Tuesday, August 12, 2008

J.K. Rowling's revenge


This is how I know J.K. Rowling is a genius: the entire Harry Potter series has been constantly and persistently attacked by Christian groups because of it's alleged use of magic and "witchcraft" and she has gotten her revenge without them even knowing.

The first thing that I have to say to that is what successful children's story doesn't involve magic? The WIZARD of Oz? Cinderella? Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? Excuse me kettle? This is pot. You're black. The same people that are so quick to denounce Harry Potter champion these other stories that are, at their core, the very same thing that they are protesting against. 

And the best part is that J.K. Rowling got back at these people and they didn't even realize it. The seventh book didn't follow the same format as the entire rest of the series. Perhaps most notably, Harry doesn't go back to Hogwarts for school. However, another minor addition and by far the most important are the two epigraphs preceding the text. The first reads:

"But there is a cure in the house and not outside it, no, not from others but from them, their bloody strife. We sing to you, dark gods beneath the earth.

Now hear you blissful powers underground - answer the call, send help. Bless the children, give them Triumph now."

This is from Aeschylus' "Libation Bearers," a pagan play.

The second epigraph is from William Penn's "Fruits of Solitude" and reads: 

"Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent. In this divine glass they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure. This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal."

Let me first say that I love both of these and think it was worth writing the entire series around them. They touch on the main theme of the books which is, and I don't care what anyone says, the power of friendship.

The genius of J.K. Rowling here lies in picking the epigraphs from two vastly different source - "Libation Bearers" belonging to the pagan tradition and "More Fruits of Solitude" belonging to the Christian one. 

By the end of the Deathly Hallows, Rowling has made Harry into Christ. He goes and willingly sacrifices himself for everyone else and then is resurrected from death! There have always been parallels throughout the series (though some are admittedly subtle), but this is beating us over the head! It's the Christ myth at its most basic! And the biggest shocker to me is that people still didn't pick up on it. Why wasn't there any protesting because of this very blatant allusion?

Regardless of the stupidity of Harry Potter haters, what Rowling is saying very loudly to the world is that 1) the Christ story belongs to no single religion and 2) that good story telling is universal. 

I think the two epigraphs for Deathly Hallows and the conclusion of the novel/series is genius, one of the best examples of the power of the craft. They truly are the most perfect summation of the themes of her work. This series is truly a masterpiece, and though I loved every minute of reading it, I am so sad that it's actually over. 

It was so epic while it lasted, but then again this story will last forever. Hasn't Christianity already shown us that?

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