I started my journey with Harry Potter four years after the rest of the world. Ten and a half years ago, I was sitting in a waiting room at the Indiana University Medical Center with one of my brother’s nephews. He was reading a book called, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and he was devouring it like it was his favorite ice cream. His mother asked me if I’d read the books, and I hadn’t, but I’d heard a great deal about the book series – mostly negative. The enthusiasm of this little boy stirred my curiosity so much that when he’d finished the book and asked if I wanted to read it, I said yes, and my journey with Harry Potter began.
After reading the first book in the series (while my brother’s nephew sat next to me and eagerly read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) I was so enthusiastic about Harry’s story that one of my friends ran out and bought all the books (Goblet of Fire had just been released) and stuffed them in my suitcase. The next three books, I went with my friend Jene’ to midnight release parties at Borders and read them in the first 24 hours after I had them in my hands so I would not have to go live in a cave to avoid spoilers.
The creator of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling, created a character so rich, so flawed, so complicated and so inspiring that the world has gladly spent the last 14 years journeying with Harry through 7 books (not including the side books like Tales of Beedle the Bard) and 8 movies. Each time I’ve left the theater I couldn’t wait to see what lay ahead for Harry. Since 2007, I’ve known how the series would end, but today, I saw the final saga, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part 2).
Reading a book and knowing how the story would end, there were no surprises for me, but seeing the story (and what an excellent job screenwriter Steve Kloves did with it) fleshed out so vividly made the wait for the movie worth it. My favorite movie in the entire series had been Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban until today. Today, something happened that hadn’t happened that has not happened for me during a movie in years, and never during one of the Harry Potter movies, not even when Cedric Diggory died – I cried.
I cried a lot during this film, actually. The ladies next to me cried, one even wept openly during several scenes and asked me if I needed a tissue at one point. I was touched by several things in the movie, especially when Harry walked through the great hall during the battle of Hogwarts and saw all the people who had been sacrificed fighting for what they believed in. I started crying when I saw George weeping over Fred’s lifeless body, but lost it completely when I saw Lupin and Tonks lying next to each other, knowing they had left behind an infant who would never know his parents, just like Harry.
The scenes explaining the loyalty, bravery, and exceptional love of Severus Snape were touching for nearly everyone in the theater. When Harry was collecting the memories from Snape and Snape reached up and touched Harry’s face and said, “You have your mother’s eyes,” before Harry even went to the pensieve, Harry knew, deep down inside, that Snape was good. I could tell who hadn’t read the books because there were gasps as Snape’s story unfolded – of how much he loved Lily Potter and wept over her dead body as Harry cried in his crib, of how Dumbledore trusted Snape and asked him to kill him so that he could get even closer to Voldemort, and how, even as Dumbledore reveals that Harry must die, that Snape had grown fond of Harry, and found Dumbledore’s preparing of Harry as a pig to slaughter disgusting. Dumbledore finally realized that Snape has loved Lily Potter all this time and will, “always.”
One of the moments that got most cheers was when Molly Weasley duels Bellatrix Lestrange after Bellatrix tries to kill Ginny. It was worth waiting for. “Not my daughter, you, BITCH!” Molly, a softly padded wizarding family housewife and mother of seven, rises to the occasion and Bellatrix is outmatched and dies with the smirk wiped off her face and dissolved into the air.
When Harry walks toward the forbidden forest to confront Voldemort, he opens the snitch and says, “I am ready to die.” How many 17 year-olds know what self-sacrifice or any kind of sacrifice truly is? Harry walks toward death willingly, believing he must do so so that Voldemort can finally be defeated and the world will be safe. When he opened the snitch, he called his parents, Sirius, and Lupin back from the dead. The calm and quiet that surrounded him was felt in the theater. People were on the edge of their seats. Waiting. Knowing what would happen next.
Voldemort kills Harry, at least the part of him that lived in Harry. Voldemort’s victory is only truly cheered by the worst of the worst, Bellatrix Lestrange and a few others. Voldemort asks the students and the adults who had come to fight for Harry who will join him. Only Draco Malfoy crosses the line, but not after hesitating for what seemed like a long time. He had been torn, even since he was charged to kill Dumbledore in The Half Blood Prince, between doing what is expected (evil) versus what he believes to be right. Harry saved his life in the castle, and Draco knows where his loyalty should lie, but he finally walks toward his parents. Instead of waiting around with Voldemort to celebrate, the battered family walks away. They do not belong on either side any more. All they have left is each other. Through the three brilliant actors who played the Malfoys, you felt every struggle, torment, regret, and defeat.
