On Harry Potter

At the behest of my good friend Jim Hamilton and after seeing a recommendation from Andrew Peterson, I decided to make my way through the seven books of the Harry Potter series. I just finished the final book today, and I have to say that it was more than worth it. The stories are moving, filled with pathos and triumph. Very few books move me to tears, but these did. I would rate the series right up there with the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I know that many Christians have expressed concerns over the years about the magical elements in the Potter series. Nevertheless, I don’t see the magic of Potter to be any different from the magic of Tolkien or Lewis. The magic really isn’t the main point of the story. The primary themes are good vs. evil, love, loyalty, friendship, family, and redemption. In other words, it’s about the stuff Christians care about most. If you come away from these books thinking they are mainly about magic, you’ve really missed the point.

As I have finished each book, I have also been watching the movie versions. While I appreciate the acting and the fine production value in these films, they really don’t hold a candle to the books. Movies are very limited in their ability to recreate the depth of characterization that is possible in a book. Even the best movie adaptations often falter at reproducing complicated plots. There’s simply not enough time. If you really want to know Harry, Ron, Hermione, et al. and if you really want the whole story, you have to read the books. If you want to experience the genius of Beethoven, you’re not going to get it by reading his Wikepedia page. You’re going to have to listen to his music. If you want to experience the genius of J. K. Rowling, you’re not going to get it from the movies. You’ll need to read her books.

As far as fiction goes, I’ve enjoyed these books as much as anything else I have ever read. I hope you will too.

—–

[I listened to the audiobook version of The Potter Series, narrated by Jim Dale. It’s a brilliant performance, and the audio version allows you to enjoy the books during the mundane tasks of the day (like your daily commute). You can order them here. The least expensive option, however, would probably be to check them out from your local library.]

13 Responses to On Harry Potter

  1. Jason Lee March 29, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    Hey, Denny. Thanks for the review. Our oldest son was recently loaned the first two, and he is really loving them. Having never read them (largely due to time), our only real exposure to them is watching the pro and con camp firing rounds at each other. Since our son has started them, we’re going to take the time to read them too (yes, I know that should be the other way around ;), but it’s good to hear a positive review. I’ve always loved Lewis and Tolkien (I recently started reading The Hobbit with/to my aforementioned son), and I’ve always found the anti-Potter-but-pro-Tolkien magic arguments a bit specious. It’s good to hear someone more qualified agree. :)

    At any rate, thanks again for the recommendation. To return the favor, if you like LotR and haven’t seen them yet, you should check out the Wheel of Time series. At least as good as LotR, which, as a long-time Tolkien fan, is a very hard thing for me to say. :)

  2. Chris Taylor March 29, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Interesting, I think I’ll take up and read (or listen). Would the audio version be appropriate for young children on a road trip?

    • Denny Burk March 29, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

      Chris,

      The one caveat I would add for children is that beginning in book four an occasional “damn” or “hell” finds its way on the lips of different characters. If you’re reading the books, you can skip those parts. If you listen the audio, just know that they will be there.

      The language is not frequent. I think the first instance occurs in book 4, and then only one time. FYI.

      Denny

  3. Dan Phillips March 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    Denny Burk: professor, author… and late-blooming Potterhead.

    Welcome aboard.

    (c;

    • Denny Burk March 29, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

      Late-blooming is right. Better late than never!

  4. Don Johnson March 29, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    The author came out near the end of the series as being a Christian, which she had deferred stating before as she was concerned over preconceptions about what that might imply to some about the story. There are some analysis books out there that show how much the books tap into Christian themes and other Christian allegorical fiction thru the ages.

    • Donny Mathis March 29, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

      You might enjoy the literary analysis of the books, One Fine Potion, published by Baylor University Press. It was quite interesting.

  5. Jason Sexton March 29, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    Steve Holmes was interviewed about the books by the Telegraph, just over a year ago, and brought some keen theological insight to what the books might be doing: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/harry-potter/8083870/Harry-Potter-is-Christ-like-claims-theologian.html

    • Denny Burk March 29, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

      Thanks for the link!

  6. Ian Hugh Clary March 29, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    I say the following only mildly in jest: I could not get past your last sentence in your first paragraph.

    • Denny Burk March 29, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

      I love Lord of the Rings too, so I do not make the comparison lightly. The Potter series is serious fiction. I think it will stand the test of time. I guess we’ll see.

      • Ian Hugh Clary March 31, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

        I agree with you about Potter having literary longevity, and I think it’s worthy of sustained reading throughout the generations. But when I think of how Tolkien invented languages, how he drew from his experiences in the Great War, how he displays such a clear Christian worldview, the depth of his characters, the multifaceted themes from good and evil, to the power of friendship, I’m hard pressed to find any contemporary literature that compares. Anyways…

  7. Reg Schofield March 29, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    Still prefer LOTR both in book and movies ( which I think Jackson did an amazing job ) but have enjoyed the Potter series. I recall taking a bit of heat from a few Baptist that I allowed my son’s to read and watch the movies but I saw the books as you did and the magic not a deceptive way from Satan to lure them into his snare. The grand themes of friendship, sacrifice , love,loyalty and the battle between good and evil are commendable.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes