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.


  1. “She’s said Narnia is her inspiration, which sounds worrisome.”

    “Worrisome”? Right…Rowling is going to hit us all squarely between the eyes with an barely-disguised presentation of the Gospel in the closing chapter of Deathly Hallows…because, you know, she’s been doing it all along, right?

    How about just going back to worrying about important things like the Batgirl Showcase cover?

  2. I think there are definite Christian/spiritual undertones in the books and movies as you have certainly mentioned. As a Christian myself, I find the books uplifting…there is little to no “occult” there at all to those who know much of the occult.

    As for your fear of the endings or an overt message, I doubt that is what Rowling meant by saying she was inspired by Lewis. Lewis’ Narnia is simply aimed primarily at children in a way that Tolkein is not. Lewis is certainly overt in his allegories to Christianity, but I don’t think that is likely what she is thinking.

    As you said, I don’t think you’ll be clubbed over the head with it, though there may of course be some significant sacrifice involved.

  3. how dare all of you for questioning Queen JK: she will do what she always does: write brilliant sentences that become incredible chapters that become no less than big life experiences. Can’t wait. Really wish that there could be no spoilers so I could take my time though. If there is a ‘big’ death or something, it will be CNN that spoils it, don’t you think? I don’t think there will be though. I did hear Meredith Viera say “so who’s she going to off?” and I felt dirty down to my innerest molecule. I turned off the TV but I could still see her smile.

    I liked the last movie too — Umbridge was SPOT-ON even though the Weasley’s final hoo-hah didn’t have the Catherine Wheel that spelled out “Poo.” And no Mungo’s. But SO much better than the unremarkable and unforgivable? Goblet (how do you NOT include the World Cup?).

    But the House of Black wallpaper family tree with Kreacher? SHIVERS


  4. Hi Heidi,
    Yeah, duck and cover man. I just read an email on Tech Crunch saying that Deathly Hallows copies just hit the Torrent sites. There’s no stopping it now… Runaway train… Turn off all media for the next 3 days…

  5. what I meant was I don’t think she will be as heavy-handed a la Lewis because her story was so intricately plotted from day one — if the message is in there it is stretched out like a thread. People will write books about it. But I don’t agree that Milton is a failure — I think that was his point, that you can’t reconcile these two situations, but Auden is Auden so I will bow quietly and leave the lecture hall. When’s the Paradise Lost movie with Shia LeBoef as Adam? Where the hecks is that Prince Caspian movie?

    and here is my waking nightmare: that at the midnight sale some nerds roll up in trucker hats and “Sith Lord” black tees. They get the book, open to the last page and start reading! Or read it and shout it out!!!! Have I lost it completely or do others have this fear as well? We need a BioDome sans Pauly Shore to read in peace. With chocolate frogs for all.

    ok, no more comments


  6. The marvelous thing (which is, in fact, not marvelous except by my black sense of humor) about the types who are up in arms about whether or not the HP books condone paganism or witchcraft or Satanism et al (which are all conflated to mean the same thing in their minds) is that the very BALLS on these people that they think they have a right to know definitively so they KNOW whether or not to expose their children and really anyone’s children, that supposed chutzpah is the biggest tell of just how insecure in their supposed convictions they are. Is the antithesis of Satgancraft such weak tea that these whimsical little romps pose such a threat to them? Wouldn’t anything so feeble be almost deserving of that sort of competition, such as it is, for demanding that much of a headstart?

    I should admit here that I am a complete Harry Potter Luddite. I have read none of the books, and the only reason I’ve halfway seen the first movie and only that one is because I saw it with the alternative soundtrack created by SuperDeluxe.com’s Brad Neely (which is pants-pissingly hysterical; hunt it down online: “Wizard People, Dear Reader”). I belong to the camp that sees more than a passing resemblance between Harry and Tim Hunter, and that’s troubling. Someday, once all the hype and craze has passed, I think I’ll sit down with the entire series and enjoy them on their own merits.

    I just wonder, though: if an openly agnostic or atheist or something other than your baseline Judeo-Christian sect (and I’m not so sure about the Judeo- part) put out a children’s book of diverting yarns that could, in certain lights, seem to endorse their particular worldview, would the “good” people of established faiths be as forgiving and accepting, as their particular faiths prescribe, as the dogma-deprived seem to be of these great series for the literary satisfaction they bring nevertheless? This is not merely a hypothetical for me, as I have conceived of stories, some intended for younger readers, which have varying shades of some less than popular ideas, some of which are at direct odds with certain sacred cows. Must I couch these ideas in the gelcap of the idiom with which they are most transfixed? Maybe I have to make a pagan action hero out of Jerry Falwell; that’d be positively Frankensteinian.

  7. I’ve never really found the Chronicles of Narnia to be heavy-handed in their message, even after reading the whole series for the third time as an adult. It’s obvious where he gets his inspiration, but Lewis treats Christian story the same way many authors have treated Greek and Roman and Egyptian mythology to influence their stories; novels and series derived from older, religious stories, turned and twisted into something either different or more modern. Perhaps, though, we take more offense at Christian mythological influences in stories than we would with Greek and Roman because it’s something we find more personal and still an important part of modern society instead of something faded into the distant past? And because nobody’s ever had a man in a toga waving the Illiad in their face, screaming for them to convert. ;)

    The universal truths are the ones that matter.

    Word. :D