AND RELIGION AN INTRODUCTION TO PLOTS, ISSUES AND THEMES
The Harry Potter Saga • Story of young boy who discovers he is a wizard, destined to fight evil, covering the seven years (age 11-18) that he spends at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. • First Six books published to date (1997, 1999, 2000, 2000, 2003, 2005.) • Seventh book rumoured by fans for July 2007 release (but unlikely - J.K. Rowling only began writing it January 2006)
J.K. Rowling • J.K. Rowling (b. 1965) • 2004, US dollar billionaire (1st person ever to become a billionaire by writing books). • Degree in Classics and French, worked for Amnesty International, later unemployed. • Idea for Harry Potter came to her on a train, she wrote first book on lunch breaks and while unemployed.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone • Plot: Harry discovers he’s a wizard; goes to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; makes friends and enemies; thwarts Voldemort’s plan to return to power; is saved from death by power of Mother’s Love. • Religious Themes: special birth, marked destiny, good vs evil, sacrificial love, trial by fire (purification of the soul)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets • Plot: Harry returns to Hogwarts, discovers the Chamber of Secrets, battles Tom Riddle/Voldemort, is saved by Ffawkes (phoenix) • Religious Themes: good vs evil, demonic possession, sacrificial love, death/resurrection symbolism…
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban • Plot: Sirius Black escapes from Azkaban, hunts Harry; Dementors hunt Black (and Harry); true traitor is revealed • Religious Themes: good vs evil, dangers of doing/using evil for “good” purposes, spiritual defense against “demons” of hopelessness, despair…
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire • Plot: Voldemort has returned, Death Eaters grow in power, Harry’s name entered into TriWizard Tournament, battles Voldemort in graveyard, saved by ghosts of parents. • Religious themes: good vs evil, spiritual champion, sacrificial love, grace...
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix • Plot: The Order of the Phoenix resists Lord Voldemort, Harry is tormented at school, takes occlumency lessons from Snape, is lured into trap trying to save Sirius; battles death eaters and Voldemort, Sirius is killed; Dumbledore reveals a Prophesy • Religious Themes: good vs evil, prophesy, predestination, Dark night of the soul…
Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince • Plot: Potter uses a potions textbook owned by “half-blood Prince” to excel at potions; suspects Draco of being a death eater; learns about Voldemort’s early years; discovers Voldemort has split his soul into seven pieces; works with Dumbledore to retrieve pieces; commits to leave school to pursue quest after Dumbledore’s fall. • Religious Themes: good vs evil, sacrificial love, faith…
Harry Potter and Religious Communities - the controversy • The main issue: the books deal with magic and witchcraft, which are forbidden in the Bible - does the presence of magic and witchcraft in these books mean that they are advocating the practice of magic by Christian children? • This question often takes three main forms… Harry Potter Book Burning
Harry Potter and Religious Communities - Issue #1: Fantasy vs Reality? • Is the world of Harry Potter presented as a fantasy world, or as a “real” world? • Is it different from The Chronicles of Narnia in this way? • If a fantasy world, (read: “completely fictional, imaginative, no connection to real world” - does the challenge of Harry Potter in terms of religious response go away? • If the world of Harry Potter is presented as a “real” world, what “threat” might Harry Potter present? • Can children tell the difference between “fantasy” and “reality”?
Fantasy vs Reality • The “slippery slope” argument - admiring witches and wizards in fiction leads to admiring them in real life? • The “quacks like a duck” argument - if its called witchcraft, involves spells and potions, and talking to ghosts, it is exactly what God has forbidden, no matter what context it is found in…?
Fantasy vs Reality • The Satanism argument - If Satan is a real force, out to snare unwary minds with all tools at his disposal, wouldn’t this include fantasy novels… (especially ones that idealize witchcraft?) - Fantasy novels as tools of Satan?
Issue #2 - Good vs Evil • Is Harry Potter really a “good” guy? Is Harry Potter a role model to follow, or one to avoid at all costs? • If he’s a role model to follow, what characteristics does he display that are admirable? • If he’s not, what characteristics does he display that make him a bad role model to be avoided?
Good vs Evil • WWHPD? Can you (should you) use Harry Potter as a guide for making life choices? • Harry Potter as a modern-day “Grimm’s Fairy Tale”? • Cosmic good vs evil, vs everyday good & evil - lack of black and white boundaries on everyday level undermine boundaries on cosmic level?
Issue #3 Secular vs Religious? • Are the Harry Potter novels, (and Harry Potter’s world) secular or religious? • Most challenged books three years running (1999-2001), over 400 challenges on religious grounds. • Can any set of books that can be seen as both a set of guidelines for Christian children to follow, AND a slippery slope down to Satanism and the Occult, NOT have some religious dimensions?
Secular vs Religious • What is the nature of magic in Harry Potter?