Keith Hawk (KH) John Granger (JG) Dr. Amy Sturgis (DAS) Amy Staniszewski (AS)
[Show music begins]
Eric: Hey! Josée! Wait up!
Josée: Oh hi, Eric! I'm sorry, I really can't talk right now. I'm running late.
Eric: Late? Late for what?
Josée: Oh, it's because I have to go meet Keith and John Granger. I'm actually going to listen to a Harry Potter literature lesson at MuggleNet Academia.
Eric: Oh cool, that sounds awesome. Can I come with?
Josée: Yes, of course you can. Just come with me.
Eric: Okay. Let's go!
[Show music continues]
KH: All right, welcome back to MuggleNet Academia. This is Lesson 9, and we are going to be joined by Dr. Amy Sturgis of the Mythgard Institute. John, it's been a couple of weeks since I've talked to you. How are you, sir?
JG: Woo-hoo! We're back from Chicago and our [unintelligible]. I'm doing well. I've been out in Western Pennsylvania at Mount Aloysius College, giving their convocation address of all things. But I'm back home now and excited about today's show.
KH: I heard you were back out there. How did that lecture go for you? Good?
JG: You know it's always great to be in Pennsylvania, Keith. I was in sensory overload. Everything was green...
JG: ...and mountainous and arboreal, there are trees everywhere - I thought, "Gosh." Dr. Sturgis is from Oklahoma as well and she knows what I'm talking about.
[DAS and JG laugh]
JG: When you go back east, you do the... we have a big sky out here and during drought it's all brown under big blue sky. But it was wonderful. And the people there, the hospitality there, was over the top, unreal and wonderful. They make you feel like you're somebody important. But here we are back at MuggleNet Academia where the real business is, and we have such a great show today.
JG: I can't wait to get to it. How are you, Keith? What's up on your end?
KH: I'm doing okay, actually. Had a rough week, to be honest. My best friend that I grew up with had a brain tumor.
JG: Oh my goodness.
KH: And it was removed surgically, they couldn't get it all, and they're giving him about a ten percent prognosis of survival. So it's been a rough week honestly, emotionally.
JG: Oh no. I'm sorry to hear that.
KH: But business wise, awesome. I mean, we had a great number of hits on the last show. The last show we had with Cheryl Klein discussing editing of the Harry Potter books. I mean, she is somebody who actually physically got these manuscripts from JK Rowling...
KH: ...and actually edited the books. If you haven't listened to the story, it is quite a good story. In fact, John - I don't know if you know this but we had a compliment of the maximum, I'm going to say. Arthur Levine himself, the person who purchased the book rights for Scholastic from JK Rowling, gave us a huge compliment and he said:
"Great show. Thanks for your astute comments, Cheryl, and for having my back about the editing of 'Order'."
KH: With a smiley face.
JG: We were saying unkind things, Dr. Amy, about the editing of Order.
JG: And Cheryl jumped to her boss' defense.
JG: Anyway... God willing, we'll have him on the show sometime. That would be a lot of fun. But having Cheryl was great, as you said. It's a show well worth listening to.
KH: If you haven't listened to that show, make sure you do. You can go to the MuggleNet Academia site and directly download it. You can also go onto iTunes and download it. We also have two new apps out. The apps do have a couple of bonus features already and we will be adding to them. If you have an iOS device like an iPhone, iPod touch, or an iPad, you simply go into the iTunes store and download Podcast Box - that is a free app - and then you search for MuggleNet Academia. And the MuggleNet Academia podcast is a $1.99 one-time fee, and you get all of our shows that are directly in your feed plus all the bonus items that we have. Also, if you go onto Android, if you're an Android device user, you can go onto Amazon.com and download that app for $1.99, same thing.
So, plenty of ways to listen to the show and we are getting a lot of nice downloads. Everybody seems to be enjoying the show, and we're getting some feedback, too, from the fans, John. Let me read...
JG: Hey! Somebody wrote to me and said I sounded like a detesticled mouse, Keith. That's not good feedback. That's nasty.
JG: What was that about? Anyway... yeah, most of the feedback has been wonderful or whatever. I'm still trying to figure out how the guy knows what a detesticled mouse sounds like. I mean, what is that about? Is there a special sound that those guys make?
KH: I'm not really sure. Maybe... I don't have a clue.
JG: Okay. Thank you, all of you, for the wonderful things you say about the shows. And I know they're going to love this one. Let's get into this one.
KH: Well, let me read one feedback from iTunes.
JG: Oh, okay.
KH: Because I do like hearing from the people. It's nice to get these reviews. So, this one here was on iTunes, from Flyinghigh05:
"Harry Potter Geeks Unite! This podcast is great. Who knew that so many people with awesome jobs and very diverse backgrounds would want to come together to discuss a topic as it relates to 'Harry Potter'? It's amazing. My favorite episodes so far have been the ones about folktales and 'Harry Potter', 'Harry Potter' and the law, and the one about the different translations. The hosts of this show do a great job finding special guests that really bring a whole new layer to the discussion about 'Harry Potter'. I love listening to this podcast along with Alohomora!, as it adds more depth to my re-read of 'Harry Potter'. Thanks for a great podcast and keep it up!"
Alohomora!, John, is MuggleNet's other podcast. They are re-reading the series with fans, it's a global re-read. And they are on Book 2 right now. It's also a nice show. If you haven't listened to that show, go over to MuggleNet -> Alohomora! and check them out. It is a great show. All right, John, let's introduce our guests. Dr. Amy Sturgis, how are you?
DAS: Doing very well and really pleased to be here, thank you so much.
KH: Oh, we're glad to have you. Can you please just tell us a little bit about your background and what you've been up to with Harry Potter?
DAS: Absolutely. I have a PhD in intellectual history - that is the history of ideas - from Vanderbilt University, and it was while I was in graduate school at Vanderbilt, actually, that I got my first copy of Harry Potter. A friend of mine said, "You've got to read this," and fortunately it was right after Prisoner of Azkaban came out, and Azkaban is sort of the turning point book for me in the series, and so I read the first one. We were supposed to get together for lunch the next week and talk about the first book, but by then I had already read the first three.
DAS: And that's pretty much the story from there on out. I teach at Lenoir-Rhyne University and the innovative Mythgard Institute, which is online for graduate study in fantasy and science fiction studies, and also for those who are interested in sitting in for the love of it. If you are to believe certain websites that keep track of these sorts of things, I am the first professor in the world who offered a dedicated college level course to Harry Potter as a series. And I've been teaching that for over a decade now, it's hard to believe. I taught originally at Belmont University, now at Lenoir-Rhyne University, and I've also taught a graduate course at Mythgard Institute and a high school level Harry Potter course for Mythgard Academy, the high school wing of Mythgard Institute. Let's see, I've written four books, I've edited six others. My main areas are science fiction and fantasy studies and Native American studies, and there's actually a place where those two intersect. There's even a place in Harry Potter where those intersect. And I've also contributed, goodness, over forty articles here, there, and elsewhere, including pieces in Hog's Head Conversations: Essays on Harry Potter, Harry Potter, Still Recruiting, Harry Potter for Nerds: Volume 2, and I was a part of Harry Potter Smart Talk as well.
