News: Harry Potter
TENS of thousands of copies of the latest Harry Potter novel were sold yesterday as many bookshops reported sell-outs.
A spokesman for Bloomsbury, the publishers, said that it would be tomorrow before figures were collated. She added: “What I can say, however, is that bookshops across the land have sold out.”
J.K. Rowling, the millionaire author, said that her success had come as “a bit of a shock”, with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’s first British and US print run of 3.3 million taking £5 million in advance orders alone.
Ms Rowling, 34, who is travelling across Britain by steam train as part of a whistle-stop book-signing tour to promote her latest novel, the fourth in the Potter series, has been met by hundreds of waiting children at each signing. She said: “It’s been very, very busy. I was half expecting it and was braced for it, but it’s still taken me by surprise.”
She has been doing her promotional tour amid tight security but laughed off suggestions that she is being stalked. “I haven’t got a clue about it and that’s the truth.”
Her success has led to reports of obsessive fans, including a male admirer who has reputedly showered her with love letters and was spotted standing outside her home.
THE first one was enchanting. The second was ingenious. The third was a little bit of a regrouping episode -but still a cracker of a yarn.
Today Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, known to cognoscenti on the Harry Potter websites as HP4, has finally been unleashed. And is it good? You bet it is.
Harry’s -and our -fourth year at Hogwarts is funny, full of delicious parodies of our own world, and wildy action-packed. Billed as “the one in which Harry discovers girls”, it really stands out as the sporty Harry Potter.
The “J.K.” was imposed on Rowling because her publishers feared a woman’s name would put off boy readers: she could now call herself Fifi Trixibelle for all it would put the lads off devouring this complex, puzzle-filled yarn.
Rowling has even invented another wizard sport: much of the plot revolves around a gloriously complicated inter-school magic contest, complete with points-systems, conundrums and tests of ingenuity.
Once again, Harry meets his arch enemy, Lord Voldemort; once again he comes close to death. The much hinted-at death does take place but not until right at the end. And I’m not telling you who it is. All I will say is that it is not who you think, and I dare add that you will feel ever so slightly let down.
Rowling seems now to be confident that there are enough copies of the first three books in the world for no one except a complete Squib (person who should have magical powers but does not) to be so foolish as to read this one first.
So wisely, she has cut down the boring reiterative material that marred the second and third books, sharpened up the writing noticeably (HP3 was veering towards sloppiness) and shifted from the opening format of the previous books, whose stories all started off in Privet Drive, home of Harry and his beastly relatives, the Dursleys. Instead we have a creepy opening chapter, involving Lord Voldemort.
As Rowling hinted a few months ago, some of the bloom has rubbed off Dudley’s relationship with his indulgent parents. It turns out he has been put on a diet -the school nurse at Smeltings, his gloriously named and hideously pretentious public school, has pointed out to Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon that their son has grown so fat that the school outfitters can no longer find knickerbockers in his size.
Meanwhile the Weasleys, the numerous and impecunious but loving wizard family of Harry’s best mate Ron, make an ill-fated attempt to arrive at the Dursleys’ house by Floo powder -through the fireplace -without realising that the fireplace has been closed up in favour of an electric fire. The scene shifts to a great Rowling set piece -the Quidditch World Cup final (between Ireland and Bulgaria), for which the Weasleys have secured tickets. Nationalist pride and tension surrounds the match; after all, British wizards are immensely proud to be hosting it, but to everyone’s horror the event is scarred by -you guessed -post-match violence and -horror of horrors -cruelty to Muggles (people without magical powers).
Harry and his loyal mates Ron Weasley and Hermione Grainger arrive at Hogwarts the following term to find that a terrifying three-way tournament, the Triwizard Tournament, is to take place at the school throughout the year, which means that the school must play host to pupils from two rival wizard schools, Beauxbatons from France and the more sinister Durmstrang which seems to be somewhere in Central Europe.
Romance blossoms all round and among the teaching staff, too.
Once again, Rowling packs the pages with witty and imaginative ideas. We meet Rita Skeeter, the Daily Prophet’s star interviewer, the wooden-legged figure of Mad-eye Moody with his horrible, magical, rolling eye and his all-seeing equipment, and the stocky, silent figure of Viktor Krum.
Best of all we see the friends moving through their teens in a very grumpy, awkward, British way. “Giggling should be made illegal,” thinks Harry glumly as bouts of this activity greet his attempts to invite a girl to be his dance partner -it seems these young magicians blush, giggle and think Uranus is the funniest planet in the solar system. Just like Muggles.
Fourth year report? Another fine year, Ms Rowling. Three more to go and it looks as though your OWLS (Ordinary Wizarding Levels) results will be terrific.
Now it’s Harry Potter and The Full English Breakfast. So many companies are desperate to cash in on today’s publication of the schoolboy wizard’s fourth adventure that even Little Chef is selling it.
It is just as well. By the time the sausages are sizzling this morning, sales of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling’s latest tale of magic spells and acrobatic broomsticks, will have broken all records. “We already sell books and CDs,” a spokesman for Little Chef said. “We could not miss this one.”
Although one million copies of the book are being printed in Britain alone, compared with the average run for a children’s book of 20,000, booksellers predicted last night that tens of thousands of children -and parents -will be unable to lay their hands on a copy by the end of today.
Branches of Waterstone’s in London, Leeds and Birmingham had planned to open at midnight to satisfy Potter fans.
In the US the response has been the same. No other British author has provoked such a frenzy since Dickens had crowds flocking to the New York docks in 1841 to ask transatlantic passengers the fate of Little Nell in the final monthly instalment of The Old Curiosity Shop.
Millions of bleary-eyed American kids stayed up past bedtimes for the official publication on the stroke of midnight. Shops across the country held pyjama parties with staff dressed up as wizards.
The US print run is 3.8 million copies, almost 40 times that of the typical bestseller. Amazon, the Internet bookseller, planned to ship 250,000 copies in a single day. The bookshop chain Barnes and Noble had received 360,000 preorders, ten times the number for any previous book. The New York public library system secured 950 copies and had advanced reserves for 734.
The Harry Potter phenomenon has been hailed in America as the biggest boon to children’s reading in the age of the video game. Most American children now know the stories, and feel left out if they cannot talk about them at school. For months, fans of the first three books have been grappling with “Harry Potter withdrawal syndrome” as they awaited a new one. Booksellers have been recommending “Potteresque” alternatives, triggering a mini-boom for other British children’s classics such as The Hobbit and the Narnia series.
Thousands of bookshops stayed open late last night, with many transforming themselves into scenes from the books. One in Atlanta made customers enter through “Track 9-3/4”, the railway station portal to the wizard world. A shopping mall in Bloomington, Indiana, became “Pottertown” with enchanted forest, owls, and Professor Sprout’s greenhouse.
Although intended for children, Harry Potter has made a huge dent in the US adult market. Researchers estimate that 43 per cent of the Harry Potter books sold last year were for people older than 14. Other writers complain that they are being forced off the bestseller list. “They’re saying: ‘I’ve been Pottered’,” said the veteran thriller writer Ed McBain, who claims he, too, lost out.
In Britain children, accompanied by parents, staged “sleepovers” last night outside bookshops, ready for doors to open at 9am. Throughout today many stores will stage magic shows, quizzes and Harry Potter lookalike contests to accompany the sales frenzy.
“The way it’s going at the moment, they’ll be gone within days, if not hours,” a spokesman for Waterstone’s in London said. The Piccadilly store had 6,000 copies on shelves for its midnight opening. The list of sales outlets for the 640-page adventure is spellbinding. Parents hunting in vain in bookshops would be well advised to plan a journey by plane, train, bus or car. In addition to Britain’s 435 Little Chefs, the £9.99 paperback, or £14.99 hardback, can be picked up at airports, motorway cafés, bus stations, supermarkets, record stores, toyshops and hospitals.
WH Smith is stocking it at Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, most mainline train stations, and bus stations in Sheffield, Bradford and Dewsbury, plus nearly 50 hospitals. Shops inferry terminals at Dover and Calais have joined the obsession. Granada’s 42 motorway service stations stock it; so do Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Woolworth, Safeway, Costco, John Lewis, Morrisons, and the warehouse chain Macro; so, too, Toys’R’Us, Hamleys, numerous newsagents’ chains and Internet sites.
The first three books have sold 35 million copies in 31 languages, since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1997, netting the 35-year-old Ms Rowling, a single mother from Edinburgh, £15 million. Serious fans will be able to spot her today at King’s Cross station, setting off from a mock-up of platform 9* at 11.27am: the time and place where Harry catches the train to the wizards’ school.
REVIEW BY OLIVER WAPSHOTT, AGE 10
This afternoon my mum came into the classroom and took me out of school. I got into the car and she said: “Now, Oli, you’ve to read as much as you can of this book and then review it.” I was speechless. I had just been presented with the 636-page new Harry Potter book, with flaming dragon on the cover.
I started straight away, but found that I couldn’t concentrate. I was still pondering on the fact that I was possibly the first boy in the whole WORLD to read it.
By the time I reached home I had read about 50 pages. It was great to see that all the old characters were back. Especially Sirius Black, because he is a hard man.
In the first few chapters there are three new characters, too. There is Frank Bryce, an impatient war veteran. And Harry meets Charlie and Bill, who until now we have only heard about. They are the older brothers of Ron, Fred and George.
Frank Bryce enters the plot right at the start. He was accused of a murder in a large mansion 50 years ago. He was cleared of the crime and carried on gardening there. Then he sees a light in the deserted house late at night. He goes to check it out and discovers that Lord Voldermort (You-Know-Who or He-who-must-not-be-named) and his follower, Peter Pettigrew (Wormtail) are there, planning to kill Harry.
Meanwhile, Harry has been dreaming this exact thing and suddenly wakes up, his scar burning (which is what happens when anyone bad touches him). Harry writes to Sirius Black, his godfather, asking about the burning scar.
This is about where I have got. So far, I think it is even better than the other three books -which, may I say, are very good indeed. My final verdict: It’s wicked.
BY SALLY MULES
If you have not read any Harry Potter books you will find it difficult to hold up a conversation with the committed fans of the trainee wizard. Here is a potted Potter history with a guide to the characters and events in the stories. After reading this you will never confuse Muggles with Voldemort or a Leaky Cauldron with Hogwarts.
Book 1: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (renamed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the American edition)
Harry Potter is an orphan who is loathed by his aunt and uncle, the ghastly Dursleys and their spoilt, bloated son Dudley.
Harry has been forced to live under their stairs for the past 10 years since his loving parents were killed by the evil Voldemort, the wizard responsible for leaving a lightning bolt scar on young Harry’s forehead. Harry does not know that his father was a first class wizard whose skill unleashed a deep rooted jealousy in Voldemort, so much so that he murdered Harry’s parents.
Among wizard circles, the baby Potter is seen as a living marvel as he is the only person to survive Voldemort’s wrath. His adventures begin when a card mysteriously arrives for Harry, who never gets any mail, inviting him to join the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. With his snowy owl Hedwig, he leaves the human unmagical “muggle” world on an enchanted train where he tries jellybeans that come in flavours such as curry and sardine.
At Hogwarts, Harry quickly makes friends with other novices and soon proves himself to be an excellent wizard like his father before him, both in the classroom and on the Quidditch pitch -a cross between rugby and golf played high above the games field on turbo broomsticks.
The young wizard constantly bends the school rules in his fight against the powers of darkness, later revealed to be the evil Voldemort who drinks unicorn blood in the nearby forest -the blackest of all crimes.
His fate swings from being on the brink of expulsion to foiling plans to steal the Philosopher’s Stone, the wizards’ elixir of life.
Along the way, Harry discovers the truth about his parents’ deaths, understands why his scar burns painfully at certain times and meets the infamous ghosts which haunt the halls of Hogwarts.
Book 2: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
After spending a boring summer holiday back in the muggle home of the horrid Dursleys, Harry Potter is desperate to get back to Hogwarts. So when a neurotic house elf called Dobby warns him about returning to school, the young Potter ignores the little one’s caution.
It is not long before his words ring true as almost all of Harry’s efforts to get to Hogwarts are thwarted. He is prevented from boarding the enchanted train and when he ends up travelling in a magical car, he unexpectedly crashes into a bemused Whomping Willow.
This early misadventure becomes insignificant when Harry arrives at the wizards’ academy to find the pupils are mysteriously being turned into stone. Harry and his close friends, the endearing Ron and kind hearted Hermione, set out to stop this process. Ghostly voices whisper from the stonework which only Harry can hear and strange mottoes appear on the walls proclaiming that a long awaited heir has arrived.
Amidst accusations from jealous schoolmates and antagonistic teachers that Harry is the heir in question, he continues his search for the truth and encounters ghosts such as Nearly Headless Nick and Moaning Myrtle. They lead Harry to a mighty battle with his nemesis, Lord Voldemort, in an underground cavern.
Book 3: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter falls deeper into the Dursleys’ bad books during his summer holiday as he accidentally casts a spell on visiting Aunt Marge, causing her to inflate like a balloon and stick to the ceiling.
Fearing that he will be prevented from returning to his beloved Hogwarts because the school wizards will expel him for using magic in the muggle world, he packs his trunk and runs away with his owl Hedwig.
Far from the ticking off he expects, Harry is whisked away by a mysterious purple double decker bus to spend his remaining holiday at a friendly inn called the Leaky Cauldron.
On returning to Hogwarts he learns that his tutors have been lenient because Sirius Black, murderous minion of the evil Lord Voldemort, has escaped from the magician’s prison of Azkaban, where he had been incarcerated for killing 13 people with just one curse.
To make matters worse, Sirius is after Harry Potter. While juggling his studies in the Care of Magical Creatures, Divination and Potions, Harry fights the forces of evil both within and outside the school. In Quidditch the good Gryffindor team beat off the attacks of Slytherin, and finally Sirius Black is beaten in another showdown.
BY GUY WALTERS
The best-selling book on the amazon.co.uk web site is Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, and it has yet to be published. The Harry Potter series is so successful that all four books are in Amazon’s top 30. It has made JK Rowling a millionaire many times over, partly due to the sale of the film rights to Warner Brothers for an undisclosed sum. When that film opens in November 2001 it seems certain to be a smash hit and make a star of the lucky young man in the lead role.
Teachers are delighted with the books too. Many of today’s children, reared on computer games and television, were reluctant to read for pleasure until Harry Potter popped up. Now the Internet is peppered with teachers’ projects based on Harry’s adventures.
But why is Potter so popular? As with all magic concoctions, the ingredients are potent. The character of Harry himself is key to the success of the books. Wimpish and bespectacled, Harry bears the hallmarks of a hero who strives to improve himself and in doing so discovers his true talent. Children can identify with Harry’s yearning for a more interesting life and he is lucky enough to discover his own magic world.
Children love make-believe worlds. The success of books such as The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland and the Narnia series are proof of that. Children are natural escapists and yearn to live fantastical lives, battling with terrible enemies and emerging victorious. Through Harry, they can journey to an exciting land that is far away from the quotidian rigours of room cleaning and homework.
Humour is added to spice the brew. Children laugh over Harry Potter in the way that they never did over JRR Tolkien, who is reputed to have made one joke in his entire oeuvre. The situations are comic and the use of language is witty. The names Rowling has created are as evocative as those by Dickens: “Hogwarts” and “Quidditch” both being prime examples.
Rowling also knows how to write a page turner. Many readers, both young and old, say it is impossible to put down a Harry Potter book once begun. Rowling’s characters are memorable, danger lurks on every page and the suspense is that of a superior thriller.
The final element is that parents like the books too. They are pleased that Harry’s adventures stimulate their child’s imagination and enthusiasm and many adults find that reading about the apprentice wizard makes them feel like a child again.
BY GEORGE PENDLE
The search for the actor to play Harry Potter continues apace with Warner Brothers frantically advertising on their website for 9 to 11 year olds to fill the parts of Harry Potter and his two chums Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.
The studio prefers that an unknown should take the main part and so far 40,000 submissions have been sent in. This has not stopped the precocious brats of Hollywood, most noticeably Haley Joel Osment, one of the stars of last year’s spooky film The Sixth Sense, from putting their names forward.
However Potter’s creator, JK Rowling, has it seems insisted on an English actor to play Harry to the chagrin of studio executives. Jamie Bell, the 14 year old who acted in the British ballet and mining film Dancer has also been tipped to star.
Stephen Spielberg, who had been expected to direct the film, also had a run in with the redoubtable Miss Rowling. His handing over of the directorial reins to Chris Columbus (unsurpassed master of the ersatz such as Mrs Doubtfire, Stepmom, Home Alone ad nauseam) stemmed from a reported argument with the author about the fact that the film would have to be a “shared vision”, rather than Spielberg’s exclusive vision. It seems that Spielberg’s “Americanisation” of the novel was too much for Rowling. The film, to be based on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (the American title of the first book) follows a script written by American writer Steve Kloves who also wrote the screenplays for the distinctly un-PG The Fabulous Baker Boys and Flesh and Bone. Dame Maggie Smith is in negotiations to play the deputy headmistress of Hogwarts, Minerva McGonagall. Tim Roth has been approached to play the disliked potions teacher Professor Snape and Robbie Coltrane is said to have been asked to play Hagrid the gamekeeper.
Production begins this summer with filming expected to take place in the Lochaber area of Scotland. Inverailort Castle has been named as a possible setting for Harry’s sorcery centre, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The West Highland railway line is also set for a starring role as the Hogwarts steam engine express.
The film is set to be released in America on November 16, 2001 and is expected to cost £100 million to make.
Thomas Duval, 8
I have really enjoyed reading the Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, especially where Quirrel cleverly pretends to be good when he is really helping Voldemort by hiding him in his turban! I also like the way that Harry and Ron take the flying car through the clouds and the way Snape hissed at them, you would think he was a good snake.
Finally, I like the way that Sirius Black turns out to be good and Ron’s rat Scabbers turns out to be the helpless Peter Pettigrew who helped Voldermort kill Harry’s parents. I think that JK Rowling is very good at writing because she describes things well and puts a twist in almost every story. I think that the next Harry Potter book will be brilliant, maybe even better than the last!
Oliver Money, aged 13
I am convinced that Harry Potter is going to be an all time hit and will go down in history as being a book that has encouraged more children to read than almost any other. JK Rowling is a brilliant author, she not only has the potential to attract the younger audience but also the thousands of adults who read Harry Potter. The characters are so well portrayed that you can sympathise with each one. None of them are unlikely and each one has more to them than first meets the eye. Although the actual setting of the book seems strange, it is somehow made totally believable.
Before Harry Potter was published I always found it hard to read this kind of fantasy book. However Rowling has managed to tempt me away from reading just true stories and now I really love indulging in the fantastic world of Harry Potter. Let me give a classic example of how much Harry Potter is loved. In a forum of three different schools around Abingdon, Oxfordshire, including my school, Radley College, a vote was taken to see which book out of eight similarly aimed books was the most popular. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban got double the votes of its nearest rival. That really does show how much JK Rowling is read and loved.
Anastasia Wark, aged 9
All three Harry Potter books are very imaginative and I like the way that Harry is always switching worlds, from this world to a magic world. Whenever I read one I feel like I go into a different world. It is very different to real life in every book. I think all the characters are very well described, especially Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione. Together they are very mischievous. Hermione is much more clever than Harry, she is always helping him get out of trouble for she knows most spells and potions.
Each of the characters has a very different personality. The only character that is only described in mysterious ways is Voldemort (He who must not be named). This makes him more scary. When I am absorbed in the book I forget about school and homework and dull everyday life so I think Harry Potter is a magnificent book.
Jasmine Wark, aged 7
I enjoyed book one, it was fantastic. I don’t know why some people say Harry Potter is for boys. If it was for boys only I would be so upset, if it was only for girls I would be so happy, but it’s okay how it is. I really like all the characters Harry, Ron and Hermione.
First he lives a miserable life with his cousin Dudley. Dudley was horrible. Harry discoverd something amazing, he was a wizard. He gets on a magic train and goes to a magic school. Harry is a bit naughty in the book. In the book he had some adventures. He plays Quidditch on a broomstick, I wish I could too. I like Harry Potter because he is rather cheeky -he isn’t always good. He’s got the bravery of a warrior, the eyes of an eagle and the adventures of no one else.
Genevieve Wark, 11
I would recommend the book Harry Potter because it is full of adventures and it takes you to another different magical world. Something weird and strange happens on every page and none of it is dull. All of the characters are described perfectly. You can see them perfectly just as the author describes them. All of the characters have something weird and unusual about their personality. Each of Harry’s friends get into their own exciting adventures.
I have read all of the Harry Potter books (some of which have been read out to the class) and I have found all of them very exciting and never boring. I’m looking forward to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire coming out. I will definitely read it if I can get my hands on it before all of my brothers and sisters because they will want it first.
By Frederick Winterbotham, aged 9
I like stories of fantasy, especially with wizards in them. Harry Potter is about my age so I can dream about having his adventures and planning what will happen in the future books. My favourite parts in the stories are when Harry gets his own back on Draco Malfoy and Professor Snape. Draco says horrible and cruel things and he is a coward at heart. I like the wide range of characters, for example Hermione Granger, the goody goody, and Neville Longbottom, the boy who forgets everything.
