I really enjoyed this in-depth analysis of the Harry Potter books, specifically tying together classic Christian themes and symbols. The author has become an expert on Harry Potter and gives lectures at B&N University. He also has a degree in Classical Languages and Literature, so you know he really knows what he’s talking about!
At the time this was written, only the first 5 HP books had been published, so the author also speculates, sometimes with funny results, about what he thought might happen in the final two books. I wish that there were a newer edition of this with thoughts on the final books.
The book begins with a personal story about the author reading HP to his children, and tells how many people in Christian communities have bad-mouthed the books in the past. He addresses concerns some Christians might have about HP enticing children into actual witchcraft, and very thoroughly disproves that notion! He uses Scripture, classic story-telling tools, and quotes from HP to show how the HP books actually give a very clear picture of a Christian world, a loving God, and the everyman’s search for purity through Christ.
The writing is humorous, complex but clear, with a concise forcefulness that explains in depth and then brings the point home. It’s easy to read, and really touches the mind and heart!
The typical classic Hero’s Journey formula of most great stories is applied to the HP books, and discussed in great detail, showing what a genius storyteller Rowling is, and how Harry’s journey in every book mirrors our own spiritual journeys toward Christ.
The author talks about why the HP books are so popular, saying that the reason is that everyone is drawn to stories with eternal significance, because we all have a longing for God in our hearts. HP is all about the nature of Love and death, and the cosmic conflict between good and evil. This appeals to us because it points us to God, whether you believe in God or not.
There are several chapters that reference and explain the stages of alchemy as it applies to classical literature. “Alchemy” means transformation and change, and the images of alchemy are used in every HP book to symbolize Harry’s transformation, purification, and resurrection into a better person as he changes and learns.
One chapter talks about the difference between “incantational” magic (which is used in most books like Narnia, LotR, and in HP by Harry and his friends) and “invocational” magic, which is an actual real form of power used by real people who call themselves witches. “Incantational” magic literally means “to harmonize” with an element that already exists, and it is not forbidden in the Bible. It’s also not real, because last time I checked nobody except Jesus actually has power over the elements of the world.
“Invocational” magic literally means “to invoke” or call on a demon who one thinks one can control and have power over. This type is very strongly forbidden in the Bible, because it is a real and very dangerous thing.
The whole chapter goes very in-depth about the differences between white and black magic, and their uses in classical literature, fairy tales, and in children’s books like Narnia and LotR. And most importantly, this book explains why the use of white magic in books points us to a greater spiritual “magic” in the miracles of Christ, creating in us a longing for something greater than ourselves.
Symbols of Christ are present in every HP book: the red lion, unicorns, phoenix, stag, the griffin. All of these are classic symbols of Christ for various reasons, like the unicorn symbolizing the purity of Christ and the phoenix being a symbol of resurrection.
A lot of time is spent on the conflict between good and evil, and the most prevalent and obvious lesson in all of HP: Identity is determined by your choices. Make good choices, even when it is difficult, and you will be a good person. This is shown over and over in all the HP books, and this is a powerful message in an age when morality is on shaky ground and people are told to “Do what’s right for you.”
Another big theme through all the HP books is that Love conquers Death. This is almost exactly like saying “God conquers our sin.” To anyone who knows that God is Love and our Sin brings Death, the concepts are one and the same.
There are so many good ideas and amazing themes in this book that I can’t even write about them all. I’ve barely touched on some of the most profound portions of this book. Trust me, there is so much more in there!