The Conclusion of Harry Potter

*There may be a spoiler or two. Proceed with caution

This week marks the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II,” which marks the end of the movie franchise and, for intents and purposes, the cultural phenomenon as well (barring a sequel, of course). For members of my generation, especially among those who enjoy reading, this will probably be a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, the last movie looks like it will be an exciting conclusion; on the other hand, we have to say goodbye to the series that has been a large part of our growing up. Many of us waited at midnight in bookstores for the release, and then spent most of the the next morning reading it.

It’s undeniable that for many Harry Potter was important. The question is why it became so important and what inspired so many. There are other books that are far better written, and fantasy is a genre that usually lives on the periphery of popular culture.

I think Potter managed to grab attention because behind all the spells and magic was a little boy who never knew his parents. The opening book’s depiction of Harry returning night after night just for one glimpse of him with his parents struck many people, especially me. My own father died when I was four, so I understood why Harry went to the Mirror of Erised every night, and how throughout the series Harry would stop everything just to get a tiny scrap of what his parents were like, just he could get to know them a little better.

But this is enough to get people reading; but what kept them reading was a plot that contains many Christian themes. Although many Christians objected to the magic, Harry won not through finding the special spell or the magic weapon, but purely through selfless, sacrificial love. Although there are several instances where Christian ethics are not applied, on the whole Christians can find this work agreeable.

It’s not often that Christian themes are given such a showcase which enjoys such popularity. As the series concludes this week, let’s be thinking about how we can use Potter the way many already use Lord of the Rings: as a vehicle to introduce and inspire people to the Christian life.

21 Responses to The Conclusion of Harry Potter

  • I think what really motivated the love for Harry Potter was the fact that Good and Evil were clearly defined. The villains of the series were always blood-thirsty savages (Voldemort, Belatrix, Fenrir, etc) while the heroes were always kind, gentle people (aside from the 3 central figures, Ginny, Neville, Remus, etc). There were very few blurred lines in this separation (Snape & Quirrell, for example).

    Plus, it’s kids beating up on adults, and what kid hasn’t dreamed of ‘winning’ a battle against their parents or teachers? Where else can we find a 17 year old boy who can defeat a seemingly invincible 60 year old.

  • Well said, Michael, and I agree with you on the Christian elements of the book. I would say that though the movies have been okay and I tend to watch them when they’re on (which is seemingly all the time on ABC Family), they never quite matched up to the books. So for me, the bittersweet moment was the day the final book was released. Still excited to watch the finale this weekend.

  • Kylekanos: I would agree with you, save for two examples. One is Snape, as you mentioned, but the other is Dumbledore. The picture of Dumbledore revealed in the last book is not a terribly flattering one; we see his manipulation. I think those two figures and the important role they play (as shown by Harry naming his children after them at the end) does add a significant element of murkiness.

    You may also make an argument about where the Malfoys fall at the end.

    However, on the whole the series had good guys and bad guys, and I think this lack of an anti-hero probably appealed to many.

  • While I’m a little too old to have grown up with the Harry Potter books, they came along at an interesting point for me. I started reading them right before my senior year of college in 2000. As an English major I’d just spent the previous three years reading some great literature and a lot of really messed up critical theory, absurdist theatre, and overly sexualized crappola that make up the modern academic “canon.” Harry Potter was a blessed break from all that. It was/is entertaining, easy to read, creative, and intellectually interesting.

  • Yeah, thanks Denton. Add a spoiler alert next time. Wanker.

    ;-)

  • I agree that the Harry Potter is an enjoyable read, mostly because it follows the classic “Hero’s Quest” but would not claim it is any way Christian even if it does contain Christian-like themes.

    Point of fact: the Pope thinks it distorts Christianity and may be dangerous because of the “subtle seductions”.

    “Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had even condemned the books, writing that their “subtle seductions, which act unnoticed … deeply distort Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly.”

    “Remember, satan and his demons are very subtle. He’s not going to come to you as he truly is, but in a very appealing disguise. The person or persons he will acquaint you with will mix lies with the truth to confuse you and to lead you away from the Church and the Eucharist. And it will all seem so right and pleasant to the earthly side of you. He will slowly but surely lead you into deeper and deeper sin, just like the frog that gets boiled one degree at a time.”
    http://www.catholicbible101.com/thedevil.htm

    Pax vobiscum

  • Note first quote comes from different source than second quote. Sorry for any confusion.

  • I’ve heard that quote, but it’s in response to a letter, and doesn’t evenly remotely indicate that the Pope has ever read Harry Potter or is very familiar with it or even what exactly is objectionable about the books.

  • Would anyone agree with me that Dobby the House Elf was the most annoying fictional film character since Jar Jar Binks?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCqfwXeq6_8

  • Ok, but you get smaller doses of Dobby than Jar Jar not to mention Dobby is supposed to a little weird. I would contend that Padme or really any character played by Natalie Portman is more annoying than Dobby.

