Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Brief Comments on Deathly Hallows

Spoiler Warning: This blog entry contains many spoilers of the last Harry book. Do not read unless you read the novel.

I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and I'm going to spend some time giving some reasons why I loved it. The symbolism she uses in this book is so profound and the Vancouver Sun quotation was fulfilled to the letter. I can understand why she wanted to keep her faith under wraps because it would practically give away the novel's climax, namely Harry's death and coming back again. Harry walking through the forest on the way to his death is a throwback to Aslan, although Harry walking with James, Lily, Sirius, and Remus invokes a more powerful image, reminding anyone of the entourage of the dead that accompanied Christ's death and resurrection in Matthew 27.52,53 or the "cloud of witnesses" of Hebrews 12.1. Harry's sacrifice extending to all on the side of good and protecting them is certainly reminiscent of Christ's sacrifice extending to all those who call on his name. This does not make Harry into Christ but it does make him a Christ figure in the novels. Another powerful symbol was Harry taking the Sword of Gryffindor out of the lake reminding us of King Arthur. Powerful imagery indeed.

J.K. Rowling provides clear answers on the nature of evil. One does not even have to glance at the title of the first chapter ("Dark Lord Ascending") that Voldemort is the "Satan" figure (or even "Antichrist") in the novels reminding me of Isaiah 14.13,14. You can add Adolf Hitler to the names you can give Voldemort. In the novel you see Voldemort and his Death Eaters taking over the Ministry of Magic and enforcing the "Magic is Might" act where Muggleborn wizards and witches have to register. A statue of a witch and wizard standing over the naked bodies of Muggleborns (or "Mudbloods") reminds us of the horrors of Auschwitz and the Holocaust. You can substitute Jewish people with Muggleborns and you get the point. I absolutely loved it when Harry, Ron, and Hermione smuggled many innocent Muggleborns, whose only crime was their magical ability without obtaining it biologically, out of the Ministry. The actions of Harry, Ron, and Hermione remind us of the bravery of Harriot Tubman or even those Germans who risked their lives to save Jews.

There are many references to churches in this novel than any other Potter novel. Of course most of these references are in the sixteenth chapter ("Godric's Hollow") where Harry and Hermione visit the graveyard outside a church in Godric's Hollow. It is here that we see JKR quote two scriptures for the gravestones of Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore ("Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" is found in Matthew 6.21), and Lily and James Potter ("The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" is found in 1 Corinthians 15.26). Of course if JKR is a Christian then we could expect this but I still find this interesting in light of the many Christians who consider the novels to be handbooks on Wicca (however despite these claims we never find the Wiccan greeting "Blessed Be" or any concept of the Wiccan Rede in Harry Potter). What was awesome was that after Harry Potter visited his parents grave, he was going to suggest to Hermione to take refuge in the church nearby with the parishioners singing Christmas carols but Hermione interrupted his thoughts and they had to press on with their mission.

What about Severus Snape and Professor Dumbledore? We learn that Snape really is Dumbledore's man through and through and that he loved Harry's mother. We also learn that Snape's patronus was a silver doe, which was the same as Lily's. A doe is a female stag, which is a Medieval symbol of Christ because of their afinity for stomping on serpents, their enemies. When Voldemort turned on Snape in order to gain control of the Elder Wand, I was saddened at the death of this complex character in the Potterverse. I am glad that Harry really got to know who this man really was and this will prove to be one of the pivotal scenes in the series. The revelations of Professor Dumbledore show him to be human from his friendship of Grindelwald, a dark wizard before Voldemort, the views of Muggles he shared with his friend, and his temptation over uniting the Deathly Hallows. Dumbledore seems almost evil in some of his actions but he has turned from his mistakes and became the man that we all know and love. I loved the part where he said that Harry is a better person than himself in that "afterlife" scene at King's Cross. We truly see a complex Dumbledore.

The deaths of Mad-Eye Moody, Hedwig, Dobby, Remus, Tonks, and Fred were very sad and show that war and evil have casualties. One of the running themes of the novel was how does one face death and JKR's view is that we should face death without fear and that what we do in this life is important. One need only glance at the powerful quotations of Aeschylus (ancient Greek playwright) and William Penn (a Quaker Christian, by the way) and the meaning behind the Tale of the Three Brothers. Harry sacrificed himself for others and the other people I mentioned died for the same reason.

