Friday, July 13, 2007

The Christian message in the Harry Potter books

Today, I came across this post by Lev Grossman. Writing for Time, he says:

Rowling's work is so familiar that we've forgotten how radical it really is. Look at her literary forebears. In The Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien fused his ardent Catholicism with a deep nostalgic love for the unspoiled English landscape. C.S. Lewis was a devout Anglican whose Chronicles of Narnia form an extended argument for Christian faith (or at any rate for faith in Aslan. Close enough.) Now look at Rowling's books. What's missing? If you want to know who dies in Harry Potter, the answer is easy: God.


I think his thesis is exactly wrong for the reasons explained by Dave Kopel in a 2003 book review. Kopel starts:

J. K. Rowling is an Inkling. That's the well-argued thesis of John Granger's fine book The Hidden Key to Harry Potter: Understanding the Meaning, Genius, and Popularity of Joanne Rowling's Harry Potter Novels. Granger demonstrates the absurdity of the claim that Harry Potter is anti-Christian. And even if you've never worried about charges brought by misguided fundamentalists, The Hidden Key will substantially augment your understanding of what's really at stake in Harry's adventures.

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. Yet these mythopoeic books aim to "baptize the imagination" of the reader — to teach her the importance of fighting for the right, no matter how powerful the forces of evil may appear.


Read on.


*Buy Harry Potter posters at eBay.

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