I fully realize that I am behind the times, but at least I am catching up. I am finally reading Harry Potter. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1) My oldest grandson is reading them and I wanted to be able to talk with him about the books. 2) Many of my students and a couple of my small group girls are major fans and I decided I should have some idea what they are talking about. I just finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Book-wise I am more than half-way, but page-wise, not so much. They just get longer and longer!
To be completely honest, I read the first one several years ago. I had heard a lot of talk pro and con about the series and I wanted to read them for myself. At that time my conclusion was that there was nothing evil about them but that they were not on par with Narnia as far as great literature either. I still agree with my previous conclusion. I do think the writing and plot line improves as this series goes along which is unusual. (Consider Twilight.–No, don’t. It’s too painful.)
I started over this time with the first volume and I bought the books. This is a sign of commitment in a book-freak like me. I have found lots of neat ideas, posted a few quotes as facebook statuses and one or two are even worthy of my commonplace book. I love the fact that a modern author recognizes that good and evil exist. I like the views portrayed about the importance of things like love and sacrifice and loyalty. I like Harry and his friends. They are good characters. I love Dumbledore.
At the risk of censure, however, I must address one thing about the books that really bothers me. Before I do, let me say that I am not presenting this as a reason not to read them. They are REALLY good. I think all literature should be read critically in the sense that it should be evaluated in the light of biblical truth. As I have said before, even at less than the half-way point, I have found much truth. As we read, we should be asking ourselves questions. Is this true? Should he do that? What would be the right thing to do? Why did she make that decision? What led to this tragedy? Asking questions helps us learn. We may read for entertainment, but reading should not be simply an amusement. (Amusement means “without thinking.”)
Here’s my struggle: Harry and his friends break rules constantly. They break rules in order to solve mysteries and right wrongs. Sometimes adults even help them to do this in a secretive way. Dumbledore, whom I have already professed to love, gives Harry the invisibility cloak. This smacks a bit of an “end justifies the means” philosophy. At the very least, Harry and his friends seem to think themselves above the rules as Professor Snape, who I am supposed to hate but with whom I’m afraid I sometimes sympathize, loves to point out. I think Snape will turn out to be okay in the end. Dumbledore seems to think so, and I love Dumbledore.
Our whole society seems to think that rules are made to be broken. There is also a prevalent idea that if you are not caught breaking a rule, you have done nothing wrong. Further, many people believe that if they think a rule is dumb or unfair, or if they have a REALLY good reason for breaking a rule, this lets them off obeying it. I know this. I teach at a school. There is also a lot of animosity towards the teachers at Hogwarts who enforce the rules while those who continually bend them or look the other way are loved. I guess the exception would be Professor McGonagall. She seems to be a lovable rule enforcer. Anyway, all of this leads to a situation in which everyone does what is right in their own eyes, and we all know as well as Noah where that can lead.
This is where I see a difference between Rowling and Lewis, Potter and Narnia. People who break rules in the Narnia stories hear about it from Aslan. When Aravis drugs her slave in The Horse and His Boy so that she can escape, the slave is beaten for oversleeping. Aslan scratches Aravis so that her wounds are identical to those of her maid. He says she “needed to know what it felt like.” He makes it clear that his actions are done in love, to teach her and to prepare her for the role she is to have as a queen. She needs to think about how her actions impact others. This is the way of Aslan. He disciplines in love, and then he moves on.
I think Aslan is the major difference in the stories. Aslan provides a solid answer to the “why” questions. Harry has an answer too. So far, I think the answer is love. Love as a concept is not as strong, however, as love personified. I’m only half-way through. Maybe it’s coming. I hope so, but I’ll keep reading and learning and enjoying. It’s good and besides, I love Dumbledore.