KH: I have that book. It's on my dresser right now.
JG: I want to jump in here to say, one, that I've known Dr. Sturgis now for just over ten years because when my first book came out it was really a... I guess 2002/2003 was sort of the height of the Potter panic. We had all of the sort of nasty books about how evil Harry was and it gave way to the occult.
JG: And Dr. Sturgis was already teaching a class on it at that point - as she said, the first really in the world - and I would say it's some risk to your reputation because most... all of academia at that point was really holding off on any commentary about these books except for Book as Artefacts type patronizing things, the book. Dr. Sturgis was really the first in the field in the academic ranks to come out and say, "This is important work. This deserves a very serious reading." Now, I met her because a friend sent me this link saying, "Hey, this lady is quoting your book which just came out two weeks ago!" or whatever.
JG: And I thought, "Who is this woman?" or whatever. So, that's when I first contacted Dr. Sturgis, who is... Keith, I can't tell you how excited I am about having Amy on the show because... again, this is a decade worth of research. And she brings with it the tradition. She brings the high fantasy tradition who understands it better than almost anyone I know, if not the leading scholar in the field - Mythgard signed her up for this. Okay, can't wait to talk about today's subject and stuff. We've got another guest here.
KH: Yup. Well, I just wanted to say that during the summertime when she was writing this thing with the Mythgard Academy for the high school students, I was really excited about it, and I posted it on MuggleNet and was trying to promote it. So, I hope we had a good turn-out from our site to your class on that, Dr. Sturgis.
DAS: Oh, absolutely. And we really appreciated the encouragement and support that you showed us. You brought a lot of people to our site and to our class.
JG: Yay, MuggleNet! Yeah!
KH: That's what we do!
JG: All right.
KH: We bring it to you, all of our fans. Now, our second guest is a student guest from the UK. I love having people from the UK, the home of Harry Potter. It makes the show feel just a little bit more powerful. I think people take it a little bit more seriously when you have guests that come from the UK and they put in their input. So Amy, how are you? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
AS: Hello. I'm fine, thank you. I'm really happy to be here. I am currently a second year student at the University of Birmingham where I am studying English with Creative Writing.
KH: Awesome. Now, she had contacted me probably in the very beginning of Academia with her requirements that I have. If you are interested in being a student guest like Amy, go to the MuggleNet Academia site. There's a bunch of information that I need from you.
[Show music begins]
KH: And we examine everybody and make sure that they are capable of being on the show, and then we contact you when we have a show lined up for you. And Amy happens to be this week's guest, so congratulations, Amy! Are we ready to get going?
JG: I'm graced, I'm ready, we've got questions, we're all ready to go.
KH: All right, let's do it then.
DAS: I'm excited.
AS: Me too. [laughs]
KH: From MuggleNet Academia and MuggleNet.com, my name is Keith Hawk.
JG: I'm John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor and author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures.
DAS: I'm Amy H Sturgis from Lenoir-Rhyne University and the Mythgard Institute.
AS: I'm Amy Staniszewski, I'm a student at the University of Birmingham.
[Show music continues]
KH: All right, John, I'm going to throw this one right over to you. This one here is going to be Lesson 9 and we're going to be talking about fairy stories: comparing Rowling to Tolkien. And I've got to say right off the bat, I love Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series. Now, I read this series when I was very young, I was only 18 years old. There was a lot of mix up in my own mind between the names. I just couldn't figure out Sauron and Saruman, and the combinations of Sméagol and Gollum. I just couldn't get them right in the books, it just got all confusing to me. So, when the movies came out with Peter Jackson... I mean, they were masterful pieces. I loved the series, and I just fell back in love with it. So, I'm really excited to hear how Tolkien has an influence on Rowling in fairy stories. So John, take it away with us and lead us into this.
JG: Well, first I need to thank Dr. Sturgis because for the last ten years, when I have been given a question on JRR Tolkien, I have been just smart enough to say, "I don't know." Because if you don't speak Elvish, you do not wander into the area of Tolkien scholarship. I mean, you have got to be Ignoramus Number 1 to say, "Oh, I'll just take a stab at it." If you haven't got those books memorized, you shut your trap and find a friendly expert. Well, my good fortune has been that I know Dr. Amy H Sturgis and I can say, "You know, here is a person that you need to contact."
Dr. Sturgis, first of all, thank you for guarding my back for all these years, that I know somebody who knows these books, who knows both Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings backwards and forwards, who, I think, lives in one corner of Middle Earth somewhere that's still out there, preserved. And you're an expert, too, on Tolkien's fairy stories. You wrote as early, I think, as 2004, from a talk you'd given - or even earlier, I think when your first class came out - that Harry Potter is a hobbit. And in that, you talked about, from your expertise in Tolkien studies and Tolkien on fairy stories... here's my question: I think many of our listeners think of Tolkien as the writer of The Lord of the Rings, that's a good connection, but they don't think of that as a fairy story, as a nursery tale. What is the connection of hobbits and fairy stories, before we get into how Harry connects with the hobbits?
DAS: Oh, fantastic question. And let me thank you so much for having me here, I'm just delighted to be on the podcast. You're right, Tolkien certainly was the father of the Middle Earth saga, so it's proper that you think of The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, et cetera, when you think of him. But he was also a scholar, and an Oxford don, a professor of Anglo-Saxon for 20 years, and then a professor of English language and lit for another 14, and in this role, he worked with some of the great classics of imaginative literature, from Beowulf to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
On Fairy Stories is an essay he wrote in 1947, and this is his very informed and very thoughtful defense of the fantasy genre. He calls it "fairy story" because of the way he uses the term "fantasy" in the essay, but what he's talking about is what fantasy is. And I'm glad you mentioned nursery tales because that's something that this essay argues against. That is, Tolkien opposes the relatively recent historical accident - he would call it, if you will - of assuming that fantasy works are appropriate only for children or that there is something inherently immature about the enterprise of writing or reading fantasy work. He goes on in the essay to argue that adults should, and I quote, "read fairy stories as a natural branch of literature - neither playing at being children, nor pretending to be choosing for children, nor being boys who would not grow up." In fact, he says that what fairy stories, what fantasy texts, provide readers are all things of which - and I'm quoting again - "of which children have, as a rule, less need than older people." And so, he sets up in fairy stories what he sees as the genre and its lasting importance, and makes a call for everyone - not just children, but adults and families and generations - to embrace fantasy and all the things that it brings for us because he says that it speaks to something very deep inside us that makes us human.
JG: Okay, in that 1947 piece, Tolkien describes the key criteria of fairy stories and distinguishes them from other things like nursery tales. Can you walk us through those criteria of what makes a story a fairy story?