JK Rowling makes up amazing words and ideas like “Quidditch”, which is a wizard game played on broomsticks and “Muggles”, a word for non-magic humans. I never really get frightened by the books because I know Harry would save me. It is sometimes a bit boring when the hero fights the baddie and always wins though. Voldemort is a good enemy for Harry because he isn’t truly alive so he cannot be killed. My brother had a black fish called Voldemort but he did die.
By Heloise Winterbotham, aged 9
I think that JK Rowling is a very imaginative writer and she gives a lot of detail so I can really picture the Basilisk, a huge snake monster with poisonous fangs, as it slowly slithers towards Harry. I like the way that each house at Hogwarts, the wizards’ school, has its own ghost. My favourite is Nearly Headless Nick who has only a small bit of flesh to keep his head on but is still not accepted by the Headless Hunt. One of the funniest ghosts is Peeves who loosens carpets so people trip up, and who drops sticks on the heads of first years.
I would prefer to go to Hogwarts rather than my own school and I would really enjoy Transfiguration when you change something into something quite different like rabbits into slippers. I would change my brother into a punch bag so he would learn what it feels like to be me.
By Alexander Winterbotham, aged 11
How much has Harry Potter changed the world of literature? In every book shop there is a shelf specially for Harry Potter, even sometimes in the adult section. JK Rowling has created something completely new for us, never has a writer invented such an amazing place as Hogwarts. Most of the population must have read Harry Potter. Even huge competitors for fantasy such as Philip Pullman have not done as well.
The books are such a rich wonderful creation of reality and fantasy. They are quite long but easy to read as the plot keeps leading you on. If you were going to play on a games console, which children do too much of any way, or read the second half of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I know which one I would choose. It stops me concentrating in maths thinking about the excitement of getting home to involve myself in these wonderful worlds. These books must have been some of the most famous ever, and people banning them from some schools in America is like taking a dog away from its bone.
Nicknames: Jo to family and friends, JK to fans, Jake to friends who want to annoy and tease her about the “JK” title, and she was teased about her lastname with things like “rolling pin” and “Rolling Stone”.
JK Rowling: her initials were used because the publisher feared boys wouldn’t want to read the Harry Potter adventures if they knew it was written by a woman
Born: July 31, 1965 in Chipping Sodbury General Hospital
Mother: Anne died in 1990, aged 45, from multiple sclerosis. Jo was 25.
Father: Peter was a manager with Rolls-Royce
Siblings: Dianne, or “Di”, a little less than 2 years younger. She had trained as a nurse and is now studying law in Edinburgh.
Spouse: Jo was married to an unnamed Portuguese television journalist for three years but divorced soon after the birth of their daughter
Children: Jessica, her only child, was born in1993
Childhood: Jo has said she was a “pudding-faced child with glasses and rather studious, a shy, snotty, swotty little kid and very insecure”. Jo was born a city-girl and her family moved just twice —from Yate (just outside Bristol) to Winterbourne (on the other side of Bristol) and from Winterbourne to the countryside in Tutshill near Chepstow in the Forest of Dean.
Education: Tutshill Primary; Wyedean Comprehensive (where she was Head Girl); Exeter University (she studied French and Classics); teacher-training course in Manchester, England; Moray House Teacher Training College
Favorite School Subjects: English and languages
First Story: “The first story I ever wrote down (when I was five or six) was about a rabbit called Rabbit. He got the measles and was visited by his friends, including a giant bee called Miss Bee.” [okukbooks.com]
Jobs: she worked as a secretary, then for Amnesty International. In 1991, at age 26, Jo went to Portugal and taught children English as a second language. She later taught French in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Writing Harry Potter: the idea came to Jo on a train in 1990. She named Harry after a childhood friend, Ian Potter. She completed the first book over a five year period while in Portugal and upon moving to Edinburgh. She spent all her spare change on items for three-month old Jessica and had little money. She wrote in cafes which let her write while the baby slept in a carriage nearby. There will be seven books in the series, one for each year Harry spends at Hogwarts.
Grants: £8,000 from the Scottish Arts Council (with which she finished Chamber of Secrets)
Misc.: In 1996 Jo came back to Britain with her daughter after her marriage failed. She quickly moved with Jessica to Edinburgh to be near Di.
Moderator: Welcome, Ms. Rowling. We are so happy that you could join us from England this afternoon to discuss your hit children’s book HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE. Is this your first online chat?
J K Rowling: It is my second online chat, in fact, but first in America!
Miss Osgood’s 2nd graders from Graland CDS, Denver: Thank you for your book. It is complicated and wonderful! What got you interested in magic, wizards, and mystical stuff?
JR: I have always been interested in it, although I don’t really believe in magic. I find it in a picturesque world. There is also a lot of potential for humor with magic. And thanks very much for the compliment. I think it is great that people like complicated books. I do!
Andy from Illinois: I know that you are going to publish a third book, because I can already order it, but why is it not coming out until July?
JR: The books are always published in Britain first, and the pub date in Britain is July 8th...it won’t be available anywhere until that time.
Holly Varley from Cincinnati: Have you ever read Jane Yolen’s WIZARD HALL? It is another story about a boy in wizard school who saves his school from a terrible beast created by a former teacher. That’s where the similarities end. I like Harry much more!
JR: I am really glad you like Harry more! No, I have never read that book.
Jake from Reno, TX: Is Harry a compilation of a few little boys you have known? Perhaps your own child?
JR: No, Harry is the only one of the three major child characters —Harry, Ron, and Hermione —who isn’t based on a real child. Harry came fully formed out of my imagination, but there is obviously a lot of me in Harry.
Jenny from San Francisco: What were you like as a little girl, Ms. Rowling? I am sure you had a great imagination. Did you believe in fairies and magic?
JR: I don’t believe in magic in the sense that I write about it, but I do believe that extraordinary things can happen in the world for which we don’t yet have an explanation. I was a little bit like Hermione in the book when I was young. I wasn’t as clever, and I really hope I wasn’t as annoying. I did consciously base her on me when I was about 11.
Mary Ann from Great Falls: What is the inspiration for Harry Potter? What’s the story behind your amazing book? I love it!
JR: Thank you for loving it. I never get tired of hearing that! Explaining where the story came from is always very difficult, because I don’t really know. The idea came to me very suddenly on a train journey from Manchester to London in 1990, and I have been writing about Harry ever since.
Miss Osgood’s 2nd graders from Graland CDS, Denver: How did you decide what to name your characters and places?
JR: I collect unusual names. I have notebooks full of them. Some of the names I made up, like Quidditch, Malfoy. Other names mean something —Dumbledore, which means “bumblebee” in Old English...seemed to suit the headmaster, because one of his passions is music and I imagined him walking around humming to himself. And so far I have got names from saints, place-names, war memorials, gravestones. I just collect them —I am so interested in names.
Dorothy B. from Hanover: Who are some of your favorite heroes and heroines in children’s literature? Why?
JR: My favorite book when I was about 8 was THE LITTLE WHITE HORSE, and the heroine, Maria, because she was a very interesting heroine —she wasn’t beautiful, she was nosy, she had a temper. She was human, in a word, when a lot of girl characters tend not to be. I really like Eustace in THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER by C. S. Lewis (third in the Narnia series). He is a very unlikeable character who turns good. He is one of C. S. Lewis’s funniest characters, and I like him a lot.
Michael S. from Illinois: How many more sequels will you be writing about Harry Potter?
JR: There are going to be seven Harrys all together. He will be 17 in the final book, which means he will have come of age in the Wizarding World. In Book 7, he will become a full wizard, and free to use his magic outside school. I am currently writing Book 4, and Book 3 will be out in July.
Jan from Miami: Harry Potter has become somewhat of a hero for kids. Do you think fictional characters can be effective role models for kids? Perhaps as effective as real-life people?
JR: Interesting question. Yes, definitely. The advantage of a fictional hero or heroine is that you can know them better than you can know a living hero, many of whom you would never meet. You can have a very intense relationship with fictional characters because they are in your own head. Having said that, I didn’t set out to preach to anyone; if people like Harry and identify with him, I am pleased, because I think he is very likeable. But I truly didn’t set out to teach morals, even though I do think they are moral books.
Jill from Reno, NV: You said earlier that Harry is the only character who is not based on someone you have known. Did you have friends like Ron and Hermione when you were growing up?
JR: As I said, Hermione is a caricature of me. Now Ron, that is interesting. I didn’t mean to base him on anyone, but after I had been writing a bit, I realized he was a lot like a childhood friend of mine from school.
Cynthia from Middlebury, VT: Stayed up until 4am reading HARRY POTTER last night —loved it! Do you write strictly fantasy?
JR: The Harry books are the first things I ever had published, and I am so pleased I gave you a sleepless night!
Dr. Jessica Mayberry from New York: So many of the most beloved characters in children’s literature begin their lives being raised by wicked adults —James in JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, Cinderella. Why is this such a classic fairy tale format? Why do you think it works so well?
JR: All through literature —and not just children’s —the hero has been removed from the family setting. In Greek myths you have the extreme with Romulus and Remus. It serves the important function of enabling the hero to act without the fear of destroying his family and disappointing people who love him, or —which is very important —having to expect frailties in his parents. I think that it serves an important function for readers, particularly child readers, to be able to explore adult cruelty, whether or not they are experiencing it themselves.
Ms. Tallman’s class from Graland CDS, Denver: Why did you name Harry Potter —Harry Potter?
JR: Because Harry is one of my favorite boy’s names. But he had several different surnames before I chose Potter. Potter was the name of a brother and sister who I played with when I was very young. We were part of the same gang and I always liked that surname.
Kari Sime’s third grade class from Bitburg Elementary School: We are reading your books as fast as we can get them! Which books did you enjoy when you were a child?
JR: I am sorry I am not writing faster. A book I loved when I was younger was Paul Gallico’s MANXMOUSE, which is a funny, magical, very imaginative book. I really loved it. I don’t know if it is still in print. I also liked anything by E. Nesbit. Anything by her! Her life and everything just strikes a chord with me.
B. J. from Illinois: The last time you visited America, did you notice a difference [between] American kids and English kids?
JR: No. I was delighted to find that when I did readings, you laughed at exactly what English kids laughed at. I was nervous at what the reaction would be, but I think it was really identical. My favorite question from an American child was “Do you know the Spice Girls?”
B. J. from Illinois: Who is the illustrator for your Harry Potter books?
JR: I have about 15 illustrators, because in every country where Harry is published there is different artwork, and there will be still more. It is wonderful to see different representations of Harry from all these different cultures. The illustrator in the USA is one of my favorites, and she is called Mary Grandpre.
Kelly from Illinois: What progress is being made in the movie version of HARRY POTTER?
JR: Slow but steady progress. It is at a very early stage, but I will be coming over to Hollywood in about a week to meet with the film people. But they haven’t started auditioning for kids —so there is still time!
Kelly from Illinois: Are you pleasantly surprised by the success of HARRY or did you realize a void for this book?
JR: I am astounded by the success of Harry. I never thought much past publication. All my energies were concentrated on seeing the book in print. So it has been a very pleasant shock.
Daniel from Lexington, MA: I want to know what Dudley does with his life.
JR: That is a question I would love to answer, but it will ruin some surprises. I will only say that Dudley’s privileged existence starts to change for the worse in Book 4.
Kids in Mrs. Kahling’s class at RWS, Illinois: My class wanted to know how your daughter was taking all the fame of Harry Potter books, and also if she likes reading them. Thank you.
JR: My daughter is only 5, so I haven’t read them to her yet. She has got a very vivid imagination like her mother, and I think they might give her nightmares. I have promised that I will read them to her when she is 7.
Sean Thomas from Chicago: Do you have any tips on writing or any interesting habits you undergo when you write?
JR: Whenever someone younger asks me for advice in writing, I always say “Read!”, because that will teach you what good writing is like, and you will recognize bad writing too. As for me, I can write almost anywhere. I don’t need to be in a study. I am used to writing with a lot of background noise and when I only have an hour to spare.
Michael N. from Illinois: Did you think of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY when you were writing HARRY POTTER? I thought of it when I was reading it. (I read it in three days, and my friend who is with me read it in one, and he has read it five times.)
JR: I love your friend and no, I didn’t think of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. I think that Charlie and Harry are quite different characters, although I do think that CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is a wonderful book.
Zach from Towson, MD: What’s going to happen in the next book? I heard that you can get it in England, but I can’t wait to read it. Can you tell us a little?
JR: In Harry’s second year, he discovers that he has a very unusual power which is normally associated with dark wizards, and he also has to solve a mystery involving voices that only he can hear.
Steven P. from Illinois: Your books are awesome, but what is the name of the third book of Harry’s adventure?
JR: Awesome —what a great word, especially when applied to Harry. The third book is called HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN.
Holly V. from Cincinnati: Hi, Ms. Rowling. How does a Muggle-born like Hermione develop magical abilities?
JR: Nobody knows where magic comes from. It is like any other talent. Sometimes it seems to be inherited, but others are the only ones in their family who have the ability.
Kyle from Illinois: What was your favorite part of the book?
JR: I have got several favorite parts. One is Harry’s first quidditch match. Another is the chapter in which Harry finds the magical mirror. There are other bits I like, but I don’t want to spoil things for those who haven’t finished the book (but if you finished it, you’ll know what I mean).
Hannah from Detroit: I heard that they changed the cover in England to appeal to an adult audience. How do you feel about this? What do you think is the perfect age to discover Harry?
JR: It wasn’t my decision to repackage the book for adults. It was my British publisher’s. They took that decision because it had become apparent that adults were reading Harry too. They wanted to reach more adults by getting it into the adult section of bookstores. As far as the perfect age is concerned, I am bound to say any age.
Miss Osgood’s 2nd graders from Graland CDS, Denver: Sometimes when we are writing, we ask ourselves, What is in my character’s pockets or backpack? It helps us find out what kind of person that character is. What is in Harry Potter’s pockets? What is in Voldemort’s?
JR: OK...in Harry’s pockets there are some chocolate frogs just in case there is a wizard card inside one of them that was missed. His wand, of course, and probably the latest quidditch ball from the Daily Profit. Voldemort at the moment doesn’t have pockets because he is a kind of spirit, but once he gets his pockets back I don’t think any of us want to know what is in there.
Kate from Portland, OR: Why did they change the name of the book from HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE to HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE in the US?
JR: Well, once again that was my American editor’s choice. He felt “philosopher’s stone” gave a false impression of what the book was about. He wanted something more suggestive of magic in the title, so we tried a few alternatives and my favorite was “sorcerer’s stone.”
Miss Osgood’s 2nd graders from Graland CDS, Denver: When are you going to have a web page? Soon, we hope!
JR: Well, Scholastic has a Harry Potter page. One of the pages is: www.scholastic.com/tradebks/harrypotter. There might be another web page for Harry at some point, but that is likely to be related to the film.
Andy S. from Illinois: How did you think of all the strange things that wizards do, like the post arriving by owl, or floo powder, or what unicorn blood is used for?
JR: I spent a lot of time inventing the rules for the magical world so that I knew the limits of magic. Then I had to invent the different ways wizards could accomplish certain things. Some of the magic in the books is based on what people used to believe really worked, but most of it is my invention.
Wendy from Lexington, MA: How would you describe your personality? Are you outgoing or quiet?
JR: I can be very outgoing with the right people, but I have always liked to spend time alone. I have got the perfect temperament for a writer, because I don’t need to be surrounded by people all the time.
Patti from Illinois: Will there be, or have there been, any “late blooming” students in the school who come into their magic potential as adults, rather than as children? By the way, I loved meeting you, and hearing you speak, when you came to Anderson’s in Naperville. I can hardly wait until you tour again.
JR: Ahhh! I loved the event at Anderson’s. It was one of my favorites. That is completely true. No, is the answer. In my books, magic almost always shows itself in a person before age 11; however, there is a character who does manage in desperate circumstances to do magic quite late in life, but that is very rare in the world I am writing about.
Brian Kidd from Eastgate, OH: How much input do you have concerning the movie version of Harry? Are you contributing to the screenplay?
JR: I script approval, and the producer has been keen to hear my ideas, so I do have some input, but the greatest power you have as a writer or novelist is to sell the rights to the people you believe will make the best film, and I believe I have done that.
Jim from Jersey City, NJ: I have always loved reading tales that bring the world of fantasy to life. Did you have any idea that Harry Potter would appeal as much to adults as it does to kids?
JR: In one way it did surprise me, but that was because I had never imagined a lot of people liking the book. And in another way it didn’t surprise me, as I really wrote the book for myself —and I am after all an adult, just barely!
Moderator: Well, you have many fans out there who were thrilled to chat with you this afternoon, J. K. Rowling. Thanks so much for taking the time to hang out in our Auditorium this afternoon, and we hope you’ll come back soon. Do you have any final words of wisdom for the online audience?
JR: Thank you very much for all your questions. I just wish I could see your faces.
Moderator: Good afternoon, J. K. Rowling! (Well, I suppose it’s late evening for you in England.) Welcome to bn.com. I can’t tell you how excited we are to have you in our Auditorium. How are you?
J. K. Rowling: I’m very well and very excited to be here.
Andrew from New York, NY: Where does your insight into young boys come from?
JR: From inside myself. I’ve been writing about Harry for six months before I stopped and asked myself why he was a boy and not a girl, because I’m obviously a female, but it was too late —Harry was too real for me to change. And I liked him too much by that time.
MAT from Peebles, Scotland: How long did it take you to write the books?
JR: THE SORCERER’S STONE took five years to finish, but during that time I was working full-time as a teacher, and I was also planning the whole series of Harry books. CHAMBER OF SECRETS took two years, and AZKABAN took one year. They’re getting faster to write because of a kind of snowball effect. I know the characters very well by now. And the plots are fully worked out.
Michelle from Cambridge, England: Jo, I want to say a big thank you for making me feel 12 again and bringing me so much joy when I read your books. I have a few questions: (1) How do you keep track of all the strange names in the world of Harry Potter that you created from scratch? Do you compile a list of characters as you go along, or did you already have a clear idea from Book 1? (2) Did you do any substantial research on wizardry and witchcraft when you were writing these books? You’ve quite convinced a lot of us that Hogwarts and the world of wizards and muggles do exist! Thanks again. Michelle, age 23.
JR: It is wonderful to hear that I’ve knocked 11 years off someone’s age. I had nearly all of the characters worked out, including names, for all seven books by the time I finished Book 1, but I do change names sometimes. I like to play around with names, and I collect unusual ones from all sorts of sources, like maps, books of Saints, war memorials, and some names I just invent myself. And, yes, I have done research on witchcraft and wizardry, but I tend only to use things when they fit my plot, and most of the magic in the books is invented by me.
Beth from Amherst, MA: This is probably a very American question, but how do you pronounce “Hermoine”?
JR: It’s pronounced: Her-my-oh-nee.
Jennifer from United States: I have seen some amazing fan work by kids online, like drawings and paintings of Harry and fan fiction. Do you ever go online to see the web pages created for Harry?
JR: Yes, I do. And I have been staggered by the response. I only recently found the web pages devoted to Harry, and it was like Christmas —Christmas in August.
Jennifer from United States: You’ve said in interviews that there will be casualties in the Harry Potter series. Now, everyone at a web site I visit says someone (probably Hagrid) will die in Book 4. Will someone die or is this a terrible rumor? I love Hagrid!
JR: It is true that there will be deaths in Book 4 for the first time. It is likely that the reader will only care about one of the deaths. I can’t say who it is, but I have certainly never told anyone that it’s Hagrid —hint, hint.
Amy from Illinois: Ms. Rowling: Are you helping out on the movie at all? Do you have an idea when cast auditions may be? (Sorry, I know that has nothing to do with PRISONER OF AZKABAN, but no one will give me straight answers!) Thank you very very much!
JR: Yes, I have script approval on the movie. And no, unfortunately, I have no influence on casting.
Molly Katz from Denver, CO: In PRISONER OF AZKABAN, Professor Dumbledore mentions Professor Trelawney’s “second true prediction.” What was Professor Trelawney’s first true prediction?
JR: I love a perceptive reader! Professor Trelawney’s first prediction was a very important one. And you will find out in due course what it was, but I’m not going to reveal it at this stage. Sorry.
Liz B. from Wombourne, U.K.: Is Harry Potter based on anyone you know? What will you do or write after the seventh book?
JR: No, Harry came completely out of my own head, so I suppose he must have a lot of me in him. Although Hermoine is a more faithful portrait of me when I was younger. After I finish the seventh book I will cry because it will feel as though someone died. I will have been writing about Harry for 13 years when I finish Book 7. And then I will write something different.
Wade from MI: What is Harry’s middle name?
JR: James, after his father.
Amy from Illinois: Hello! Will Sirius ever be proven innocent? Or have you not decided yet? Thank you very much!!
JR: I have decided, but if I answer it gives away something quite important in the plot, so I’d rather not...however, Sirius will be back in future books.
Molly Katz from Denver, CO: Without giving away any plot details, can you tell us if we might expect to hear any more from Crookshanks in future Harry Potter books? He seems to be a very smart cat!
JR: You’re right. He is a very smart cat, and you will be hearing more from him.