I loved the emergeance of Neville Longbottom. He really came into his own and is truly did his parents proud. Kreacher becoming nice was great since all he needed was kindness and respect. I loved how he led the other house elves to battle. Another crucial piece was Harry Potter extending kindness and respect to both Kreacher and goblins as well. He truly is an odd fellow as Griphook mentioned in the book. Who else can save Draco Malfoy's life and in the same breath command Voldemort to show some remorse? Harry's alchemical transformation is truly complete and he is an image of the Philosopher's Stone.

There is so much that I loved about this novel. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is replete with profound symbolism, great action, moving moments, and ties the whole series together nicely. As I said earlier, I love this book!!!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Will Harry Potter Die...And Rise Again?

In my previous post, I mentioned Abigail BeauSeigneur's Mugglenet editorial, Is Harry Potter the Son of God? In fact there is an interesting discussion concerning this editorial over at Sword of Gryffindor. Abigail argues (she is not the first person to argue this, check here) that there are many similarities between Harry Potter and Jesus Christ and that Harry is the Christ figure in the novels. What is important to this discussion here is the scenario she paints for the climax of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, namely that Harry Potter will sacrifice himself by going into the Veil (probably dragging Voldemort along with him) and then conquering death by appearing on the other side (she theorizes that the mysterious room in the Department of Mysteries a.k.a. "the love room" might be connected to the Veil). This, she argues, is tantamount to a resurrection.

The concept of Harry dying and rising again minds me of a piece I wrote on January 13, 2005 and submitted to Mugglenet. I had hoped that they would publish it on their Editorial page but unfortunately they never published it. They receive hundreds of submissions and mine just did not make the cut. It was a small theory I had based on different messages in the first novel concerning Harry's ultimate fate. Looking back I probably should have tweaked this editorial here and there and expounded on some points. I'm not sure if this theory is strong enough, although it does remain a possibility. However I want to submit here for consideration so enjoy:

Recently as I was reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, my thoughts went to the question of whether Harry will live past the seventh novel or die at the hands of Voldemort. I believe that the first novel offers conflicting clues concerning this question giving the impression that the ambiguity of Harry’s fate is intentional.

Consider Harry’s words to Ron and Hermione after he served detention (along with Hermione) with Hagrid in the Forbidden Forest:

Firenze saved me, but he shouldn’t have done so….Bane was furious…he was talkingabout interfering with what the planets say is going to happen….They must show that Voldemort’s coming back….Bane thinks Firenze should have let Voldemort kill me….I suppose that’s written in the stars as well (p. 324).
Harry’s words here points back to Professor Trelawney’s prophecy, which he did not find out about until his fifth year:
…and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…
The prophecy is conditioned that either Harry or Voldemort will die in the future. Harry’s perspective that his death was written in the stars based on Bane’s reaction to Firenze saving “the Potter boy.” I cannot help but think that this was a deliberate clue given by J.K. Rowling herself.

There are, however, other clues that Harry will survive past Hogwarts. Consider Hagrid’s words to the Dursleys regarding Harry, “Seven years there and he won’t know himself” (p. 73). Or how about these next two quotes?

In years to come, Harry would never quite remember how he had managed to get through his exams when he half-expected Voldemort to come bursting through the door at any moment (p. 326).

It was the best evening of Harry’s life, better than winning at Quidditch, or Christmas, or knocking out mountain trolls…he would never, ever forget tonight (p. 382).
The important word here is ‘would’ and for good reason. William Strunk wrote in The Elements of Style that ‘would’ is “commonly used to express habitual or repeated action” but is often too general in its usage. ‘Would’ is not as precise regarding the future as say ‘will’ but there are many possibilities with ‘would,’ one of which is that Harry will survive past Hogwarts based on what the rest of the sentences say, i.e. “in years to come” and “never, ever.”

Ultimately I believe that Harry’s destiny is that he will die…but will come back to life. That is why Rowling is ambiguous in the clues in book one. Think about it. Every theory on Harry’s death focuses on Harry sacrificing himself for the Wizarding world making him a Christ figure. This idea is not so far fetched because J.K. Rowling in fact downplays her Christian beliefs because “If I talk too freely about that, I think the intelligent reader – whether ten or sixty – will be able to guess what is coming in the books.”