DAS: Absolutely. He lays out four main things that a story has to do in order to be a fairy story, from history... he's drawing here from this great soup pot that has had all these ingredients thrown into it over the years and he kind of extrapolates from the works that he's read and the works he's studied all of his life, what is this that I love? What is this that is speaking to me? And he says, basically, that there are four things. First, a fairy story has to touch on or use "faerie," and by faerie he doesn't mean Tinkerbell fluttering around.
DAS: He's talking about the perilous realm, this idea of a sober magic of a particular mood or power. It's kind of hard to describe, it's kind of hard to explain, but you know it when you see it and it sort of makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, and it gives you a little bit of a chill and this sense of awe, this encounter with faerie. He says...
JG: Is this also called fay?
DAS: Yes absolutely, and this is faerie as in F-A-E-R-I-E as opposed to F-A-I-R-Y. Another criteria: these stories have to take the magic itself seriously. Now, the story as a whole might be comical, it might be satirical, but the magic can't be the butt of the joke. The magic has to be taken seriously as an important component of the story. A third criteria is that these stories have to involve somehow human beings as characters, as players in the story, and at some level speak to one or more of humanity's primal desires. Things that he saw crop up all over the world, in tales as old as time, over and over again, that suggest that these are at the heart of what we are as humans regardless of what culture we grew up in or what time we grew up in. Things like the desire to communicate with animals or with the trees and plants, or to journey though space or time. Things that are primal human desires that we've had ever since we were. And the last is that these stories offer the reader four valuable gifts, and he calls those fantasy, recovery, escape, and consolation, and those are the hallmarks of a fairy story for Tolkien.
JG: Okay, we've got to get more about those. Fantasy, recovery, escape, and consolation. Just hearing those I can immediately get a lot of what Harry Potter works, [laughs] that I can see in that at least. Please tell us more about these. Are these the gifts that make the Middle Earth saga a fairy story? It obviously satisfies the first three as well. We've got magic from Gandalf, we've got human beings, Aragorn, everybody is running around there and they're talking to trees, et cetera. But are these four gifts what make the Middle Earth saga a fairy story?
KH: And also, what is exactly a gift? Why do they call it a gift?
DAS: To answer the first question: yes, I think definitely this is why the Middle Earth saga becomes a fairy story. And I think the other is... the notion of the gift is that it's something a bit unlooked for and it's something that's bestowed on us, and we're not really giving back [laughs] in the sense that... we're interacting with the text, but this is... ultimately he suggests these gifts are life-changing, they're incredibly serious, they're not something to be taken lightly. And so, I think he sees that as a gift, as something that's bestowed on us, that we don't necessarily deserve even or look for.
JG: It sounds more like a blessing than a gift. Is that the suggestion inside a gift, is a blessing?
DAS: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. That's a very good way to put it.
JG: Wow. Great question, Keith. I never would have pulled that out. That's a wonderful addition there.
DAS: That's a great way to think of it, the blessing. Four of these gifts were blessings. The first is fantasy. And this is why he doesn't call his essay "On Fantasy" because he's using fantasy in this way, so he chooses fairy stories as the term to explain the genre. But fantasy is to him this seductive creation of an internally consistent secondary universe that is both completely arrestingly strange and different from the real world, but it's real enough that it compels belief in the reader. And he realizes even when he's writing this that most people of his day - and you could argue a lot of literary critics and people of ours - kind of deal with that in a depreciative way. They say, "Oh, you're day dreaming. You're making up stuff that doesn't exist. That's kind of childish." And he says... it's not an irrational activity, it's actually one of the most difficult works of art and of creation could possibly be because first you've got to understand our universe and the patterns and laws there. And then you have to be able to construct a constant framework for a secondary world over here and make it internally consistent. And you've got to be able to present this in a way that the reader can keep a division between the two and know where they are at all times. And he says that's actually not a lower form of art, but it's a higher form of art. "Indeed," he says, "the most nearly pure form and, when achieved, the most potent." And part of this comes from his own background in terms of religion and such. He sees God as the creator and us as creations. And so, by being subcreators, by creating something new, we are acting in the image of God. So, he sees this as really something fundamental to who we are.
Then there's also the gift of recovery, which is the opportunity to see the world again, our world, in a childlike... not childish in the pejorative sense, but childlike way - gaining this new perspective. Basically if you can step out of our world for a moment and immerse yourself in a different world, then when you come back to our world, you can regain a clear view, you can see it through fresh eyes, and he sees that as a gift.
He also talks about escape, which is a temporary outlet for what he calls "the fugitive spirit." Basically an opportunity to allow readers to separate themselves from little trivial things that sort of wear us down - kind of nickel and dime us to death, as the saying goes - where it's just a bunch of little small things that can just really seize the joy and the vigor from us, and make us feel like we're hunted, like we're hounded, like we're locked up somewhere. And the chance to step aside from that, and encounter and experience and consider something that otherwise is lost, really rejuvenates us.
But the most important gift, he says, is consolation, and he says there's two parts to that. One is very basic: while you're reading this work, you feel happy. And that in and of itself is a gift because you're happy while you're reading it. You get enjoyment from the experience of the story. But the other part he calls - and this is his term - eucatastrophe. And it's not just a happy ending. You can think of it as a happy ending, but it's the kind of moment that is unlooked for, this joyous turn. He says that there's this moment where in the face of much evidence, you suddenly get this denial that there's universal final defeat. It's a glimpse of joy, a fleeting glimpse of joy, that is as poignant as grief when something turns, and after you've been through this dark night, after you've seen the danger, after the dragon has breathed in your face, then you have this joyous turn where things actually work out. And he says that this is a glimpse of truth with a big T, that it's actually a glimpse of what he sees as a communion with the divine, a taste of what's really true. And so, Tolkien sees the best fairy stories as echoes of what was to him, the gospel story. They have a spiritual resonance, they have redemptive possibilities, and you certainly don't have to be a Roman Catholic as he was to get the gist, which is that Tolkien believed fairy stories were capable of offering sophisticated, serious, even life-changing benefits that fed the spirit and the heart and the soul of the reader. And in that sense, they're intimately tied to who we are as people, and it makes very good sense that there's been this appetite for these kinds of stories ever since we've been writing histories; ever since we've been writing, period.
KH: Let me ask you a question...
JG:[laughs] We all want to jump in here! This is so good, I love this.
KH: Yeah actually, I want to throw it over to the student, Amy. Out of these four blessings or gifts that we just talked about, that Dr. Sturgis detailed out for us, how do you feel those fit in with the Hogwarts saga? Do you see the connections between what Tolkien put in with his gifts as the fantasy, the recovery, the escape, and the consolation, and did Rowling use that with the Harry Potter series? I just want your opinion first.
AS: Yeah, definitely. I mean, if you... as I was sitting here listening I was thinking to myself, "Yeah, it's definitely a fairy story then," because all four of those you definitely have. The recovery: you read the book and then you come out of it and you look at the world in a completely different way.
AS: I think that's something that Harry Potter has done definitely in my life in terms of what I think and what I want to do as a person. And the other three as well. It's just dead on in what they are, in terms of a fairy story.
