I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time last week. The reading choice was borne more out of a sense of curiosity than anything else–what has the last ten years’ worth of hype been about, anyway?
How could one ruffled little wizard bring in so many millions in book sales and Hollywood revenue?
More importantly to me: How could one ruffled little wizard get an entire culture–that of conservative Christians–up in arms?
Yesterday evening, when I turned the last page of The Sorcerer’s Stone, I still didn’t get it.
For a book many conservatives still seem determined to stay miles from, it seems pretty tame. Magical brooms, green sparks, owls that carry messages, and an archetypal good vs. evil plot wrapped up in mystery and magic.
A few observations:
- If children growing up in a Christian home are so corrupted/influenced by a fantasy novel that it causes them to question the doctrines of the Bible, I’d think there’s an underlying problem far more fundamental problem than the book itself. Perhaps if, instead of presenting children with a this-book-is-satanic-and-you-may-not-read-it-list, parents actually read fantasy books with their children and talked with them about it, they’d find countless (biblical!) teaching opportunities.
- Everyone who has told me that the Harry Potter books are wrong has also admitted that they have never even read one of them. The English major within me screams–collapses–in protest at this blatantly counter-intuitive phenomenon. How can you make such weighty claims against a book if you’ve never read it? Go. Read it. Then defend your position with sources from the text.
- Vocabulary can incite wars. Especially literary ones. I have a feeling that if, instead of hobbits, The Lord of the Rings had witches and wizards, it would have been just as incendiary. The reverse is true: What if Harry Potter had been a hobbit? Would he still be banned from thousands of conservative homes?
- I’m even more confused now, this time as to why I’m taking the time to argue for J.K. Rowling. I’m not passionately in favor of the Potter books, though I’m planning to finish reading the series. I am, however, inexplicably passionate about people who ban books based on assumptions, catching fire at a little spark based on assumptions about mere words like “wizard” and “magic.”
Maybe I’m too naive to see satanic references in the books, but… I’m not finding it there, and I’m pretty sure a few billion (or more…or fewer) university English classes have taught me at least some critical reading skills.
I see a fantastically magical story about the good guys battling the dark side, only this time the players have wands and spells. As a matter of fact, I see more opportunities to put a biblical spin on the story than otherwise (Danielle Tumminio, who teaches a course on Harry Potter and Christian Theology at Yale, has an interesting take).
I’ll end with a quote, because I like the quote. If there’s evil indoctrination going on here, it’s hidden so deep I can’t find it.
Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no not a visible sign … to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed, and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, pg. 299