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How Harry Cast His Spell: The Meaning Behind the Mania for J. K. Rowling's Bestselling Books Paperback – September 1, 2008
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Why? Why are the adventures of the boy wizard so popular? What is it about them? How did Harry Potter enchant the world?
Enter John Granger to explain this. John Granger is known as Hogwart's Professor. Rumor has it he's the third cousin of Hermoine twice removed. He's an unlikely figure to write on this seeing as being an expert in classics, when his daughter was given a copy of the first book, he read it first so he could explain to his daughter why garbage like that should not be read. Turns out he went and bought the next books that were out the next day and now he's a leading spokesman on all things Harry Potter.
More than that, Granger is a devout Christian and is convinced that the Potter novels are woven in Christian imagery much like Lewis and Tolkien are. A lot of it comes with the symbolism of alchemy. This isn't to justify the science of alchemy, but a way of pointing out that alchemy was seen as a way of achieving purification and holiness in the Middle Ages.
The books, Granger argues, answer the questions of our age and answer them in very Christian ways. The books are loaded with Christological imagery and no, the main power in the books is not magic. The main power in the books is love. Love has the power to overcome the darkest of all magics, even the magic of Lord Voldemort. Lord Voldemort is seen as the great tragic character because all his power comes from wanting to avoid death, even if that means murdering his own soul, instead of realizing as Dumbledore points out, that there are worse things in this world than death.
If you're wanting to know about Christ imagery, consider that the first book was not said to have the Sorcerer's Stone, but the Philosopher's Stone. The Philosopher's stone was an item sought in the past that was said to grant immortality, like Christ. Other Christ imagery includes hippogriffs, stags, unicorns, and phoenixes.
Is Harry a Christ figure? Not usually. More often than not, he represents everyman, which is why we can so often see ourselves in him. It's also why we can accept the fact that many times Harry screws up. He's a fallen man like we all are, but something in Harry consistently chooses to believe the right things and want to do the right things. You can see in the novels the way Harry will often mature from the start of the novel to the end of the novel.
Granger starts out the book with an introduction to his main thesis in several chapter. Then, he takes you through the books themselves and points out the symbolism and Christian lessons all throughout. To top it off, he ends it with an FAQ section of the questions he gets asked the most. (Want to know about Dumbledore being gay? Go look here.)
If Granger is right, and I think he is, this is a great time for Christians to be speaking of this imagery. Running from it could have the exact opposite effect. Granger's book, even if you don't agree with him, is certainly food for thought and should be considered by the fan and critic of Harry Potter alike.
Deeper Waters Apologetics
Even if you don't care about that particular controversy, if you are a Harry Potter fan, you should read this book to discover the intricate planning that helped Rowling create this series. You'll learn many fascinating things that will make you want to re-read the whole series. The author, John Granger, is a college professor, but he does not talk over your head. The book is very readable and full of insight.Read it if you get the chance.
That being said, it's not a road map for writing a bestseller. The book is not even intended for that, but the principles, the themes explored, and the very Christian message throughout the Potter series are incredible when laid out like it is here. I know it has given me a new perspective on my own writing.
If you're curious as to why the world has taken so easily to Pottermania, I think this book provides a lot of great information. And while the book doesn't exactly say it's any one thing, I think the author has hit the nose with his assessment of the stories that are so widely loved.