JG: That's wonderful. I mean, I know that what Amy was talking about, the eucatastrophe, that it's this remarkable turn when you're in despair and suddenly you see this, the dawn happens. I wanted to yell, "The eagles! The eagles!"
JG: You have this wonderful feeling inside The Lord of the Rings when you suddenly realize that yes, they may win. And all of us, I think, know Deathly Hallows well enough to remember the sun coming up when Harry has finally confronted and defeated the Dark Lord, there's this sense that oh my goodness, it actually worked out, Harry has defeated He Who Must Not Be Named. And you come away from that feeling blessed. Back to you, Keith and Dr. Amy here, do you think... I mean, every one of these Harry Potter books ends with this sort of faux resurrection, where Harry goes to fight the bad guys and he loses and then he rises from the dead, seemingly, in the presence of a symbol of Christ. Do you think, Dr. Sturgis, that that was sort of an intentional foreshadowing? An eucatastrophe within this whole series of the big one at the end? Is that the kind of goal that she's aiming for there, that eucatastrophe effect?
DAS: I definitely think so, and I think you pointed out beautifully that you have these joyous turns in each of the novels. Even the ones that seem to have the most downbeat endings, there's actually this turn. And then when you look at the series as a whole, telling one big meta-story, it's echoing that in the exact same way. And one of the things I... so basically you can see each one as its own story, and then put it together and see this big story where you do have this resurrection, death and resurrection.
I also think she's very clever in the fact that she echoes this over and over, and repeats this theme, but she also kind of delivers a secondary... sort of a one-two punch. She's got this big symbol of this joyous turn, but she also works in something that's usually really unlooked for that makes you pause. For example, at the end of the first book, you have Harry escaping from peril and frustrating Voldemort's plan. And so, he had this run-in with death that could have ended terribly badly and didn't, and he wins and he's got the Philosopher's Stone. But then the one that comes unlooked for is that Gryffindor wins the House Cup and it's not because of Harry doing something great, it's because of the unsung, very quiet heroism of Neville Longbottom. And I think that's another moment where she's given you the big one and you think, "Wow. Okay, so now we're just kind of easing down the action here to the conclusion," and then she says, "But here's another huge takeaway. And you weren't expecting that, were you? No, you weren't."
DAS: And what does that tell you, also, about the human condition? And I love the fact that she does that. So, I think the craftsmanship is really intentional in all of that in both of those ways.
KH: She does that beautifully with Neville in The Philosopher's Stone and we, John and I, have talked about the ring composition on the show several times and how Book 1 and Book 7 are in parallel with each other. And to me, there's both those Neville Longbottom moments in those two books. Obviously, like you just said, at the end of that when he's actually the one responsible for Gryffindor winning the House Cup, and at the end when he's just flat out a hero in every sense of the word. I love how those parallels go. And you're right, it does foreshadow the end of Deathly Hallows.
JG: Yes, spot on. Back to the gifts, the recovery. Dr. Amy, you know Ralph Wood at Baylor, another great Tolkien scholar. He says that reading fantasy is not escaping reality, but entering into it. Now, when you talked about fantasy and recovery, I got that kind of... we've talked about this before, so the [unintelligible] idea of the world having a fabric of reality you can enter into through your imagination. Is that... do you think Tolkien was going there in terms of the idea of recovery and escape being in tandem there?
DAS: I think that's absolutely part of the fabric of what he's thinking about. Touching something that is, perhaps, invisible but much more real than the little trappings of the world that sort of close us in, and hamper us from thinking about those big things and tapping into those big issues. So, I absolutely do. And I think there he was working on two levels, too. I think he's, at a very basic level, talking about this refreshment. Once you've heard Arthur Weasley talking about "ekeltricity," you never really think of plugs the same way again, you know?
DAS: And even though Harry Potter and his friends are dealing with life and death issues, not once are there words like "budget deficits" in Harry Potter.
DAS: There are certain things that just wear us out that you're completely free of. [laughs] And that's lovely because then you can kind of come back reenergized into the world where people are talking about budget deficits. But I think you're spot on in saying there's something a lot more there, too. That you're actually experiencing something more real than what you might think of as reality.
JG: Well, you mentioned life and death there, and death is, forgive me, the human being's ultimate challenge, right? The last enemy to be overcome, et cetera. Where does death fit into a good fairy story? Is that a subject to explore in this kind of story? Because it's a theme we see obviously throughout Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Is death too big for a good fairy story, or is death really part of what we're after here?
KH: And it's not even death. It's the death and the resurrection.
JG: Right, right. Basically, how do you defeat death?
DAS: Right. Oh, I think it's tied into the very definition of fairy stories, and I think there's two particular ways it fits. One is that requirement that it speak to primal human desires because globally, ahistorically, death is an issue that humanity wrestles with; trying to understand and come to terms with it, asking the big questions about what part of us is temporary and what part of us is everlasting. And since fairy stories speak to us as humans about what it means to be human, there's nothing more human than mortality. But I think it also ties into that idea of the eucatastrophe, that joyous turn, without the dark knight first, as evidence of "universal defeat," as Tolkien calls it, that you can't have the light afterwards. And death - real death, not death that disappears with the wave of a wand, not death that can be fixed or cured in the next book, death without do-overs - is a key element to that. And then, as Keith points out, the joyous turn is, for Tolkien, completely tied up in the notion of resurrection. And so the idea that yes, you have just lost this person, this person is dead and he isn't coming back, but do you really believe that those we love ever leave us? You're immediately given the opportunity to see that death isn't the end, even though death itself is final.
JG: That's great. It's a paradigm, you mentioned this when we first started talking, and Amy's stand here in Birmingham - forgive me, I don't know about you, but when I started reading Harry Potter not only just to my children, but for myself and then interpreting it and giving talks on taking Harry seriously, people laughed at me, especially when I talked about death and this kind of stuff. [laughs] Themes like death, bereavement, life after death, in a kids book - people thought I was absolutely out of my mind. Amy, in the UK did you get any of that blowback? I mean, is this... I don't know about you, but I feel reassured hearing Dr. Sturgis talk about this stuff. [laughs]
AS: Yeah, definitely. I think the idea that there are... the books are a certain below of... not intelligence, but of "we shouldn't take them that seriously" - shouldn't really be discussed because there is such a level of understanding. And I think the idea of an acceptance of death is particularly seen in both Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. You've got Frodo accepting the fact that he's not going to come back from this, and Harry has the same when he accepts that he must go into the forest and he must sacrifice himself. That idea is so beyond a children's book. I don't see how you can say it, to be quite honest with you.
JG: I hear you. I can remember in... I think it was 2005, Time Magazine had a cover story - another cover story - about Harry Potter. And they talked to a Toronto bookstore owner who said that what stunned him was he found out that people were buying the Harry Potter books to give to people that were going through a tough spell, that were confronting death or someone near to them had died. I mean, Keith was talking about this week where he's had a dear friend of his basically looking death in the face and all of his friends are with him. Harry Potter books - this bookstore story said people were giving books to help them through that. Dr. Sturgis...
