The True Magic of Harry Potter
You know what really irritates me? People who pass judgment on an idea without educating themselves on the topic first. This holds true for Harry Potter protestors. They all stand outside the cinemas and bookstores with posters telling all us Pottermaniacs that well be going to hell if we pick up that book or go see that movie. But why? Did they even think of maybe watching the movie, or reading the book, or at least listening with an open mind to our point of view? What’s truly sad is that they are missing out on a wonderful story, from a truly exemplary writer — something not often found in modern works. I get it, they believe it goes against Christian beliefs — but most of the things we see in media do, too. Besides, I’m a devout by-the-book Catholic, but I’m as HP-obsessed as they come. Even the Pope said there was nothing wrong with Harry Potter, and last time I checked he had pretty strong Christian beliefs. So why are there still people who are yelling bloody murder over a book? In my opinion, it’s ignorance. They are ignorant to what the books are really about, and how good they really are — and I want to outline just why they’re wrong, why they should take a minute to consider our view, and try to explain that the true magic of Harry’s world has nothing to do with wands or spells.
Harry’s magic isn’t the same as real world sorcery.
The entire reason sorcery is considered evil is because its unnatural; it involves people trying to ascertain powers not granted to them by the higher power. So yes, in our world the idea of sending kids to a school to educate them in witchcraft would go against the beliefs of the majority of people in the world. Harry, however, lives in a different world from us; its a magical world, a world where people are born with the gift of magic. Hogwarts teaches young wizards and witches magic the same way we are taught math and English in real world schools. It’s something that we are expected to know because its necessary in the way our society works. JK Rowling has created a fictional world where the people of the magical society do not seek to become more powerful than they already are, they only seek to better understand and use the gifts that they have been born with, their God-given gifts. Of course its not the way things are in the real world, but it’s fiction — the entire point is that it’s not real.
Reading Harry Potter isn’t likely to influence kids to hold séances.
Reading the books or watching the movies isn’t going to influence kids to start playing with magic. It’s not like its going to give them the idea of jumping off the roof with a broom, since kids have been familiar with the idea of flying brooms since way before Harry Potter hit the shelves. The most that will happen is little Johnny will point a stick at the remote and say Accio Remote a few times before realizing it doesn’t work. Shows like Charmed and Buffy are much more likely to influence the use of witchcraft because they have a more realistic approach to magic — they actually perform spells while sitting in a circle of candles, and the spells are more like what you’d read in a real spell book. The closest thing to a real spell we see in Harry Potter is the one Voldemort uses for his rebirth. The entire book is based on the fact that Voldemort is evil, so it’s not exactly sending a message to kids to play around with flesh, blood, and bone in a big cauldron.
The Harry Potter books are full of literary devices such as symbolism and metaphors; foreshadowing; historical, modern world, and literary allusions; developed themes; archetypes, etc. If it were a paying job, people could make careers out of studying Harry Potter. There are college courses on single books in classical literature — and it’s just as possible to have a college course on Harry Potter. It’s that detailed, that deep, descriptive…You could read a book 50 times and still find something new. It will make you laugh, and cry, and for those who really like to get into it — there might even be a little screaming. The characters are more developed than usually seen in other books. They have unique personalities as complex as the people I know in real life. Some people think I’m crazy for being so obsessed with these books — but there is a feeling you get just reading them, or even watching the movies. Never have I felt a connection with fictional characters like the ones in Harry Potter — and people have been trying to ban great works of literature since books have existed. People are still trying to yank Huckleberry Finn out of school libraries. But why? Because there’s something in it they don’t particularly agree with? People should stop focusing on the things they want to censor and take a look at what these stories are really about. People write off these books as children’s books, but one read will make anyone with a passion for literature realize it’s much more than that.
In all this talk about Harry Potter, people are missing hundreds of other movies and books that discuss the same subject matter. Take a look at Lord of the Rings. Why isn’t there a huge controversy over that? I actually discussed this with someone who’s Anti-HP, who just happened to be a big LotR fan. The reason she gave me for LotR being acceptable: It doesn’t take place in modern society. My answer: So what? The God that Christians believe in now surely existed just as much way back in the days of Middle Earth. In fact, LotR is actually worse, considering the fact that it is based in a world where the wizards, like Gandalf and Saruman, are considered Demi-gods. In fact, there’s an entire hierarchy of gods in the actual LotR storyline, none of which includes the God of Abraham…so how is that better? JKR is wise not to bring religion into her story, but the characters do celebrate Christmas and Easter, and we know Harry had a christening at which Sirius was made his godfather. We can at least assume they don’t worship another God, and, as I mentioned earlier, she created a world in which, technically, magic is not a sin.
