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Heroic Harry

David and I read the last Harry Potter book on Saturday. I’m a HUGE Harry Potter fan. I’ve always loved fantasy and sci fi, and the HP books are up there for me with Lord of the Rings, the Oz books, and more recently the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman.

There’s been lots of yammering lately about the quality of Rowling’s prose, but I’m going to sit that one out. I really enjoy the books, and I love the cleverness and imagination in them. But I read something really silly today in the Wall Street Journal.

The reviewer points out that the final book solidifies Rowling’s intentions to create a Christian allegory, much in the spirit of Tolkien and Lewis. Okay. Rewind. Tolkien – not a Christian allegory. Big, epic hero story, with roots in a whole bunch of different traditions. The dude created an entire genesis and mythology and multiple languages. He created actual languages. His work transcends one particular religion. Lewis, on the other hand, big Christian allegory. And, might I add, fairly one dimensional. I find his stories to be simplistic (and sometimes quite bigoted – see the later books in the Narnia series) morality plays. For a far more sophisticated Christian allegory, check out the Ender stories by Orson Scott Card. Again, it’s the hero story, but from a Christian perspective.

So let’s take a quick look at the themes underlying HP (avoid this if you haven’t read the last book yet and don’t want spoilers). Harry is raised in physical and spiritual poverty, discovers secrets of his birth, goes on a long, difficult journey where he faces many tasks, is guided by a wise man who subsequently dies, faces loss, doubt and disillusionment, sacrifices himself, visits the underworld/afterlife, returns, and defeats the current embodiment of evil. This is not a uniquely Christian allegory. This is the hero’s story, which has been told since the dawn of man, and exists in every culture in some form, and in every era. Parsifal, Jesus, the Buddha, Luke Skywalker, Dorothy… this is the monomyth. News flash – the redemptive power of love and forgiveness is a universal concept that is not tethered to one religion, race, or culture. Sheesh.

/end rant

I really enjoyed the last book, and the series as a whole. I’m looking forward to seeing what Rowling dreams up next. In the mean time, let me know if you’ve read any good books lately!