“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christian Themes in Harry Potter: Outline

This is the first in a long series of posts about Christian themes in Harry Potter. From this point on, beware of spoilers. But before we begin, an outline of the themes that will be discussed is provided for those who wish to know what’s coming:

  • Death: Harry’s journey is one on which he slowly but steadily comes to an understanding of what death means. In the end he learns that death can only be defeated by dying, and that he himself must die.
  • Evil: Descriptions of Voldemort’s character and past function as a fascinating commentary on the nature of evil. Evil is inherently limited in its understanding of good, and this limitation causes Voldemort’s actions to backfire against him repeatedly.
  • Love: Harry learns that there is a deep power in sacrificial love, and when he gives his life for his friends, this power protects them from harm.
  • Harry’s Battle with Voldemort: In the end, Voldemort can only be defeated if Harry himself dies. Harry is a “horcrux” and bears an evil that can only be destroyed by his own death.
In investigating each of these themes, we will find that Christian ideas have a subtle but strong presence in Harry Potter. If you are interested in this topic, take a look at the following articles:
Before taking a look at the Christian imagery, it's important to note that none of this means Rowling is trying to convert readers or promote a worldview. Far from it - from interviews it seems that she was inspired by the idea of a boy wizard, and set out to write engaging novels. God is never mentioned in the books; they are in that sense very secular, and very unlike The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, both of which include "God" in their respective mythologies. Although Harry's story is "godless" in comparison, its imagery and themes often reflect those of Christianity.

While most of what I have written is an exposition of themes that were clearly intended by the author, some of the ideas proposed below are my own, drawn out of the text, and in all likelihood not intended by J. K. Rowling. Yet more may be found in a written work than what the author meant to put there.

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