Skip to comments.Harry Potter and the Dark Side
Posted on 07/18/2005 6:36:15 AM PDT by Kitten Festival
J.K. Rowling is historys richest-ever author, enjoying an incomparable global readership. With eager consumers lined up at midnight to buy her book on the date of release, she stands as the literary phenomenon of our times.
Rowling resembles no one in popularity so much as Charles Dickens, who inspired excited crowds in America to meet the packet ships from England, calling out for the next installment of the story of Little Nell.
She also rivals Dickens in her ability to create some of the most delightful names in literature. Uriah Heep, meet Severus Snape.
Few authors today write books for adolescent boys, who readily fall away from reading and are lured to the video tube. Daring to write long and complicated plots, Rowling doesnt underestimate her readers. Her books contain delightful inventions on almost every page: from mail delivery owls to the winged boars (flying pigs) that grace the Hogwarts school gates.
But huge success makes for a big target. Rowling does not lack for critics.
Some are bothered by her abundant use of adverbs, or worry about exposing very young children to the violence in the books good vs. evil plot lines. Occasional gross-out humor and love of annoying practical jokes dismay some adults, but meet the literary tastes of the adolescent boy.
By far the most serious criticism of the Harry Potter series comes from those Christians and Jews who believe any mention of magic in literature is completely and automatically off-limits based simply on the Biblical prohibitions against witchcraft.
I respect such critics, but I disagree with them. A few of them go overboard, muttering darkly about bargains with supernatural forces. But many are sincere and intelligent.
There is a basic difference between reading a Harry Potter book and invoking the dark forces. Casting actual spells is one thing. Reading about them while engrossed in a struggle between good and evil on the magical plane of childrens literature is quite another.
Magic has become a literary convention of imaginative literature, positing forces fo
It's so cute when they try to think...
So I take it the next movie shall feature ...
I tend to agree with Tax-chick. If you took that "dark side of the force" business seriously, it would undermine basic Christian ideas about the nature of God and of good and evil. But I believe most people laugh at it.
The same with Harry Potter. People dress up as witches and wizards to go to the opening, but they do it in the spirit of fun and games, not some dark yearning to practice witchcraft. Kids wield light sabers in the same spirit of fun.
If I remember correctly, the evil witches die and the good prevails.
And, Dorothy does not use any evil and/or witchcraft.
Again, in the Chonicles of Narnia, good prevails and the children do not ever use evil to prevail.
Potter Ping!! This article (and so far the thread) is FREE OF SPOILERS! So click away....
I think parents have to be discerning. Some children and teens are spiritually unstable, and reading Harry Potter books may lead them into investigating ritual magic seriously. (Someone pointed out on another thread that bookstores are marketing books on witchcraft and even Satanism in conjunction with the H.P. blitz. I noticed some of this myself when the new editions of LOTR were issued, in conjunction with the films.) In my opinion, a young person in this situation should be distracted from any fantasy or magic-related literature, not just Harry Potter.
For me, the point where any fiction becomes a spiritual danger is when the reader wants it to be non-fiction.
The end does not always justify the means.
Thanks for the heads up!
You should see my 3-year-old and 18-month-old waving paint sticks at one another, going "ZZZZZ! ZZZZZ! ZZZZZOT!"
That's "magic"?? !!!
Oh boy are you misguided.
Do you have an "Incredibly Long Screen Names" ping list?
And after watching years of BeWitched, I only cast spells upon liberals.
Spells are so 1990's. Now we stune liberals with our beeber-like devices.
You're painting with an awfully big brush. Certainly there are times when the children in Narnia do things that would be considered "evil" -- in "Wardrobe" Edmund, of course, betrays his siblings; in "Dawn Treader", Eustace is a selfish prat, and even Lucy succumbs to envy and starts to read the spell in the Magician's book to make her more beautiful than Susan. There are good magicians and bad magicians in the book -- it is the characters actions, not their vocations, that make them good or evil.
As one who grew up with reading Tolkien, I can say that The Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings helped to instill a love of reading that I continue to this day for those were among the first books I picked up to read "just for fun" as opposed to being made to read a boring classic assigned by a teacher. In fact, I later came to appreciate many of the classics that the teachers force-fed me as a kid as a result of all my independent reading, of which Tolkien played a key role.
Before Harry Potter came on the scene, it was even a worse situation with the current generation. Many children couldn't even read Tolkien even if they wanted to because they were too difficult for the average child to get through. I tried getting my kids to read The Hobbit when they were young but they found the book ridiculously long and boring. Even though Hobbit wasn't that long (compared to LOTR), the average children's book rarely exceeded 100 pages. Harry Potter changed all that. I believe the 5th Harry Potter book had close to 900 pages! Never again will my kids look at a thick book and be intimidated.
Fans of Tolkien's work today don't realize that Tolkien wrote those books for children. Back in the 1950s, your average 6th grader could read LOTR with no problem. Today, many high school kids are intimidated by it!
So if the Harry Potter series can get kids reading again, I'm all for it. Since my two sons started reading the Potter books, they have been much more open to reading other books that they never otherwise would have even attempted.