Cindy from Orlando, FL: I know that the third installment is just out, but when will the next one be out? My children and I thoroughly enjoy reading about Harry and his adventures every evening.
JR: There is nothing I like to hear more than that. And I hope that Book 4 will be available next summer.
Robin from New Jersey: What is your favorite book?
JR: One of my favorite children’s books is a book called THE LITTLE WHITE HORSE, by Elizabeth Goudge. The last great book I read was THE VIRGIN SUICIDES by Jeffrey Eugenides.
Jennifer from United States: Do you have characters for other books running around in your head, or are you completely consumed by Harry and Hogwarts?
JR: Other characters do live in my head, but because the cast of the Harry Potter books is already enormous and will become larger, they take most of my attention at the moment
Sharon Czarnecki from Weare, NH: What are your plans for allowing movies and toys to be made of the books? I am so very happy with the way your books have set people to reading again and have sparked the imagination. These will surely be literature classics. It just seems a shame to cheapen them with toys —so counter to the imagination —and movies. Kids won’t have to read to be in on the fun. What are your thoughts on this?
JR: The truth is that I am both excited and nervous about the prospect of a Harry film. Excited because I would love the chance to see what I can see so vividly in my own head, especially Quidditch! However, I agree that no medium can replace reading, and my dearest hope would be that children would be led from the film to the books.
Robin from New Jersey: What is your favorite Harry book so far?
JR: The first book will always have a special place in my heart, because it was the first book I ever published. However, I prefer the plot of CHAMBER OF SECRETS. And just to confuse the issue, I was looking forward to writing the third book from the start of the first because that’s when Professor Lupin appears, and he is one of my favorite characters in all seven books.
Icicle from United States: You have such a phenomenal imagination! Is it a result of a very imaginative childhood?
JR: First of all, I will be using your name in a future book. To answer your question, yes, I lived a lot in a fantasy world when I was younger and spent a lot of time daydreaming —to my parents frustration.
Megan from Waterloo, IL: Do you have any suggestions for young people who are interested in writing someday?
JR: I think it’s best to start with writing what you know. In other words, a good place to begin is your own emotions or a subject you know a lot about. But the most important thing to do is to read, because that will teach you what makes good writing, and it will also teach you to recognize bad writing.
Sally from Pleasanton, CA: Do you have an internet address where kids (and grown-ups) can send you email?
JR: At the moment, I don’t. But I can be contacted via Scholastic Books.
Mike from New York, NY: Dear Ms. Rowling, I’d like to ask if there would be a lot of romances between the characters in the upcoming books?
JR: Good question. I’m having so much fun writing Book 4 because for the first time Harry, Ron, and Hermoine are starting to recognize boys and girls as boys and girls. Everyone is in love with the wrong people. Let no one say my books lack realism.
Christen from Lodi, CA: Did you attend a British public school?
JR: No. I’m often asked that by British journalists. I attended what you call a public school in the United States.
Susan from St. Louis, MO: My children and I love your books, and we care about Harry Potter. We are wondering if Harry will continue to live with the Dursley’s every summer.
JR: Well, you have to decide whether you want to give up the fun of seeing Harry getting the better of the Dursley’s or whether you’d rather see Harry happy. I’ve made my choice, but I can’t tell you what it is because it will ruin future plots.
Robin from New Jersey: Will Aragog appear in any later books?
JR: Yes. But I’m not telling you anymore than that!
Icicle from I love you!: Tell us about your family! How have they influenced your books?
JR: My mother passed way nine years ago, and her death greatly influenced a passage in Book 1. And I’m sure careful readers don’t need to be told what passage that is. My father is still alive, and he really likes the books, and my sister, to whom the first book is dedicated in part, was the first person ever to hear the story. She didn’t read it, but I told it to her.
Tom from San Diego, CA: How old is your daughter now? Does she read about Harry as enthusiastically as we do?
JR: My daughter is six, and she really wants me to read the Harry books to her, but I told her she has to wait until she’s seven because that will be the most important reading of my life, and I really want her to be able to appreciate them.
Kate from Bangor, ME: What do you like to do when you are not writing?
JR: It’s quite boring, and I wish I could say I went ab-sailing, but I don’t. Nothing exciting and ludicrous, I’m afraid.
Kelsey Troeger from Round Rock, TX: Have you considered creating a Harry Potter game, i.e., something that will stimulate young minds?
JR: I haven’t considered it. I suppose it could happen at some point, but I’m hoping the books stimulate minds.
Margaret from Michigan: Will we ever hear from Mr. Weasley’s car again?
JR: Yes, you will hear from Mr. Weasley’s car again, but yet again, I’m not telling you how.
Sally Haig from firstname.lastname@example.org: Is Hogwarts possibly located in Scotland? I am an American and have never been to the United Kingdom, but from reading the first book and going by the train station Harry leaves from and how long the trip takes, I am guessing it may be Scotland? Thank you.
JR: You are absolutely right. If you travel north from King’s Cross, you do indeed arrive in Scotland.
Andi Morris from Normal, IL: With the huge success of the first three books and your seemingly endless imagination, do you think that you might (please, oh please) consider continuing the story past the originally planned seven books? Maybe continuing with Harry as an adult or books about his children?
JR: So you’re convinced I’m not going to kill Harry??!! I try never to say never, because it seems that every time I do I end up by doing the thing I’ve forsworn. So, there is a remote possibility that there will another Harry book, but at the present time I am planning only seven.
Lauren from Jacksonville, FL: With your recent success, you have traveled a great deal. Who is the most interesting (real!) person you’ve met and why?
JR: When I was in Belfast, I was filmed speaking to a large group of children and sitting right in front of me, in the middle of the crowd, was Harry Potter. He had black hair, green eyes, and round glasses. I completely forgot what I was saying, pointed at him, and said, “Harry, what are you doing here?” He laughed, and all his friends laughed too because they all been saying it to him. So, if ever Warner Brothers asks me for the perfect Harry, I’ll tell them to go to Belfast and find a boy named Nialls.
Moderator: Before your success with the Harry Potter series, what was the worst job you ever had?
JR: The worst job I ever had was working as a temporary secretary in a company that made surveillance equipment. Bugs, infrared binoculars...industrial espionage. I spent the whole time reading the catalogue. They were very creepy people. The products were very interesting, but the people were quite horrible.
Moderator: Thank you so much for joining us this afternoon, J. K. Rowling. Before you go, do you have any closing remarks for your online fans?
JR: I’m sorry to everyone who didn’t have their questions answered, but if they keep reading, I bet most of their questions will be answered in the end.
NEW ORLEANS — A roomful of psychiatrists analyzed Harry Potter and found him wonderful.
He makes mistakes, but comes through in the end. He not only survived an abusive childhood in the home of hateful relatives, but came out with hope and ability to love intact.
“He is adventuresome, tolerant of a lot of negativism directed his way, yet is not aggressive, arrogant or clinically depressed,” said Dr. Leah J. Dickstein, a psychiatrist and former fourth-through sixth-grade teacher.
Not only that, but he can help psychiatrists. Dr. Elissa P. Benedek, a forensic and child psychiatrist, said that, for a long time, she has asked both the children she treats and their parents about what they watch on TV, what videos they watch, what computer sites they visit and what books they read.
“Now I ask if they read Harry Potter. Who do they like? Who do they not like? What are their favorite scenes?”
It helps establish rapport and gives her an idea of what the children think and feel, she said.
One thing is consistent, Benedek said: None of her young patients —not even those who idolize the rapper Eminem and quote his violent lyrics by the yard —identifies with the head bad guy, Voldemort.
“And I see some pretty bad kids,” Benedek said.
The books are “not merely escapes but tools for children and adults to work through their daily struggles,” said Dr. Daniel P. Dickstein, a pediatrician and resident in child psychology.
They spoke Monday in an American Psychiatric Association panel about “understanding the Harry Potter phenomenon.”
When Benedek asked who had read some of the books, just about everyone in the audience of psychiatrists, psychiatry students and their spouses raised a hand. Three-quarters of them had read all four.
In an interview before the session began, Dr. Earle Biassey of Fairfield, Conn., said he had read only bits of the books, but his daughter, a counselor, had told him they were anti-Christian.
Biassey said his practice was mostly adult, but he has worked with some children who became obsessed with Harry Potter and take the books as proof that they don’t have to obey adults.
“They think more in terms of how powerful they can be and get more control than anybody else,” he said. One 10-year-old became so violent that her parents called the police. “She was ready to take on the police department,” Biassey said.
He said the girl has become less combative since Nancy Drew replaced Harry Potter in her bookshelves.
Audience members started a lively discussion of whether the books’ psychological messages were marred by the transformation Harry’s sidekick Hermione Granger undergoes for their first school dance.
“I have an issue with that. ... Nobody notices her as a woman until she gets a pretty dress ... and gets giggly,” one woman said. Audience members did not identify themselves before speaking.
As the forum ended, Biassey told the group that the lightning-bolt mark on Harry’s forehead made him think about the biblical mark of the Beast.
But, he said afterward, the discussion makes him “rethink a lot of things.” He was most impressed by discussion of how parents can use the books to connect with their children and talk about ethics and values.
“It’s grist for the mill. That’s what I’m here for,” he said.
But he said his original reason for not reading the books stands: “I want to see it through the kids’ eyes, not from the adult’s eyes.”
TUESDAY NOVEMBER 06 2001
Harry Potter is the philosopher’s stone
Amid the rejoicing, the queues, pointy hats, mad beards and thrilled children, this week’s Harry Potter hoopla points to an oddly sober moral. In one compact outbreak of literary and consumer frenzy, it sums up all that is best and worst about our civilisation. If you’re sick of Potter, hang on: this is about more than a fictional boy wizard. It concerns everything which, since, September 11, we have had to think over.
A regular theme of radio broadcasts and reflections during the Second World War was “what we are fighting for”. Conflict always prompts a nation or an alliance to define its core virtues: if the enemy displays values which sicken us, so much the better. Witness the way that, after years of studiously ignoring all our petitions, our leaders have suddenly noticed how badly the Taleban treat women.
But a genuine discussion is afoot over “what we are fighting for”, sharpened by the dissent of some British Muslims. In a ranting letter to The Independent, Khola Hasan of Ilford lately berated the West for “moral decadence . . . sodomy, serial adultery, drugs, drink-driving . . . teenage pregnancy”. She proudly says that she does not wish to be a Western woman, a “subhuman sex object” or lie “in one’s own vomit in bed with a total stranger”. She concludes that “the decency, clean living and morality of Islamic fundamentalism is a far cry from the filth of modern decadence”.
This enraged a number of liberals, who leapt from their vomit-stained beds of sin to berate Ms Hasan, pointing out such Western contributions as justice, democracy, diversity, open argument, the freedom of women and, not least, our politically correct unwillingness to be anywhere near as vile about Muslim fundamentalists as she is about us; not even when they loudly applaud murder.
What has all this to do with Harry Potter? A lot. All our culture, good and bad and daft, is encapsulated in this phenomenon which began with a modest children’s book by a broke single mother, and ended with celebrity-studded frenzy in the West End. Like us, the phenomenon is rooted in centuries of European Christianity and eccentric Britishness. Like us, it is easily kidnapped by global commerce and at risk of being tipped into decadence. The Harry Potter story sums up what we are fighting for, good and bad.
To begin with the books themselves: the notion of a boy wizard in a magical boarding school struck a profound and pleasingly unfashionable chord in British families. Well before the hype began, adults could be seen surreptitiously reading J. K. Rowling’s first story on commuter trains, so that in later editions the publishers kindly brought out a version with a moody black-and-white cover to spare their blushes. Children loved the adventure and the excellent jokes and the well-tried theme of an orphan winning his spurs in a dangerous world. Adults liked those things too, but also relished the wit and the fabulously cheeky breadth of cultural reference: with Latin tags, Nordic, Celtic and Germanic asides, and creatures of folklore and myth recklessly pillaged from all over Europe.
As the series went on this richness deepened: to be surrounded by trolls and Boggarts and werewolves and centaurs and animagi and banshees and Veela and Basilisks is a pleasure to any cultured person; not least because we know that children, happily accustomed to cries of “Lumos!” and “Expecto Patronum” and to weird concepts like Apparating or being a Parselmouth, will never again be put off by a foreign word, heavy book or improbable opera. J. K. Rowling has provided a painless gateway to high culture for a generation of children. She has saved the bookish ones from the depressing PC boredom of the sort of books Carnegie judges choose, and the rest from being hijacked by the violent rubbish on the screen. That alone should win her immortality.
The books also express growing pains: the wizards’ strategy against Dementors, who suck the happiness out of their victims, is a perfect description of fighting clinical depression: and wonderfully comprehensible to a depressed child. A stressed teenager who learnt in childhood that the Dementor of suicidal misery can be resolutely pushed away is safer than one who has never met such a notion. And a child whose schoolfriends persecute him will find great comfort in Harry Potter’s rougher times at Hogwarts. There is even a touch of political theory, with the bureaucratic manoeuvrings of the Ministry of Magic and the debate on whether house-elves should be paid a living wage.
Beyond the entertainment and the psychology, though, lie deeper themes rooted in Christian culture (although Rowling is no C. S. Lewis flourishing allegory like a muscular-Christian lasso). The theme is the conflict of good and evil: Lord Voldemort is a lethal enemy who has chosen evil. The redeeming sacrifice of Harry’s dead mother almost defeated him; but it is the loyalty and courage (and, in Hermione, the studious intelligence) of Harry’s own generation which must continue the battle. Voldemort kills: Harry is not invulnerable. An astonishingly crass newspaper summary of the plot said “he learns wizardry to take revenge on the evil Lord Voldemort, who is responsible for killing his parents”, but revenge is not the point. Teachers who want to discuss the present conflict could do worse than cite Harry Potter: he fights Voldemort because he is still a danger, not for personal revenge.
So much for the books. They’re terrific. But at this point commerce moves in. During the promotion of the last two books, it was noticeable that the more thoughtful children, even at nine and ten years old, were getting unhappy about it. J. K. Rowling, ill-advisedly, let her publishers set up huge media events which at times divided her from the young readers; children were brought to a scrum on a railway station by pushy parents, and one of the wiser ones said to a reporter: “I hate this, that woman’s not my hero, Harry is.” They knew, better than their parents, that the imaginative connection between book and reader matters more than anybody’s autograph. Now, those thoughtful children express unease about the merchandising spin-offs, the jelly beans and chocolate frogs and T-shirts and toys, because they know that what matters is the vivid world they live in while they read, and their strictly private daydreams of heroism and hope.
Some of them are even dreading the film a little (although wild horses would not keep most families away). Even the author’s approval of it is not quite enough: with the heavy marketing of the film, ownership of the boy wizard in children’s hearts is being subtly signed over to the adult world of profit. As the chairman of Warner, Alan Horn, put it “We want to maximise this franchise in every way”; branded goods are everywhere. The author has stipulated carefully that the marketing shall be tasteful, that Harry shall not advertise and that Coca-Cola must undertake a big literacy project in return for its share of the kudos. But all the same, the machine has moved in.
As often as not, the Harry Potter story told now is the story of how fabulously rich and famous J. K.Rowling has become, how many millions it will pour into “corporate coffers”, and how glamorous the cast premiere was with its wholly irrelevant celebrities — Baby Spice, Patsy Kensit, Cher, Cliff Richard, the Duchess of York. The shallow cult of fame, the sale of overpriced jellybeans and the hawkish defence of franchise copyrights is becoming the story. If Voldemort International Enterprises paid enough, it could probably get the licence to market the wind-up centaurs tomorrow.
That’s the moral, and the paradox. All that is best and most inspiring in Western culture and values went into the brain and heart of an educated, intelligent, free but poor woman; she transformed it into good stories for a new generation; children greeted it with joy and understanding. So far, six-nil to Western values. But now we go over the top, commercialise, profiteer, hype and cheapen it until, despite all the excellent author’s scruples, it starts to look tawdry, decadent, and faintly shameful.
Children in Afghanistan — and in many other lands — will starve and freeze this winter while we jostle in cinema foyers and ply our young with Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, in the name of a highly moral tale. Confusing? I should say so.
TORONTO (CP) - Like a cinematic Hogwarts Express, three family-movie blockbusters are steaming toward theatres determined to satisfy the anticipation of legions of fans young and old.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone opens Nov. 16, while the first instalment of a planned Lord of the Rings trilogy is due about a month later, both riding a wave of fan-fuelled support thanks to their megahit literary origins. Brian Ware, Canadian exhibition manager for Warner Brothers, said Wednesday that advance ticket sales across the country for Harry Potter were more than $100,000, mostly from corporate and educational groups but also from families.
“In Montreal, the French version is going about three times faster than the English,” he said, adding that the French Harry Potter was dubbed in Quebec with Montreal actors.
“I would say looking at these numbers today, we’re probably looking at $350,000 done in group sales and probably another $200,000 done in advance tickets before the opening.”
Next May has been set aside for Attack of the Clones, George Lucas’s second instalment in his Star Wars prequel trilogy, and essentially targeting the same youthful audiences.
Critics and film geeks alike expressed mass disappointment in 1999’s Episode One: The Phantom Menace. But there is no shortage of eagerness that Lucas is still capable of picking himself up, dusting himself off and delivering more of the movie magic he first concocted in 1977.
The Potter and Rings franchises, though, seem to be an exception to the historical rule in Hollywood. They have a firm foundation of support based on best-selling books, surefire franchises that with a little care and wisdom, shouldn’t fail. And they probably won’t.
But Hollywood history shows that such up-front confidence was unusual.
When Walt Disney was putting together the first animation feature, 1937’s Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs, he had great difficulty securing the money to finish the project which he began in ‘35.
“We got into pretty tough running with the financing,” Disney said in rare audio recordings that provide running commentary on the new Snow White DVD.
“For a long time we couldn’t get any credit. . .it took quite a bit of dealing for us to get our first $25,000. . .we were borrowing beyond what the bank felt was reliable.”
The rest, of course, is vindication history, and subsequent Disney animation features invariably fit snugly into the classic category. First Cinderella, Dumbo, Pinocchio, Bambi and Sleeping Beauty. Then, after a lengthy slump, a resurgence in the ‘90s with the high-tech likes of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Pocahontas and many more.
Even The Wizard of Oz wasn’t a sure thing. The project, approved shortly after Snow White’s success, was based on L. Frank Baum’s 1900 book, part of a series that sold 10 million copies. There was a 1914 silent film written and directed by Baum himself, and a colourized 1925 version. All of which generated interest.
MGM publicists went into high gear months before the 1939 premiere with promotions on radio, in newsreels and the papers. But the production had serious and well-publicized troubles, including 14 writers and five different directors. The studio even considered cutting Judy Garland’s Over the Rainbow song because they thought it slowed the film down.
Although the premiere in New York City was a raging success - 15,000 people lined up for hours at the Capitol Theatre - the picture lost money in its first release and was clobbered both in ticket sales and at the Oscars by Gone With the Wind. In fact, it wasn’t until annual airings on TV began in 1956 that Oz became a bona fide North American heritage icon.
“Oz succeeded in spite of its chaotic creative process,” says host Angela Lansbury on the special edition DVD.
Indeed, a look at most classic family films over the years since reveals that - sequels excepted - it was the public after the fact, and not a slick studio publicity machine, that was responsible for turning such films into screen legends.
Invariably, the filmmakers themselves and their financial backers were the last to realize the value of what they had on their hands.
A litany of favourite family films - National Velvet, Old Yeller, The Black Stallion, The Neverending Story, to name a few - have been immortalized by the fans, not their makers or reviewers.
History shows that most films regarded as family and youth classics, got that way because of the public, not the studio. In fact a much-hyped project can just as easily fail, confirming suspicions that no one in Hollywood really has the key to success:
Davy Crockett: Walt Disney may have been the early king of convergence - his TV anthology show which began in 1954 became a showcase for his movies and theme park plans. But even the master often failed to predict what would be a hit.
In 1954-55, the three-part Adventures of Davy Crockett was telecast, ending with Crockett’s death at the Alamo. The myth exploded in the public consciousness and North American kids just had to have a coonskin cap and a toy version of Davy’s trusty gun, Old Betsy.
But Crockett had been killed off at the peak of his popularity. The mini-series was cut together for theatrical release, but Crockett prequels met with only lukewarm response. The House of Mouse then sought new heroic properties. Zorro succeeded but many others failed. Anyone remember Andy Burnett, Elfego Baca, The Swamp Fox or Texas John Slaughter?
Mary Poppins: Who can deny the Disney magic touch in this classic with its deft blend of animation, live action and songs? But was it a sure thing in 1964? Julie Andrews was crestfallen when Jack Warner decided to film My Fair Lady with Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle, a role Andrews had made her own on Broadway. Hepburn couldn’t sing and her voice was dubbed.
But Disney offered Andrews the part of the singing nanny in Mary Poppins - and again the fates wrote history. Both films were favourites heading into the Oscars with My Fair Lady ultimately winning best picture. But Poppins shot to the top of the box-office charts and Andrews had her own mega-role the next year in The Sound of Music.
Star Wars: Like Disney with Snow White, George Lucas struggled to bring his pet project - a little homage to Flash Gordon’s Saturday matinee serials - to the screen. Nobody thought 1977’s Star Wars would work at all.
