Saturday, May 2, 2015

Christian Review: The Harry Potter Series

*  *  *

Image result for the harry potter seriesWhen young Harry Potter finds out that he was born with magical powers, he is thrilled to leave his horrible home with his aunt and uncle and enter the marvelous world of wizards.  But while Harry finds a new home and new friends at Hogwarts, the school for magical children, he soon discovers that not all is well and good.  A powerful evil is rising, and Harry is destined to stop it.

For a long time, I held off reading the Harry Potter Series because of its heavy magical themes.  However, I decided to read it because A)  I am old enough to distinguish between good and bad literature, and B)  I heard that it was really, really good.  
So I went ahead and gave it a try.  To my surprise, I ended up really enjoying it.  It's a fun, adventurous read that can appeal to all ages- child, or adult.  But before I start this review in earnest, I must first explain my policy on Magic in Fiction.

My Policy:  Magic is a real phenomenon that exists in this world- but not in the way people would believe.  I believe that people who claim to practice magic are utilizing demonic powers, whether they know it or not.  Satan grants power to those who will follow him in order to draw them away from God.  To tamper with such 'magic', or any of its symbols, is a dangerous and destructive path which should be avoided at all costs.
When the magic in a fictional world comes too close to what I know to be reality (such as drawing power from the Earth, and worshiping false gods etc), then I do not think the story is worth reading.  That sort of fictional magic always feels dark and tainted.  EXAMPLE: A Curse as Dark as Gold, 
When the magic in a fictional world is nothing like reality, and is more like a fairy tale, then I don't have a problem with it.  EXAMPLE:  Howl's Moving Castle

That being said, those are the screens with which I read the Harry Potter Series.  As I tell my family, I was reading on "High Alert Mode".  
For the most part, I found the series to be innocent.  The magic is quite unrealistic and feels completely fantastical.  There was one exception in the third book, The Prisoner of Azkaban, in which there was a character who claimed to divine the future.  The methods she uses I recognize as being methods that people have tried to use in our world.  However, I did not mind this in the story because that character was shown to be a phony- her methods didn't work at all.  It was made very clear that you cannot divine the future by doing those things.  (That book also happens to be my favorite out of the series- so that should tell you that it wasn't so bad. :)

Now, to prevent myself from rambling  through this entire blog post, let me organize my thoughts in my old format- pros and cons.

Some swearing, particularly by Ron Weasely, who's favorite sayings when things go bad is "Bloody H....".  This is barely present in the first few books, but picks up in the last few.
Some of the books can be a bit scary, especially for younger readers. It's not too bad though.  If you're a parent, you may wish to preview the later books before allowing your young ones to read.
If you or your family is offended by magic in fiction, then I would suggest that this is not the series for you.  There is lots of magic used throughout.  While I happen to think that the use of magic in this series is inconsequential, I know that some people are far more tempted by the idea of power than I.  If you or your family know that you are inclined to be fascinated by Dark Arts or power, then don't read these books.  Or if you do, keep in mind that you should never toy with things beyond your control.  Rest in God's power instead. 
I highly recommend the books rather than the movies, since the movies are significantly darker.  . Books are always better. ;)

This series is very well written.  I love the characters and the writing style, J.K. Rowling knows how to draw her readers in and keep their attention.  The books range from being humorous, to heartrending, to infuriating (in a good way), to completely warm and fuzzy.  
I liked it that Rowling did not favor her heroes over her villains.  She gives all the characters, whether good or bad, proper attention.  They're not flat, but very three dimensional, and that becomes evident as the books go on.  You don't see that very often in children's stories- but here it is done very well.
My favorite part of the books, of course, was the characters.  The heroes have their moments of being equally great, and stupid.  And the antagonists have their moments of being completely despicable, and lovable.  My particular favorite characters were Sirius Black and Severus Snape.  I also liked Harry, though I wished I could slap him in the face from time to time.  ;)  Of course, I'd have done the same to Severus and Sirius, had I been there with them.


Would I recommend this series?  Yes, though as with all magical books I recommend that they be read with caution.  Like I said above, if you find yourself tempted by the idea of power and you think these books will be a stumbling block- then don't read it.  You know your limitations. I will say that I have heard of people having the same struggles with The Chronicles of Narnia, so it really depends on the person.  