One character everyone has waited to see have his big moment is Neville Longbottom. After Draco Malfoy walks away with his parents, he steps up and steels himself while Voldemort mocks him. Then, Neville, tired and injured, says that even though Harry’s dead, the cause for freedom and doing what’s right isn’t. He was ready to lead the charge and eventually gets to kill the snake, Nagini, the last horcrux. When he does, Harry is able to defeat Voldemort once and for all.
The movie ends with the epilogue that was in the 7th book, “19 Years Later.” Harry and Ginny are married and have three kids and Ron and Hermione have two kids. Three of the children, James and Albus Potter, and Rose Weasley, are going back to school at Hogwarts. It was a satisfying moment to see something so normal and touching happening for these families and it was happening because of Harry’s sacrifice and willingness to confront evil, and the willingness of others to stand with him.
Very few movies end with applause, but the people in the theater clapped and then got up and left before the credits started to roll. I couldn’t move. I sat and watched the credits (which reads like a who’s who of British thespian royalty) and I was one of two people in the theater. I watched until the very last words faded off the screen. I stood on the stairs with another lady about my age and she said, “I can’t believe it’s over.” I walked out into the lobby and thought I was walking through a funeral home. People of all ages who had just seen the movie were grieving, in a way. The character of Harry Potter will live on through books and movies and memory, but his character will no longer develop, at least not in print.
As someone who loves stories and rich, deep characters, Harry Potter has been a favorite of mine for the last ten years. JK Rowling has created a character and a world that has touched the imaginations of millions of people. She is definitely talented but I don’t think lightning will strike twice with her, though I hope she writes more enjoyable stories. Many people will try to fill Harry’s shoes with Harry-like characters, but there will never be another story quite like his.
It’s time for a new story, a new character to love, but it will take a while. I will miss reading about the boy who lived and watching him fight for what is right – larger than life on the big screen. I will revisit his story from time to time and loathe Hollywood for rebooting the series in thirty years (gnargles will be behind it all).
Goodbye, Harry Potter, and all that you journeyed with. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you, JK Rowling, for sharing Harry with us.
He may have passed his O.W.L. exams, but Harry Potter is being held back.
WAAH! While this will move this movie closer to the 7th & 8th movies, I am still sad. I’ve been looking forward to this for some time, as you can tell.
I can’t wait! 🙂
Since I’m not going to sleep any time soon…I’m reading blogs. I took this meme from Reading, Writing, Living.
1. Hardcover or paperback, and why?
Both. Hardbacks feel more official. With how expensive and heavy hardcovers can be, though, I tend to buy paperbacks or cloth covered books.
2. If I were to own a book shop I would call it…
Imagination Unleashed! (Must include exclamation point).
3. My favorite quote from a book (mention the title) is…
Okay, I have four from one book – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho:
“People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams because they feel they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them.” – The Alchemist
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” – The Alchemist
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve; the fear of failure.” – The Alchemist
As he was about to climb yet another dune, his heart whispered, “Be aware of the place where you are brought to tears. That’s where I am, and that’s where your treasure is.”
4. The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be …
Lauren Winner. She writes about her faith with an edge and authenticity.
5. If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except from the SAS survival guide, it would be…
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (it’s all in one volume, so that counts as one book, right?) I get something new out of it every time I read it.
Or my complete volume of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. I would need to laugh on a desert island for sure.
6. I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that…
would allow me to read my book…lying down… without holding onto the book… and it would turn the pages for me.
7. The smell of an old book reminds me of…
8. If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be…
Harry Potter. He was a good friend, he wasn’t necessarily the smartest, but he had courage, heart and learned that sometimes you have to choose “between what is right and what is easy.” He was willing to sacrifice himself to save those he loved and those he didn’t know from the ultimate evil.
If I could only be that courageous and noble.
9. The most overestimated book of all time is…
I don’t know. There have been so many that have made me think, “huh? and the big deal was?”
10. I hate it when a book…
…is really badly written, and published anyway…or when a book that uses techniques I used to be punished for gets published and people love it.
Over a decade ago, I attended a church where the pastor said this from the pulpit (loosely paraphrased from memory): “See this book in my hand?” he nearly shouted, “it’s the Word of God. Don’t question me… my interpretation of this book. It’s my job to tell you what this book says. You don’t need to read it yourself.”
I remember the train wreck in my head. I wanted to stand and shout, “NO!” remembering that every man works out his own salvation with fear and trembling, and having the feeling that if he broke out the kool-aid after service I should hit him with my Bible and run for the exit as fast as I could.
Everything that man said in his sermon, by the way, I completely disagreed with. I was essentially shunned later for saying (out loud) that what he had preached was not in The Book, and his edict of keeping Bible interpretation to himself and the hope of keeping his young flock scripturally ignorant so they wouldn’t see what a unbiblical power trip he was on was completely wrong.
Before I left, I encouraged everyone I could to read the Bible for themselves…to make up their own minds…to use their brains and not become mindless sheep. I have no idea what happened to most of those congregants, but I do know that those of us raised in the church with a good handle on our theology left and didn’t look back.
I guess how I was raised and then my experience with the arrogant Bible-thumping, “hear me, don’t read,” pastor has left me often questioning what I hear from the pulpit and beyond. I was not allowed an opinion or to think freely as a kid and that Sunday epiphany showed me how dangerous that mindset really is.
Why are so many Christians willing to hand over their brains at the chapel doors and willingly digest and accept every word that a human being says from the pulpit (or the pages, or the internet)? Why carry the Bible to church if it’s not going to be read at home? Studied? Most of us feel a certain comfort with our pastors, and know, deep down, they’re not going to lead us astray. Right?
For the most part when hear a sermon, I find that the pastor and I are on the same page and I don’t have to worry what’s in the coffee served after the service. Still, beyond the creeds and doctrines, sometimes I hear things spoken (from many pulpits) that make me wonder, “really? Why?” or “Why not?”
When I was a kid, I was told not to read certain books. You know the list. Catcher in the Rye was always at the top. Today, you will most likely find the Harry Potter series on many conservative lists. I used to play along. Not read what I wasn’t supposed to, tow the line, say the right things…and have no idea how to join in the conversation except to say, “I have heard it’s wrong/bad/forbidden… banned.”
These days, tell me not to read something or tell me it’s controversial and I’m more likely to at least research the book (movie, article, author) if not read the book itself. Make up my own mind. Think. Process. Decide.
I may yet agree the banned or controversial material is indeed not fit for public consumption. Or… I may say, “I agree,” or “he has some valid points,” or “why not?” In some circles, that heresy could get me crucified. Outside the box is a scary place apparently and lately I seem to find myself outside of the box or fighting to get out of it.
When did having a brain get so dangerous? When did thinking outside the box become so taboo? Why not give people credit for having the brains and discernment to decide for themselves whether or not someone’s words or ideas are something to absorb or adhere to, or to dismiss? Are today’s Christians that theologically lacking that the thought of encouraging them to educate themselves about the “other side” or “grey area” of a conversation is out of the question?
I don’t know what the answer is or where this rant came from. I guess I’m just tired of hearing “but I’ve heard it’s bad,” or people believing something “because so and so said so.” If the thought process ends there, it’s dangerous.
I don’t know why I feel like apologizing for not giving so and so the power to think for me. I may agree with so and so at some point, but it will be because I informed myself, sought God myself, used my brain, and made a decision… or I may not agree with so and so… and it’s okay. It really, really is.
There will be no bra burning at the end of this post, but sadly I feel sort of revolutionary in my thinking right now.
But at least I’m thinking… with my own brain.
This article comes from one of the foremost experts on the Harry Potter series, John Granger.
I’ve been looking for an intelligent answer besides, “well, it just doesn’t,” when someone insists that Harry Potter introduces children to the occult and this article reinforces that thought.
John Granger delves into the literary traditions of alchemy that are woven throughout Harry Potter, which is a far cry from the occult. Again, Mr. Granger explains it a lot better than I could. Here’s a sample:
The great irony in the objections that Rowling’s books undermine or violate the tenets of the Christian faith is that her books offer initiation, not into the occult, but into the symbolist worldview of revealed faiths (and sacramental religions specifically) and the dominant symbols and doctrines of traditional Christianity. Ignorance of alchemy and the larger traditions of English literature—not to mention the Christian understanding of the relations of faith and secular culture—has caused many to turn away a great help, perhaps providential, in the trouble and struggle we have to prepare our children for fully human, which is to say “spiritual,” lives.
I love that any book can lead me to other books and articles and in turn, learn more about myself and others… and learn more about other great literature and ideas.
