37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Sorcerer's Companion: A Guide to the Magical World of Harry Potter (Paperback)
To everyone who said, "Oh, that's Latin!" when Wingardium Leviosa first showed up, or knew what a mandrake was for right from the start, this book is for you. It is much more detailed and interesting than other companion books and explains a lot more than just Harry Potter. As an avid reader of fantasy for years I learned plenty about Tolkien and Lawhead too. As a history major I also appreciated the brief but accurate descriptions of medieval beliefs.
As a Christian I was somewhat uncomfortable with the full explanations of arithmancy and tea leaves, prefering to leave those firmly in the setting of fiction. But, everyone has done number puzzles since they were 10 and any reader of Harry Potter knows how indiscernable tea leaves can be.
Setting that aside, the whole book turns the whole "Harry Potter is occult" movement on its head by showing how Rowling has recreated nothing more than a mythical medieval world that has everything to do with the Greeks and the Romans and old wives tales and nothing to do with any particular religion today. The worldview of the book is a very Modern one. Geomancy, arithmancy, and astrology are explained because the authors obviously believe they are absolute bunk because scientificly, they are bunk. However, religion is not scientific, so the explanations are sure to cause some people to be concerned.
The book has quite wisely stuck with the "facts" of beastiaries and historical figures and doesn't try to make doubtful connections of meaning (the word "Quidditch" doesn't mean anything, Rowling has said so many times, so I wish everyone would stop trying to come up with its meaning). Altogether, it is quite enjoyable to learn what a manticore is and where the belief of its existence came from, along with reproductions of original woodcuts from medieval manuscripts. This book is definitely Western Folklore 101, and in this post-modern world, that type of book is well needed.