Angus MacInnes, a Canadian who had a small part in the sci-fi adventure, recalls how everyone else on the London sound stage was predicting “a load of crap” while he was one of the few who foresaw that a hairy wookie, swaggering Han Solo and rusty, pranged up spaceships would spell greatness.
“There was this vast hall and, like, 300 guys all lined up like soldiers and I went ‘Whoa, man! This is something else!’ “ But even 20th Century Fox was skeptical until the bucks starting pouring in.
E.T.: A couple of years after his success with 1978’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg wanted to make a friendly little movie about a lovable alien. The startling outcome was blockbuster history. But who knew? (And who knew, too, that cartoons based on a poorly drawn Asian video-game character called Pokemon would have tots dragging their bewildered parents into long lineups at the box office?)
By the way, E.T. the Extraterrestrial, returns to theatres next spring in a digitally refurbished 20th anniversary edition.
Godzilla: The hokey, fire-breathing made-in-Japan dragon first hit the big screen in 1954 and spawned decades of cheesy but profitable sequels. Surely, thought Warner Bros. in 1998, if they threw a lot of money at a remake, with state-of-the-art F/X, and turned the monster into a sleek, fast-moving lizard, and set the story in New York City, the fans would flock. Alas, fans preferred the clunky guy in a rubber suit, stomping on miniature, tabletop cityscapes, while badly dubbed Japanese extras ran screaming. Somewhere, Taco Bell has a warehouse full of unused Godzilla plastic cups.
NEW YORK — Onscreen, Harry Potter can do no wrong, levitating on his broom with ease, waving his wand with gusto and spitting out spells that impress all the right wizards and witches.
But in the non-magical world, self-proclaimed real-life witches have mixed feelings about the mini sorcerer, from a British man who’s put a curse on the movie to others who hope Potter will help them get rid of the wicked-witch image.
“To a lot of people, it would seem harmless fun,” but for practitioners of witchcraft seemingly small mistakes can be downright offensive, witch Kevin Carlyon of East Sussex, England, said in a telephone interview.
It’s like putting “an upside-down crucifix outside a Christian church,” he said.
Carlyon is the high priest of the White Witches, a loose worldwide organization of more than 1,600 practitioners of beneficial magic, which consists of spells to find love, wealth and good health.
In Britain, Carlyon went public with his beef with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by appearing on the BBC and other media outlets. He claimed the story of the little boy with the lightning-bolt scar perpetuates inaccuracies about witches. And his biggest complaint: The way which Harry and pals Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley race through the skies on their broomsticks.
“You would never see boys riding broomsticks,” Carlyon said. “And when young ladies would go into the fields and sit astride their broomsticks, the brush would be up front.”
Other witches also said Harry Potter wouldn’t cut it as a real-life thaumaturge, though less insistently than Carlyon.
“We don’t do things like levitating or changing pigs into cats,” said witch Kelly Anne Hinkle of High Point, N.C.
What they definitely don’t do is use their powers to play a high-altitude version of soccer as they do in the Potter books and film, according to Dorothy Morrison, author of Everyday Magic, The Craft and various spellbooks.
“Modern witches fly in airplanes, honey,” she said.
Morrison has led her own version of Hogwart’s, the school Potter attends, that teaches witchery to others. But the spells she passes on involve such earthly rituals as taking a bath in a tub filled with cinnamon to find true love or writing down an office rival’s name on a piece of paper to get ahead at work.
According to Hinkle, wizards and witches use their powers to help people with such everyday hurdles as recovering from an illness, finding a date on Valentine’s Day or even finding a good parking space at the mall.
But some of the witches’ complaints about the movie are echoed by regular people, too. The junior wizard’s hawking of Coca-Cola and plastic Mattel dolls is at odds with some parents’ morals and with witches’ basic law of not using magic for personal gain.
“In real witchcraft, you’re not out for greed,” Carlyon said.
Carlyon was so upset he put a spell on Potter’s studio, Warner Bros., to make the movie tank at the box office. Even though the movie is breaking pre-opening box office records, Carlyon is confident his spell is working. There have been several small mishaps in the making of Harry Potter, from reports that author J.K. Rowling was suffering from writer’s block (which she denies) to actor Daniel Radcliffe’s voice changing during filming.
“It could be coincidence, or it could be Sod’s Law, or Murphy’s Law as you call it there,” Carlyon said. “I’m sitting back and I’m having a laugh over it.”
Although the movie might not have gotten all the details right, witches ultimately welcome the movie magic of the boy from Privet Lane.
“It’s important for kids to know that no matter what path they take in life, they still have the magic of personal creativity and have their own individual power,” Morrison said.
And despite the anti-Potter spell he cast, Carlyon saw a good side for real witches in the wizard-boy phenomenon.
“Yes, it is a brilliant film and it will start off the new generation of witches,” he said. “Harry Potter will put more magic into real magic.”
LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) —”Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” a hugely hyped fantasy about a young English wizard, weaved magic at the North American box office, whipping up a record $93.5 million in the first three days after its release, according to studio estimates issued on Sunday.
The film, which reportedly cost Warner Bros. Pictures $125 million to produce and an additional $40 million to market in North America alone, surpassed the three-day record of $72.1 million held by 1997’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.”
Based on the bestselling children’s books by English author J.K. Rowling, “Harry Potter” opened on Friday in 3,672 theaters across the United States and Canada, and also in Britain where it is known as “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.”
Warner Bros. distribution president Dan Fellman said exit polls of North American moviegoers were “spectacular” and the film played broadly to both parents and children, readers and nonreaders.
“It’s just a win-win all the way around for us,” Fellman said. Warner Bros. is owned by AOL Time Warner, which used other units such as its flagship America Online business to promote the film. AOL Time Warner also owns CNN.com.
“Harry Potter” follows the exploits of a bespectacled orphan with magical powers who attends the Hogwart School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Newcomer Daniel Radcliffe played the title character. The cast also includes noted actors like Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith and Richard Harris. Chris Columbus (“Mrs. Doubtfire”) directed.
Warner Bros. was scheduled to begin shooting a sequel on Monday, with hopes that Harry Potter will become a huge franchise along the lines of the “Star Wars” and James Bond films. The studio is planning to have the sequel in theaters the weekend before Thanksgiving next year, and hopes to do the same with the third “Harry Potter” movie in 2003.
“Monsters, Inc.,” the No. 1 film for the previous two weekends, fell to second place with $23 million. Disney’s decision to put the animated tale into theaters two weeks before “Harry Potter” has paid off: “Monsters, Inc.” set a record for best debut for an animated movie and had taken in $156.7 million in just 17 days.
The top 12 movies grossed $157.1 million, up 6.6 percent from the same weekend a year ago when four movies opened in wide release, including the blockbuster “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
The two-and-a-half-hour running time of “Harry Potter” limits the number of screenings that theaters can squeeze in each day. Warner compensated by debuting the film in a record number of theaters, which showed it on about 8,200 screens —nearly one-fourth of the nation’s total.
“Harry Potter” averaged $25,467 a theater. “Monsters” averaged $19,332 in 3,237 theaters in its debut.
LONDON, England (AP) —Special-effects artists aren’t the only wizards responsible for bringing an element of magic to “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
When the veteran composer John Williams was drafted to work on the film, he found himself saying the m-word, too.
“I kept using the word ‘magic,’ “ says the soft-spoken composer, 69. “There’s a wonderfully childish aspect to ‘Harry Potter,’ so I just thought the orchestral music should be colored in that way.”
Williams, who has been nominated for 39 Academy Awards over 44 years, has won five times: for “Fiddler on the Roof” (1971), “Jaws” (1975), “Star Wars” (1977), “E.T.” (1982) and “Schindler’s List” (1993).
One recent day found him in action at north London’s Air Studios, thoughtfully scratching his gray beard and swigging a bottle of Evian.
Williams’ task that day was to lead a crackerjack ad hoc orchestra (the London Symphony Orchestra, his usual London collaborator, was otherwise engaged) in applying some of the final musical touches to the season’s most anticipated movie. One minute they worked on a fanciful theme known as “The Friendly Reptile,” the next on the more wistful and plaintive “Dumbledore’s Advice.”
Steve Kloves, author of the “Harry Potter” screenplay, particularly responded to Williams’ theme for Hedwig, the owl.
“It had that thing,” says Kloves, speaking by telephone from Los Angeles, “that I always thought ‘Harry’ should have, which was an element of darkness and a haunted quality; it was beautifully rendered, that piece, to show Harry’s interior life.”
The movie’s director, Chris Columbus, had worked with Williams three times before, on the two “Home Alone” movies and “Stepmom.” In employing Williams once again, Columbus hoped the composer would “create a realistic world in Hogwarts” — the wizards’ school where Harry is a student — “but, at the same time, have it be a little quirky, a little edgy.”
“Things aren’t exactly perfect” at Hogwarts, Columbus says, “and John captured that perfectly.”
‘You do get typecast’
The owl music — scored principally for celeste and strings — kicks off a nine-movement “Harry Potter” orchestral suite made up of eight miniatures and a grand finale, “Harry’s Wondrous World.” The sequences include a French horn section introducing music associated with Hogwarts, woodwinds for the magical broomstick, a duet for harp and contra-bassoon, and a dramatically percussive penultimate movement describing Diagon Alley.
The shimmering flavor of the score exists in marked contrast to some of Williams’ best-known works, notably the rousing anthems and fanfares of the “Star Wars” and Indiana Jones films.
Heroism has been an apparent musical constant for him, whether on screen for the “Superman” movies or in his various commissions over the years for Olympics celebrations.
Does he ever worry about being typecast?
“It is true, you do get typecast in Hollywood,” Williams says. “In the 1960s, I did a series of comedies, and people think all you can do is comedy.” (That list includes “A Guide For the Married Man” and “How To Steal A Million.”)
In the ‘70s, disaster movies took pride of place — he scored “The Poseidon Adventure,” for instance, and “The Towering Inferno.” The ‘80s included “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “E.T.”
Williams wants to keep moving forward.
“I’ve always felt that if you did a big heroic piece for orchestra,” he says, “your next assignment should be a trio for strings.”
From Spielberg to ‘Star Wars’
This year, he preceded “Harry Potter” with another eagerly awaited film, Steven Spielberg’s “A.I.,” his latest collaboration with the director.
“Steven is unique” as a director, says Williams, “in that he’s the closest to me as a musician personally. He reads music, he listens to music, he knows the difference between Rachmaninoff and Corelli.”
“Many directors don’t,” he adds. “Their culture can be deep and their education vast, but few of them are actually concert-goers, so we’re dealing with a very varied group.”
With his 70th birthday approaching in February, Williams — a genial conversationalist, with grandchildren ranging in age from 5 to 18 — might be expected to slow down. Instead, he is juggling film work with conducting and with writing a horn concerto on commission for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, for a likely premiere in spring 2003.
Among his upcoming films are the next “Star Wars” installment and Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” starring Tom Cruise.
“The thing about music is that you don’t ever retire from it,” says Williams. “It’s like literature; you’re always discovering new things.”
“I might retire from film. I might retire from concerts. But I won’t retire from music.”
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A federal judge ordered Harry Potter books back onto an Arkansas school district’s library shelves Tuesday, rejecting a school board’s claim that tales of wizards and spells could harm school children.
Ruling in favor of a fourth-grader’s parents, U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren ordered the Cedarville School District to put the four books in J.K. Rowling’s popular series back in general circulation.
The district’s board drew wrath from national free-speech groups for its June decision to require students to obtain parental permission to check out the books. The 3-2 decision, which overruled a unanimous decision by the district’s library committee, came after a parent complained about the books.
The Harry Potter books have been assailed by some Christian groups for their themes of witchcraft. The American Library Association says the books were the most frequently challenged of 2002, but rarely did those challenges lead to restrictions or bans.
Plaintiffs Billy and Mary Nell Counts said they feared their daughter Dakota would be stigmatized if she were identified as someone who read books the district considered “evil.”
First Amendment associations and children’s author Judy Blume filed a brief in support of the couple last month. They claimed the Cedarville district was committing censorship and trampling on students’ right to receive information.
“Everybody is just thrilled with the decision,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Brian Meadors, said.
The school district did not immediately return calls seeking comment. In depositions, the three board members who voted for the restrictions said they felt the Harry Potter books prompted children to disobey authority and pushed occult messages.
Scholastic, which publishes books for school markets, said its Harry Potter series teaches children about right and wrong.
“We’re proud to publish the Harry Potter books,” spokeswoman Judy Corman said. “We think they’re about good and evil and we don’t believe in censorship.”
The books chronicle the fictional adventures of young, bespectacled Harry and his wizard pals at the Hogwarts magic school as they battle Harry’s nemesis, the evil sorcerer Voldemort. More than 190 million copies of the novels have been printed in at least 55 languages.
The fifth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, is due June 21.
J. K. Rowling is an Inkling. That’s the well-argued thesis of John Granger’s fine book The Hidden Key to Harry Potter. Granger demonstrates the absurdity of the claim that Harry Potter is anti-Christian. And even if you’ve never worried about charges brought by misguided fundamentalists, The Hidden Key will substantially augment your understanding of what’s really at stake in Harry’s adventures.
The Inklings were originally a group of Oxford dons who wrote Christian fiction. The most famous of them are J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series never mention Christianity overtly, and in Tolkien’s books, religion itself is absent from the plot. Yet these mythopoeic books aim to “baptize the imagination” of the reader — to teach her the importance of fighting for the right, no matter how powerful the forces of evil may appear.
Rowling has confessed herself to be a great fan of C. S. Lewis, her use of “J. R.” for her byline evokes “J. R. R.” Tolkien, and she is a member of the Church of Scotland (that’s Presbyterian, for American readers).
The most useful parts of The Hidden Key are the author’s extensive discussion of symbolism. Harry lives in Gryffindor House, founded by Godric Gryffindor. “D’or” being French for “of gold,” we could translate the name as “golden griffin.” The griffin has a lion’s body and an eagle’s wings — a hybrid of the animals that are master of the sky and of the earth, the griffin was traditionally a symbol of Jesus, master of the spiritual and temporal worlds.
The unicorn, too, is a traditional Jesus symbol; pure and powerful, it could only be tamed by a virgin, as Jesus could only be incarnated by a virgin. In Sorcerer’s Stone, drinking its blood brings life, and its killing is an especially hideous crime.
The phoenix (which saves Harry’s life in Chamber of Secrets) rises to life from its own ashes, and is described by T. H. White as the “resurrection bird.” This explains the title of the almost-released book five, The Order of the Phoenix — that is, the alliance of people who band together to fight for resurrection values. “Order” also evokes the fighting Christian religious orders of the Middle Ages, such as the Order of the Knights of Malta.
Harry’s father James was nicknamed “prongs,” for his ability to turn himself into a stag. In Prisoner of Azkeban, when Harry conjures a magical patronus to drive away the soul-stealing Dementors (Latin for mind-removers), the patronus appears as a stag, shining “as bright as a unicorn.” The stag is also a medieval symbol of Jesus.
John Granger recaps the plots of the first four books, explaining each of them as a form of trial in which Harry’s purity of heart is tested. In The Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry is able to find the power of immortality (concealed in a magic mirror) only because he does not want to use it for selfish purposes.
The villain in Chamber of Secrets is Gilderoy Lockheart — the gilded, or false, king (“roi” in French) with a “locked heart.” Lockhart, best-selling author of a string of false books, is, Granger suggests, modeled on Philip Pullman, the militant atheist and best-selling real-life author of the Dark Materials children’s series — books that were written as a deliberate refutation of Narnia.
In the climax of Chamber of Secrets, Harry descends to a deep underworld, is confronted by two satanic minions (Voldemort and a giant serpent), is saved from certain death by his faith in Dumbledore (the bearded God the Father/Ancient of Days), rescues the virgin (Virginia Weasley), and ascends in triumph. It’s Pilgrim’s Progress for a new audience.
Prisoner of Azkebanrevolves around two characters (Sirius Black the magician and Buckbeak the hippogriff) who are falsely accused and condemned. Jungian and Freudian themes abound, as Harry begins by fleeing from his fears (running away from the Dursleys), confronts his hidden memories of his dead parents, forgives the man who betrayed his father, and triumphs by mastering his fear. “Expecto Patronus,” invokes Harry — or in Latin, “Expect the little father.” As Harry achieves identity with his father James, the luminous stag appears and drives away the soul-killing Dementors, rescuing Harry’s godfather Sirius.
Granger reveals the meanings of the names of all the important characters. Draco (dragon/serpent in Latin) Malfoy (faith in evil, in French); Harry’s parents James (the brother of Jesus) and Lily (the Easter flower), nasty journalist Rita Skeeter (read: a bloodsucking pest), and more.
And “Harry Potter”? Well, the name does evoke Harry Hotspur, the prince Hal of Shakespeare’s histories. But if you say it with a French or Cockney accent, it also reminds us of “heir.” For “Potter,” Granger tells us to look to the Bible’s “potter verses” (e.g., Isaiah 64:8), in which God is described as the potter who shapes man out of clay. Granger’s summary of Rowling’s theme is that we are all heirs of God.
The Potter books are a magical work aimed to liberate their readers from materialism and to elevate their spirits. Harry leaves the temporal world of London by entering Diagon Alley — that is, by moving diagonally, not in the lines of the ordinary material world. And Dudley’s grotesque weight and surfeit of toys are an extreme case of a spiritual death from immersion in a purely material world: a world which Rowling shows can be put aside, if one can think and live diagonally.
Harry Potter fans are used to scouring the Internet for the morsels of hints Rowling has offered about the rest of the series. The last section of Hidden Key offers informed speculation about what will happen in the final books; of course, some of Granger’s guesses might be wrong, but his exposition of the series’ themes makes many of his ideas seem almost inevitable. For instance:
Harry will be revealed as the true heir of Godric Gryffindor and the climatic battle will be fought at Harry’s birthplace, Godric Hollow. The heir of Gryffindor will confront the Heir of Slytherin (slithering, like a snake), Voldemort. Dumbledore has powers of invisibility; that is how he knew that the orphan Neville Longbottom (no-village, long at the lowest place) stood up to his friends in Sorcerer’s Stone. Dumbledore will die, because Harry must defeat Voldemort himself. Snape’s mixed feelings about Harry — he saves Harry’s life, but is angrily jealous of Harry’s fame — can be traced back to Snape’s school days; then, Snape loved the green-eyed Lily (perhaps a Slytherin student, since house color is green) who rejected him for James. No matter — love and sacrifice will battle with death, at first appearing to be defeated, and then triumphing gloriously.
There’s much more in Hidden Key: Rowling’s extensive use of alchemical symbolism (alchemy being a process in which spiritual purification is correlated with metallurgical purification), Aristotelian and Platonic themes, and Arthurian legend. Like King Arthur, Harry was hidden as a baby, raised without knowledge of his true identify, watched over from afar by a great wizard, and proves that he is the true heir by pulling out a sword — in Harry’s case, by pulling Godric Gryffindor’s sword from Godric Gryffindor’s sorting (“sword-in”) hat.
Hidden Key can be read in an afternoon, and if you can interrupt your progress through the Order of the Phoenix for a little bit, Hidden Key will greatly add to your understanding of J. K. Rowling’s magnificent work.
— Dave Kopel is a contributing editor of NRO.
HARRY POTTER is a “very angry” teenager who has his first relationship with a girl in the new book, the author J. K. Rowling says in an interview with The Times.
Her fans have waited three long years for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix , which is 766 pages long and goes on sale at midnight tonight. In the interview, she talks frankly about fame and the wealth that she has gained through the books.
“Fame is a very odd and very isolating experience,” she says, “and I know some people crave it. A lot of people crave it. I find that very hard to understand.”
Rowling says she was so exhausted after the last book that she had to take a break. “I wasn’t coping. I wasn’t coping at all,” she says. She also reveals that she tried to give back the advance on an earlier book. To escape the pressure, she wrote a novel which was left unfinished when she finally started work on the new “Harry” book in 2001.
Rowling, once a poverty-stricken single mother who is now worth an estimated £280 million, says that her wealth makes her feel guilty.
“This came to me through doing the thing that I love doing most. So I suppose I feel that I haven’t suffered enough pain for it.” She adds that she is “not writing for the money” but for herself and her fans and says that married life with her new husband, Dr Neil Murray, has made her much happier and calmer.
On the night they met, he told her that he had read only ten pages of her first book, while on a late-night shift at hospital. “I thought that was fantastic,” she says in the interview which took place at her Edinburgh home. Their baby, David, was born in March. Rowling also has a daughter, Jessica, from an earlier marriage.
Harry, who is now 15, has some excruciatingly embarrassing scenes in the new book. “He is very much in puberty,” she says. “I just think it is a very confusing time. Yes, he’s very confused in a boy way. He doesn’t understand how girls’ minds work.”
Apparently, though, Hermione has no shortage of advice for him on that subject. Rowling adds: “Harry, for the first time, does have a relationship of sorts. The emphasis is very much on ‘of sorts’ . . . That was really fun to write actually. I thinkyou will find it painful. You should find it painful. It is painful but it was such fun to write. Poor Harry! What I put him through.”
