The Truth about Harry Potter

No plot spoilers (well not many), in case you still haven’t read the seventh book. But I figure if you haven’t already, you never will.

First, some reviews that I think get it fairly right (which do contain spoilers, so beware):

Bob Smietana in Christianity Today: “The Gospel according to J.K. Rowling: The Magic World of Harry Potter begins yeilding to a ‘deeper magic'”.

Fr Z. at “Harry Potter and the Libation Bearers”

Ross Douthat: “The Deathly Hallows”

Personally, I found the final book in this series very confusing. I was compelled to spend half an evening re-reading the book to work out exactly what had happened.

I was disappointed, as other readers were, that the standard Hogwarts setting and structure had been abandoned.

Nevertheless, I must say that Rowling did make an heroic and generally successful job of tying up all the loose ends and including just about every character from the previous books and making references all the way along to events in the previous books, that made it all knit together eventually.

Three things I liked:

a) my favourite character is vindicated–in a way that I saw coming a mile off but it was nice to have this confirmed–especially in the very last bit in the epilogue. Mind you, saying this bloke is my favourite character probably says a lot about me. Or about the fact that ever since Alan Rickman played Slope in Barchester Chronicles I have been a fan. Galaxy Quest is another favourite.

b) Christmas if finally revealed as a Christian festival, with carol-singing in a church. In fact, Christianity gets more than an oblique look-in in the last novel. The two biblical quotations on the tombstones in Godric’s Hollow (“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” and “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death”) go totally unrecognised by Hermione and Harry (who thinks at first that it must be a Death-Eater logo), but Rowling obviously knows their significance.

c) And, as every good novel/film requires: Harry becomes a truly Christ-like character in the end with a “death and resurrection” sequence–although it is never quite clear why he doesn’t die. (Sorry, was that a plot spoiler?)

But in the end it is all just far too complicated and not anywhere near as profound as we had been led to believe.

Rowling has spun along a good story and made billions while she is at it. The Harry Potter books will always hold a place of affection in this household because they were the first full length novels that my daughter read (she began them before her seventh birthday). But her literary style leaves a lot to be desired (its more bearable than Enid Blyton, and C.S. Lewis, but not as polished as Tolkien or Susan Cooper) and as one of the reviewers says above “In the end, its only a children’s story”.

Great classics are made of more than this.


What? You think I am being unfair lumping C.S. Lewis in with Enid Blyton? I have been reading the Narnia Chronicles to my kids, and seriously, some of his stories read as if he never bothered to re-edit or review his manuscripts before submitting them to the printers. His stories could have been really great (for there is much more genius in the plots than in Rowling’s work) but the style and uneveness really lets it down in the end. His best is still, in my opinion, the second book in his science-fiction trilogy, Perelandra. The first novel in this series was okay, and the last was dreadful, which proves what I have been saying.

And you don’t know who Susan Cooper is? She wrote “The Dark is Rising” series back in the 1960’s. These are really great tales, and very well written. Though not really “Christian”. A film of the first book will be released later this year–although it looks like a bit of an “Hollywood update job” has been done on it, losing some of the merry old England feel of the original novels.

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