Harry Potter

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British edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

The Harry Potter books are a hugely popular[1] series of seven fantasy novels by J.K. Rowling about three children at a British boarding school for 'witchcraft and wizardry': Harry, Ron and Hermione. The children grow from age 11 to 17 in the books, giving them appeal to a broad range of readers including children and teenagers, but also appealing to adults. Since their release, interest and acceptance of withcraft has increased, particularly among the goth subculture, and many rides and attractions centered around the books are causing children to accept and admire witchcraft and magic.

Contents

Harry Potter

Harry Potter is the protagonist and the plot of each book focuses on Harry's adolescence and fight against the antagonist wizard Lord Voldemort. The books combine elements of whimsy reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, the strange adult immaturity of Through the Looking Glass, and the implacable good vs. evil fight of The Lord of the Rings.

When Harry was a mere baby, his parents were murdered by the evil Voldemort. Harry didn't know that his parents were wizards until his 11th birthday; it came as a giant surprise. Hagrid took him to Diagon Alley for robes, books and wand; then on to Hogwarts, a boarding school for wizards and witches. He had many adventures there learning magic and using it to fight the forces of the wizard who killed his parents when he was an infant. Lord Voldemort seeks to become immortal by any means. Voldemort also leads forces of "Death Eaters" who follow Voldemort's ideology of a "pure-blood" (wizard who was born to wizard parents) society and persecute Muggles, non-magical folk. Along the way, Harry learns about life and death and grapples with questions of morality and friendship.

The seven books in the series have been fabulously successful, selling 300 million copies, and Forbes estimates that they have made Rowling the first billion-dollar author in history.[2] All of them have been made into movies, with the last book being split into two separate films.

The Harry Potter series of books are sizable volumes. The 870 pages of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, even though printed in large type, contain 255,000 words—about twice as long as A Tale of Two Cities. The "Lexile" measure of reading level puts the series between 880L and 950L,[3] comparable to sixth-grade texts[4]

Popularizing the Occult and Mockery of Christianity

Spoiler warning
This article contains important plot information

Many conservative Christians have attacked the books. Most mainline Protestant and Catholic leaders have taken a more favorable position. For example, the official organization of American Catholic bishops (the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) has rated each film "A-II", --that is, suitable for adults and adolescents and was not found to be morally offensive.The episcopal conference even named the film adaptation of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" one of the ten best family films of 2004.

However conservative critics have charged that the books have the potential of driving children away from Christian knowledge of good and evil toward the occult more than anything else in western society: "a generation of children is becoming desensitized to the occult. But with Hollywood's help, Harry Potter will likely surpass all these influences, potentially reaping some grave spiritual consequences"[5]

Witchcraft is expressly forbidden by the Old Testament.

Some Fundamentalists have praised the moral values of the books. For example, Scott Moore, philosophy professor at Baylor University, has found some remarkable Christian symbolism in the Potter series.

James L. Evans, pastor of Crosscreek Baptist Church, concludes, "Instead of condemning Harry, maybe we should learn courage from him to name as evil what apparently we are afraid to speak."[6]

Conservative Christians say the Harry Potter series is written in a way that embeds fantasy and wizardry into a real world setting. This could potentially lead to some children exploring witchcraft, Wicca, and paganism. Indeed, the Pagan Federation in Britain has received a flood of inquiries from young Harry Potter fans.[7]

The children's fantasy genre and slick storytelling style may make the danger more severe, say conservatives: "This is a true representation of witchcraft, and the black arts, and black magic. And yet we have people that say this is merely fantasy and harmless reading for our children. Actually, what makes this more dangerous is that it is couched in fantasy language, and children's literature, and made to be humorous, and beautifully written and extremely provocative reading. And it just opens up children to want to have the next one. This is what is so harmful."[8]

Criticisms

The Harry Potter series is written in a way that embeds fantasy and wizardry into a real world setting. This could potentially lead to some children potentially exploring witchcraft, Wicca, and paganism. Indeed, the Pagan Federation in Britain has received a flood of inquiries from young Harry Potter fans.[9]

Some expect children's literature to present characters that are role models and teach simple truths that will help children grow and know the difference between right and wrong. However, the world of Harry Potter is one in which adult authority figures are complex, imperfect, and occasionally ludicrous. Some teachers in the series are boring, or outright incompetent, while others are supportive and protective (like Dumbledore and Lupin). In the first book Harry disobeys the teachers and is successful and later praised, a questionable message for younger minds.

