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Harry Potter, Chamber of Secrets…

August 17, 2007

chamber_of_secrets.jpg

What is the answer to Christian critics of Harry Potter?  Perhaps the best answer is offered by Granger, Looking for God in Harry Potter in the following excerpt.  Granger takes a look at the idea of “Dangerous Books and Edifying Books in Chapter 12 (a chapter which also offers Christian keys to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  Granger writes:

 Rowling remarked at the release of Goblet of Fire that it and Chamber of Secrets were the hardest stories to write and her favorites among the books. 

Chamber of Secrets operates on several levels.  As in all the books, it tells a rollickin’ good yarn while advancing the larger story of Harry and Voldemort.  But Chamber of Secrets also provides an answer to her Christian critics within its story and is a “book about books” to boot.  Chamber of Secrets may be the best single volume of the series.  It is simultaneously

  • A wonderful mystery/adventure story, tightly plotted
  • A series of revelations about Riddle and other characters, which move along the larger story line
  • A response to critics via a textbook demonstration of the meaning and power of edifying story (Riddle’s diary, Lockhart’s lifework, and the very Harry Potter book the reader is holding and experiencing)

The best books for children are the ones that model for them a heroic life in battle with the evil one, dependent on the graces only available in Christ.  That ‘best book’ model is evident in the battle scene at the end of Chamber of Secrets, a Christian morality play for anyone with ‘eyes to see.’  I believe that the finish to Chamber of Secrets is the most transparent Christian allegory of salvation history since Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  (see Granger p. 143 for detailed summary)

______

Now let’s translate this morality play and allegory.  First, we need to know the cast of characters and places and what reality each represents:

  • Harry is Everyman
  • Ginny is virgin innocence, purity
  • Riddle/Voldemort is Satan, the deceiver
  • The basilisk is sin
  • Dumbledore is God the Father
  • Fawkes the phoenix is Christ
  • Phoenix song is the Holy Spirit
  • Gryffindor’s sword is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17)
  • The Chamber is the world
  • Hogwarts is heaven

The action of this salvation drama, then, goes like this:

Man, alone and afraid in the world, loses his innocence.  He tries to regain it but is prevented by Satan, who feeds on his fallen, lost innocence.  Man confesses and calls on God the Father while facing Satan, and is graced immediately by the Holy Spirit and the protective presence of Christ.

Satan confronts man with the greatness of his sins, but Christ battles on man’s side for man’s salvation from his sins.  God sends man the sword of the Spirit, which he uses to slay his Christ-weakened enemy.  His sins are absolved, but the weight of them still means man’s death.  Satan rejoices.

But the voluntary suffering of Christ heals man!  Man rises from the dead, and with Christ’s help, man destroys Satan.  Man’s innocence is restored, and he leaves the world for heaven by means of the Ascension of Christ.  Man, risen with Christ, lives with God the Father in joyful thanksgiving. 

What is Chamber of Secrets about?  These stories are edifying fiction, written in such a way that they prepare children for Christian spiritual life and combat with evil.  Talk about baptizing the imagination with Christian symbols and doctrine!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Timm permalink
    August 21, 2007 2:18 pm

    Brian,

    One of the resources that was helpful to me was listening to the radio program Come Receive the Light during which they discussed Harry Potter from an Orthodox Christian perspective. While not Orthodox Christians agree with the opinions expressed on the radio show, it was refreshing for me to see another viewpoint from the anti-Harry Potter perspective that I once held.

    Visit http://www.myocn.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=category&sectionid=5&id=21&Itemid=97 and scroll down to the bottom of the page. One of the interviews is with John Granger.

    By the way, I’m about 150 pages into the Deathly Hallows. As I’ve heard different arguments for and against Harry Potter, I’m reminded that we find whatever it is that we’re looking for. For those who are looking for a reason to criticize this literature, they can find it. For those who look for the positive aspects, they’ll find it.

    Thanks for posting!

    Timm

  2. just an apprentice permalink
    August 24, 2007 10:55 am

    Timm,
    Thanks for your visit and comment.
    Brian

  3. September 1, 2007 3:48 pm

    While allegorical interpretations of books are OK, one needs to remember that they were not necesarily written by the author with allegorical intentions.

    I’ve just been reading The quest of the Holy Grail, which is a heavily allegorical rendering of the stories from the Arthurian cycle. I’m not sure that it enhances the stories.

    The Harry Potter stories undoubtedly are informed by Christian values, but putting them into a rigid allegorical framework is a bit much.

  4. just an apprentice permalink
    September 1, 2007 5:13 pm

    Agreed. I think Grangers main point is not that the Potter books were written with the express purpose of being an allegory, but that they are infused with Christian values. Many Christians have trouble seeing this because they have a problem with the setting within which J.K. Rowling develops these values–the world of magic, wizardry, etc.

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