However we forget that while Jesus Christ was crucified, the story goes that three days later he was resurrected. If Rowling is a Christian then she will certainly bring Harry back to life since the Resurrection is at the heart of that faith. She is also a big Caravaggio fan, whose “Supper at Emmaus” painting (where it shows a risen Christ) is her favorite. This certainly explains her ambiguity in the first book and throughout the novels concerning Harry’s fate. Why did Professor Trelawney predict Harry’s death until his fifth year where in front of Professor Umbridge, she said that he will live to a ripe old age? Will she change her mind in Half-Blood Prince? Further proof that Harry will live again is provided in a clue in where else but the first novel. After Harry passed out or went unconscious after battling Quirrell, he woke up three days later. Does that remind you of anything?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

J.K. Rowling Speaks Out On Leaks

Things are heating up in the Potterverse. People like Lev Grossman are heralding secularism as triumphant in the series. Travis Prinzi of Sword of Gryffindor has responded brilliantly to Grossman and others who just do not see any hint of religion in the series. Now every person who considers themself a Harry Potter has to be concerned with spoilers. Supposedly pages of the last novel has surfaced on the web. I haven't seen them and to be quite honest, I don't want to. Mugglenet reported that the New York Times obtained a copy of Deathly Hallows from an unnamed bookstore in New York City. I believe that the bookstore in question is most likely a small business as Barnes & Noble has strict policies on the handling of the boxes containing the novel. I should know; I work for one of their stores. The Times posted a review online and is full of spoilers. I definately won't be reading that review anytime soon. Also Scholastic is going to take legal action against and distributor Levy Home Entertainment, for distributing and selling copies of DH before Midnight, July 21. J.K. Rowling has some words in the midst of all this madness:

We are almost there! As launch night looms, let's all, please, ignore the misinformation popping up on the web and in the press on the plot of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I'd like to ask everyone who calls themselves a Potter fan to help preserve the secrecy of the plot for all those who are looking forward to reading the book at the same time on publication day. In a very short time you will know EVERYTHING!

Yes! Everything will be revealed. Resist the temptation and stay away from the spoilers. Only 2 more days.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harry Potter, the Son of God?

I know of a story that has enthralled billions. A baby is born without any fanfare. This child is special with a destiny to become the "Chosen One" because of a prophecy. It is because of this oracle that the baby is sought after by an evil and murderous man. The child escapes and we do not see him again for another decade where he is living in humble surroundings. No I am not talking of Harry Potter but a much greater and historical figure, Jesus Christ.

You might have caught it but there are many similarities between the famous character J.K. Rowling created and Jesus. Perhaps this was intentional on JKR's part. I found a gem of an article at Mugglenet, which argues that Harry Potter is the Christ figure in JKR's series, titled Is Harry Potter the Son of God? The usual interpretation (including John Granger, author of Looking for God in Harry Potter) is that Harry represents "everyman" but Abigail BeauSeigneur's heavily researched editorial deserves a reading.

Lev Grossman, you should read this editorial!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Lev Grossman, God, and Harry Potter

I find it fascinating that Lev Grossman of Time Magazine is heralding God's funeral because of His supposed absence in the Harry Potter series. Grossman writes "[i]f you want to know who dies in Harry Potter, the answer is easy: God" and "Harry Potter lives in a world free of any religion or spirituality of any kind". This flagrantly contradicts J.K. Rowling's statements that she believes in God. What about that famous Vancouver Sun quotation of hers in response to whether she is a Christian:

''Yes, I am,'' she says. ''Which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I've been asked if I believe in God, I've said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what's coming in the books.''
Travis Prinzi responds to Grossman point by point in his recent (and brilliant) Sword of Gryffindor post, Lev Grossman Strikes Again. Prinzi scoffs at Grossman's secularist view of the series by bringing up the fact that Harry Potter does have some religious elements such as Christian holidays and christenings. Grossman clearly has an agenda (he's admitted that he's an atheist and that he likes the supposed absense of God in the series) , which is evidenced by the fact that he ignores statements made by JKR herself. If Grossman was a journalist then he should have scoured her many interviews looking for a quote or two to support his 180 degrees wrong views on the series. He would find no such evidence but what he would find is a author who is keeping her religious views under wraps until the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

John Granger a.k.a. Hogwart's Professor has suggested in a recent post that perhaps JKR is using Lev Grossman to protect her storyline and take the heat of her religious beliefs this close to the Deathly Hallows release. JKR has said in the past that:

There is one thing that if anyone guessed I would be really annoyed as it is kind of the heart of it all. And it kind of explains everything and no-one's quite got there but a couple of people have skirted it. So you know, I would be pretty miffed after thirteen or fourteen years of writing the books if someone just came along and said I think this will happen in book seven. Because it is too late, I couldn't divert now, everything has been building up to it, and I've laid all my clues (Paxman, Jeremy, "JK's OOTP interview," BBC Newsnight, 19 June 2003).
Could this be a reference to a religious ending that Grossman seems to ignore? Whatever the case, if we are to believe Granger, maybe Grossman's article is a good thing.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

John Granger's Book is Ludicrous?