  • Ah, if I were counting humans Michael I would agree with you regarding Portman. Hmmm, now that I think about it I didn’t hate her in Thor, which is her first performance I didn’t hate, although she was pretty annoying in Thor also. Of course her Natalie Portman Rap for Saturday Night Live gives her a special annoying status all by itself.

  • I didn’t find Dobby all that annoying in the books, and indeed, his part in the last book leads to one of the more affecting scenes in the series. The movie version was pretty annoying, though. It’s the voice.

    Though I will say, the whole Elf Liberation Front plot line in one of the middle books one was of the most stupid and annoying wastes of time in the entire series. Yeeesh. (Though overall, those middle books were the weaker ones, with the first being pretty good and the last ones being very much so.)

  • I agree with Darwin on Dobby, but not on the books. Azkaban and Goblet of Fire are the most enjoyable in the series, and to me the next two kind of tread water until Rowling gets to the end.

    Another problem with the movies is not just how much they leave out – it’s kind of understandable considering the length of the middle books – but that they really turned Hermione into nothing more than a worry wort. Well, she’s kind of that way in the books, but the movies really dim Ron and Hermione as characters.

  • I thought Hermione was ok in the movies; Ron was a waste thought. I found myself in 7.1 listening to the Horcrux Hermione bash Ron and thinking “you know, the Horcrux has a point here. Who would look at Ron in this?”

    I think the ELF plot line was supposed to be kinda silly as the characters go through that “I’m going to change everything” stage of life, but it did take up a bit too much space.

    As for annoying non-humans, I think an argument could be made for Mater in Cars 2 (way, way too much of Larry the Cable Guy). I agree with Darwin; Dobby is only annoying because of the voice. /

  • I read books 1-6, but not #7. I watched all the movies, including 7.1.

    I want to agree with Mrs. Zummo: the Potter series was an easy-to-read break from some other stuff I was reading.

    I also want to agree with Mr. Zummo about the entertainment of the books: I thought the books got better (even though longer) leading up to the fourth installment. Goblet of Fire was my favorite.

    At that point, it seems that Rowling decided that she had to get down to concluding the series, but was committed to wrapping it up in seven books. Consequently, for me, books 5 & 6 tended to be too complex and less fun.

    I was so put off by book 6 that I didn’t even read Deathly Hallows. I figured I’d just watch the movie to see how it concluded. Then, it was decided to make the book into two (!) movie.

    After bringing my daughter and friends to see 7.1, I was disappointed. But I kept hearing how it distorted the book. So – as I try to wrap up a much too long post – I have decided NOT to watch 7.2 until I’ve read the book.

    I don’t find anything anti-Christian in the books, and I didn’t have a problem with my young daughter (she’s now 15-yrs-old) reading them.

    As for Dobby: annoying in the movies; not so much in the books.

  • As much as I have enjoyed this series, two elements keep me from fully embracing it as consistent with Christianity:
    1) The portrayal of a world parallel to our own that has special, superior knowledge of the world but is completely secular with no mention of any sort of faith.
    2) The fact that Voldemort’s puppet is named “Pius.”
    Having said all this, there are much worse stories to which one can be exposed and negatively influenced by.

  • The distinction between good and evil is mostly on an emotional level. Ontologically, there is almost no distinction at all. Practically everything that characterizes the ‘dark side’ is done by the good guys. All the things that seem to be intrinsically evil are done by the good guys. Unforgivable curses, killing, hatred, etc. What is left?

  • You may also make an argument about where the Malfoys fall at the end.

    The besetting sin of the Malfoys is envy, a desire for status-climbing above all else, cozying up to the powerful, regardless of who the powerful happen to be. By “Half Blood Prince,” they are being carried off by the malevolence more than participating in it. I thought the repentance of Draco and Narcissa was convincing, but Lucius’ somewhat less so.

    As to the other topics–Order of the Phoenix is easily the toughest slog of the bunch. “Oh, great–another Quidditch match…” I thought she pulled herself together rather nicely after that.

    Dobby is nowhere near as obnoxious on the page as he is the screen. He’s rather likeable in the books. I remember the funny, but deeply scatological sketch Peter Jackson did for the MTV Movie Awards involving Smeagol arguing with Gollum. Smeagol protests that “Dobby the Elf likes me!” Gollum’s riposte is…funnier than a rubber crutch, but unprintable. But, yeah, it works given how irritating Dobby the Film Elf is.

  • The end of the Harry Potter movies….and high time.

    I will probably go to my grave wondering what anyone saw in these poorly-written books and the infantile movies made from them. It will take someone with a greater intellect than mine to figure out the success of such things. Hype certainly played a part but there is more to it than that I’m afraid. These films/books are the Cabbage Patch dolls of our time, and with all the silliness and ugliness.

    As for me, I’ll stick with both fine literature and fine films, neither of which one can commonly find after the 1960s.

  • As for me, I’ll stick with both fine literature and fine films, neither of which one can commonly find after the 1960s.

    Get off my lawn!!!!!!!!

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