She cried twice while writing the fourth book and once during this last one because there is a “nasty death” in it. “It is someone whom I consider to be a main character,” she says.
The book is “a bit of a departure” from the others. “Harry is very angry. Very angry. And he’s angry for most of the book. But I think that is fair enough. Given what has happened to him and that he hasn’t been given an awful lot of information. So I think he would be very angry. So it’s not a very gentle tale.”
Rowling reveals that she has already started writing book six in the series but that, for the first time, she feels free from the pressure to deliver.
“I am in a very lovely position. Contractually, I don’t even have to write any more books at all. So no one can possibly write that I have missed a deadline because I actually don’t have a contractual deadline for six and seven.”
She always knew that Harry and his friends growing up would present a challenge.
“This was going to be a tricky balancing act. I always wanted them to grow up. I have a real problem when they just remain static. I find it creepy. So, ostensibly they are 16 years old but they are never allowed a hormonal impulse or to feel any adolescent agony. At the same time, Harry Potter books are concerned with other things than sex and drugs and teenage pregnancies. So it is a balancing act. Because you want to make it realistic without going off-track stylistically or tonally.”
The books have been getting longer. She says book six will be shorter but predicts that seven will be “massive” — if she can ever bring herself to finish the series she loves.
NEW YORK — When the clock strikes midnight on Friday, Harry Potter hysteria will climax across the country as the highly anticipated fifth boy-wizard book goes on sale.
We’re not just talking long lines here — parties, costumes and security fit for a king will be in full effect at bookstores nationwide as wannabe wizards fly out in force to spend $29.95 a pop on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Advance orders of J. K. Rowling’s fifth Potter tome have already surpassed the previous installments’ sales.
In England, fans were already busy delving into the latest tale after waiting until midnight to make their purchase.
“I love it so much I get goosebumps,” said 12-year-old Lisa Brummett of Mesa, Ariz., after hours of waiting at the WH Smith bookstore at London’s King’s Cross rail station to buy the thick new book, Rowling’s first in three years.
“Harry Potter is the most magic thing there is,” Lisa said, clutching the book to her chest and grinning from ear to ear. “Once I get out of here, I will start reading.”
“It’s kind of nice to escape to a place a bit more magical,” said her 16-year-old sister, Stephanie.
The girls’ family had rescheduled their two-week tour of Europe to be in London for the launch.
Rowling, looking relaxed and happy, paid a visit to a Waterstone’s bookshop in her hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland, and gave out signed copies of her book to 40 school children.
“Much of the pleasure of being published for me is meeting the children who are reading the books,” she said.
There was no less enthusiasm surrounding the literary event stateside.
Aspiring young wizards visiting a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Henderson, Nev., received a pair of Harry Potter glasses and were placed under the famed Sorting Hat to determine which house they belong to at Hogwarts. At a Borders in Chicago, youngsters made owl puppets and got their faces painted as they awaited the midnight hour.
“It’s Harry mania at Amazon.com,” Bill Carr, the online retailer’s director of books, music, videos and DVDs, told Fox News Friday. “We’ve shattered all of our records.”
The virtual bookstore’s previous record-holder was the fourth Potter book, which received 350,000 advance orders, and Phoenix has “nearly doubled” that volume already.
“Even within the popular series, this book is record setting,” said Carr. “We think it will be the biggest new product release in the history of e-commerce.”
At 870 pages, the book’s length would make some readers scoff — and weighing 2.8 pounds is no treat to tote around — but Amazon said Harry attracts readers of every type.
“We find that Harry appeals to kids of all ages,” said Carr. “Kids that are 12 and kids that are 42 as well.”
At Waterstone’s flagship bookstore in Piccadilly, central London, managers decked out a whole floor with scenes from the book, including the Gryffindor common room, magic shops from Diagon Alley and Hagrid’s cabin.
Paying homage to its King’s Cross location, the WH Smith store re-created the gateway to Platform 9 3/4, where Harry, Ron and Hermione catch the magical Hogwarts Express to school.
A line of 100 or so eager fans trailed from the store into the station’s cavernous arrival hall. Entertainers dressed in multicolored capes and magical sorting hats juggled and performed tricks for delighted youngsters, and a painter created Harry Potter scars and glasses on the children’s faces.
Although the spine isn’t officially meant to be cracked until midnight, a few Muggles have been lucky enough to get hold of the book already.
Kaitlin Webster, 14, couldn’t believe her luck when she spied a copy of the tome for sale at her local Walgreen’s drugstore in Daytona Beach, Fla., the New York Post reported.
“I’m shaking because I’m so excited,” Kaitlin told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “I feel like I’m the luckiest kid in America.”
Kaitlin gave the book rave reviews, but was tight-lipped about the plot, because “I don’t want to ruin it for anyone.”
In Canada a woman said she bought Harry’s latest tale at a Wal-Mart a whopping 10 days before the release date. “I think it’s pure luck,” Melissa, 23, told the Montreal Gazette, requesting her last name not be used.
These readers feel fortunate for good reason — around 200 million copies of the first four books in the series have been sold, in 55 languages — so getting their paws on a copy before the rest of the world is quite unique.
Publisher Scholastic is prepared for the demand, and has commissioned a first printing of 8.5 million copies for this fifth installment.
Author J.K. Rowling is now worth more than the Queen of England – amassing a $300 million fortune — and the books have become treasures highly sought by thieves.
Extraordinary pre-release security hasn’t halted deviant behavior to be the first to get a hand on Harry.
Rowling sued the New York Daily News for $100 million Wednesday after the newspaper obtained an early copy of the new novel and published a preview, the book’s U.S. publisher said. The News published details from the book after buying a copy from a Brooklyn, N.Y., health food store that had mistakenly put the book out for sale before its official release.
In England, authorities in Newtown-le-Willows were looking for a tractor-trailer containing 7,800 copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that were taken from outside a warehouse.
The copies of Phoenix were in a parked truck awaiting distribution to bookstores for the launch early Saturday morning, but police said thieves made off with the truck on Sunday evening. It was found Monday about 18 miles away, minus its load valued around $1.68 million.
Also in England earlier this month, Donald Parfitt, 44, a printing plant worker, was sentenced to 180 hours community service for stealing pages from the unreleased novel that he found in a parking lot as he was leaving work. Police said he offered The Sun newspaper three chapters of the book for $40,000.
Tight security has been instituted at Amazon.com, where employees began packaging the new Harry Potter book at five regional warehouses Monday with a warning label: “Do not under any circumstances deliver before June 21.”
The company has added the U.S. Postal Service this time to help pull off same-day delivery, along with FedEx Corp., which handled the last shipment.
“We anticipate more than one-quarter million (nationally) this time but we really won’t know until the end of June 21st,” said Michael Holland, managing director of the West Coast region for FedEx Home Delivery based in Irvine, Calif.
Despite the economic implications of the book and all the hysteria that swirls around it, the excitement boils down to a love for reading Harry’s ongoing adventures.
“The great thing about this craze is it is about reading,” said Carr. “It’s great to see kids so excited and J.K. Rowling has written some really entertaining books.”
NEW YORK — He speaks for Harry — and Hermione, Ron and everyone at Hogwarts.
Fact is, Jim Dale has spoken for every character in every one of J.K. Rowling’s series ever since they started turning out the audiobooks.
“I’m the voice of Harry Potter,” Dale told The Post the other day — and if that voice sounded husky, no wonder: He’d recently finished taping Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, all 896 pages and 134 characters of it.
Even after the taping began, on April 7 — the manuscript having arrived in New York a few days before — Rowling was still tweaking the book, “a word here, a word there.”
“We started recording without knowing how certain words would be pronounced,” Dale says, “so when we finally found out, we had to re-record them.”
The audiobook — due out Saturday, the same day as the book — took more than 145 hours to record; it uses 17 cassettes (and 23 compact discs) and takes 26 1/2 hours to listen to.
The way the wizards at Random House Audio Books (search ) figure it, if you started listening to it at the George Washington Bridge, drove 55 mph and didn’t hit traffic, you’d be pulling into South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore park when it ended.
Not that Dale - the British actor who razzle-dazzled ‘em on Broadway years ago in Barnum — has ever heard any of the tapes.
“I just can’t do it,” he says. “I’d be too critical.”
He’s also critical of leaks. Like the previous Potter books, Phoenix has been kept under lock and key, if not armed guard - though a few books seem to have tumbled off trucks along the way.
Indeed, didn’t the 67-year-old grandfather of five have to sign a confidentiality agreement?
“I’m not allowed to say,” he deadpans. “Yes, of course I did. If you blab, they cut your tongue out — then you have a problem [making] future audio books.”
Turning serious, he adds, “It’s only fair that everything’s kept secret, because children love surprises. If they didn’t, then why not tell them what they’re going to have for Christmas?
“Some people have let the cat out of the bag, which is a big disappointment. If I was a kid, I wouldn’t read it. I’d want to find out for myself.”
And he did. He read the book 100 pages at a time, invented the voices, then went to the studio the next day to record them.
“On a good day, we’d try to tape 20 pages in an hour,” he says.
“At least I didn’t know who the villains are, which is good, because then I didn’t deliberately put something into their voices.
“I didn’t know where the hell I was going.”
The biggest challenge was keeping all 134 characters (and voices) straight - not that he didn’t slip occasionally.
“If you could only put out the outtakes for the Harry Potter audiobooks, it would make a book itself,” he muses. “A blooper reel. But what language! They’d have to sell it only to those over 18.”
To simplify things, Dale says, he decided from the start to make his own voice Harry’s - for Harry, after all, is the heart of every book.
Nor could Dale readily switch off the book after a day’s recording.
“After reading an audio, you begin to act your life,” he says. “‘Hi, darling, I’m home!’ Jim said as he opened the door, seeing his wife leaning over the kitchen sink. She said . . . Come on, darling, say something!’ “
OK, one last try: Can’t he say anything about what’s in store in Harry 5?
“It’s long, darling — very long,” he intones, shaking his head.
“What good will it do? Let every page be a surprise; let every new character and what they do be a surprise.”
Orphan. Wizard. An unerring knack for getting caught up in whatever trouble there is to be found. The son of Lily and James Potter, Harry was sent to live with his aunt and uncle after his parents were murdered by the evil wizard Lord Voldemort. Voldemort tried to kill Harry as well, but failed, leaving him with a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead to go with his green eyes and black hair. At Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which he has attended since he was 11, Harry is a member of Gryffindor house, where he plays on the Quidditch team. In the four years he has been at Hogwarts, Harry has come close to death on more than one occasion, usually because of some plot hatched by Lord Voldemort.
Ron is one of Harry’s best friends at Hogwarts, and also a Gryffindor. Tall, with red hair and freckles, his talent for wizard chess helped defeat one of Voldemort’s early plots. He is sometimes envious of Harry’s fame, and is embarrassed by his family’s lack of wealth. He and Harry stopped speaking for a while after Harry was entered into a magical competition in Book 4, but they made up after Ron realized that Harry was in danger. Ron is deathly afraid of spiders, ever since his older brother turned his teddy bear into one when Ron was a toddler.
This Gryffindor, Harry’s other best friend, is by far the smartest student of her year. With bushy hair and formerly large teeth (she had them shrunk in Book 4), Hermione can sometimes be a know-it-all but is always a good friend to Harry. She’s despised by some — especially Hogwarts student Draco Malfoy, who dislikes Hermione because her parents are Muggles (nonmagical). In her third year at Hogwarts, she signed up for so many classes that she was given a magical device that allowed her to turn back time so she could be in more than one place at a time. A romance between Hermione and Ron might be developing.
Head of Hogwarts. Dumbledore is reputed to be the only wizard Voldemort actually fears. Tall, with a long white beard, bright blue eyes and a long, crooked nose, Dumbledore has been involved in Harry’s life from the beginning. It was Dumbledore who decided that Harry should live with his horrible aunt and uncle after his parents died; since Harry’s arrival at Hogwarts, Dumbledore has always kept an eye on him. He knows things about Harry that he hasn’t told him, but the time to reveal all may be here. At the end of Book 4, Dumbledore was rallying forces to fight Voldemort.
The most evil wizard of recent time, Voldemort had instituted a reign of terror in the magical world. He and his supporters, the Death-Eaters, were responsible for the torturing and killing of many, which stopped the night he went after the Potters. He killed Lily and James, but when he attempted to curse Harry, the curse bounced back upon him and severely weakened him. He fled, his hold over magical society gone. Most believe (or want to believe) that he is gone for good. But he has recently been able to return to physical form. Harry has learned that Voldemort was once Tom Riddle, a student at Hogwarts many years ago in Slytherin House.
A professor at Hogwarts, she teaches transfiguration and is the head of Gryffindor House. She started Harry on his Quidditch career when she saw him fly a broomstick for the first time. A severe-looking woman, she keeps her hair in a bun and wears glasses that look just like the markings around the eyes of the tabby cat into which she transfigures.
Head of Slytherin House, Snape is professor of potions. But he really wants to be the defense-against-the-dark-arts teacher. From the minute Harry arrives at Hogwarts, Snape detests him. But while he does many things to make Harry’s life difficult, he’s also something of a contradictory character. The first year, he kept Harry safe honoring that fact that James Potter once saved his life. A former Death-Eater, he left Voldemort’s service and went to work for good. That makes Dumbledore trust him, even though others don’t.
Keeper of the Keys at Hogwarts and recently a professor of the care of magical creatures. It was Hagrid, larger-than-life thanks to his giant mother, who turned up on Harry’s 11th birthday to tell him about his past. A former Hogwarts student, he had been kicked out after he had been framed for crimes committed by Tom Riddle. He’s besotted by dangerous animals, the more terrifying, the better. In Harry’s first year, Hagrid kept an illegal dragon, a menacing little Norwegian Ridgeback named Norbert. Since then, he’s come up with Blast-Ended Skrewts, crawly little things that grow to huge heights with stings and blood suckers.
The pale, blond Malfoy is Harry’s most detested enemy, at least among Hogwarts students. He’s a member of Slytherin House, which generated many of Voldemort’s followers. Malfoy considers himself superior to many students, because he comes from one of the oldest pureblood wizarding families. He constantly makes fun of Ron for his family’s poverty. Harry has disliked him from the moment they first met. Malfoy hangs out with his cronies, the oafish Crabbe and Goyle.
Harry’s godfather, and wizard on the lam. Black was accused of being a Voldemort supporter and of crimes he didn’t commit. He was sentenced, without a trial, to the wizard prison Azkaban. He escaped just before Harry’s third year at Hogwarts, and started hunting the man who had committed the crimes, Peter Pettigrew. Pettigrew happened to be hiding out at Hogwarts, in the form of Ron’s pet rat. He escaped before Black had a chance to exonerate himself, forcing Black into hiding. He keeps in touch with Harry through letters, and comes to Hogwarts when he is needed, taking the form of a big, black dog.
Vernon, Petunia and son Dudley are Harry’s nasty, nonmagical relatives. Petunia was Lily’s sister. The Dursleys, who hate anything abnormal, have spent years mistreating Harry. They keep him during his summer breaks, but are extremely glad that he spends all his other holidays at school. Vernon, a big man with no neck, and Petunia, a thin woman with a lot of neck, think the world revolves around their overweight, bullying clod of a son, Dudley.
Ron’s parents, Arthur and Molly, have six other children — Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred, George and Ginny. Extremely loving and extremely poor, the family lives in a ramshackle house in Ottery St. Catchpole. They’ve almost adopted Harry, and are all very fond of him. Molly especially has a soft spot for Harry, sending him Christmas presents during his first year at Hogwarts. The Weasleys sit in for the Dursleys and root for Harry during the extremely dangerous Triwizard Tournament. Arthur works in the Ministry of Magic.
Draco’s father, a man more evil than his son. Lucius is a Voldemort supporter. He hates Muggles and all those descended from nonmagical families. Using his money and power, he tries to influence many things, from an attempt to get Dumbledore out of Hogwarts to giving Ginny Weasley a diary that held some of Tom Riddle’s evil spirit.
A house-elf, a race of beings that are enslaved in magical homes. They do all the housework, and many of them are grateful for their enslavement. Not Dobby. Formerly belonging to the Malfoys, he was freed through a scheme of Harry’s. He scandalizes the rest of the house-elf world by now insisting he be paid for his efforts, and has gotten a job at Hogwarts. He adores Harry, and does whatever he can to help him, giving him handmade, mismatched socks for Christmas and finding the right tools to help him solve his challenges.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — released September 1998
Welcome to the world of Harry Potter, a young English orphan with bright green eyes, unruly black hair and an odd scar on his forehead shaped like a lightning bolt.
Harry, whose parents died when he was 1, lives with the Dursleys — his odious aunt and uncle and their bully of a son — who tell him that his scar is a legacy of the car crash that killed his parents.
But on his 11th birthday, Harry gets a visit from Hagrid, groundskeeper at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and learns the truth: His parents were a witch and wizard. They were killed by the most evil wizard in the world, Lord Voldemort, who tried to kill Harry when he murdered Harry’s parents. But Voldemort’s curse rebounded, weakening him and leaving Harry with the scar.
Harry goes off to Hogwarts to study wizardry for the first of seven years. He makes friends with Ronald Weasley, Hermione Granger and headmaster Albus Dumbledore, and draws as his enemies Draco Malfoy and Professor Severus Snape.
He learns many wizardry secrets — from playing Quidditch to transfiguration spells. But he also learns something else — that Voldemort is not dead but alive in spirit, and is on the hunt to regain his physical form.
Voldemort has taken over the body of young Professor Quirrell, and is looking for the Sorcerer’s Stone, which he needs to make a potion that will prolong his life. Harry and his friends thwart Voldemort and the evil wizard’s spirit flees to plot another day.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets — released June 1999
It’s the end of summer and Harry is at home with the Dursleys. He’s feeling a bit lonely, wondering why he hasn’t heard from any of his friends. The reason is revealed by a weird visitor, Dobby the house-elf, who is enslaved by the Malfoy family.
With his batlike ears and huge eyes, Dobby has sneaked away from the Malfoys to warn Harry that he is in much danger and must not return to Hogwarts. Dobby has been blocking Harry’s mail to make the young wizard think that his friends don’t like him anymore.
But Harry returns to Hogwarts anyway — in a flying car with Ron.
Things are weird at Hogwarts — and dangerous. Harry hears voices that no one else can, and people start turning up in a petrified state. The hidden Chamber of Secrets has been opened, and a monster is attacking students who come from nonmagical families.
Harry and his friends discover they’re dealing with an old mystery, and when Ginny Weasley, Ron’s younger sister, disappears, Harry finds the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets and goes to look for her.
What he finds is the spirit of young Tom Riddle, an old Hogwarts student who put his spirit in Ginny’s diary. Riddle’s spirit takes a keen interest in Harry, who learns it was Riddle who ultimately became Voldemort.
Harry defeats the spirit by destroying the diary. And before returning home, he engineers Dobby’s freedom from the Malfoys.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — released September 1999
Harry is on his best behavior at the Dursley home, hoping he’ll be able to get his awful uncle to sign a permission slip for school field trips. He promises not to annoy Uncle Vernon’s horrible sister during her visit. But she’s SO horrible that Harry blows her up like a balloon before fleeing the house.
Harry expects to be punished by Hogwarts because he has used magic around the nonmagical. Instead, he is sent to an inn to wait out the rest of his vacation. On the eve of his return to Hogwarts, he finds out why: Sirius Black, an alleged supporter of Voldemort, has escaped from Azkaban, a prison for wizards and witches. Everyone is worried that he’s on his way to Hogwarts to finish off Harry.
It’s a tense year at Hogwarts, with new, scary guards and more classes for Harry and friends. Harry also thinks he sees omens of death.
Black finally shows up. But it’s not Harry he’s after — it’s Scabbers, Ron’s pet rat. Scabbers is actually a transfigured Peter Pettigrew, a Voldemort follower who committed the crime for which Black was wrongly imprisoned. And it was Pettigrew who told Voldemort where he could find Harry’s parents all those years ago.
With Pettigrew back in human form, hopes are high that Black will be exonerated. Black is actually Harry’s godfather, and offers him a home away from the Dursleys. But Pettigrew escapes, and Black has to go on the lam to avoid being sent back to jail.
As for Harry, he returns home to the horrible Dursleys.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — released July 2000
Book 4 opens with the story of how the aloof, obnoxious Riddle family died.
Then the scene shifts to Voldemort, whose original name was Riddle. Voldemort has met up with Pettigrew and is hatching another plot to bring himself back to a physical form and full power. The plot requires blood and death — preferably Harry’s. An evil minion at Hogwarts is in place to help the wizard get his hands on Harry when the time comes.
Harry, meanwhile, has joined Ron and his family at the Quidditch World Cup finals. Once back at Hogwarts, Harry is entered in a dangerous magical competition with two other wizard schools. He survives, but another Hogwarts competitor doesn’t.
Harry ends up temporarily in Voldemort’s clutches, although the evil wizard’s plan doesn’t go quite as he had hoped. Harry and Voldemort end up in a duel, and the ghostly forms of those Voldemort has killed come back to aid Harry and help him get away.
