms. Rowling really began tipping her hand.

In Book Six, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," she addressed concepts of free will, the power of love, and the sanctity of the soul. But in the final volume she gently lays it all out. The preciousness of each human life; bodily resurrection after death; mercy, forgiveness and redemption; sacrificial love overcoming the powers of evil–strip away the elves, goblins, broomsticks and magic wands and these are the concepts that underpin the marvelously intricate world of Harry Potter. There are clues throughout. At one point, Harry is led to a weapon that will enable him to destroy the Horcruxes when he finds them: "The ice reflected his distorted shadow and the beam of wandlight, but deep below the thick, misty gray carapace, something else glinted. A great silver cross . . ." 

Two unattributed New Testament quotations recur in the story after Harry sees each on a tombstone in the village where he was born and his mother and father died. He discovers on the Dumbledore family tomb "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," from Matthew. And on the grave of his own parents, he finds this, from I Corinthians: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." On seeing it, Harry feels momentary horror: Does it imply a link between his parents and Voldemort's followers? Hermione gently sets him straight: "It doesn't mean defeating death in the way the Death Eaters mean it, Harry. It means . . . you know . . . living beyond death. Living after death." And it goes on. Near the end, Harry visits the hereafter, where he sees joy coming to those who in life were merciful and agony meted out to those who were cruel and remorseless. "Tell me one last thing," Harry says to Dumbledore, whom he has met in the white mistiness. "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?" Dumbledore beams at him. "Of course it's happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it's not real?" 

Many readers may not even notice these intimations of Christian spirituality. There's nothing finger-pointingly didactic here; the story is too well-made to insist on anything so obvious as a proselytizing message. (The same is famously true of Lewis and Tolkien.) We have in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" skillfully plotted drama, entertaining characters in a fantastically imagined world, and a moral contest that would not be out of place in Aeschylus or, for that matter, Philip Pullman. 

 

Next: Harry the Bad

 

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