Moving on from media involving magic and sorcery — what about all the movies, books, and TV shows about violence, sex, drugs, cheating, etc.? What about movies where we see these things happening in OUR world, and where the characters of the movies seem to think its OK? They seem to be influencing a lot more sinful behavior than Harry Potter. In fact it does influence people to think its OK, as we are now living in a world where people do all those things – but for some reason I don’t see people walking around in cloaks muttering Avada Kedavra while pointing their wands at others – instead we see shootings on the news and pregnant teenage girls in our schools.
Why do I believe JKR wrote a story about magic in the first place?
Next, you’d have to look at the actual reasons JKR decided to write about a young wizard. The main reason is obvious — it’s magical. The word magical is used with a positive connotation. It describes something wondrous, amazing, or miraculous — something that feels wonderful. The world created in the books takes kids to places they’ve only visited in their imaginations (go ahead, pretend that kids never imagined being able to do magic tricks before The Boy Who Lived came along). It makes the story more interesting. I mean, Harry Potter is a great story of right and wrong, but take away the magic and what do you have? Besides that, JK’s wizards are eccentric and odd, making the books hilarious as Harry learns more and more about the world he’s new to.
The last reason why I think magic is important to the books is the most important: it makes the emotions and ideas we have in our world more concrete. Lily’s sacrifice for Harry shows how a mothers love can protect saving her child from death, the Unforgivable Curses show that hate is strong enough to drive people to control, torture, and kill others. The Dementors show how when despair is concentrated in our lives and minds, it can cause us to drown in our worst memories and eventually lose touch with the real world — even become an empty shell of a person if we allow it to consume us. On the other hand, the Patronus shows how focusing on all the positive things in our life, which are always there, can drive away even the strongest feelings of fear and desperation. Fawkes teaches us that music can move and inspire you, tears are healing and even when it seems unlikely, it is possible for those strong enough inside to carry the heaviest of burdens. Using magic in her stories, JKR creates a concrete symbol for all these ideas and emotions, allowing the reader to truly understand them in a way that isnt usually possible without having experienced them first-hand. I also dont think that learning values from a young wizard is any more absurd than learning Bible stories from talking vegetables (read: Veggie Tales reference). Harry Potter is not about magic. Magic is just an innovative way of getting the ideas across.
What is Harry Potter really teaching its readers?
A 22-year old man who sacrifices himself trying to save the life of his wife and child; a man who would rather die than betray his friends; a group of kids who, even at the age of 11, demonstrate outstanding bravery and selflessness in the face of danger; a family with good morals, who is friendly even to those who shun them, believes in respecting everyone, takes a stand against the evils of the world, and values their own beliefs above riches and power; friends who stick with each other through everything; a man who is the epitome of intelligence, bravery, good judgment and strength, but can still admit he’s made a mistake.
These are all descriptions of characters in Harry Potter. It is rare to come across a book that can entertain young and old alike, making us laugh and cry, that is at its core a story of truly good people. Even the Dursleys, despite their overwhelming ignorance, prejudice, and naivety, are essentially good people if you look hard enough. Vernon does his duty as a husband and father by being protective (he stands in front of Petunia and Dudley to protect them against Arthur Weasley, not seeming to mind that he himself is in the line of fire); both parents love their son very much; Petunia is very supportive of her husband in his career; Mr. and Mrs. Dursley seem to have a very successful marriage; and even in the face of what scares her most she takes in her sister’s child, who she believes is a threat to the world she lives in. As for the characters such as Voldemort, the Malfoys, Peter Pettigrew, Bellatrix — the ones who value power, who are willing to kill and torture, or betray their friends to please someone higher up — theyre basically shown to us as people who are going nowhere. They are the bad guys, the ones we have to beat — so what the kids reading these books and watching these movies are really learning is the difference between right and wrong.
Conclusion: My hat goes off to JK Rowling.
So while all those people are out there at the cinema next year on November 18 with their protest signs, JK Rowling will be busy working on a new way to inspire the imaginations of children, to encourage reading, to make people laugh, and make her older fans delve into the literary depths of her work — and maybe if she has a bit of time left over shell donate a few million pounds to charity, and fight for more human rights. She is a brilliant writer in many ways, and she has done more good in this world than most people ever could. She has given us the gift of Harry Potter: a story about unfailing courage, friendship, love, and strength. The magic part just makes the whole experience a bit more, well, magical.