Once back at school, the minion is revealed, and Dumbledore realizes that Voldemort is again ready to cause trouble. Dumbledore tries to persuade the Minister of Magic to take steps to stop the evil wizard, but the minister refuses to believe him. So Dumbledore starts making preparations of his own to combat the battle he anticipates.
Harry and company leave Hogwarts at the start of summer knowing they will soon face an extraordinary fight.
The five Harry Potter books.
The combination of wizardry and school setting makes Harry Potter such a winner, argues Peter Craven, as the latest book in the series hits the shops.
The fuss about the latest instalment in the Harry Potter saga - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - is a testament to the fact that J.K. Rowling’s books have become not so much a craze as instant classics.
If that sounds too weighty a term (and it is), it’s worth remembering that the Harry Potter books are now the best-selling books of all time and that their sales are so staggering that they seem, almost single-handedly, to have restored the status of reading and to have done so for that most lucrative of markets, the family. Mum and dad, in the first instance, read the book to the young fans. That’s easier because there is only one - brand new, expensive - hardback copy to go around among the sibs. Then there are individual re-readings by interested parties and maybe a few bids for nifty deluxe editions. Then, to cap things off, for that next long family trip, there’s Stephen Fry’s 14-hour reading of the whole magical caboodle.
Rowling’s signal achievement has been to take the traditional boarding school story and to link it with a world of magic, with a universe that is full of deep wells of good and evil activated at the touch of a wand in the hand of a master wizard.
It helps that Harry is a very great wizard indeed, even though he’s just a boy learning his magical arts. And that, at the same time, he’s ordinary, he doesn’t think of himself as special, his great skills and powers are “gifts”, which he has to strive to master.
And Harry can have a hard time, not least from his dreadful relatives, the Dursleys, his horrible Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia and his pig of a cousin Dudley. They are the worst kind of “muggles” (people who don’t come from wizard families).
They resent Harry’s magical background, they even resent his brave and wonderful parents who died fighting Lord Voldemort.
And it helps that Harry’s great mates, Ron Weasley and Hermione Grainger, are ordinary kids too. Ron comes from a wizard family but they’re not very well off, and Hermione is a “muggle”, even though she’s very brave and brainy.
Rowling is extremely good at establishing the normality of her central characters, and like any good writer, she knows that ordinary people can be heroes. Just as she knows they can be creeps like the Dursleys or potential black villains like the wonderfully named Draco Malfoy or his saturnine father.
The good characters are like gleaming silver swords wrapped in old overcoats. Professor McGonagall is a strict school ma’am with a Scottish accent. It’s only gradually that we come to realise that she’s a brave woman with a heart of gold. Hagrid, the old Hogwarts retainer, is obviously a true blue. He’s rough and lovable, but it’s only gradually that we realise he’s a hero, a man who will always fight evil on instinct. Then there’s the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Dumbledore, who seems at first glance to be a kind of bumbling, kindly old Father Christmas type. It’s only when the going gets tough and the evil gets deadly that Dumbledore will reveal what a deep, good and mysterious wizard he is.
“It’s interesting that, like Dickens, she (Rowling) has names for her characters that seem to summon up what they’re like even if we’re not sure why.”
Then, of course, in every new book there is the surprise element of the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. He might be a terrible pseud who only pretends to know his magic, or a really fine man who is also a bit of a werewolf or a mad-eyed pirate of a character, very rough and bluff, who is a genius but is actually being impersonated by a bad magician.
It’s a wonderful world, the world of Hogwarts, because it is deeply rooted in the world we know, of eccentric schoolteachers and kids (even nice kids) being cruel to each other. But then there is the magic - that’s why everyone’s here - and it summons up a world of dragons and giant spiders and every kind of horror and threat.
In the 19th century there were writers such as Charles Dickens in Victorian England and Dostoyevsky in Czarist Russia, who were realists because they summed up the smoke and smell and atmosphere of the world around them. But they also get thought of as “romantic” realists because they liked the romance, the weird and wonderful stories of people committing murders or going mad or acting odd.
Rowling in the Harry Potter books is a bit like that, with the element of magic put into the mix, but in such a way that it seems natural. We feel that if these impossible things could happen - if, say, you could really play an incredible game on broomsticks like Quidditch, the Hogwarts sport Harry is good at - then they would happen like this.
It’s interesting that, like Dickens, she has names for her characters that seem to summon up what they’re like even if we’re not sure why. In David Copperfield (that’s a steady name like Harry Potter), there’s Uriah Heep, who’s always greasing up to people while being very nasty underneath, and his name fits: it sounds like the name of a hypocrite. Draco Malfoy has a name where the first part means Dragon (in Latin) and the second part means “bad faith” or “evil intention” in French - though the combination sounds aristocratic, which he is.
Dumbledore is a very Dickensian name because it suggests someone who is always bumbling around, but there’s also the suggestion that if you could go through the door of the dumb exterior you could reach something else.
All of the Harry Potter books are like this. There’s the cosiness of the wonderful Gothic setting, but it’s also the world of school, where you hang out with your friends but also where your enemies are, and where people are telling you what to do and what not to do.
Sometimes what you are not supposed to do turns out to be ultimately the right thing, but it will involve terrifying adventures that involve a confrontation, sooner or later, with the face of Evil, with the great Lord Voldemort, one of the greatest wizards who ever walked the earth but who goes round and round the world, changing shape, and insinuating himself into every dark corner with no other intention than to destroy.
It’s a huge complicated world Rowling has created, and whole areas of it can be creepy and cruel, even the official government world of these wizards. Even good characters can be imprisoned in the terrible prison, Azkaban, where they can have their souls sucked out by Dementors so that they are left as empty hulks, devoid of their personalities.
Rowling has created the highest level of best-seller popular fiction; a series of books that are going to entertain and enchant young people as well as their grandparents. She has written a set of stories that people will be reading for a long time yet and that will continue to be made into films and television shows the way Sherlock Holmes is or Agatha Christie or Superman.
Does that mean Harry Potter is a classic? In the sense that Spiderman and Lord of the Rings are, there’s a fair chance that he’ll last the test of time. In that case, does that mean that the Harry Potter books are classics in the deepest sense, like the Bible or Shakespeare’s plays or Dickens’s novels? Are they books that, although they are made up, are also deep and true because Rowling has imagined stories that tell us, in a way that will last forever, about human nature and good and evil?
I don’t know about that. Readers have to decide that for themselves. But they’re good fun and there’s nothing wrong with good fun.
“The Prisoner of Azkaban” is the best Harry Potter movie yet.
THE GOOD NEWS is that at no point during Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban do Harry and Ron head out to the Hogwarts swimming pool.
Worries about the selection of Alfonso Cuarón to direct the third Harry Potter movie were needless. While Cuarón was an odd choice—his most notable previous work was the randy and overpraised Y tu mamá también—the executives at Warner Bros. have broken him in. To such a degree, in fact, that for two-thirds of the movie you might think that Christopher Columbus was still behind the camera.
THERE ARE THREE LESSONS to be learned from Warner Bros.’ handling of the Harry Potter franchise. The first, is that no price is too great to pay for a property like Harry Potter. In 1997 producer David Heyman paid $500,000 to option the first novel for Warner Bros. At the time, it was a fair amount for an unproven commodity. The first two Harry Potter movies have grossed a combined $1.85 billion—just in their theatrical release. Count rentals, DVD sales, and broadcast rights and the number is probably closer to $2.5 billion. If J.K. Rowling were to ask for $100 million for rights to her next book, it would be a bargain.
The second lesson is that the movies didn’t need to be any good. Directed by Christopher Columbus, The Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets were pedestrian affairs. The product of robotic adaptations, the screenplays were clunky and inelegant and designed mostly to guard against criticisms of deviation. Can you name a single scene from either movie that sticks in your mind? Me neither.
Not that it matters. People were paying to see the characters from Rowling’s wonderful books brought to life. And so long as these first two movies weren’t terrible, they were bound to be enormously successful.
Which brings us to the third lesson: It is possible that Warner Bros. chose Columbus to direct the first two movies precisely because he is so middling. If The Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets had been masterpieces, they hardly could have done better business. Now that we’re into the meat of the series, the novelty of seeing the books on film has worn off and the movies need to stand on their own. So by trading Columbus for Cuarón, The Prisoner of Azkaban couldn’t help but be an improvement—it is unequivocally the best Harry Potter movie yet. And since Mike Newell is directing The Goblet of Fire—the next installment of the franchise—it seems likely that that will be the best Harry Potter movie yet.
By slowly trading up in directorial talent, Warner Bros. is ensuring that each movie is better than the last, thus hedging against any letdown. By book seven, we could have Michael Mann directing. It’s good business sense—and certainly smarter than trying for perfection from the first frame. If the first Harry Potter movie had been a classic, the series might have collapsed under its own weight.
SO WHAT has Cuarón done to improve Harry Potter? For one thing, he has dirtied things up. Diagon Alley is grimy with almost Dickensian filth and Hogwarts is grittier, too. More interestingly, Cuarón has redesigned the topography of Hogwarts. Instead of being surrounded by lush, green fields, the school now sits at the top of a craggy hill, with rocks, steep inclines, and hardy-looking trees.
The director is faithful to most of the book: The story revolves around Harry’s third year at school, where convicted criminal Sirius Black has escaped prison and come looking for him.
For much of the movie’s two and a half hours, The Prisoner of Azkaban suffers from the same faults as its predecessors. It is slow and faithful to the book in ways which do nothing to advance the story. For instance, there is a run in with the Monster Book of Monsters (which is never seen again) and the obligatory Quidditch match.
But late in the movie something unexpected happens: Once Harry, Ron, and Hermione arrive at the Shrieking Shack to confront Sirius Black, professional movie making breaks out. For nearly 40 minutes, The Prisoner of Azkaban buzzes along at a brisk clip, ruthlessly cutting everything from the book that clouds the central narrative and, as a consequence, building real suspense. It is the first time in the series that feels like a real movie—where the director cares about pacing, conflict, and momentum—and not just a Harry Potter movie, where the only important thing is to show up and shoehorn in as many recognizable images as possible. Cuarón is to be applauded.
AMONG THE OTHER pleasant additions is Emma Thompson as the batty Professor Trelawney. Michael Gambon has taken over the role of Albus Dumbledore from the fallen Richard Harris. Gambon is plenty wonderful as an actor, but his Dumbledore seems a bit too spry and cheeky. Alan Rickman returns as Professor Snape and continues to dazzle in his small, but important, role. (My pet theory is that Snape, not Harry, is the true hero of the series.)
The children continue to age and Emma Watson and Rupert Grint continue to improve as Hermione and Ron. The same cannot be said of Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry. Radcliffe seems inert, which is fine most of the time. However, on the two occasions Harry is required to show some rage and feeling, Radcliffe isn’t up to the task. One can overlook his shortcomings now, but by The Order of the Phoenix they could be a glaring problem.
Still, The Prisoner of Azkaban is a high point for the series. It’s not a very daunting high, mind you. But it’s probably just the level for which Warner Bros. was shooting.
Jonathan V. Last is the film critic for The Daily Standard.
From the Sorcerer’s Stone to the Half-Blood Prince, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling has captured the heart of both children and adults all around the world. However, with each new book, the novels have also become a hot topic of debate within the theological arena.
While some believe Harry Potter instills Christian values and teachings in children as well as adults, others, like best selling British author, journalist, and film maker Caryl Matrisciana, argue that reading or watching Harry Potter will turn children to witchcraft and black magic.
The following are excerpts from an interview with Matrisciana.
One of the biggest arguments against Harry Potter is that the books and films cause children to seek out and explore witchcraft and the occult. Is there any evidence that proves one’s direct effect on the other?
There have been various newspaper headlines stating that the Harry Potter phenomenon fuels children’s interest in witchcraft and hundreds want to know about local witchcraft covens and learn about spells and other activities the fictional Harry is involved in. According to an August 2000 Associated Press article Harry has “caused a boom in application to Britain’s Magic Circle society, “where the membership in the society’s Young Magicians Club has “increased by 25 percent since the popularity of the four JK Rowling books.”
On Potter’s internet website hundreds of children believe Harry’s Hogwart’s school of witchcraft and wizardry really exists and they want to attend it as Harry does — so much for those who convince us that kids can distinguish between reality and fantasy and don’t think witchcraft or Harry’s world is real.
Apparently hundreds of children from all over the world come to King’s Cross to see platform nine and three-quarters and want to catch Harry’s train. According to the station master, several children trying what Harry did “got hurt” hitting into the solid barrier or wall. This example shows that children do believe in Harry’s world, Harry’s school and its teachings, Harry’s power - and incredibly they WANT it because they believe it to be real.
Various Wiccan groups have credited Potter books boost interest in witchcraft. A representative of Children of Artemis, a Wiccan group that sponsored the largest European witchcraft and Wicca event in recorded history in Scotland said in “there is a growing interest in the Wiccan religion.... and Harry Potter has had a positive effect....” (in promoting the growth). (Worldnetdaily:Boy wizard changing teens into witches June 11 2003)
The London Times, in its article “Teenage Witches. Girls just want to learn witchcraft” wrote that the Harry Potter books along with such TV programs as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sabrina the Teenage Witch are attracting hundreds of teenage girls every month who want “to join covens to learn about casting spells” and “rejecting Christianity and the Church for witchcraft”. (foxnews.com/etcetera/080600/witchcraft.sml August 6 2000)
Children interviewed on recent TV programs and news stated how they wanted to go to Harry’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and learn (like Harry) to cast spells. They wanted to put spells on their teachers, boyfriends, girlfriends and that Potter books “inspired” them. The reason, said a foxnews.com article is that “young women (are) seeking female empowerment. The demand is being accelerated by thousands of pages on the Internet offering anything from “poison” rings to spells”, apparently the need is “influenced by pressure to pass exams, to find boyfriends and to become wealthy.” (ibed)
Harry Potter hype continues through massive toy merchandising, promotions through TV networks, mergers of toy companies and fast foods and promoted further by Matel, Warner Bros and Coca-cola who bought the rights to the famous Potter name for $290 million in 2001. Harry’s trading card packs matched the success of Pokeman cards and Warner Brothers films on Harry continued interest in the supernatural between the releases of Rowling’s seven part series. Warner Bros boasted of the film number one that “[The film] is an actual portrayal of witchcraft”. Why are the mass media and our culture so intent on pushing this “religion” into the mainstream while negating the values of Judeo Christianity? Even in Harry’s books, those who don’t believe as Harry and other witches do are derogatorily called “muggles”. In England the term mug or muggle is used for a foolish person.
Most alarmingly, Witchcraft/Wicca, which was given legal religious recognition by the Supreme Court in 1986, has IRS tax exemption status and Wiccan chaplains in the military is now promoted as so-called “fantasy” literature and its contents, which accurately portray the values and elements of the religion of witchcraft are permitted to be read aloud in classrooms across America. Worse yet, at a time when Bible reading on campus, the posting of the Ten Commandments in academic corridors or praying at school functions have been expelled from the classroom, 101 Basic Witchcraft is permitted through the reading aloud of the Harry Potter books by teachers in the classroom. Would a book based on Judeo Christian values and Biblical concepts, such as Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind Series which was also along with Harry top of the NY best sellers list, be permitted such expose in classrooms across the nation? And would school buses be allowed to transport thousands of school children to the movie theatres to see Mel Gibson’s Bible based “The Passion of Christ” movie the way thousands of students were bused to see Harry Potter’s land of wizards and muggles movie?
(www.jsonline.com/wisconsin/movies/nov01harry15111401a.asp)sand I don’t think so!
So why is certain religious indoctrination allowed unquestioned into the classrooms yet another banned?
Of special concern is the conflict of interest posed by Scholastic Inc, the publisher’s of Harry’s books in USA who, for 70 years, have also been the providers of school curriculum. On the Scholastic website, at one time, children were encouraged in in-depth philosophical discussion on Harry’s themes and morals and invited to interact with Wiccan websites when such discussions would never be endorsed with Biblical Christians. Witchcraft/Wiccais being marketed more than any other time in history as can be demonstrated by using an internet search engine on such words as witchcraft (hit 341,000 times), divination (almost 200,000), black magic (58000), magic spells (45000), love spells (11900), potions, goddess worship, rune power, etc.
Those favoring the books claim the books are rich in Christ symbols such as the Phoenix, the griffin, and the unicorn that help instill Christian values and teachings in children as well as adults. Can you comment on this?
Harry is a witch along with 350 other students at Hogwart’s occult school. The teachers are there to teach the children about the “dark arts,” astrology, tarot card reading, magic spells, rituals amongst other Wiccan traditions. Furthermore, the children communicate with dead ghosts, Harry gets advice from his dead father, his parents strengthen him at intense times, etc. Harry is not a Christ-figure and certain occult symbols, mythological creatures and the like are not appropriate to teach Christian values. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 and other verses from the Bible teach us about God’s heart towards those who practice witchcraft, such as soothsayer, those who interpret omens or a sorcerer, those who conjure spells, or a medium or a spiritist or one who calls up the dead. These are an abomination to the Lord so why use what is abominable to God to further Christ’s values?
How would you respond to someone who argues that the complex moral decision making that the children in Harry Potter wrestle is a reflection of the real world?
Yes, there are complex moral issues in Harry’s books, but the way Harry, fellow students, and his teachers deal with them are through the occult means that they teach and are available to them. They believe, as all witches do, in using the power of witchcraft from the sources associated with it. If one says there is no real power in witchcraft, then one denies both what those involved in witchcraft say and also reject what God declares. If one recognizes that there is real power in witchcraft, then you have to agree with the witches that it is natural or from nature and therefore, neutral (at least not evil) or you agree with God that the source of this power is from an evil power, Satanic spirits or demonic beings. If you agree with the latter understanding of where witchcraft power originates, then the question is whether or not these books that present a young boy learning how to access and use power from some evil power, satanic spirits or demonic beings could possibly be acceptable especially when the books present the young boy’s activity in a neutral or innocent manner.
The Harry Potter texts are often compared to the Christian classic fantasy texts of Lewis and Tolkien in a clear depiction of the struggle of good over evil. What is your response?
The Christian classic fantasies are not generally confusingly set in the real world as many of Harry’s themes are in a boarding school where children are being taught the actual reality of an occult religion through JK Rowlings deep knowledge of Greek, Roman mythology, folklore, philosophies, and pagan religions. Harry is a book of religious indoctrination to a whole generation who are being desensitized to the dangers of involvement in the occult. They are being taught occult symbology and perversions wrapped up as “innocent” “just fantasy”. The ideas in JK Rowlings’ books are not fabrications or imaginary. Rather, they are age-old principle of Wicca and Paganism believed by thousands of witches today. Children cannot distinguish as JK Rowling herself admits “I get letters from children.... and it’s not a joke, begging to be let into Hogwarts.... they want it to be true so badly they’ve convinced themselves it is true.”
Veteran film maker Caryl Matrisciana is the producer of the video, Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged. Making Evil Look innocent (www.caryltv.com), which has earned her the NRB TV Producer of the Year Award in 2002.
Matrisciana is a well-known expert on ancient and modern world religions, contemporary cults, paganism and the occult, who has co-produced or contributed research and expertise to more than thirty documentaries in over 25 years.
Raised as a Roman Catholic, she has been involved in non-denominational churches since her late twenties when she came to have an avid interest in the Bible.
From the Sorcerer’s Stone to the Half-Blood Prince, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling has captured the heart of both children and adults all around the world. However, with each new book, the novels have also become a hot topic of debate within the theological arena.
While some argue that reading or watching Harry Potter will turn children to witchcraft and black magic, Dr. Scott H. Moore, the Associate Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University, believes Harry Potter instills Christian values and teachings in children as well as adults.
The following are excerpts from an interview with Dr. Moore.
What are some of the Christian allusions and themes that flow constantly throughout the “Harry Potter” series? Can you give some specific examples?
The basic theme of the books is one of the conflict between good and evil. In every book, there is a story of Harry both growing older and coming to understand his unique destiny to fight the evil wizard Voldemort (whose name means “willing death”).
We are told over and over again that Harry represents the power of love, a power which Voldemort cannot understand. Harry’s mother sacrificed herself for him and her love protects him. The books abound with examples of Christ symbols, especially mythological beasts and symbols. The Phoenix (the bird which dies and rises again), the griffin (half eagle/half lion, king of Heaven and Earth), and the unicorn (purity of life and spirit) all figure prominently.
In each book, these Christ symbols come to Harry’s aid in some moment of crisis. In one instance, Harry fights a giant serpent (the traditional symbol of Satan) and the phoenix brings Harry a double-edged sword. In another instance, the song of the phoenix comes to Harry to sustain him and give him strength. Images such as these abound.
Some Christians think Harry Potter promotes witchcraft and even devil worship for children. According to some statistics, the interest in Wicca materials, schools, and spells have doubled since the release of the series. What is your response?
I don’t have the statistics at hand, but I believe that report is in error. It is my understanding (according to a CNN report a week ago on this very subject) that Wiccan groups have actually fallen in their membership. Of course, someone could manipulate the data in a self-serving way which says that the popularity of the Potter books is evidence that “interest” in witchcraft is on the rise. Logically, one can’t prove a connection by assuming the connection to be the case.
