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The Hidden Key to Harry Potter: Understanding the Meaning, Genius, and Popularity of Joanne Rowling's Harry Potter Novels Paperback – November 18, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0972322102 ISBN-10: 0972322108 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Zossima Press; 1 edition (November 18, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0972322108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0972322102
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #862,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


The Hidden Key is "must" reading for Potterites, whatever their religious orientation. -- Prof. Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, Christian Apologist, Barrister, Educator, and Author of “Myth, Allegory, and Gospel” and “Cross and Crucible”

The Hidden Key is a jazzy, gutsy exposition of the secret Christian symbolism that pervades J.K. Rowling's brilliant series. -- Stratford Caldecott, Chesterton Institute for Faith & Culture

[Combining] literary and spiritual insight with humor ... Granger proves himself a "Defense Against Dark Arts" master in the truest sense. -- Robert Trexler, Editor of CSL: The Bulletin of the New York C.S. Lewis Society

[D]elightful and provocative ... Older children and adults who have loved Potter will find The Hidden Key hard to put down. -- Dr. Scott H. Moore, Great Texts Program and Professor of Philosophy, Baylor University

From the Publisher

Joanne Rowling’s Harry Potter is the media event of the new millennium. Harry’s books and movies have hundreds of millions of fans. But whence this popularity? Fans say they love the stories and characters. Ivory Tower pundits and some Churchmen tell us the books are popular because they are so bad. Some Christian apologists have written books saying the books are harmless. Other critics have called the books Disney cartoon literature, Fast Food Reading, even a gateway to the occult!

But do any of these approaches answer the question? Could the books be so much more popular than other books because they’re much better and more profound than other books? Might readers not love them because they’re wise and wonderful?

This is the novel approach of The Hidden Key to Harry Potter – to take Harry Potter seriously as literature and explore the meaning of the series’ structure, themes, and symbolism as one would Shakespeare or Dickens. Mr. Granger begins by examining the themes of prejudice, death and bereavement, choice, and change. Next he guides the reader to an understanding of why conventional interpretations are insufficient, and why these stories (and their power) only make sense when viewed from a symbolist vantage point. Using his Latin and knowledge of the Great Books, he is able to explain convincingly why and how Ms. Rowling (who like Mr. Granger has a university degree in classical languages) has created a story and magical world that rest on Classical Philosophy and Christian Theology.

The astonishing conclusion of this exploration is that Ms. Rowling, demonized by some Christian critics because of the magical setting of the books, is writing the most charming and challenging Christian fiction for children since Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. The Hidden Key demonstrates that each book and the series as a whole teach explicitly Christian doctrines, sometimes with subtlety but often boldly, in their plot, imagery, and character development.

Hidden Key includes perceptive reviews of critical comments to date and rich exegesis of the Harry Potter books’ formulas, influences and themes. Even fans who have read the books several times will be astonished at the layers of traditional Christian imagery and meaning revealed in Hidden Key: from the Resurrection Journey that Harry takes every year at Hogwarts to the alchemical substances represented by each character, from the symbols of unicorn, phoenix, and philosopher’s stone to the psychology of Harry’s trials and purification. Hidden Key explains the Christian meaning of Harry’s name and is bold enough to predict both his destiny as Heir of Gryffindor and as a modern Christian ‘Everyman’ or Pilgrim.

C. S. Lewis fans will be delighted to learn of Ms. Rowling’s pointed references to his Narnia series and traditional apologetics. The big surprise here is that Hogwarts’ magical milieu, rather than inviting readers to invocational sorcery forbidden by scripture, turns out to be a powerful critique of modernity’s materialist and secular ideologies. The magic of Harry Potter is not demonic but only more evidence of his being on the side of the angels (the good angels!). Not only is Ms. Rowling not a Satanist – she is the most literate Christian Fantasy writer this side of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and their circle of Inklings!

More About the Author

John Granger is an author, speaker, and professor. A graduate of the University of Chicago, where he studied classical languages and literature, he uses Harry Potter to teach English literature online at HogwartsProfessor.com. He is a frequent speaker at academic and fan conferences and has been interviewed as a "Harry Potter expert" in the "Wall Street Journal," the "New York Times," CNN, and the DVD of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." He and his wife, Mary, have seven children.