I think C. S. Lewis says something like that in his essay on Fairy Tales. For most people, fairy stories are less dangerous than stories about becoming rich and famous, because they don't feed into the vein of self-absorbed wish-fullfillment (Lewis was writing at a time when Freud's take on literature was dominant). But I agree, if a kid seems to be taking the idea of magic seriously, then he needs to be educated or diverted to something else.
The difference between magic and religion, which some folks on this thread don't seem to get, is that religion is about service to God, and magic is about power over others. It's clear to me that Rowling disapproves of greed for magical power in her stories, and approves of magic used wisely as a trust in the service of others, but perhaps naive readers might not get the distinction.
Back to the subject of Harry Potter, my son has already finished his first reading of it, and starting it over again. I don't think he played video games all weekend! I am just starting it, and I am thoroughly enjoying it so far. (We bought two copies)
You know, when I was in high school, I gobbled up Tolkien and just about any E. R. Burroughs story I could lay my hands on. I tried rereading both series not that long ago, and I found the prose to be stultifyingly thick. I may have killed far too many brain cells in the past couple of decades...
Somebody dies in the book...
To a third-party observer, those would be magic.
LOL! I'm buying our second, too. Five people in our family and most want to be reading it at 8:00 at night!
"Saw" Fat Albert on a plane. My 14 yo liked it. ( I say "saw" because I didn't have headphones!) We all also liked Madagascar, if the big guy will still go to cartoons.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic...
(and vice versa)
It's clear to me that Rowling disapproves of greed for magical power in her stories, and approves of magic used wisely as a trust in the service of others,
The moral problem with that is, who decides what "wise use" is, and who decides what's good for others? This is, of course, the moral problem with any sort of power. I haven't read the Harry Potter books, so I don't know how Rowling deals with these issues.
No, but only because Aslan intervened. Read the book again.
I don't think Rowling is quite as sophisticated theologically as Lewis, but I would agree that, so far at least, her outlook is basically compatible with Christianity. Just start with the fictional hypothesis that some people are endowed by inheritance with magical abilities, and she treats this endowment much as a Christian would treat endowment with talents.
If God gives someone great talents, of intelligence, strength, quickness, these talents can be put either to good or evil use. But talents are good in themselves. Similarly, if you had magical powers you could use or abuse them. The good people in Harry Potter play games with magic in a spirit of joy, or use them beneficially. The evil people seek power.
Pullman's books are basically Gnostic: the creator of the world is evil, there is hidden knowledge known only to the initiate, knowledge is power, and so forth. I wouldn't be surprised if Rowling drew on Pullman in portraying her villains. A recent review suggests that she also drew on the great duel between Hitler and Churchill, displaced for a while by the appeaser Neville Chamberlain. Hitler, of course, was also saturated with ideas about dark magic.
Yes, I believe my husband and his networking group spend time in their lab cutting the heads of chickens.
He generally will go to cartoons with his younger cousins. He always says he is "taking them", yet he always comes home enjoying them!
I never read a Pullman book. Just the reviews. He sounds pretty hate-filled.
Deeply creepy. George Felos creepy. Don't-let-this-in-your-door creepy.
Sounds like a good kid, er, young man!
That's the overall impression I've always gotten from the books - that they are WWII allegories (Lord of the Rings, too).
The mindless daemon sultan Azathoth lies at the center of nuclear chaos, writhing to the pipings of idiot flute-players.
Do you have an "Incredibly Long Screen Names" ping list?
Unhappily, no. Although that's a good idea! I do have the "copy" and "paste" right-click menu which comes in handy for them. LOL!
As far as being dark and violent, are they any darker or more violent than the Universal horror films and Hammer horror films (the ones which added color and gore) that I loved when I was a kid, and I'd at least like to THINK that I turned out OK. :)
I'll bite, what was so horrible about Fantastic 4? It seemed really tame to me.
Where's the danger you might ask? The danger lies in projections and perceptions. The author of the books is projecting when at best she can only perceive. Her main character is a boy and she purports to write from within outwards, something she can not truly do, a complete lie. To deal with every problem the boy (really a girl -projection people) uses convoluted logic and a magical spell to fix everything. This is a very bad foundation for young girls to adhere for it leads to delusion. Skim closer and you will see the soullessness of this women. You might again ask yourself what is it she desires so much that she has to broach it as a man would as though she's a man?
I'll take your advice :-)
no...not really...just pointing out the obvious as to the silliness of this issue....
to assume their is no danger is itself absurd.
You're right. There's no such thing as universal concerns or interests, or the general "human condition." Only an author of the same ethnic group, gender, race, religion, economic class, or handicap-status as the subject can write insightful fiction.
My ten year old agrees. I let my children be exposed to culture while taking on the added burden of talking about what the bible says (ie in this case OT bans on witchcraft, and NT advice to not make your neighbor stumble ). In the long run I see this as the best way to protect my children. If they can discern evil and be equiped to consult the bible and use it as direction for their lives, I have accomplished more than out right bans.
While discussing Harry Potter, I asked my youngest son of ten, whether he thought Potter stories could tempt him toward occult activities. His answer was a quick no, followed by a concern that it could affect other children his age. The danger here is not that everyone who reads Potter will become a satanist. The danger is that some will and that Potter will be one link of the chain that leads them there.