I was glancing at the Sunday edition of the NY Daily News (yes I'm a barbarian for not reading the NY Times, sue me) and I noticed the insert of USA Weekend. On the cover it said, "How will Harry Potter end? Muggles weigh in". Curious, I turned to the page and was treated to a barrage of predictions by various muggles including Emerson Spartz, founder of Mugglenet whom I seen in person at a Barnes & Noble but sadly never met. The predictions are a treat but what really got my attention was the opposite page. It read:

Some Potter goods we could live without

We adore the Harry Potter books and movies, but Hogwarts' hero also has been exploited for a lot of junk that makes nose-biting teacups seem useful by comparison. Among the ludicrous Potter products we won't be sorry to see vanish:

Scores of absurd tie-ins include If Harry Potter Ran General Electric, Looking for God in Harry Potter and our personal favorite, Harry Potter and International Relations, in which the boy wizard is linked to real-life globalization and geopolitical issues.

Other products were mentioned from crazy costumes to wands and brooms; the exact specifics not important to this discussion. The fact that the author of this two-page piece, Jeffrey Ressner, has John Granger's book Looking for God in Harry Potter, proves that he is merely judging a book by its title. I highly doubt that Ressner read Granger's book (ditto for the other two titles he mentioned) for a small piece in an article that focuses exclusively on "Harry Potter Predictions". Now why would Granger's book be labeled "ludicrous", "babbling", "junk", and something "we could live without"? Could it be the possibility of a religious underpinning in the Harry Potter series? After all J.K. Rowling has went on the record before and said that her faith is a clue to the end of the series. What is so "absurd" about looking for God in a series about wizards and Dark Lords?

I also take issue with Ressner's statement that Granger's book is exploiting Harry Potter. Granger in his book has written that as a homeschooling father, he was wary of JKR's novels but after reading them he changed his opinion of them. Granger's reason? "These stories resonate with the Great Story for which we all are designed". Granger's intention in writing this book was to show why these novels are popular. Is it exploitation to write a book discussing the Christian meaning behind the Harry Potter series? After all JKR has said that she is a Christian and that she attends church. Once again I ask what is so "absurd" about looking for God in Harry Potter?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Review of Order of the Phoenix

Spoiler Warning: If you have not watched the film then do not read this review as there are details from the film being discussed here.

In the middle of watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I realized that this was a very different Potter film. With a new director (David Yates), new screenwriter (Michael Goldenberg), and new composer (Nicholas Hooper); I expected this going into the movie but it just hit me forcibly in the theatre. This was such a different Potter film that after watching it, I was not sure what to make of it. My overall reaction was mixed as I enjoyed much of the film but was left with a feeling of disappointment as the movie ended.

The chillingly haunting rendition of John William's "Hedwig's Theme" by Nicholas Hooper plunged me into Order. Harry Potter is vilified in the wizarding media and what's worse he is expelled from Hogwarts because he performed underage magic even though it was done in a lifesaving situation. Harry is tried like a high priority criminal by the Wizengamot. Even though he's acquitted, it gets worse for Harry. He endures the stares and disbelief of the student body, a growing anger problem, and a sadistic professor who tortures him for telling the very truth of Voldemort's return that most of the wizarding world believes is a lie. Pushed by Ron and Hermione, Harry heads a subversive student group called Dumbledore's Army whose aim is to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts to those dissatisfied with the curriculum. The film moves with a lightning pace as Albus Dumbledore is ousted from Hogwarts and a new regime begins at the school. Add to that Harry's dreams of corridors and fears of a potential darkness within him, Harry needs to learn Occlumency by Professor Snape although he fails to master this discipline. This failure leads him to believe a dream about Voldemort torturing his godfather Sirius Black and he leads Ron, Ginny, Hermione, Luna, and Neville to the Department of Mysteries where he learns of a prophecy, watches Sirius die, and experiences Voldemort possessing him but not before expelling him and the Ministry sees that the Dark Lord truly has returned.