I personally really enjoyed the series, and I shall shelve it as one of the great reads for teens.  I would recommend it for ages 14 and up, though thirteen-year-olds could conceivably handle it as well.

Kudos to J.K. Rowling for writing such an enjoyable series!  I tip my hat to you.

*  *  *

-Emmarayn Redding


  1. It seems like more and more people I know are reading Harry Potter and enjoying it, including people whose judgement on books I very much trust. It's making me think I should read it- I didn't previously because my dad doesn't approve of them. I'm quite certain I could read them now without any problems (and my mom has said she thinks I'd be allowed to if I wanted to); I'm just not sure- particularly as I already have so many other books I want to read.

    1. I think it's because all the kids who weren't allowed to read it when they were younger are growing up now. Now we can handle judging between good and bad. :)
      If your parents say you can read it, the I'd definitely recommend it!

      And if you have other books you want to read before then... well, I don't know how you feel about 'multi-tasking', but I read the series while I was reading two or three other series too.

  2. Interesting…I always enjoy reading reviews on Harry Potter, even though I haven't read the series myself. I find the variety of opinions intriguing.

    One of the things I've noticed in many Christian-perspective reviews of Harry Potter is the way in which the heroes succeed through bad behaviour—lying, stealing, cheating. What was your experience of that?

    1. Here's my answer to that- and please don't get me wrong on this.

      I approved of what they did to save the world. See, in the world of Harry Potter, it's completely fictional, removed from our world. In that world, there would be no such thing as Christianity- not in its true form. So there would be no reason to hold to that standard of morality. I don't condone lying, or theft. That's always wrong. But when heroes and books hold themselves to their word, even when it might cost themselves or others their lives, it drives me nuts!
      For instance, on Arrow, the main character is facing an enemy that can be defeated only through death, but he refuses to kill him because of his standards. Because of this, hundreds of lives have already been lost. I'm of the opinion that when the odds are that bad, you should really just shoot the bad guy. Many of my own characters resort to dishonesty and trickery when dealing with the villains, just to get the job done efficiently.

      Of course, when their dealing with everyday ordinary struggles, they should of course be honest and true, and good. There's no getting around that. But if my family and friends and entire world was in danger, you bet I would lie and cheat and steal to save them! In this world, I would beg God for forgiveness, but that wouldn't stop me from doing whatever it took to save the ones that I love.

      DISCLAIMER: This in no way means that I think it's right to do those things. I simply am not bothered by it in fiction. Everybody has faults, and I think when they show that in a book it makes it more realistic. :)

    2. That sounds like the debates between two of my brothers on evolution in Star Wars. :) I do understand what you're saying here.

      I looked up Arrow. Personally, I don't think the hero is thinking clearly in deciding to stop crime without killing villains. He chose to be a vigilante in a superhero world, and he's been picked for the position of Protagonist, so the world is therefore going to rest on his shoulders. I would agree with you in this case.

      I especially agree with your last sentence. All of my characters have faults. However, I think there's one point you've missed. It's the way the author portrays these standards. If the character doesn't regret the way in which they were forced to act, then I would disagree with the author there. In my perception, a story does need a bedrock of morality. I've found stories without that bedrock to have a sense of emptiness…void of meaning. The thing that truly binds me to a character is their decisions to choose righteousness even if it means they have to sacrifice something big.

      If this comment doesn't make much sense, I apologise. It's ten in the evening and I should have signed off by now.

  3. No need to worry, your comment makes perfect sense. :) I completely agree with you about stories needing a strong foundation of morality. Without it the stories do seem empty. All my stories are guided by strong moral foundations, regardless of whether they classify as "Christian" or not.

    In Harry Potter, there is remorse for their wrong doings, but it isn't as strong as it might be if the characters were Christian. The wrongness of their actions is judged by how much it hurts others- which is the same way unbelievers in our world judge their own actions. Without God, that's really all you can do, since there would be no higher standard. It's the same way in any given secular book, and not just this series.
    So while the morals in Harry Potter are certainly not as strong as those that we are taught as Christians, I really couldn't expect any more. And if a kid is going to fantasy books for moral guidance, it will take a whole lot more than good examples set by the characters to help them.
    I myself plan to use this series as a way to witness to kids, using instances from the books to illustrate Biblical principles, the same way I do with LOTR and MARVEL movies. :) It's a great way to open the door to talking about Jesus with people who might not otherwise want to hear about Him.