More to the point, the “magic” described in the books is exceedingly different from Wiccan “witchcraft,” which offers an aggressive “alternative lifestyle” and there is absolutely no basis for anything remotely resembling “devil worship.” The magic in Harry Potter exemplifies the magic of some of the very best Children’s literature, especially great Christian literature like that of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. In these stories there have always been witches and wizards and spells and hexes, but they do not endorse an “alternative lifestyle” that one could simply choose to follow (as the Wiccans do).
Non-magical people in the books can’t “become” witches or learn spells, and the magical people are strictly forbidden from using magic in front of or to harm the non-magical community. A big part of the story is that the evil wizard Voldemort has broken these laws and attacked non-magical people in a desperate will to power. Contemporary wiccans and the wizards of the Potter world could not be more different.
Considering not everyone, more so for children, can easily decipher the Christian symbols in the books, is there some danger in leaving the novels to children to explore on their own?
I don’t think children should be left alone with anything—television, video games, music, books, or whatever. Parents should be involved in the lives of their children and we must know what our children are reading, watching, and listening to. That being said, I do not believe that the Potter books pose a “risk” to children. They are classic tales of good versus evil and they affirm and teach great Christian virtues like forgiveness, hope, courage, generosity, and especially love.
For instance, at the end of the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry discovers that it was one of his dad’s best friends who, 13 years earlier, betrayed his father, leading to his parents’ death at the hands of the evil wizard Voldemort. While others want to kill the betrayer, Harry steps in and says “No”, showing mercy and forgiveness. You don’t need any great knowledge of Christian symbols to see basic Christian virtues like forgiveness.
Another important theme in the stories is that of truth-telling. Some people have accused Harry of encouraging children to lie to adults. Anyone who reads the books will readily see that one of the most important lessons that Harry is learning is that of the importance of telling the truth. Early on, he does lie to some adults and it always gets him in trouble. By the the time we get to this latest book, Harry is telling the truth even in the most inconvenient situations because he has learned that he must rely on the truth.
Moreover, most of the wizards in the books are afraid to call Voldemort by name. They refer to him as “he who must not be named” or “you know who.” Very early on in the series, Harry learns the importance of calling things by their proper name, and he has the courage to call Voldemort by his name. Parents who read these books with their children will have opportunities to discuss these important concepts and virtues.
I read that all of your five children have or have had read to them the series. From your experience, what would you recommend the parents to do in their children’s reading of the series?
The older children have read them all (including the latest one). The younger children have had portions of the stories read to them. My advice for parents who are worried about these things is that the parents should read the book first. These last three books are pretty long, but the first three are really quite short.
Parents can read it in a couple of evenings and then decide if it is appropriate for their children. Then, either read it to or with the children and talk about the story. As with all the “chapter books” our younger kids are reading, I will read a page, and then my child will read one. We spend time together; I help him with the harder words, and he becomes a better reader in the process.
Do you have any additional comments?
Parents must decide what is appropriate for their children. Not every book is appropriate for every child. Some children may find the stories a bit scary, and others will simply be interested in other things. Christian parents should not, however, worry that these books foster and promote the occult. They are wonderful books built on the well-formed Christian imagination.
Dr. Scott H. Moore is the Associate Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University where he also serves as Director of Great Texts Program.
I have an idea for a wonderful series of children’s books. I’m imagining a delightful fantasy world. In my world, there is a secret: tucked away on the upper shelves of every home is a product that, when used the right way, can make children’s dreams come true: common rat poison, when mixed with orange soda, turns into an elixir that’s out of this world. When you drink it in one big gulp, not only does it taste heavenly, it also makes you happy, beautiful—and for 24 hours, it gives you the power to accomplish one wish.
One shy, picked-on, but highly intelligent boy has discovered the secret, and he intends to use his new power to help the world. These books will be exciting adventures—easy enough for 8-year-olds but compelling enough to keep teenagers entertained.
What? Parents would worry that this “innocent fantasy” might spill over into the real world? Someone might actually try mixing rat poison and orange soda in real life?
More than sheer fantasy
Though the parallels are hardly exact, this is what we’re talking about regarding the Harry Potter series. We’re taking something deadly from our world and turning it into what some are calling “merely a literary device.” Regardless of how magic is portrayed in the series, we need to remember that witchcraft in real life can and does lead to death—the forever and ever kind.
From about age 10 to my early 20s, the supernatural fascinated me. I devoured stories about wizards and magic, power and adventure. At one point, I was reading three or four such books a week. I craved mystical experiences. On the outside, I was a normal kid. I had been confirmed and attended worship nearly every week. My school report cards held straight A’s. On the inside, however, the supernatural was taking over my thoughts. I couldn’t stop imagining the spirits, power, and goddesses I was reading about. They entered my dreams. One day, they started speaking to me. I cried out to God, and he rescued me. The voices stopped, and I never read another “mystical” novel for fun again.
While I never went beyond reading fantasy books, that’s not true of many today. Our world is exploding with interest in real witchcraft. Type “How can I become a witch?” in Google.com and you’ll get listings for dozens of related sites. The same query in AskJeeves.com brings up many articles—the main one giving a simple eight-step process for becoming a witch on your own.
In just days, my local Barnes & Noble bookstore nearly sold out its floor display of a Teen Witch Kits (complete with paper altars).
Furthermore, author J. K. Rowling admits that some Harry Potter readers have convinced themselves that Harry’s world is real. Rowling has said she gets letters all the time, desperate letters addressed to Hogwarts, begging to be allowed to attend Harry’s school. When fantasy produces that kind of reaction, we are naïve to assume that witchcraft is merely a harmless, fun literary device.
Jacqui Komschlies lives in northeastern Wisconsin with her family. The November-December Lutheran Parent magazine will include a fuller version of this essay.
Christians hate the Harry Potter books. It’s undeniable. Just look at the media reports about how Christian parents around the country are trying to get the book banned from libraries and schools. “It’s a good thing when children enjoy books, isn’t it? Most of us think so,” wrote children’s book author Judy Blume in a New York Times opinion piece. “[But] in Minnesota, Michigan, New York, California, and South Carolina, parents who feel the books promote interest in the occult have called for their removal from classrooms and school libraries. I knew this was coming. The only surprise is that it took so long. … If children are excited about a book, it must be suspect.”
Likewise, Los Angeles Times writer Steve Chawkins wrote of the controversy, “I enjoy these periodic battles about book-banning. … Hostility is often high. If you disagree with those who are so eager to protect your children, you are not merely wrong; you are twisted, negligent, evil, a dupe of dark forces, and, as in my case, a bad parent.”
But here’s the problem with painting with such a broad brush: It’s just not true. In fact, as far as I can tell, while no major Christian leader has come out to condemn J.K. Rowling’s series, many have given it the thumbs-up. If our readers know of any major Christian leader who has actually told Christians not to read the books, I’d be happy to know about it; but in my research, even those Christians known for criticizing all that is popular culture have been pretty positive about Potter.
One of the most quoted supporters of the Potter books is Christianity Today columnist Charles Colson, who, in his November 2 Breakpoint radio broadcast, noted that Harry and his friends “develop courage, loyalty, and a willingness to sacrifice for one another—even at the risk of their lives. Not bad lessons in a self-centered world.” Colson dismisses the magic and sorcery in the books as “purely mechanical, as opposed to occultic. That is, Harry and his friends cast spells, read crystal balls, and turn themselves into animals—but they don’t make contact with a supernatural world. … [It’s not] the kind of real-life witchcraft the Bible condemns.” (If you don’t have the RealAudio player, you can get the transcript of Colson’s broadcast at www.breakpoint.org)
Focus on the Family’s review is one of the most recent—and most critical—of the Christian reviews, but the strongest that Focus’s critic, Lindy Beam, can muster is “Apart from the benefit of wise adult guidance in reading these books, it is best to leave Harry Potter on the shelf.” Still the review is mixed, rather than negative: “Harry Potter contains valuable lessons about love, courage, and the ultimate victory of good over evil,” Beam writes. “The spiritual fault of Harry Potter is not so much that Rowling is playing to dark supernatural powers, but that she doesn’t acknowledge any supernatural powers at all. These stories are not fueled by witchcraft, but by secularism.” (One wonders if such an argument also faults Winnie the Pooh and The Wizard of Oz.)
The Focus on the Family Web site’s “Parent to Parent” area offers mixed—not to say moderate—reviews. Two parents claim “I cannot say I sensed anything ‘evil’ about the book. It was pure fantasy,” and “I [do not believe Potter’s books] lead us to believe that the people who take themselves seriously as witches are ‘ok’ or safe.” Two others are outraged. “The book becomes very satanic,” writes one. “This series is simply Satan’s way of infecting the minds of our children,” writesanother.
World Magazine has offered not one, but two reviews of Harry Potter—one very positive, one less so—and later made Potter-related news. In its May 29 issue, World critic Roy Maynard praised Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as “a delight—with a surprising bit of depth.” He dismissed the most controversial subjects in less than a paragraph: “Rowling … keeps it safe, inoffensive, and non-occult. This is the realm of Gandalf and the Wizard of Id, not witchcraft. There is a fairy-tale order to it all in which, as Chesterton and Tolkien pointed out, magic must have rules, and good does not—cannot—mix with bad.”
Five months later, World was less positive in a three-page cover story about the Harry Potter phenomenon. Still, the magazine notes that Rowling’s witchcraft bears little resemblance to modern wicca. “A reader drawn in would find that the real world of witchcraft is not Harry Potter’s world. Neither attractive nor harmless, it is powerful and evil.” Still, writers Anne McCain and Susan Olasky warn that the books contain “dark elements,” and that “unlike biblical stories, in Potter’s world bad things seem to happen for no reason.” Like Colson—and just about every other reviewer of the books—World encourages its readers to choose C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as “better worlds for a child’s imagination,” but says there’s plenty of fodder for discussion and enjoyment in these fantasy books as well.
That was the October 30 issue of World. The following issue, November 6, included an announcement that God’s World Book Club, a division of the organization that owns World, was withdrawing the Harry Potter books from its catalog. “We reviewed and recommended the Harry Potter books as wholesome, good-versus-evil fantasy in the spirit of J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis,” the full-page announcement said. “However, the fact that the books are not Christ-centered and further evidence that they are not written from a perspective compatible with Christianity have led us to retract the books. … We sincerely apologize for offense given and thank our customers for contributing to the discussion that led to this decision.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, in J.K. Rowling’s native country, Christianity magazine has nothing but praise for the book. Mark Greene, Director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, writes that he balked at buying Harry Potter for his god-daughter when he heard it was set in a school for witches and wizards. He bought Narnia instead. Now, interestingly, he regrets his decision: “I wish I’d been the one to introduce her to Harry—fine lad you know, courageous, resourceful, humble, fun, good mind. Comes from good stock, you know. She could do worse, far worse. And, as far as literary companions go, frankly, not much better.” (Neither the article nor the magazine appears online, as far as I can tell.)
It shouldn’t surprise our readers that The Christian Century has no quarrels with Harry Potter, either. Still, its December 1 lead editorial, “Wizards and Muggles,” makes some excellent—and surprising—points about Christians and fantasy. “Rowling is not the first fantasy writer to be attacked by conservative Christians. Even the explicitly Christian writer Madeleine L’Engle has taken heat for the ‘magic’ elements in A Wrinkle in Time. Such critics are right in thinking that fantasy writing is powerful and needs to be taken seriously. But we strongly doubt that it fosters an attachment to evil powers. Harry’s world, in any case, is a moral one.” The unsigned editorial also notes that “one of the salutary effects of fantasy writing is to remove us from the everyday world and prompt us to look at the ordinary in fresh ways. … G.K. Chesterton claimed that his own journey to Christian faith began with his childhood absorption in fairy tales. From fairly [fairy?] tales he learned that the world is precious but puzzling, coherent but mysterious, full of unseen connections and decisive truths.” Though the Century doesn’t mention it, C.S. Lewis made a similar claim.
Perhaps the most insightful discussion of the Potter books comes from Wheaton College professor Alan Jacobs in the bimonthly Mars Hill Audio Journal. In the September/October volume, Jacobs defends the books as promoting “a kind of spiritual warfare. … A struggle between good and evil. … There is in books like this the possibility for serious moral reflection … [and] the question of what to do with magic powers is explored in an appropriate and morally serious way.” Furthermore, Jacobs notes that contemporary Christian unease with magic is somewhat recent:
In sixteenth-century Europe you would find Christians who were deeply involved in astrology largely because they were Calvinists. And it was understood at the time that there was a close connection between a predestinarian theology and astrology because astrology confirms or supports a predestinarian theology by suggesting that the outcome and direction of our lives is fixed before our births. … Other Christians at the same time who dismissed astrology as being a bunch of hogwash but who were very much engaged with magic. … Magic was not thought to be any more at odds with Christianity than experiemental science. The big question then is to what use do you put magic? Now we see magic as an intrinsically dangerous thing. Our focus now is on experimental science and technology, and we tend to have the same kinds of debates about technology now that Christians had about magic several centuries ago.
Jacobs and Mars Hill host Ken Meyers then discuss how Star Trek technology, as imagined as Potter’s magic, is treated differently by Christians, even though the two have similar ends: “If we imagine somebody stepping on to a little circle and then suddenly dissolving, and then reappearing instantly somewhere else, and we call this a transporter, and we’re told that it is a device that is created by technology, then we go ‘oh, that’s cool.’ But if we imagine someone waving a wand and then disappearing and reappearing somewhere else, we’re much less comfortable.”
I’ll give the final word to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, in a quote from a CNN interview: “I have met thousands of children now, and not even one time has a child come up to me and said, ‘Ms. Rowling, I’m so glad I’ve read these books because now I want to be a witch.’ They see it for what it is. It is a fantasy world and they understand that completely. I don’t believe in magic, either.”
Ted Olsen is Online and Opinion Editor of Christianity Today.
Last November I interviewed “Movie Mom” Nell Minow for our sister publication Christian Parenting Today. To her radio and Internet fans, Nell is an impassioned advocate for parents being vigilant in protecting their kids from inappropriate and harmful movies (moviemom.com). The magazine received many appreciative letters, but a handful sounded like this one, which I received today: “I went to her Web site and found this: listed among her ‘All-Time Best Movies’ was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone! This is just a joke, right? If not, why do you call yourselves CHRISTians. You give us, who really want to follow Christ, a bad name. Refer to the following verses in the Holy Bible: Deut. 18:10-14; 2 Kings 17:17-18; 2 Chr 33:6; Gal 5:19-21. This is not the first time I found your magazine to be not only in bad taste, but down right stinks of Hell!”
Never mind that the Harry Potter movie was never mentioned in the article, and let us not dwell on the confusion of treating magic as a literary device (to which none of those Bible verses apply) with magic as an occult practice (to which the verses can apply)—the letter is a good example of how J.K. Rowling’s fantasy books have touched a raw nerve among some evangelicals. And the vitriol is not limited to the fringe element: take the venerable Ted Baehr, publisher of Movieguide and head of the Christian Film & Television Commission, a diplomatic mission to make connections between Hollywood and the Christian community. Normally cautious in his criticisms of the film industry and careful about making overgeneralizations that he may have to take back when meeting with studio heads, Baehr has openly campaigned against the Harry Potter movie, calling it “soft porn” in how it seduces our young into a life in the occult.
Cult watcher Richard Abanes has capitalized on the Potter hysteria and fanned the flames of fear in his book Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace Behind the Magick (Horizon). But when debating the film on Dennis Praeger’s radio show, Abanes could not come up with a single anecdotal case of someone taking up the occult based on reading or viewing Harry Potter.
This primitive shunning of Harry Potter is made all the more strange when contrasted with the Christian response to The Lord of the Rings, the fantasy trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien and the blockbuster movie by director Peter Jackson. Superficially, there are many similarities between the projects. Both are fantasies by British authors who not only populate their stories with magical creatures but with magic as well. In fact, in both series magic is seen as a neutral instrument that can be used for either good or evil. And both authors allow their heroes to make full use of magic in their cause. So why are not both condemned equally?
If one indulged in this paranoid game of spotting evil, then I think a case could be made that Tolkien stinks more of hell than Rowling—as my pen pal would say. First, Middle Earth is surprisingly secular. We do not see any churches or temples, only monuments to past kings and historical figures. In fact, no wizard, elf, dwarf, human, or hobbit prays or mentions a deity (at least I don’t remember such a reference in the five times I have read the series, but I am sure someone will tell me if I am wrong). At least Harry Potter celebrates Christmas. Suffice it to say that religious piety is not modeled in Tolkien.
Second, if you want to condemn a work for what it has inspired, then turn up the heat for Tolkien. While neither Tolkien or Rowling has ever encouraged people to mistake their magical worlds for the real one (in fact, both have made quite the opposite point), many fans have voluntarily entered Middle Earth. It would be hard not to link the occult-friendly role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons to the influence and popularity of Lord of the Rings, which has provided the imaginative landscape for much modern fantasy. One Web site even sells Lord of the Rings Tarot Cards. Have some people used Tolkien as an entry point to the occult? The answer must be yes.
And yet, where is the brouhaha over Lord of the Rings? I have not heard it. All I have heard are desperate, wrong-headed attempts at explaining why Tolkien’s (and Lewis’s Narnia series’) use of magic is fine while Rowling’s is bad. Even Harry’s critics feel compelled to defend Tolkien.
In fact, Tyndale House, the publisher of the Left Behind series and the New Living Translation of the Bible, has gone so far as to publish Finding God in The Lord of the Rings. Written by a vice president at Focus on the Family (another organization that few would claim suffered from liberal leanings), Kurt Bruner and writer Jim Ware attempt to show the “strong Christian faith that inspired and informed [Tolkien’s] imagination.” No scent of hell in that.
Bruner and Ware point out, “Many hard-line believers have been hesitant to embrace a creative work that includes mythic figures, magic rings, and supernatural themes. This is unfortunate because the transcendent truths of Christianity bubble up throughout this story, baptizing our imaginations with realities better experienced than studied.”
Bruner and Ware are right about Tolkien, but their observations apply equally to Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Neither series makes much sense apart from a Christian ethic—whether or not this was the author’s intent, especially in Rowling’s case. Both works convey a palpable sense of Providence; both lift up agape love as the highest virtue; both flesh out what it means to have noble character; both see evil as coming from the heart and not “out there.”
So why does Frodo get a pass while Harry is demonized? Perhaps it is because Tolkien is a safe, dead, white male who taught at Oxford and helped C.S. Lewis become a Christian. He is one of us. Whereas Rowling is a divorced mother who only mentioned she was some kind of Christian when Christians starting attacking her. Perhaps it is because Christian parents get very anxious about things that so stir our ideals but do not come from our pews, like the Harry Potter craze and the Star Wars phenomenon before it. I do not know.
But here is where Bruner and Ware make their stand: “The Lord of the Rings is a tale of redemption in which the main characters overcome cowardly self-preservation to model heroic self-sacrifice [which is true of each of the Potter books]. Their bravery mirrors the greatest heroic rescue of all time, when Christ ‘humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!’”
I smell the same spiritual scent in both works, and it is not sulfur.
Michael G. Maudlin is the executive editor of Books & Culture.
Compiled by Todd Hertz
Why do Christian critics love Lord of the Rings and not Harry Potter?
Harry Potter has magic. Lord of the Rings has magic. Harry Potter has wizards, dark evil, and an unlikely hero who overcomes obstacles with friendship and courage. So does Lord of the Rings. Yet reactions from conservative Christian critics have not been so similar.
Yesterday, The Boston Globe picked up on the dichotomy:
“The world of Christian conservatives that shuddered at the wizardry and witchcraft of J.K. Rowling’s wildly popular fantasy works about boy wizard Harry Potter is now rejoicing at the revival of interest in the sorcery-packed The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien,” staff writer Michael Paulson reports.
The Harry Potter movie (and the books before it) met with hesitation and condemnation from evangelicals last month while many of the same critics are now offering little caution and much praise about Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.
As a pastor in The Boston Globe article said, “Tolkien has been much more accepted in the evangelical community.” So much so, according to the article, that some theologians and pastors have taught themselves Tolkien’s made-up elfish language. Meanwhile, Harry Potter books are burned in church parking lots.
For the last three weeks, Christianity Today’s Film Forum has cataloged the raving praise for Fellowship of the Ring from religious and mainstream critics. The only red flags religious critics have raised concern the film’s frequent and sustained violence.
So why are the reactions to two magical fantasies so different? The Globe found a crucial difference: Who the authors are.
“Tolkien was a devout convert to Catholicism whose religion informed his writing, while Rowling, a member of the Church of Scotland, has not emphasized her religion as a central part of her biography,” the article says.
There are no explicit references to God in Tolkien’s fantasy, but he did confirm later in his life that religious themes are embedded in Lord of the Rings’s symbolism and characters.
Another factor, the article says, could be the depiction of the world around the heroes. Tolkien celebrates the ordinary folk who rise up to save the day. On the other hand, critics say, Harry Potter exists in a world where wizards are superior to regular people who Rowling calls “muggles.”
Still another difference is the target audience: Harry is aimed at children while Frodo’s tale is adult fare.