Clocking in at 138 minutes, Order is the shortest Potter film so far. This was my second biggest complaint of the film. I understand that film is a different genre than novels and that there is always difficulty in translating a 870 page tome to the Big Screen but the movie should have been longer. The climactic scene in the Ministry should have been longer. That's a given. It also could have used an additional ten to twenty minutes touching upon elements that simply went unexplained. For example when Dolores Umbridge dismisses Professor Trelawney from Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore reminds the High Inquisitor that while she can dismiss school professors, Umbridge cannot throw them off the grounds. We are not given the real reason for Dumbledore's insistence that Trelawney stay, namely that she is the one who uttered the prophecy we find about in the climax (not to mention the plot hole of who is going to replace her as Divination professor). Another example would be when Harry gives Professor Snape a cryptic message regarding Sirius, we are given no indication that Snape alerted the Order of the Phoenix even though he did. Ditto for any explanation for what we saw regarding Harry's father picking on Snape when they were at school. Kreacher and Percy appear in the film suddenly and with no explanation either.

My main problem of the film was the Harry's temptation to the Dark Side. Now I understand that heroes have to be tested but one good thing about Harry is that he has no desire for turning evil. Harry cannot even perform the Cruciatus Curse properly because he has "righteous anger" as Bellatrix tells him in the novel. This dialogue is absent in the film and when he has Bellatrix at his mercy, Voldemort tells Harry to kill her because she killed his godfather. Now I have no doubt that Voldemort would do this because he has no concern for anyone least of all his faithful followers. But this scene is eerily similiar to Return of the Jedi. Harry is Luke Skywalker, Bellatrix is Darth Vader, and Voldemort is the Emperor. Come on, this did not happen in the book and in a crucial scene like this, a director cannot afford to mess this up. And it gets worse. After Dumbledore is dueling Voldemort, Voldemort enters Harry's body hoping that Dumbledore would sacrifice Harry in order to kill him. I admit that the possession scene was interesting but is ruined when we given Harry's admission that Voldemort has no friends as the reason that Voldemort is expelled from Harry's body. Where is Harry's desire to die and his immense love for his departed godfather? That was the real reason why Voldemort could not possess Harry for a long period. Would you want a director to quickly gloss over or change significantly the climax of the film version of Deathly Hallows? I mean we don't know the plot for the seventh novel but we would want the ending faithfully rendered even if other plot points were changed or left out due to time constraints.

Let me briefly give some high points in the film. Evanna Lynch was brilliant as Luna Lovegood. She had the dreamy voice and that unique perspective of the world showed through her character. She was a delight to watch. Imelda Staunton was delightfully horrible and nasty as Dolores Umbridge. I literally could not stand her just like her novel counterpart. Fred and George were at their tricks again and they provided comic relief in what was otherwise a dark film. I loved the chemistry between Ron and Hermione, which should give shippers a cause for celebration. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson have really come into their own and are very good at what they do. I loved the scenes in the Hog's Head, Dumbledore's Army, Dumbledore's escape, and the fight between the Aurors and the Death Eaters (although it should have been longer). I also loved the interaction and closeness of Harry and Sirius especially in the Grimmauld Place scenes and the Ministry scenes where they fight side by side against Lucius Malfoy. Sirius forgets himself and calls Harry "James", which made it even sadder when Sirius is killed soon after.

In the end, Order of the Phoenix is a very dark film with a fast pace. This fast pace weakens the film especially at the end where you are left wanting more. I am not sure where this film stands with the other Potter films but it is definately not the best one. I went in with high expectations and left disappointed. As the end credits were rolling I still could not believe that the movie was over. This was the first Potter film where I had this feeling. I would probably need to see this film again before I change my opinion but then again there is always Deathly Hallows to look forward to next week.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Christianity Today and Sword of Gryffindor

Christianity Today's website posted an interesting article today discussing the debate over Harry Potter in Christian circles, Harry Potter Once Again Sparks Christian Debate. Also I watched the film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at midnight on July 10. I will definately post my thoughts on the movie soon. Until then, you should consult Sword of Gryffindor's massive review of the movie. I agree with much (not all) of what Travis Prinzi says there. And if you have not watched the film then make sure you catch a showing. Oh and yes, one week till Deathly Hallows comes out. Yay!

Thursday, July 5, 2007


After 24 days and 16 days to go, I finished my reading of the Harry Potter series after midnight today. I finished the first three books in a week while Goblet of Fire took me the same amount of time to read. Order of the Phoenix was longer but I finished that along with Half-Blood Prince in a week-and-a-half. I have to say that reading the series over has been an exciting experience. My coworker at Barnes & Noble was doing the same thing and it was fun touching base with him and seeing where each of us were in the series. I believe he has just the sixth book to read now. Now that I finished reading all six novels, I have to say that I am sad. This would be my last time reading the series before Deathly Hallows comes out, after which I will know the ending. The reading was enlightening and I saw many things that I did not notice before or just simply forgot. If anyone has not done a reread before, make sure you do so now.