I’m going to be frank. I am deathly afraid of going online and having the last Harry Potter book spoiled for me. I am hearing that there are spoilers all over the place out there, and some foul Slytherin is bound to post something somewhere. So, since I’m super stressed out with deadlines anyway, I’m going to be curtailing my online wanderings a bit. If there is something I need to see, shoot me an email — but I will only be opening links from trusted operatives . That’s how serious I am about this. Dead serious. In fact, I already inadvertently read the first line of the new book, and I am so seriously bummed about that that I have learned my lesson. NO MORE WANDERING.
Now a few more notes. I was surfing some trusted sites, and was interested to see that Harry Potter has such a big following among Christians, and even right wing Christians. This is esp. refreshing given all the charges of Satanic witchcraft that some wackadoos have levelled at the books. Interestingly, Rowling herself has said she won’t discuss her religious beliefs because they would reveal too much about the outcome of the series.
“Yes, I am,” she says. [Christian.] “Which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.”
Rowling is a church-goer and the pervasiveness of Christian holidays — Christmas, Easter, etc — show that the characters live in a predominantly Christian world. But God is never ever mentioned. Lev Grossman feels that this proves an atheist reading of the works.
But I don’t think it’s so simple.
Tolkien and Lewis were devout believers. While I enjoyed Narnia as a kid, after growing up (and converting into some kind of Zen Buddhist agnostic) I found the didactic allegory off putting. I reread the seven books for the first time in 25 yeas when the first movie came out, and they were good…but I didn’t enjoy them as much as I did as a sprout. (Mind you, I didn’t really enjoy Philip Pullman’s staunch ANTI-Catholicism in THE AMBER SPYGLASS, either. Axe grinding polemics are usually inferior to subtle symbolism as far a storytelling goes.)(Oh and VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER is still awesome.)
Lewis put his God and Christ right into Narnia. And significantly, he was a “Born again Anglican.” Having seen the light, he was compelled to shine it onto everyone.
Tolkien was, if anything, just as devout, but he left all matters of religion out of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. As far as I can tell, Tolkien never lost or found his faith — he had it all along — and so was more secure in it. Tolkien’s faith was implicit in his epic: the powers of faith, loyalty and salvation were SHOWN by the story, not the story itself. Although Tolkien disliked the wild paganism of Celtic legend, he was also wise enough to see the power of comparative religion and myth. Even in his letters, where Tolkien spells out his — very conervative– faith, his views in practice were far more humanist than many religions would allow. (Tolkien disapproved of Lewis polemic bent in the Narnia books.) No less a commentator than W.H. Auden “suggested that Tolkien had “succeeded where Milton failed’’ when it came to the question of reconciling free will with the notion of a God whose power is absolute.” Tolkien’s notion of justice meted out by a higher power with no need for earthly avengers fits as neatly into a Karmic interpretation as a Christian one.
And what of Rowling? She’s said Narnia is her inspiration, which sounds worrisome. Will Harry be slaughtered by Voldemort on a stone table only to arise in the dawn? Thus far Rowling has taken a more Tolkienian tack — religion is not mentioned in the Potterverse because for her true faith seems to lie beyond the boundaries of an imaginary world. She also understands that what many take as Christian symbols — blood, chalices, trees, etc etc — are actually universal symbols, many of them adopted from pagan faiths by the early Christian missionaries. The universal truths are the ones that matter. Everything is open to interpretation. So far. I have no doubt that sacrifice and transfiguration will have much to do with Harry Potter’s ultimate fate. My own faith is that I won’t be clubbed over the head with it.
And now, a prediction.
Harry’s eyes? His mother’s. And since Snape loved Lily, he won’t be able to do the deed in the end and sacrifices himself. That’s too easy a plot twist, I know, but if there is one thing I would bet on, it’s that love is the answer, as always.