AS: I completely agree with that.
JG: Does that make sense...
AS: Yes, definitely. I...
JG: ...Dr. Sturgis?
JG: Both of you!
JG: Really, it's an open question here. Keith, this is... I brought you into this. What do you think?
KH: Yeah, it's true. If you can escape the world, you can realize that... I mean, they say death is just the next great adventure. It's absolutely what's going to be happening in these books. You're taking an adventure, you're going through the ups and the downs, the sorrows, and what actually life has to offer, and eventually people do pass on. So, I think it's great for people who are going through that kind of emotional crisis.
JG: And it's certainly a... it's sort of like the stolen wheelbarrow, the snucked-in - [laughs] excuse me - message about the... behind the story, that passage that Dr. Sturgis mentioned about the people that we love will never leave us. It's implicit to the story. We get it most powerfully, I think, at the start with Prisoner of Azkaban. As Dr. Sturgis says, it's kind of a turning point. And we see it again in the Forbidden Forest at the end when the dead that Harry loves are with him to bring him to his end, as it were - his end both in terms of his telos, his purpose, as well as his finish in this mortal coil. Hearing this idea, Tolkien's idea of fairy stories, kind of obliterates the idea that these are just kids books. They don't have magisterial language, they don't have all of these things. But they're carrying the heaviest possible freight. Am I putting words in your mouth here, Dr. Sturgis, or is that where we're at?
DAS: Oh, I think that's exactly where we are. And I should point out that that doesn't exclude children. There was all sorts of articles and comments, and I certainly heard a lot about it. Surely then, if that's what these books are about, kids shouldn't have them, right? Because if they're talking about death and such, which is a weird flip but I think, first of all, that, yes, this speaks directly to adults and what they are dealing with. And that fits because Rowling said she wrote the books for herself. But, on the other hand, I think it's really a key thing to have children exposed to this, that it's actually a very positive thing. Tolkien on fairy stories has this great quote where he says that fairy stories should be "written for and read by adults," and because they will get so much out of them. But he says that children may hope to get fairy stories for them within their measure, and then he says, "Though it may be better for them to read some things, especially fairy stories, that are beyond their measure rather than short of it. Their books like their clothes should allow for growth, and their books at any rate should encourage it." And it strikes me that engaging young people in a discussion of something that they are going to experience. You can't live in our world and not understand that death is part of it. But then having this consolation that comes with it, having an honest discussion and bringing young people to a point where they can really wrestle with it in the same way that Rowling is wrestling with it, and the same way that Tolkien wrestled with it. I mean, after all, they're united - one of the major events in both of their lives was the loss of their mother at a young age, and it strikes me that it's really important for children... can I share one more quote really quickly?
DAS: It seems to speak right to it. I'll just bring CS Lewis into this because he was obviously a dear friend and collaborator with Tolkien, and I think Lewis also would have loved the Harry Potter series. But he has this quote, that to me seems to strike at exactly what Rowling is doing, and exactly what Tolkien is doing, in terms of this whole issue of death. He says... and this is in his essay On Three Ways of Writing for Children, and it's actually a response to Tolkien's On Fairy Stories so it's right on target! He says:
"A far more serious attack on the fairy tale as children's literature comes from those who do not wish children to be frightened, that we must try to keep out of his mind the knowledge that he is born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, [et cetera]. [This would] indeed be to give children a false impression and feed them on escapism in the bad sense. Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker. I think it possible that by confining your child to blameless stories of child life in which nothing at all alarming ever happens, you would fail to banish the terrors, and would succeed in banishing all that can ennoble them or make them endurable. For in the fairy tales, side by side with the terrible figures, we find the immemorial comforters and protectors, the radiant ones."
And I just love that because it says...
JG: Oh, yeah.
DAS: ...they're born into a world of death. You can't hide from children the fact that people are going to die. But maybe through these works, in the same way you're consoling adults, in the same way you're giving them the opportunity to wrestle with this, you can also give some comfort to children. Don't take away the only... a fantastic avenue for them to actually deal with this issue that they're most certainly going to face, and find something beautiful and heartening and comforting in it.
JG: It sounds like you're really putting your finger on why the Harry Potter books are as popular as they are. They really answer large questions for us and give us an experience - not only answer questions so that we have some sort of cranial knowledge of this, but they give us almost a cardiac experience of these truths. And that's sort of a link between... not sort of. That's a link between what Tolkien and Lewis are writing about, so called children's stories or fairy stories. And these - the Hogwarts saga - I'm going to take the conversation in a much more mundane and speculative - I think speculative - route, and that is the relationship of Tolkien and Rowling.
Now, Rowling has been asked many times about what books that she loves, et cetera, and she mentions Nabokov, and Colette, and Jane Austen, and Jane Austen, and Jane Austen. [laughs] She only talks about Tolkien and Lewis when she's prodded specifically on this. It's pretty obvious to readers of both series though, this Tolkien/Potter connection, and Ms. Rowling's first husband and mother-in-law from her marriage in Portugal, have said she carried a one-volume Lord of the Rings with her everywhere as she began writing Harry Potter when she was living in Portugal.
I take it that you think, Amy, that Tolkien's influence is much greater than the superficial parallels and hat tips that we see in Harry's adventure. And those are legion. I went back to my website, Hogwarts Professor, and found this wonderful essay on a thread that was written in 2008 by a woman named Felicity. And she just went back and forth with: there's Butterbeer and Butterbur from the Inn of the Prancing Pony. There's the Dementors that are basically the Ring Wraiths unloosed here. You've got the effect of the Ring when Frodo wears it and the effect of the locket on Harry and Hermione, especially Ron. We got Wormtongue, Wormtail, Shelob, Aragog, the Mirror of Galadriel, the Mirror of Erised, Old Man Willow, the Whomping Willow, Sauron, and Voldemort having the same sort of... if you read Lord of the Rings and then you read Harry Potter, you're kind of overwhelmed with these echoes that you're experiencing. Do you think it's more than that, though?
DAS: First of all, I can understand why she would try to put some distance between herself and Tolkien. For one thing, Tolkien is like the eight-hundred-pound elephant in the middle of the room anytime you talk about fantasy.
DAS: Because every person who has been writing a fantasy book since Tolkien published is reacting to him in some way. There's no way you can't. The difference between fantasy and science fiction - science fiction had a dozen huge luminaries, but they were all doing different things and so you're not always responding to one person or one text, but you are in fantasy. And so, I understand why she would want to say, "I'm doing something different here," and fine. But I do see a lot of really bone deep resonance, and above and beyond the stuff like the Wormtail/Wormtongue kind of thing. Can I give you two examples to...
