|Still dressing up in 2012. Who knew that Slytherin robe would come in so handy?|
Remember those days? Pre-order the book or go to the midnight party at your local Border's (maybe forcing your oldest children to dress up like Draco and Hermione) and then spend 17 to 24 hours incommunicado devouring the book?
I gave a couple of three thoughts to the use of magic in literature back then. I remember being ticked off by someone who said, "But there is transubtantiation in Harry Potter books!"
Um. No. There isn't. It's called transformation. And no, she had not read the books. And I'm okay with that, just don't go spreading rumors.
So here is my greatly re-worked post on that topic.
Magic is used as a literary device throughout history. Magic is one of the classic gateways to the world of make-believe. I agree with the Cathechism that parents are the primary educators of their children and only you know best what your child is capable of understanding in the world of make-believe.
Only you know best what your child is capable of handling in terms of violence and sin in literature too. I recently (in 2014) had a discussion with a mother who got chewed out for suggesting Because of Winn Dixie to her 5th grade son's classmate. (I don't remember a great deal of Because of Winn Dixie, but I remember there was an absentee alcoholic mother.) Some children are far more sensitive to some issues than others. That's what paralyzes me every time I try to assign a recommended age to a book I've reviewed.
When magic is used in literature, the reasons it is used as well as the manner in which good and evil are depicted become the deciding factors in whether it is appropriate for juvenile readers. Then the readers themselves must be taken into account. Only a parent can decide if a particular child understands the difference between imaginary magic and occult magic. Some children are far more impressionable or sensitive than others.
You can take those two criteria and apply it to other controversial things in novels too. Take any mortally sinful act for instance. I don't have a problem with sin in a novel. I imagine it would be impossible to have a plot without it, but the reason(s) it used and the manner in which it both described and reacted to matter to me.
Every good story has a strong antagonist, and J.K. Rowling created a terrifically evil villain in the character of Lord Voldemort. Are there similarities between Lord Voldemort and his dark magic in the book and occult magic? Yes. Rowling's Dark Magic is shown as being an evil thing. There is no confusion there. Harry never doubts the difference between good and evil. He never questions whether or not Voldemort is bad. I would also argue that there are many children's stories that show evil magic with likenesses to occult magic: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty (that dragon is pretty demonic,) Narnia's White Witch, Tolkien's Sauron and other evil wizards, and L. Frank Baum's witches.
I have heard the argument that Harry Potter takes place in our world and that those other stories don't. But in The Silver Chair and The Magician's Nephew, as well as in many of the later tales of Oz, magical beings use magic in our world. I don't think goblins and trolls really exist, so I have a hard time believing that Harry lives in my world. Fiction is a world between the covers of books.
|Harry Potter, age 11|
|Harry Potter, age 17|
My friend, Isabel, and I once discussed Top Ten Examples of How Harry Potter Fits into the Judeo-Christian Context (and of course, lots of others have written lists and even books like this and published them in a much more timely fashion in the last 7 years):
1. Harry always knows who the bad guy is. You never find him sympathizing with Voldemort or wondering whether or not Dumbledore was wrong and Voldemort is just misunderstood. Evil exists!
2. He had great married loving parents who loved him and sacrificed themselves for him.
3. Dark magic is bad and they don't teach it at Hogwarts.
4. Hogwarts celebrates Christmas and Easter!
5. You can't raise the dead with magic.
6. Harry always sacrifices of himself to defeat evil and to stick up for his friends. He is not selfish.
7. There is no fornication in the book, implied or otherwise, and these are teenagers in boarding school. Three teens go "camping" for months, and again no hanky-panky, though the movie shows an imagined scene.
8. J.K. Rowling makes a great case for large families. The Weasleys are a big family with lots of kids! They are not wealthy, but they are a happy family unit, arguably some of the happiest people in the series. All of their adult children are extremely successful (because their parents sacrifice to give them a good education.) And Harry loves being with them.
9. Hermione is a studious, straight-laced, goody-two-shoes – and one of the heroines of the book. She’s a strong female character, who studies hard and is a good person.
10.Harry has a godfather!