All of this research and reading has reminded me that to be relevant in my pursuit of writing (and in other areas of my life), I must learn about, know, and understand the world outside of the Christian subculture and I that I must use caution to walk that delicate tightrope of learning about the world around me and taking what I learn and become an influence on the world, and not vice versa.
I don’t pretend to walk that tightrope perfectly, and I won’t pretend that I’m even close to getting it right all the time. I will, though, continue to add to the dialogue, and hopefully, we will learn from each other.
I have had many opportunities this week to discuss Harry Potter with supporters of the Harry Potter series, and with those who still have reservations about the world JK Rowling has created.
One thing I have learned in my years of blogging and in creative discussion is that you can lead a horse to water, but that doesn’t make him a duck (with an ode to Ms. Depesto of the Moonlighting series). I can explain my beliefs and my opinions to those who hold opposite views, but I can’t make them, no matter how hard I try, change their mind, and I’m not going to jump down their throat about it.
Too many times in the past, I have bludgeoned people over the head with my opinion, because, after all, my way is the only way right? Only I have tapped into the great vein of knowledge about God and know beyond the shadow of any doubt that my human brain has interpreted everything God has shown me to be true and absolute – there is no room for other opinions to be brought to the table… I am the authority on everything! Mwah, ha ha!
And then God saved me from myself… from my arrogance and pride, from my tunnel vision and black and white existence and delivered me into the technicolor kaleidoscope I currently see the world through. I no longer separate the sacred from the secular (have you noticed that sacred is really close to scared?) and am able to see the sacred in the secular much more than many people are inclined or comfortable with. I consider this vision a true gift, but it’s a gift that not everybody embraces in me… and as God has worked that miracle in my life, I’ve cared less about anybody’s opinion of me but his.
I answer to him alone, and when I remember that, the freedom is a rush.
As I’ve been reminded lately, I am responsible to put the message/opinion out there, but I am not responsible for the reaction. It’s not my job to align anyone with my opinions. If you like what you read, fine. If you don’t, let’s talk. Maybe I have something to learn, or maybe God has something he wants to reinforce with the difference of your opinion.
Take heart, Harry haters. There’s room for both of us at the table. We’re both still Christians even if we come down on different sides of the issue. Just know that no matter how much you think I’ve gone off the deep end over this or many other things I blog about, my heart still belongs to God.
I still have a long way to go to truly understand thinking outside of the box and to make that my brain’s default setting, but at least my heart is now outside of the box and the God I know is outside of it, too, though that is a daily placement sometimes.
Believe me, the world is much more exciting and colorful out of the box than it ever was in it… or, don’t believe me. I’m leaving that choice up to you.
I just finished my second reading of the book yesterday. I wanted to go back and reread it to be sure I caught more details, to make sure I didn’t miss anything during my marathon reading session last Saturday.
The final book in the blockbuster fantasy series, Deathly Hallows did not disappoint. The story ended much as I thought it might, and even though many beloved characters were lost along the way, the story settled into a happy ending, complete with a glimpse into Harry’s life 19 years down the road.
If you refer to my previous posts, you know that I have believed that this series of books is a classic story of good versus evil, of using the power bestowed upon you for the benefit of others, or for the benefit of oneself. I want to say first and foremost that this book had a redemptive ending, and paralleled the redemptive, sacrificial story of Christ in the Bible.
The mere mention of Harry Potter and the word, “Bible” in the same sentence usually causes quite a stir, but I won’t back away from it, because, in the same way I read The Lord of the Rings, I read it with an open mind, and I saw the salvation/sacrifice story in that book, and I know people who have read it who only managed to see it as a fantasy story, nothing more. Either you will see the Christian threads woven throughout Harry Potter, or you won’t.
A friend told me she believes that people can dismiss or embrace the magic in the stories of The Chronicles of Narnia and the The Lord of the Rings because, for the most part, the stories are set centuries ago in magical, made up lands. I think she’s right. The Harry Potter series is set in present day, and it’s harder to dismiss the magic in this wonderfully crafted fantasy story when you can actually imagine the magic happening in the world around you. I think that’s part of the mental block people have, whether they know it or not.
Hear me, please. Harry Potter is not Jesus. However, if a roaring lion in The Chronicles of Narnia can be compared to the Lion of Judah, then Harry Potter’s journey can certainly be compared to Jesus’ journey to the cross. In many ways, we all have been on that journey at one point or other in our lives. All of us have had to die to self and take up our cross on our journey of faith.
