"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

19 November 2010

Harry Potter


I realized recently that I have never reviewed the Harry Potter series on this blog, although I have read each of the books several times. It's funny to me that the Harry Potter books are such a touchy subject among Christians, while they have been welcomed throughout the rest of the world.  The very fact that Rowling's books are so popular with the world may be part of the reason why they are so unpopular with Christians.

When I was a teacher, every year I would have a discussion with my eleventh graders about the Harry Potter series.  We would spend two days discussing discernment and entertainment choices and whatever popular book or movie series was currently in vogue in the world and under scorn in the Christian community.  Most of my students would leave my class excited, but scratching their heads, because I didn't give them a list of books that they should or should not read.  I absolutely refused to tell them my opinion in the matter, because, quite frankly, my opinion didn't matter. 

We would discuss the concerns some people have with books in general and the Potter series in particular.  We would discuss the reasons a Christian might want to read a book even if it had been denounced from a local pulpit. We would discuss the reasons a Christian might choose not to read a book even if it were popular among his/her friends.  I would remind my students of the importance of obeying their parents' rules regarding popular media while they were still under their parents' authority, and the importance of being wise when they were finally on their own.  Then I would send them off into the world, hoping they would use their brains and Bibles to make wise choices. 

I never gave my students my opinion about Rowling's books, but I don't have students anymore, and I will admit that I really, really like the Harry Potter series.  I like the emphasis on love triumphing over all, I like that the characters are brave and willing to sacrifice themselves to save their friends or humanity in general.  I like the obviously Christian themes and imagery; not that Rowling is writing an allegory, but that she follows in a long tradition of literature written from a Christian perspective.  I love the continuity of the books and the believeability of the characters. And like many of my former students, I am drawn to a story of an orphaned child with special powers.  I can draw parallels between Potter's story and my own personal history, and I enjoy considering what house I would be in at Hogwarts and wondering if I would be brave enough to face Voldemort.

I understand some people's concern about the darkness of the last few novels.  I understand some people's concerns about the witchcraft aspect of the novels.  I certainly don't think these books are appropriate for a young child, but I do think the novels could spur a lot of good discussion with older students, and for me, the merits of the books far outweigh any of the liabilities.  But I have read the books, along with several other popular teen books, many of which I would not recommend. I absolutely refused to discuss a book with my students before I had read it for myself.  Before I had read the Potter books, the only things I knew were those that I had heard in conversation or from a pulpit, and some of those things I heard were very scary.

The scariest thing I heard was a preacher at a summer camp who quoted from The Onion as his source material for an anti-Potter sermon. I don't know that this man had ever read the books or that he spent much time in his research, but I do know that several hundred children left that service thinking that reading Harry Potter would necessarily result in their worshipping Satan. 

You are absolutely free to choose not to read the Harry Potter books or not to allow your child to read the books.  Please, though, make an informed decision.  If you are a parent, please read the first book before you form your opinion.  Consider reading and discussing the books with your child should he or she express interest in them.  And if you personally are choosing not to read the books, watch the movies, etc., that is absolutely fine, but don't judge those who do read the series, and please don't quote "facts" about the books or movies if you have not researched them.  I promise to respect your decision not to read this series of books, and I hope you will also respect my decision to enjoy them (over and over again).

2 comments:

Natalie said...

I'm surprised you never reviewed these before (but I knew what your opinion was. :-) Did you have this blog back when the books came out?

Jenni French said...

Well, according to the archives, I've had this blog since 2007, so I probably could have reviewed the very last book when it came out. Probably I didn't review the others here because they had been out for so long and I had read them so many times. This is the same reason for my not reviewing The Giver or The Chronicles of Narnia or Ender's Game, all books that I also very much enjoy.