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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
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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 Rowlings Harry Potter is the media event of the new millennium. Harrys 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 theyre much better and more profound than other books? Might readers not love them because theyre 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 philosophers stone to the psychology of Harrys trials and purification. Hidden Key explains the Christian meaning of Harrys 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. Rowlings 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 modernitys 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!
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He examines major themes, particularly those involving death, rebirth, and transfiguration. After reading Granger's book (and is there something perhaps in the fact that he shares a name with the most intelligent of the Potter characters?), I re-read the entire series. The patterns and rythms seemed far clearer.
Granger uses his knowledge of the whole of classical literature from a myriad of sources to point out the development of the major themes of Rowling's work. It is fascinating. My seventeen year old, who seldom enjoys getting involved in anything involving literature beyond what is required for school, ripped through the book and then devoured Harry 5, declaring that she had found far more meaning in the book than she had previously found in all the others.
An amusing highlight were the predictions Granger made about future books. Since his book was written before Phoenix it was easy to check. He was wrong quite a lot, but on the other hand, he was also right in some places. And, as he has written after the last book, some elements he predicted mya come to pass in Harry 6.
This is a fascinating read for those who enjoy literature as well as for Pottermaniacs.
There are some typos that annoy; the editorial organization could be improved; and there are some outright errors (Granger speculates that Lily Evans Potter was a Slytherin, but Rowling said in a 2000 Scholastic interview that she was in Gryffindor -- though this info appears nowhere in the 5-book "canon" that is most readily available to readers & critics). Some of Granger's bold predictions for Book 5 proved to be off the mark, but then ... he predicted that they would be. And I'm not at all convinced that his overall analysis of the probable denouement for future volumes is so wrong--maybe he's just somewhat premature.
Books 6 and 7 will necessarily reveal whether Granger's analysis of Rowling's modus operandi is right on the money (which I believe is highly likely) or a gross example of (as Rowling herself has put it) reading into a story whatever you want to find there. We'll have to wait a while for the final answer. Meanwhile, "Hidden Key" is very worthy of the time you'll spend reading it, and highly recommended for all who believe that the Potter books are as much about edification as entertainment.