Customer Reviews

Anyone seriously interested in the Harry Potter books, pro or con, should read this book.
J. S. Calvert
Granger does a good job showing the reader where these ideas come from and how they are used in the overarching story.
Jesse Carrasco
John Granger isn't the first to point out the Christian content of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books.
William G. Bader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

116 of 121 people found the following review helpful By J. S. Calvert on June 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
Let me say up front that what kept me from giving this book 5 stars was its need for better organization and a stronger editorial hand. (More of this later.) In terms of content, thought and provocative analysis, it is 5 stars all the way. Anyone seriously interested in the Harry Potter books, pro or con, should read this book.
Many Evangelical Christians consider the Harry Potter books objectionable, even Satanic, because of their magical milieu of Witches and Wizards. These objections have been stated most strongly in Richard Abanes' "Harry Potter: The Menace Behind the Magick." John Granger, an Orthodox Christian and a classics scholar, has now written a book, "The Hidden Key to Harry Potter", that challenges this view with the startling thesis that far from being Satanic, the Harry Potter books are in fact profound Christian allegories that are filled with Christian symbolism.
Granger makes a very convincing case. Among other things, he examines the numerous Christian symbols that appear in the Harry Potter books: Unicorn, Stag, Golden Griffin, Phoenix, and others. He offers a compelling analysis of the climactic scene in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" that interprets Harry's battle with the Basilisk as an allegory of the Christian's fight against Satan and the healing power of Christ's sacrificial love. In an extensive section on alchemy (that could use a bit of pruning), Granger argues that "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is about the transforming power of Christ in the life of the Christian. Granger also shows how Rowling's books fit squarely in the "Great Books" tradition of Austen, White, Lewis and Tolkien.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By D. Trainor on December 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book succeeds on a number of fronts: 1) It details the important themes of the Potter books extremely well. This has allowed me to enjoy and appreciate the books much more than when I first helped read Sorcerer's Stone to my son. The Potter stories are great on their own but Hidden Key allows you to see the deep themes Rowling is baking into these stories. I guarantee you will appreciate her writing skill and the books themselves significantly more after reading this guide. 2)This has helped me to reinforce the themes in the Potter books, which are really the great themes we are faced with in life, for my son. It has given me an informed, adult view on Rowling's writing that has created many "teachable moments" with my son. In fact, I just had several more of these moments in the theater, while watching Chamber of Secrets, that were directly inspired by the Hidden Key's content.
I consider myself a decent reader but, to be honest, it's amazing how much I missed in Rowling's books that John Granger has captured in great detail. From the themes in each of the four books to the hidden meaning of most of the character's names--the detail and analysis will astound you if you are a Potter fan. Plus the predictions for the future direction of the story provide great fodder for musing and discussion. I've looked at a few of the other guides out there but they really don't compare. If you'd like to see a serious treatment of Rowling's world as literature--and benefit from the experience--this is your book. If you are a Christian reader, you'll appreciate this guide even more--although the prime criteria needed to enjoy it is being a dedicated Potter fan or the parent of one! Actually, that leads me to my only disclaimer. This book is not written for the 8 year old Harry Potter fanatic.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Carrasco on January 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book over other Harry Potter critiques because it was the first to deal with the books as actual literature and the first to say that the stories are actually Christian based rather than anti-christian. I was extremely pleased with the results.
Having graduated as an english major, I have always been intrigued with J.K. Rowling's knowledge of so many different works throughout time and how they've shown up in her books. Granger does a good job showing the reader where these ideas come from and how they are used in the overarching story. His analysis of the christian tones in each book are amazing in that once he explains them they are so simple to see that you wonder how you didn't see it before. His predictions for the remaining three books are very intelligent and (in my opinion) quite possibly correct.
I give this 4 stars only because he tends to repeat himself a lot throughout the book. Constantly talking about alchemical transformations gets to be a little tiresome after a while. But this is definitely an interesting read for people that really want to delve into the deeper meanings of the Harry Potter story.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Anne L. Graves on January 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
John Granger examines the classical themes and devices in the Harry Potter series with skillful and convincing evidence. He connects almost every name not only with its etymological roots but also with its precise delineation of the character who owns it. He makes us see the 800 pound elephant which has been sitting in front of us all unacknowledged: the fact that J.K. Rowling's training in classics and her wide reading (I'm tempted to say "wide AND DEEP reading -- no shallow skimmer here!) have produced a fresh flow of the everlasting materials of Story. It is her use of those traditional elements that gives the books their sense of goodness. As C.S. Lewis said of George MacDonald's Phantastes, "It baptized my imagination." Granger shows that Rowling uses the device of the school for magic to get past "the watchful dragons" that belch smoke and fury at any overt use of Christian terminology.
This sounds as if Granger's book must be difficult for us ordinary folks to read: nothing could be further from the truth! It is delightfully easy reading, making the connections between mythical elements and the details of the books very clear.
Don't let the hoopla and doodads of the popularizers of Harry's stories keep you from reading this book and paying serious attention to what Granger says.
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