DAS: ...sort of say... one is the way both of them deal - and again, I do intellectual history, so I'm kind of doing what's the big takeaway ideology kind of thing, but - the bit about free will and choice. It seems there are so many echoes back and forth the way the works speak to each other. Both writers seem to me to be preoccupied with what Dumbledore calls a "choice between what is right and what is easy." Gandalf cuts to the heart of the crisis in The Lord of the Rings, saying, "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." Elrond notes to Frodo, "It is a heavy burden, so heavy that none could lay it on another. I do not lay it on you but, if you take it freely, I will say that your choice is right." And similarly, Dumbledore considers Harry's decision to deny a possible future in Slytherin house in favor of a more difficult, even dangerous, path as a true Gryffindor more important than any specific talent or trait that he has. And that's when he tells Harry, "It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." This notion that there is a small hobbit or a young orphan boy that can succeed where powerful wizards fail if they make the choice to do so. It seems to me there's just a lot of really deep parallel and resonance there. And I think that's because the two of them are such good writers, and they're using symbols that really speak to us. And I don't have to believe that she was sitting down saying, "Oh, look what Gandalf said. Okay, let's have Dumbledore say this."
DAS: But this sort of... it sunk into her pores in the same way it sunk into mine when I read it, and she would bring that back out. And another example is one we have already been talking about a lot, and that's the notion of death. Dumbledore saying, "To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure," and telling Voldemort in the Order of the Phoenix, "Your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness." That's almost a perfect parallel to things Tolkien wrote about when he was writing Lord of the Rings. There was a letter in 1959 he wrote where he said, "The idea of The Lord of the Rings is death is not an enemy. I said or meant to say that the message was the hideous peril of confusing true immortality with limitless serial longevity. The confusion is the work of the enemy and one of the chief causes of human disaster." And so, if you see Rowling's Voldemort is as much like Tolkien's ancient Númenóreans, who were trying to give back the gift of mortality. Not understanding or appreciating what death is or isn't, they seek to cheat it and that's to their great peril and to the peril of everyone who comes in contact with them. These things that are just really deep, deep parallels to me suggest that these works are in conversation with each other, whether Rowling fully, consciously willed that to be the case or not.
JG: Okay, I'm going to jump in here because Keith we're going to get blasted by all the people that hang out at Accio Quote! who know Rowling's interviews backwards and forwards here. Again, from what Felicity wrote at Hogwarts Professor, we've got Rowling saying in July 2000 in a Newsweek interview, "I read The Lord Of The Rings when I was about 14." Three months later, she said she had read it when she was 19. Five months after that, [laughs] she said that she was about 20, but stressed that she had only read it once. Okay? [laughs] And then in 2005 - without prompting, in a March 2001 BBC interview, she wanted to make it clear that she had never read Lord Of The Rings more than once, and in 2005 she suggests that she had never even finished the book. Now, that could be largely her response to the biographies, Shawn Smith's biography, in which her ex-husband said that basically she was a Tolkien fanatic and everything is out of Tolkien, and she just wants to put that behind her. Maybe it's... I don't know what that is, but she seems to be very determined not to do this.
The funny thing, and to take this conversation again in a different direction, is she seems now to be doing to the world of fantasy, young adult literature. She's the shared text and the expectation setter for a whole generation of writers, readers and film makers, the way that Tolkien was in the '60s, '70s and '80s. She's become in a way what Tolkien was. Can you imagine if Stephanie Meyers said, "Oh, I don't think I ever read Harry Potter," or, "I'm unaware of this," or if Suzanne Collins says, "Katniss doesn't owe anything to Harry Potter"? People would just sort of look down their nose and say, "Really, dear?" There's some places you just can't go, and I think from what you described... I laid out kind of the superficial stuff, and Amy, you went right to the heart of it, what's bigger than choice? And there's a direct echo of their meaning, their message, and how it's delivered, the language of how it's delivered. Very hard to back away from a Tolkien influence here. Isn't it ironic that she now is that person that she seems to be denying in her own writing?
DAS: That's a great point, and now there will be generations of writers who are going to have to situate their own works in relationship to hers. And it's not an option. [laughs]
DAS: Just because it is what it is.
KH: Well, now there's a lot of parallels obviously between the two books, so I think it's pretty obvious that JK Rowling has had some influence into Tolkien's world. But if any author, especially as good as both of these authors are in making their stories, their characters, come to life, they are creating their own world, so they're by nature going to have these parallels. It is two different worlds, they are two different set-ups, two different plot choices and everything else, but they do have their similarities. And if anybody else does another fantasy story... let's even look at Star Wars. Even with Star Wars, you have a fantasy world that's taking out in space, and you have the Emperor and Darth Vader versus the Lukes and the Han Solos. They all have their similar parallels.
JG: That's a great point, Keith, that you make, is that pointing out Tolkien's influence on the literary world of the 20th century, is by no... and its effect on Harry Potter specifically... isn't to diminish Rowling's achievement inside these books. [laughs] The fact that... I think there are many more Rowling readers now than there are Tolkien readers. Speaks to the fact that she has in a way assimilated the message of On Fairy Stories and realized it in a form that's, if anything, much more accessible because of its comedy, its gothic heroine elements, the schoolboy novels - much easier to enter into in a way than the whole Middle Earth saga. As you said, just the names alone makes it an easier thing to enter into. But that's a great point. Again, we're not trying to diminish what Joanne Rowling has done, to say that she has taken the master's lessons to heart and brought them to life in a new story.
KH: Well yeah, you had given up a whole bunch of similar parallels that you had mentioned earlier. But even to go in further in that, there's the ghosts from Hogwarts. The hero in the ghost world is the Grey Lady. But similarly, in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the Grey Host, those Dead Men of Dunharrow. So... but they were called the Shadow Host or the Grey Host. So, like I said, you have the Grey Host in Lord of the Rings and you have the Grey Lady in Hogwarts in the Harry Potter story. It's another parallel that I think she takes direct aim from.
JG: I hear you, and I'm sure that the hoard, [laughs] the Tolkien hoard that live on the Internet to police all references to the great master, will be visiting us to show how wrong we are. Or how many things that we've missed or whatever, that there is no glory that is Joanne Rowling's that is not borrowed glory from the Middle Earth saga. Amy, you don't subscribe to that, right? I mean, you're very much a... these works have their own majesty and such, but they come back to this core truth of what stories are about. Am I putting words in your mouth again?
DAS: Oh no, you're exactly right. And that can't be said enough, that her achievements are her own. But I should admit that I also come out of... as much as I love and have worked with fantasy, I come out originally from a background of science fiction, and science fiction is by its very nature a conversation. Works are speaking to each other, and even if the authors themselves aren't alive at the same time, the works are in dialogue. And I actually think that's a very healthy, exciting thing because people build on each other and the conversation gets pressed forward, and so I don't see that in any way or fashion as diminishing anyone's accomplishment that works speak to each other. And it strikes me that if the greatest works are speaking to each other, we are just all winners because that just means the conversation is just ratcheting up and up and up.
