My son and I have been reading the Harry Potter books (we’re on the 5th one now), and we also recently spent 12 hours together in the car, driving to my parents’ house. My son was asking me to give a meta-analysis (not his term obviously) of the series, since he wanted to know why I periodically remarked that the books were surprisingly well-written. I said something like the following, which has obvious ramifications for my Christian perspective on life:
“You can tell J.K. Rowling really loves certain characters in the books: The characters who are good, but also who break the official rules so long as it doesn’t really hurt anybody. (If you think about it, that’s what’s special about Harry and his friends, including Hagrid and even Dumbledore.) The books are entertaining because bad things happen to the heroes, and Voldemort really is bad, but you know that the whole series is moving inevitably to Harry ultimately defeating him. How do we know this? Well, the more you read, the more you understand the values that J.K. Rowling has, and what lessons she’s trying to teach. Yes, even the heroes make mistakes–that’s what makes the books more interesting, since nobody’s perfect–but you know that everything is going to work out in the end, because you start to know J.K. Rowling and she’s the one who invented the whole Harry Potter world.”
UPDATE: I can’t remember exactly how the discussion went, but I just remembered that I had told my son that Hermione was my favorite character, because she actually worked for her accomplishments. In contrats, Ron was kind of a pain and Harry was just coasting through life in a series of lucky breaks. What Harry brought to the table in terms of his merits was his goodness, bravery, and determination, but he was the star (and would ultimately be the one to defeat Voldemort) mostly because of the intervention of others, whether his mother, Dumbledore, Dobby the elf, Sirius Black, etc.
Sensing that my son was thinking I was criticizing Harry Potter (both the character and the series), I clarified that J.K. Rowling knew what she was doing, and that this was part of the charm of it: Harry didn’t want to be famous, he just wanted to be a “regular” kid (in quotation marks because he wanted to be a wizard, just not a wizard famous since infancy for something he had nothing to do with).
Then I explained that this was similar to Frodo being the only one able to carry the Ring of Power, precisely because he didn’t want to be given such a task. I pointed out that an obvious Christian wrote Lord of the Rings, and it accorded with the Christian idea that we are saved because of the work of Jesus, not our own efforts; we’re just “born lucky” into the family of God. Clark asked if J.K. Rowling was Christian, and I said I would guess that she was, but I didn’t know for sure. Just now, in writing this blog post, I googled the issue, and it seems that J.K. Rowling was definitely inspired by Christianity, though I don’t know if she calls herself Christian. (I’m not reading that particular article because it looks to have spoilers about the 7th book.)
Speaking of which: NO SPOILERS in the comments; we’re only on book 5.