07 Jul 2013

It Helps to Know the Author

Religious 11 Comments

UPDATED below.

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.

11 Responses to “It Helps to Know the Author”

  1. Alex Tabarrok says:

    Yeah, not like that twisted bastard George R. R. Martin.

    • Dan says:

      Could you imagine reading ASOIAF to a kid for a bedtime story?

  2. Joel Poindexter says:

    I never got into the Harry Potter series. I read the first one at the urging of a friend, but it just seemed like warmed over Star Wars. Evil wizard guy kills wizard prodigy’s parents. Wizard prodigy is taken in by his aunt and uncle before an older wizard sends him to be trained in the craft at a special camp, all leading up to (what I assumed) would be a climactic battle with evil wizard guy.

    • The Existential Christian says:

      I almost didn’t read the series after reading the first, but at the urging of my wife, read the second one. I was then hooked. The books kind of “grow up” as Harry does. I would definitely say it was fun to read.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Joel I thought the same thing. But then my son started reading them, and so I would read snippets at bedtime to him. And man, they get really good.

  3. Ken B says:

    If you have another long drive you might want to listen to one on disc. That’s how my son and I read a couple of them. They are superbly read. Local library.

  4. Blackadder says:


    Rowling is a practicing Anglican.

    • Ken B says:

      My better half’s daughter went through an unfortunate religious phase and was confirmed as an Anglican. One person described her as a Christian. “Not Christian, Anglican!” she retorted forcefully.

  5. dave smith says:

    These are my favorite books, bar none. So many times in long series like this, I am disappointed by the ending. Not so, here. And when you finish the books, take in the movies, which are excellently done.

  6. Caroline N. Hardin says:

    Later on in the war, Dumbledore was approached by another person who also wanted a job at Hogwarts: Sybill Trelawney , who applied to become the new professor of Divination , lessons that Dumbledore disliked and barely considered a part of necessary education for young wizards and witches . Dumbledore gave her a chance because she was the great-great granddaughter of the celebrated Seer Cassandra Trelawney . To his disappointment, when he was interviewing Sybill at the Hog’s Head , he came to the conclusion that she was not a real Seer. However, as Dumbledore was about to leave, Trelawney fell into a real trance and made a prophecy about the birth of the one that would have the power to vanquish the Dark Lord , who would be born to those “who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies”.

  7. Brandon U. Scott says:

    Here’s my list of some of the best Harry Potter quotes and sayings from the adolescent wizard himself, and other characters from J.K. Rowling’s books and the popular film series.

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