But I also think that Rowling, one of the great things about her that does set her apart is the fact that she has taken building blocks - you've already alluded to a lot of these - from different genres, she takes from the gothic, the "British schoolboy," et cetera, and harnesses them for her own purposes. And she does this with a kind of glee. We see all the references to mythology and all the references to history and she's doing this in a very inclusive way and then turning it into something that's very much her own, and none of that diminishes her artistry. I think it's an incredible feat. And it also allows her work to be sort of a cultural literacy test because of how well she brings all these other voices into her own statement. So, I salute her as an artist and I don't think any way that these works speak to each other diminishes her achievement in the Harry Potter series at all.
JG: I'm going to throw this out at you: you're reading science fiction in the fifties and you've got Arthur Clarke, you've got Isaac Asimov, you've got Ray Bradbury, you've got these giants in this golden or silver age of sci-fi, and they're talking to each other though they're writing in entirely different styles, different approaches, different ends. Are we seeing something like that now with Harry Potter where Rowling is obviously "the big rock that's fallen from the heavens and reshaped the imaginative world of the 21st century"? But Suzanne Collins, she uses a lot of the same structures. She uses ring composition, literary alchemy, soul triptychs. But she's writing about... not only is she from a different genre, but she's going to a different ends. I mean, she's writing a hard pacifist's line that "Yes, war may be necessary, but war will destroy everything in its path." Now, that's not a message that you're getting out of the Harry Potter saga. Sort of everything ends well, Voldemort is dead, and yeah there are a lot of dead bodies lying around, but they died gladly, [laughs] they sacrificed themselves willingly or whatever. That's not the message you get out of The Hunger Games.
Are we seeing that kind of conversation and exchange of tools? Same thing with Stephanie Meyer and Chaos Walking and the Twilight books. Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking series, he's taking the idea from Harry Potter and taking it in an absolutely foreign direction, but he still gives us resurrections and this eucatastrophe such. Is that something we're seeing now? Is Harry Potter's effect with people talking back and forth with what we can do with these tools?
DAS: That is a beautiful example. I love what you just did there because yes, I think that's exactly what's happening. And a parallel to be made there: when all of these people were writing in science fiction, they knew they could just go ahead and assume you had read. So, when Joe Haldeman was writing The Forever War, he knows you've read Starship Troopers by Heinlein, and so he can just go with it. In the same way that people like Collins know you have read Harry Potter, they can go in their own direction and speak back to it because they can trust that the readers are already a part of the conversation they are entering, and I think that parallel is really just fantastic. I wholly agree.
JG: I say that as a suggestion - [laughs] I'm glad you agree - because I really don't want people to walk away from this conversation thinking that we're saying that Rowling is a second-hand Tolkien, that she read these books and she kind of came up with these ideas and she's doing a shadow or whatever. Rowling read the books, digested them, and then came back with a reformulation and another experience that's very different, as different as a Vatican Catholic of the 19th century [laughs] and a World War I veteran can be from a young woman in the late 20th century in a relatively dissipated Anglican communion. These are very different people, and yet they come up with a message which gives us a similar experience and passes the conversation along. Forgive me, this is why I was so excited about this conversation.
KH: Yeah, let me throw this at you because you have to remember JK Rowling spent the first seven years before she ever got published preparing these stories, and we all know she's very well read. During her childhood years, her adolescent years, she read books like they were going out of business, she practiced her writing, she practiced her craft that would eventually get her to where she is. So, there's definitely the influence not only of Tolkien but as we discussed with Dolores Gordon-Smith, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayer, there's that mystery genre that she writes so well in each of these books, there's the comical aspects that she writes. So, she has developed her own sense. But if you really want to dive into it, it all comes from the previous authors in the past, whether it be the Tolkien's, the Bradbury's, the Christie's. Do you know what I mean? She's taken all of those and put them into her books to make it her own pieces of work.
JG: Again Keith, right on. Go ahead, Amy. Go ahead.
AS: I was about to say, I think that's a natural process of storytelling though. When I first read Beowulf, I can remember reading that Grendel had no remorse and then Beowulf went into action basically blindly and kind of stupidly, and I remember thinking to myself, "That's Harry and Voldemort. That's just exactly what it is." Because Cassandra Clare who is a fantasy author for young adults, she has written a series called The Mortal Instruments but she originally wrote fan fiction for Harry Potter, and when you read it you can see flying motorcycles.
AS: And there's even a joke about Dumbledore and you just think to yourself, "This is what it's about. It's borrowing things and changing it for your own imaginative purposes."
DAS: And that fits beautifully - what you've just said fits beautifully with our original focus, which was Tolkien's On Fairy Stories. Because Tolkien - one of his big innovations to literary theory was... people at the time, his fellow scholars, were obssessed with tracking down the examples of where different ingredients came from, and saying, "Oh, well we can trace this idea of the Oedipal character back through these stories, and such, and such, and such." And he said, "This is really interesting, we find some great stories this way, this tells us a lot about how stories are made." But in the end, if you just sift through the ingredients in this big pot or stew of story, all you're doing is looking at one little ingredient, or one little ingredient. At some point, you have to back up and say, "But does this stew taste good?"
DAS: "And if this stew tastes good, let's talk about that too." And so, working with Beowulf, for example, he brought a whole... and he wrote one of the essays that is still one of the key texts in studying Beowulf, and he was, "Let's stop trying to figure out where all these things came from, and talk about why this story itself is so satisfying." Because in the end, everybody is using the same ingredients. And so, I think Tolkien would be the first person to say, "Of course she's using stuff I used, and I used stuff other people used," and everything. But the focus... one of the main focuses should be "Doesn't this soup taste good?" And I think we're all here because we agree that the Hogwarts saga tastes very good indeed.
KH: Well, this reminds me of a story - we were searching for news on MuggleNet and stuff, and I came across this review - and I cannot tell you who it was from or where it was from, I just don't remember anymore. It was probably about six or nine months ago. Somebody went off on a website, on a review, and was yelling about how Tolkien stole ideas and themes from Rowling's Harry Potter series.
KH: I'm serious! The review was just exactly the opposite of what we've been talking about. He was going off, saying, "Tolkien is a thief! He should be put in jail for stealing all these ideas from Rowling and Harry Potter." So, when I was reading this I was just flabbergasted that this was actually happening and I was reading something that was actually meant... now, it was taken down, obviously, after so many people said, "Dude, Tolkien was [unintelligible] years ago..."
KH: "...and Rowling is not even 20 years in the past." But what was funny about it is that he was very serious about this and when you look at it - if you didn't know the two were different eras, you can definitely see the parallels, and that's what this whole discussion is about, is the parallels and the fairy stories between Tolkien, and between Rowling and other authors, and how they borrow and use each other's knowledge and information to make their own pieces.
