Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

So, I just took a brief break from the other books I'm reading to read JK Rowling's latest in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Like the others, I loved this book as well. I'm fascinated by the details that Rowling has come up with, the world she has created. I admire people who can write so creatively.

What I don't understand, really, is the condemnation of the books by some Christian groups. I really just don't get it. Some of my other favorite books, as I've mentioned before are the Chronicles of Narnia from CS Lewis. I realize he's a theologian writing clearly with Christian themes, but he certainly still talks about witches and wizards and magic in a way that doesn't say they are evil. What makes Harry Potter so bad?

Indeed, as the series progresses, Harry has to struggle with deeper ethical questions. I won't pretend they are blantantly theological questions of course - but they are ethical life questions. Harry's adventures are really about the choices he makes. And Rowling is emphasizing that love is the ultimate power, indeed, that sacrificial love is more amazing than any tangible power another can hold. In the end, Harry's magic powers are just a side note to the decisions and choices he has to make. I think it is sending all the right messages to young (and older!) readers, in a make-believe world that is fun and exciting.

What do you think?

14 comments:

Turbulent Cleric said...

My children love these books. My son (12) has almost finished the new book.

I think that the message is a positive one of good triumping over evil. The books also touch on many concerns of young people in a positive way.

Those within the churches who denigrate these books lead me to despair. They diminish the credibility of the church and for what!

DogBlogger said...

I agree, Beth. A good friend of mine has a grandmother who so fears everything outside her approved worldview that five years ago, she made a point of telling my friend, who was pregnant with her first child, not to let her kid anywhere near Harry Potter (who is Satanic in said worldview). Last summer I bought "The Gospel According to Harry Potter," not so much because I needed to have the biblical parallels pointed out, but rather so I could more succinctly let folks like Grandma know that a little fantasy is good, especially when it teaches the value of ethics and the power of love over all.
In the week since "Half-Blood Prince" came out, my husband has been asked for his thoughts on Harry Potter by some of his co-workers, who are aware that he teaches Sunday School and works with the youth of our church. When they learn that he has read and approves of the books, their next question is, "Well, don't some religious folk disagree?" His answer: "Well, I'm glad that we've overcome poverty, homelessness, hunger, social inequality, and all that big stuff so that the worst thing they have to worry about is a children's book."

John said...

I think that a lot of very conservative Christians simply don't read. The Harry Potter series was the first massively successful fantasy series in decades. Apparently before it came along, the far Right Christians were unaware of the existence of the genre. There are certainly more hard-core books in the fantasy genre than Rowling's playful treatment of magic.

Conservative Christians should really shut up about Potter. It just makes them look really ignorant.

Andy B. said...

I say they are brilliant! I wish I wasn't such a muggle.
I think preachers could study the stories for the choice of words, phrases, and other fantastic story-telling techniques on display.
On the way to Hogwarts,
Andy B.

Songbird said...

My whole family has enjoyed them, grown-ups, teenagers, elementary child; what could be better than a book we all want to read at the same time?

Darrell said...

They are well written, but I don't believe Rowling is emphasizing love. Beth, you are reading love into the books. Harry is indeed on the side of good and is fighting evil, but revenge is more the emphasis. I haven't finished this one, so is Malfory ever forgiven? No, the themes are not love and forgiveness, but violence and retribution--so far.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for your comments!
Darrell, I don't want to comment til you've finished reading, but I'd love to hear what you think after you are done. I will agree that Harry is very driven by his need to avenge his parents' death - but I think the adults he respects most (Dumbledore) try to show him a different perspective. I don't think I can be reading love in - Dumbledore repeatedly tells Harry without beating about the bush that Love is the thing that he has to give that Voldemort does not...

RevChris said...

Beth, I am an ELCA pastor and I have truly enjoyed the Potter movies. I am sure that they couldn't do justice to the books, and I am looking forward to reading my fiancee's Harry Potter collection when she moves in.

I also wanted to thank you for your web page and your Blog. I truly enjoy reading them and occasionally throw some of your thoughts into our local pastors' text study.

Blessings to you,
Pastor Chris

darrell said...

Beth, you will need to show me where Dumbledore says that it is love that Harry has to offer. I'm not disputing; I have read the books quickly and for pleasure. I may well have over looked it, but I do not recall that theme. However, I do know there is at least one book out that covers the Christian themes in the series.

Darrell

Songbird said...

Darrell, you might want to take a closer look at the chapter "Horcruxes," particularly pages 509 to the end of the chapter.

Elizabeth said...

thanks songbird - darrell, I would also check out chapter 17 of book one again - that's where Dumbledore speaks to Harry about deep love leaving a mark on us.

Elizabeth said...

chris, thank, too, for your complimentary words about my site ;)!
the movies actually aren't bad, as movies go, but you are right, the books are of course better!

Lorna said...

my kids and I love them. My son got the first HP as a gift before they were famous.

But our church (UMC Finland) is deeply divided over them, so the kids have felt torn. My daughter's bringing the new one back with her tomorrow from Ireland - we start reading it together out loud. Like we did for the earlier ones, and the Narnia books too.

Rowling might not be a theologian, but she's an excellent writer - and for many kids and families, she has restored the joy of reading. Many may pick up their Bibles again because of this, God always works for God I say!

Anonymous said...

Not only do these books exemplify the struggle between right and wrong, good and evil, and Harry's struggle with the tradgedy in his life, this series has created an international reading phenomenon! As a future teacher, I think it is pretentious to condemn a series of books without reading them first because they are set in a magical world. This magical world is one that almost anyone can relate to, and being so, has created the international fan club never seen before in any literary series. Hats off to JK Rowling for not only producing this wonderful series, but for also weaving into her story telling fundamental morals and good values.