Since Harry was born, each moment of his life, each lesson he has learned, each loss he has suffered, has led him to the place where he discovers that ultimately, he must sacrifice himself… willingly… in order to rid the world of the embodiment of evil, Lord Voldemort. Their journeys are intertwined, for one cannot live if the other survives.
Harry learns, through a journey in a Pensieve of memories of his believed arch enemy, Severus Snape, that Snape has been protecting him his entire life and that the time will come where he will have to die to ensure Lord Voldemort’s defeat. He has been protected, kept alive, taught, nearly killed, he’s suffered, endured torture and pain… only to learn that he was not being prepared for victory, he was being prepared to die.
Dumbledore insists that this knowledge must be kept from Harry until the very end, otherwise, how would he find the strength to do what he must? Literally, all the weight of the world falls upon this 17 year old’s shoulders, and he rises to the challenge and walks willingly toward death.
Harry allows himself to be struck down by Voldemort with the irreversible killing curse, and he wakes up in a peaceful place and is joined by Dumbledore. There, they talk out what’s been happening, Dumbledore confesses to Harry that Harry is a better man than he, and that Harry now has a choice – he can go “on” and rest in eternity, or he can go back, because he is still alive, still tied to Voldemort until Voldemort himself is dead.
Harry decides to go back and finish the job. He knows he must go back for the greater good, a theme which was woven throughout this book. The desire to do something for the greater good can be motivated by love, or it can be motivated and twisted by selfishness. Voldemort believed he was cleansing the tainted “mudbloods” out of his world, just as Hitler believed what he was doing was for the greater good of humanity, sacrificing others to achieve this goal. Jesus, however, sacrificed himself for the greater good, and Harry lay down his life for his friends – even for people he didn’t know.
I don’t know what can be evil about a book that teaches the difference in choosing between what is right and what is easy, between good and evil, between sacrifice and selfishness. We are all human, we are all flawed, and we all face these types of choices every day. To introduce children to these concepts and be able to dialogue with them about these types of choices is the gift of well written literature. JK Rowling has managed to get millions of people to read a redemption story that is woven with Christian imagery even if people choose not to see it.
I will end with this. The story of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has many themes, good vs. evil, sacrifice and selfishness, and so much more. What the book boils down to, and I believe what ultimately makes Harry victorious, is found on page 325 in the epitaph on the grave of Dumbledore’s mother and sister.
Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
I just finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows about fifteen minutes ago. It was an incredibly well written and intricate story that ties up all lose ends and provides nail biting suspense along the way. And, when I get around to reviewing the book, any question about the author’s morality will be laid to rest.
We went to Borders in the Galleria last night to get our books. Jene’ cleverly picked up our wristbands on her lunch hour, wristbands that would put us in the first group to get the books at midnight.
I tried to take a nap before we went to Borders. I slept from 7 – 8 PM then the annoying ice cream truck blasting it’s off tone Swannee River came through the complex, followed by the neighbors coming home and their car alarm beeping every time someone walked past their car. Finally, I slept some more between 8:45 and 10 PM, when my alarm went off and I got up to get ready to go to Borders.
I was tired but excited when we got to Borders. We had picked up another friend of ours and arrived around 11 PM. Many kids had dressed up for the occasion, and my favorite was a girl who dyed her hair bright pink like the character Tonks.
At about ten till midnight, they called for all silver wristbands to line up first and we jumped in line. Before they rolled the books out on carts to take them to the cash registers, they counted down and then everyone cheered.
We were probably seventh or eighth in line, so unlike Book 6’s release, when we walked out of Borders around 12:50 AM, Jene’ and I had our orange covered books in our hot little hands by 12:05 AM and I started reading the book at 12:50 AM.
I took great measures to ensure that I would read more than I did last year before I went to sleep (last year, I got to chapter 2 and fell asleep). I drank some Vitamin Water (Revive) and ate some popcorn, cheese and fruit to stay awake. Finally, though, at about 5 AM, I was having issues with comprehension, so I decided to sleep. At this point, I was about to start chapter 19. I was nearly halfway through.
So I got up at 9:30 and ate breakfast, took a shower and started reading again around 10:20 and finished at 3:03 PM.
Good places to stop if you are reading in segments…stop before:
I suggest planning on reading the remaining chapters together, which would be a little over 200 pages, because things really pick up after that and I can’t imagine being able to stop after that point.
I will post a review of the book later in the week after I read it again. 🙂