The books also present witches and wizards as being both normal people and abundant. This deceit causes children to likewise accept magic and witchcraft as normal, and they identify with the children in the books, again furthering their acceptance and witchcraft.

Notable Ban Attempts

On the week of April 10, 2006, Georgia mother of four Laura Mallory filed an appeal with the Gwinnett Board of Education in an attempt to remove the Harry Potter series from Gwinnett schools. Ms. Mallory (who has only read excerpts of the books) stated on the appeal form that she wished the books removed due to their "evil themes, witchcraft, demonic activity, murder, evil blood sacrifice, spells and teaching children all of this."[10] The local board of education denied the request, as they felt the banning of Harry Potter would necessitate the banning of all books with reference to witches, including plays like Macbeth and even stories like Cinderella.[11] Ms. Mallory has since appealed the ruling twice to no avail.[12] [13] [14]

Similar concerns have been voiced by Christian cartoonist Jack Chick, pastor and author Dave Hunt, the British group Christian Voice and various others. None of these has resulted in any form of legal action.

Series titles

Also, three companion books have been made to go along with the series: The Tale of the Beedle the Bard, Quidditch Through the Ages, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them are both written under pen names, but all three are written by J.K. Rowling. [15]

See also

Further reading

  • Brown, Nancy Carpentier. The Mystery of Harry Potter: A Catholic Family Guide (2007) excerpt and text search
  • Cherrett, Lisa. "Harry Potter and the Bible" (2003) online version
  • Cockrell, Amanda. "Harry Potter and the Witch Hunters: a Social Context for the Attacks on 'Harry Potter'", Journal of American Culture 2006 29(1): 24-30, in EBSCO
  • Colbert, David. The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter (2nd ed. 2008) excerpt and text search
  • Granger, John. Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader (2007) excerpt and text search
  • Granger, John. Looking for God in Harry Potter (2006) excerpt and text search, 2nd edition under How Harry Cast His Spell
  • Heilman, Elizabeth E., ed. Critical Perspectives on Harry Potter (2nd. ed. 2008) excerpt and text search
  • Neal, Connie W. The Gospel According to Harry Potter: The Spiritual Journey of the World's Greatest Seeker (2008) excerpt and text search
  • Thomas, James W. Repotting Harry Potter: A Professor's Book-by-Book Guide for the Serious Re-Reader (2009)
  • Whited, Lana A., ed. The Ivory Tower And Harry Potter: Perspectives On A Literary Phenomenon (2002) excerpt and text search

References

  1. The author has sold 350 million books and counting, been translated into 65 languages and had her work made into highly successful movies. ABC News
  2. J. K. Rowling And The Billion-Dollar Empire.
  3. For comparison: Charlotte's Web 680L, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 890L, Moby Dick 1200L
  4. The Lexile framework for reading.
  5. http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/harrypotter.html
  6. Jim Evans, "Harry Potter As Teacher Of Christian Values" EthicsDaily.com June 24, 2003
  7. About.com: Agnosticism/Atheism - Does Harry Potter Promote Wicca or Witchcraft? Is Harry Potter a Pagan Book? (page 2)
  8. http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/harrypotter.html
  9. About.com: Agnosticism/Atheism - Does Harry Potter Promote Wicca or Witchcraft? Is Harry Potter a Pagan Book? (page 2)
  10. [1]
  11. Georgia mom seeks ban on Harry Potter
  12. [2]
  13. [3]
  14. [4]
  15. www.jkrowling.org
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