JG: Keith, that's wonderful but here's the funniest thing about what you just said: while we're kind of chuckling about this ignoramus that doesn't know where Tolkien lived or whatever - is that a really famous literary critic in England in the 20th century, FR Leavis, he talks about just this effect about Jane Austen. He says that you can no longer read any novels from the late 18th century and not read them through the prism of "these are the books leading up to Jane Austen." These books can't really be read on their own anymore. They're the influences on Jane Austen, and these books no longer have their own integrity because we read them entirely through the filter of what we know is to come as their influence. And Rowling - correct me if I'm wrong here, Keith too - I think that Rowling once was asked about this and she said, "Look, don't look for the specific influences here because it's sort of a magic you can't really understand. All of the books that I've read are a compost pile and Harry Potter grows [laughs] out of this compost pile of all the things that I've taken in." Amy, is that sort of congruent with your idea of the stew? That you might find a big potato that has Tolkien's name on it or whatever [laughs] inside the stew, but it's not that one potato that makes this thing taste as good as it does.
DAS: Absolutely! You put it beautifully. That's it.
JG:[laughs] Do you like potatoes in your stew, Amy?
DAS:[laughs] I do! And I'm a vegetarian...
DAS: ...so I'm very, very fond of potatoes. But give me a little eggplant and I'll be particularly thrilled. [laughs] It's the steak of vegetarianism! [laughs]
JG: Amy, this has been great. Where can we go to read more about this? Is there a good guide or best edition to On Fairy Stories or Tolkien that we should look for?
DAS: Oh, great question! On Fairy Stories is available in an awful lot of collections. The Tolkien Reader is probably the one that is most prevalent, a little paperback, very easy to get a hold of. My personal favorite edition is the hardcover On Fairy Stories that came out with HarperCollins in 2008. That was edited by Verlyn Flieger and Douglas A Anderson, and that's annotated and expanded. And if you really want to delve down deep into the text and wallow around in it, that's going to have the best extra information for you. But any version you can find is terrific.
And I should also point out that in various collections, such as The Tolkien Reader, it is often paired with a story of his called Leaf by Niggle, that is sort of the flip-side. It's sort of the fiction version of the non-fiction essay. So, he tries to give an example by writing a story that illustrates what he's talking about, these different categories and the way that fairy stories work. And it's really lovely to read that story once you've read On Fairy Stories and really see what he's doing there. But any way you can get a hold of it, I recommend. It's a fascinating read, and someone who adores Tolkien as I do - it's actually my favorite thing by Tolkien.
DAS: Even more than his fiction.
JG: Whoa! Whoa!
DAS: It's a gorgeous, gorgeous piece. So...
JG: Well, I've got a question here for Keith. Keith, is it true that the world is not coming to an end the day that Harry Potter... The Hobbit movie comes out?
KH: No, no, no. That whole Mayan calendar thing, that was actually built many, many centuries ago - what they were doing was they were counting down the day to The Hobbit release in theaters worldwide.
JG: Oh, okay. I get it. [laughs]
KH: That's what the calendar is for. Don't worry about the end of the world, it's not going to take place. It's just The Hobbit release, that's all.
DAS: I will see you at midnight on December 14th.
[DAS and JG laugh]
KH: I will... yeah, I am planning right now on going up to Canada for that release so we'll see how that works out.
KH: Well anyway, thank you so much, Dr. Sturgis. It's been a wonderful show. Really, I think our audience is going to be learning a lot and diving into the Tolkien genre as well as reading those books all over again and seeing how they parallel to the Potter series. So, it was really a nice eye opener on fairy stories. So, thank you so much for joining us.
DAS: Oh, thank you, Keith and John and Amy. It's just been such a delight being here. I really appreciate it. And congratulations on a really wonderful podcast. It's just very exciting work you're doing.
KH: Thank you. And Amy Staniszewski.
KH: Thank you so much for joining us from the UK. I hope you enjoyed being on here.
AS: Not a problem. It was awesome. Thank you. I really wanted to be a part of this, so yeah.
KH: Good, I'm glad you were. Thank you so much.
JG: I would recommend to our listeners - we talked about fairy stories from a much different perspective, sort of a nominalist perspective, a scientific analytic one with Vladimir Propp and things with Joel Hunter from Arizona State. This is sort of like the book end set. We've talked fairy stories now from a sort of scientistic perspective and now from the traditional Coleridgean aspect which is... this is a wonderful tandem thing here. It's been a wonderful thing - obviously I think everybody knows now why I revere Dr. Amy H. Sturgis. And Amy Staniszewski, it has been wonderful to have you here from the UK.
KH: You had mentioned that there's two sides of the book ends on this subject, but people have sent in reviews to us about how in the law episode that we did - how they wish we covered X, Y, and Z, different aspects of the books; same with the sexual innuendos - how come you didn't go into this, that and the other thing - or translations. Just to let the fans know out there: we're not done.
KH: Once we've touched on one subject... we can only go over so much in the hour and these books are so in-depth, with literature symbolisms and what we can actually dive into, that we will be creating other shows on the same subjects. I'm sure we will have another law discussion. I'm sure we'll have another mystery writing discussion at some point in time.
KH: So, please send in your requests for what you wish that we talked about. You can send it to me at keith at staff dot mugglenet dot com on my email. Also send me an email if you want to be a student on the show like Amy. And otherwise feel free to give us a nice review on iTunes.
JG: How about... Keith, I know you always say this, but it's something that's really helpful to us - is people that find out that there's a Harry Potter course being taught at their local school, library, university, college or whatever - that's such a help to us. If people continue to send us... and it's been, again, wonderful to have Amy here - Dr. Amy - because she taught really the first course [laughs] when people... when most academics were staring out of their little hole in the ground, saying, "I'm not coming out yet!"
JG: "Got to find out what the book really means before I do this." Dr. Sturgis was there. She and I compare scars on our backs from that era.
[DAS and JG laugh]
JG: That... thank you Dr. Amy for that, [laughs] for your service to the Harry Potter community and that bravery, and for the scholarship that you've contributed to this - really from the very start. And for Mythgard which is really a great gift for those people who want to study this in depth.
DAS: Oh, thank you very much. Thank you so much.
KH: Again, from Mythgard Institute and Lenoir college, thank you very much Dr. Amy Sturgis and Amy Staniszewski from the UK. I really appreciate you guys being on the show. We look forward to our next show which is coming up very shortly in two short weeks. I believe we're going to have John Mark Reynolds on the show, John?
JG: Woo-hoo! From Houston Baptist University. Yeah, we're going to talk about canon and Harry Potter. Not both barrels, but the idea of what constitutes... what is Harry Potter and what is not Harry Potter? Is it interviews? Is it books? Is it trading cards that she did before the 21st century?
[Show music begins]
JG: We're going to talk about what is really Harry Potter and what isn't really Harry Potter. Woo!
KH: It's going to be a fun show, for sure. So anyway, I'd like to wrap up this show and remind you guys to put us a review out on iTunes. Send us your review on MuggleNet Academia and we appreciate all your folks' input. From MuggleNet.com, my name is Keith Hawk.
JG: I'm John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor and author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures.
DAS: I'm Amy H Sturgis from the Mythgard Institute at Lenoir-Rhyne University.
AS: And I'm Amy Staniszewski, student at the University of Birmingham.