Obviously, not all Christians hate Harry Potter. Much of the criticism is largely media hype. Many Christian leaders like the boy wizard. He is used in Bible studies, sermons, and in couple-counseling classes. In 1999, Christianity Today recommended reading the books to your children.
Likewise, some film reviewers have found little fault. Christianity Today’s Douglas LeBlanc said “an evangelical viewer must be rather stubborn to find Sorcerer’s Stone worthy of contempt.”
However, most Christian recommendations of the film include a caveat that it could open a door to evil. The U.K.’s Evangelical Alliance urges Christians to see the movie but not to “ignore the potential dangers of the stories as an unintended apologetic for the occult; particularly among children.”
In his review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, LeBlanc wrote that the boy wizard will continue to inspire debate in evangelical circles. But that can be a good thing: “Ultimately, this conflict is a gift, an opportunity for vigorous discussion on what we believe about good and evil, storytelling, and our faith.”
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s ... Harry Potter.
Today’s youngest Americans have found a new hero and he’s up for the “best hero” category for this year’s MTV Movie Awards. Not only that, but Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has been nominated in two other categories in a TV network watched by the majority of 12 to 19-year-old teens. And in the last three years, exposure to Harry Potter has doubled, according to a new Barna Group study.
Currently, more than four out of every five teenagers have personally read or watched Harry Potter. Although largely objected by Christian parents and leaders, Harry Potter has been seen or read by 77 percent of all church-going teens and 78 percent of born-again Christian teenagers, the study found.
While more youths have been exposed to the wizardry of the fantasy world than have not, only 4 percent say they have experienced any teaching or discussions in a church about the spiritual themes embedded in Harry Potter. Among born-again teens, 13 percent recalls ever receiving any input from their church on the subject or spiritual themes in the legend.
Parents showed a slightly higher likelihood of addressing the supernatural elements of Harry Potter. One-fifth of all teens and one-third of born again Christian teens said they had discussed those elements with their parents.
“Overall, a majority of teens – Christian or other – are ingesting the mythology of the child wizard without any guidance from their parents or church leaders. Instead, teens are feeling their way through the spiritual themes either on their own or with the influence of their peers,” stated the Barna report.
Beyond exposure, the survey measured the impact of the fantasy story on the young lives. Most teens did not find much spiritual stimulation in Potter except for the “fun-to-read” aspect of the story. Nevertheless, one out of every eight teenagers said that the Potter chronicles increased their interest in witchcraft, which means nearly three million young people has had their interest piqued.
Best-selling British author, journalist and filmmaker Caryl Matrisciana had highlighted various newspaper headlines stating that the Harry Potter phenomenon fuels children’s interest in witchcraft and hundreds want to know about local witchcraft covens and learn about spells and other activities.
David Kinnaman, director of the research and vice president of The Barna Group, stated, “While the Potter books generated an unprecedented following, it has been the movies that have helped propel the story into the mainstream of the Mosaic generation. But while the vast majority of teenagers and adolescents find entertainment value in Potter, most Christian leaders and parents have responded by either condemning the series or ignoring it. That response hasn’t worked because most teens still consume the stories – along with dozens more like it – but without the critical input that would help them make sense of the supernatural dimension described in the Potter universe.”
For the most part, there were no behavioral differences between those who had been exposed to Potter and those who had not. However, the study found that those exposed to Potter were slightly more likely to use a Ouija board, to have had their fortune told, and to believe they personally have psychic powers. And those not exposed to Potter were actually more likely to say they have been physically present when someone else tried to use psychic powers.
“The research cannot pinpoint cause-and-effect relationships, but it appears that many of the teens who were most likely to be misdirected spiritually by Harry Potter were already struggling in other ways,” reported The Barna Group. “That is, many teens who said Potter increased their interest in witchcraft were already isolated from others or were already dabbling in witchcraft-related activities. For this segment of teens, reading the wizard tales helped to confirm attitudes and behaviors that were already present in their lives.”
Kinnaman made a few suggestions to parents and youth leaders in addressing the Potter phenomenon.
“The teenage years are an important transition from the leadership of parents to independence and reliance upon God,” he said. “Instead of simply trying to isolate children from all the spiritually dangerous material available in our media-saturated culture, parents could prepare their kids to be missionaries to their peers and to our society. Even though the approach and even the outcome will look different for every teen, helping teens to respond biblically to the messages of popular culture – such as those found in Harry Potter – is an important function of parents and church leaders. You do not get a free pass if you are not interested or if you do not enjoy stories like Potter. Young people are avidly consuming contemporary pop legends. Adults can guide them in knowing how to interpret that information and to respond in a Christ-like manner.
“The Bible notes that believers should always be ready to answer questions about their faith whenever people ask,” Kinnaman continued. “While not minimizing the spiritual danger of stories like Harry Potter, the upside of such content is that it raises questions of purpose, destiny, relationships, isolation, redemption, spiritual power and more – the very topics that are so important to the message of Christianity. But, as things stand, many parents and church leaders are letting those spiritual opportunities go to waste.”
The recent Barna results are based on three national surveys of teenagers aged 13 to 18. The studies were conducted in 2002 (612 interviews), 2004 (1448 interviews), and 2005 (2280 interviews).
LONDON — Author J.K. Rowling said two characters will die in the last installment of her boy wizard series, and she hinted Harry Potter might not survive either.
“I have never been tempted to kill him off before the final because I’ve always planned seven books, and I want to finish on seven books,” Rowling said on Monday’s “Richard and Judy” television show.
“I can completely understand, however, the mentality of an author who thinks, ‘Well, I’m gonna kill them off because that means there can be no non-author written sequels. So it will end with me, and after I’m dead and gone they won’t be able to bring back the character’.”
Rowling declined to commit herself about Harry, saying she doesn’t want to receive hate mail.
“The last book is not finished. But I’m well into it now. I wrote the final chapter in something like 1990, so I’ve known exactly how the series is going to end,” she said.
Rowling said people are sometimes shocked to hear that she wrote the end of book seven before she had a publisher for the first book in the series.
“The final chapter is hidden away, although it’s now changed very slightly. One character got a reprieve. But I have to say two die that I didn’t intend to die,” she said. “A price has to be paid. We are dealing with pure evil here. They don’t target extras do they? They go for the main characters. Well, I do.”
Rowling is the richest woman in Britain — wealthier than even the queen — with a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine last year at more than $1 billion.
Whatever she writes next, Rowling is sure of one thing: It won’t be as successful as Harry Potter.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to have anything like Harry again. You just get one like Harry.”
NEW YORK (Reuters) — Two of America’s top authors, John Irving and Stephen King, made a plea to J.K. Rowling on Tuesday not to kill the fictional boy wizard Harry Potter in the final book of the series, but Rowling made no promises.
“My fingers are crossed for Harry,” Irving said at a joint news conference before a charity reading by the three writers at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
The author of “The World According to Garp” and a string of other bestsellers said he and King felt like “warm-up bands” for Rowling, who is working on the seventh and last book in the Harry Potter series, and who has said two characters will die.
King, who shot to fame in 1974 with “Carrie,” said he had confidence that Rowling would be “fair” to her hero.
“I don’t want him to go over the Reichenbach Falls,” King said in a reference to Arthur Conan Doyle’s effort to kill off fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Pressure from fans eventually led Conan Doyle to resurrect Holmes, who was found in a later story to have survived.
Rowling, a Briton whose books have sold 300 million copies worldwide according to her publishers, said she was well into the process of writing the final book.
“I feel quite liberated,” she said.
“I can resolve the story now and it’s fun in a way it wasn’t before because finally I’ve reached my resolution, and I think some people will loathe it and some people will love it, but that’s how it should be.”
“We’re working towards the end I always planned but a couple of characters I expected to survive have died and one character got a reprieve,” she said, declining to elaborate.
Asked about the wisdom of killing off fictional characters, Rowling said she didn’t enjoy killing the major character who died in book six — for the sake of those who haven’t read it yet she avoided naming the victim — but she said the conventions of the genre demanded the hero go on alone.
“I understand why an author would kill a character from the point of view of not allowing others to continue writing after the original author is dead,” she added, leaving the door open to the worst fears of some fans — that Harry could die.
King recalled that when he had a character kick a dog to death in his novel “The Dead Zone,” he received more letters of complaint than ever, to his surprise.
“You want to be nice and say ‘I’m sorry you didn’t like that,’ but I’m thinking to myself number one, he was a dog not a person, and number two, the dog wasn’t even real,” he said.
“I made that dog up, it was a fake dog, it was a fictional dog, but people get very, very involved,” King said.
Rowling noted that Irving had killed off many more characters than she had. (Irving said he makes up a “casualty list” before he starts his novels, and therefore death scenes seem like they’ve “already happened.”)
“When fans accuse me of sadism, which doesn’t happen that often, I feel I’m toughening them up to go on and read John and Stephen’s books,” she said. “I think they’ve got to be toughened up somehow. It’s a cruel literary world out there.”
The name of the long-awaited seventh and last Harry Potter book has been revealed today in a puzzle on the author’s website.
Booksellers are already predicting that the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be the literary event of the year but a date has yet to be set by JK Rowling’s publishers, Bloomsbury.
On her website Rowling, 41, admits that she is still writing the book about Harry’s last year at Hogwarts school.
She said: “I’m now writing scenes that have been planned, in some cases, for a dozen years or even more. I both want, and don’t want, to finish this book.”
But she reassured expectant fans: “Don’t worry, I will.”
The multi-millionaire recently hinted that two characters are expected to die in the finale - and Harry himself might not survive - saying: “We are dealing with pure evil here.
“They don’t target extras, do they? They go for the main characters - well, I do.”
Ms Rowling reveals the title of the book through a puzzle and a game of hangman [see below for details]
Booksellers predicted that demand for the book will be even higher than the last one, Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince, which broke UK records by shifting 2,009,574 copies on its first day of release.
Kes Nielsen, Head of Books Buying at Amazon.co.uk, says: “The book’s release will be met with an unprecedented level of excitement but also a sense of sadness. Over the past 10 years, so many people have been enchanted by the world and characters that JK Rowling has created. It will be like saying goodbye to an old friend.
“There is no doubt that sales of this seventh book will be extremely high, probably the highest for any of the books in the series and the release day will be the biggest literary event of the year. There will now be months of rumour and speculation about the book and, in particular, how it ends.”
Sam Harrison, children’s buyer at Waterstone’s, said: “This is a wonderfully intriguing and ominous title, with all the sense of magic and adventure that any true Potter fan has come to love and expect.
“All fans will now be spending their Christmas debating what the title means. Will a favourite character die? Could Harry himself face a grisly demise? How will it all end?
“But surely the question all Potter fans will want answering as soon as possible is - when can they get their hands on a copy? We don’t know the answer yet, but we’re predicting that 2007 could be a pretty special year for Potter fans all around the world.”
Sales of all Harry Potter titles now total more than 52 million worldwide. The phenomenon began back in 1997 with the publishing of Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone. The first four books have been adapted into hit films starring Daniel Radcliffe as the boy wizard.
Cracking the puzzle
If you go to www.jkrowling.com, click on the eraser and you will be taken to a room with a window, a door and a mirror.
In the mirror, you will see a hallway. Click on the farthest doorknob and look for the Christmas tree. Then click on the centre of the door next to the mirror and a wreath appears. Then click on the top of the mirror and you will see a garland.
Look for a cobweb next to the door. Click on it, and it will disappear. Now, look at the chimes in the window. Click on the second chime to the right, and hold it down. The chime will turn into the key, which opens the door.
Click on the parcel behind the door, then click on it again and figure out the title yourself by playing a game of hangman.
You must guess which letters fill the gaps before revealing that the title of the new book will be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
After years of averting questions on whether Christian themes were present in her wildly popular Harry Potter books, author J.K. Rowling finally opened up this week about the Christian allegory in her latest book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
During a press conference at the kick-off of her “Open Book Tour” on Monday, the British author told reporters that while religious themes were always present she purposely refrained from referencing any particular religion in order to conceal the ending.
“To me, [the religious parallels have] always been obvious,” Rowling said. “But I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going.”
And where did the story end up? (Spoiler warning: Read no further if you don’t want to find out what happens.)
Apparently, the last installment of the series is about resurrection and life after death.
In “Deathly Hallows,” Harry visits his parents’ graves at Godric’s Hallow and sees two biblical references on his parents’ tombstones, reading: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death,” and “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
The first refers to 1 Corinthians 15:26 and the second is a direct quote from Jesus in Matthew 6:19.
By the end of the book, Harry becomes the “Master of Death” and “resurrects” from the dead the spirits of his parents, his godfather, Sirius Black and his old teacher Remus Lupin.
“They’re very British books, so on a very practical note Harry was going to find biblical quotations on tombstones,” Rowling explained. “[But] I think those two particular quotations he finds on the tombstones at Godric’s Hollow, they sum up — they almost epitomize the whole series.”
The book also begins with two religiously-themed epigraphs – one Christian, the other pagan.
Even though her books contain religious themes, the church-going author revealed that she struggles with believing in a basic Christian tenet of life after death.
“The truth is that, like Graham Greene, my faith is sometimes that my faith will return. It’s something I struggle with a lot,” Rowling admitted. “On any given moment if you asked me [if] I believe in life after death, I think if you polled me regularly through the week, I think I would come down on the side of yes — that I do believe in life after death. [But] it’s something that I wrestle with a lot. It preoccupies me a lot, and I think that’s very obvious within the books.”
Rowling was raised Christian in the Anglican Church and currently attends the Church of Scotland.
However, many conservative Christian leaders have strong denounced the author’s books as anything but detrimental to Christians and children, saying that it promotes witchcraft and the occult.
James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, had publicly criticized Harry Potter books.
“[I]t’s difficult to ignore the effects such stories (albeit imaginary) might have on young, impressionable minds,” said Dobson in a statement noting the trend toward witchcraft and New Age ideology.
Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had even condemned the books, writing that their “subtle seductions, which act unnoticed ... deeply distort Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly.”
But Rowling has yet to take warnings on her book’s potentially adverse influence seriously, retorting, “I go to church myself.”
“I don’t take any responsibility for the lunatic fringes of my own religion,” she added.
Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, advised parents in a past commentary on Harry Potter to teach their kids to be discerning like Daniel, who read pagan literature but “didn’t defile himself.”
Colson also recommended Christian-themed alternatives such as C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
“These books also feature wizards and witches and magic, but in addition, they inspire the imagination within a Christian framework—and prepare the hearts of readers for the real-life story of Jesus Christ,” said Colson.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final of Rowling’s novels on Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, has been out since July 21 and has sold more than 350 million copies worldwide. It is currently on the best-sellers list of the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
Kids around the globe dressed in wizard hats and Hogwarts school uniforms complete with capes and scarves got their hands on the final book in the Harry Potter series Saturday morning at 12:01 a.m.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” is the seventh and final installment in J.K. Rowling’s hugely popular series and critics and fans are calling it possibly the best with action-packed drama from the start. With 325 million copies sold worldwide, it’s a Harry Potter phenomenon that booksellers have never seen before and may possibly never see again.
But it’s a series some Christian parents are still trying to avoid.
Rodney Redmond, owner of The Sanctuary Christian Store in Columbus, Ga., told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer that his three young girls haven’t read the books or seen the movies, the latest (“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”) of which broke several box office records quickly after its release this month and marked the strongest five-day performance in the movie franchise’s history.
“They’re selective and discerning and they chose not to read them,” said Redmond, who attends Cascade Hills Church with his family.
The big question parents have is: “Should ... kids be reading novels about wizards and witches and magic?” noted conservative evangelical Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship Ministries.
Many evangelicals are saying “yes,” but with caution.
For kids with an unhealthy interest in the occult, they probably shouldn’t read the books, as suggested by Connie Neal, a veteran youth pastor and mother of three, in her book What’s a Christian to do with Harry Potter? Others kids, however, could benefit from the moral lessons the Potter books teach, some Christians believe.
While parents should be concerned about modern witchcraft – a seductive false religion that they should protect their children from – “the literary witchcraft of the Harry Potter series has almost no resemblance to the I-am-God mumbo jumbo of Wiccan circles,’” stated a past review by Christianity Today magazine. “Author J.K. Rowling has created a world with real good and evil, and Harry is definitely on the side of light fighting the ‘dark powers.’”
Colson personally doesn’t recommend the Harry Potter books for Christian kids to read. He, however, acknowledged that kids will probably see them and hear others talk about them and that they’re probably going to read them anyway.
So the key to keep children from becoming immersed and influenced by the Harry Potter world is teaching them discernment, Colson pointed out.
To illustrate this, the ministry leader pointed to the biblical story of the prophet Daniel, where author Neal’s belief that it’s okay for Christians to read secular novels comes from. Daniel – who had studied the language and literature of the pagan culture at a school that trained Babylon’s magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers – studied it well to understand it.
“But, because of his deep devotion to God, he didn’t defile himself,” said Colson, citing Neal.
“God put Daniel in Babylon to be a light in the darkness – and he was,” Neal had said. “He was not afraid to read literature that resounded in the hearts of the people with whom he lived. He used his familiarity with this pagan literature to reveal the true and living God.”
So how do kids share their faith using Harry Potter?
“Use it to turn the conversation toward Jesus,” says Jane Dratz of Dare 2 Share youth ministries.
Ask your friends if they believe there is a spiritual battle raging in the real world and talk about the spiritual weapons the Bible describes are available to followers of Jesus, Dratz suggested.
“Harry is a topic every follower of Jesus should be ready to discuss thoughtfully – whether you love him or hate him, he can be a springboard to talk about your faith with your friends,” she stressed.
With the fifth installment of the “Harry Potter” film series released Wednesday, discussion of whether or not the boy wizard is appropriate for Christian audiences is expected to become more heated and wide-spread.
Many ministry leaders in the past have criticized the “Harry Potter” series over its use of magic and argue that it promotes the occult – an assertion that, if true, could be serious since the movies and literature target children who can be most affected by negative spiritual content.
But even after five movies-worth of discussions, Christians are still split on the issue.
“By now, there’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to the use of magic in the Harry Potter series of books and movie,” explained critic Lindy Keffer of the Christian movie site Plugged In Online. “Even with all the magic in the air, the worldview of ‘[Order of the] Phoenix’ can’t be called consistently occult. Like the world we live in today, it’s a hodgepodge of ideas that are accepted simultaneously, even if they don’t really fit together.”
Dr. Ted Baehr, founder of MovieGuide.org, however, was much stricter in his review.
“[T]he movie version of ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ is liable to still do great business at the box office,” he wrote. “Regrettably, however, this means that even more children will be lured away from God and His Infallible Word, which says that witchcraft is evil and abhorrent. Instead of dreaming about the joys that God gives us through Jesus Christ, they will be dreaming of casting spells, using magic spells, riding brooms, and rebelling against their parents.”
In the newest “Potter” film, Harry’s magical world is interrupted by an evil disturbance. The main villain of the films, Lord Voldemort, has returned to the world and is mounting an army to regain his former strength.
Harry, his friends, and several mature wizards such as Professor Albus Dumbledore must struggle with the current Ministry of Magic who refuses to recognize the dire situation. In an act of civil disobedience, the group must unite to prepare for an attack from Voldemort, despite the wishes of the wizardry government. The Order of the Phoenix is reunited, bringing together the “good” wizards to again fend off the dark lord.
While there is obviously still a huge outcry against the new movie from several conservative Christian groups who warn families to keep their children away from the film, asserting that it can leave ill effects for normalizing a dark spiritual world, there has also been a new wave of Christians supporting the literature. They feel that others exaggerate the problems of witchcraft found in the books.
One author and home-schooling mother recently had a change of heart when she read the books. After keeping “Potter” out of her house for years, Nancy Brown from Illinois gave the books a chance and said she found the books to be actually positive for child growth. She has written a new novel, “The Mystery of Harry Potter,” that came out mid-June to even encourage Christian parents with the material.
“After reading Harry Potter for myself, I had to conclude that the Potter series is not about the occult or witchcraft but actually just the opposite,” explained Brown in a statement. “The stories are morality tales filled with excellent opportunities for family discussions. In short, the Harry Potter books are great for all families and especially Christian parents, who for centuries have used literature to illustrate the struggle between good and evil when teaching their children.”
The movies gained huge victories when conservative ministry heads such as Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship Ministries gave their stamp of approval.
But looking at the whole landscape, it may be impossible to gain a firm consensus on how Christians feel about the wizard themes found inside “Harry Potter.” Is the material innocent enough for its audience?
“Though the film version of ‘Phoenix’ is not as gloomy as the book, the story presented therein is still far too severe to justify the affections of its primary fans: kids,” concluded Plugged In Online critic Keffer. “And that’s true without even mentioning the ongoing dilemma presented by the omnipresence of magic and the clash with the real-life truth that there is no such thing as a good witch or wizard.”
According to The Associated Press, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” took in $44.8 million in its first day, the best single-day gross ever for a movie on a Wednesday. That included $12 million from screenings that started at midnight Tuesday.
Correction: Thursday, July 19, 2007
An article on Thursday, July 12, 2007, about the debate over the megahit “Harry Potter” series incorrectly reported that Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson had given the movie a “stamp of approval.” The ministry leader has not yet gone public with his opinion.
Are you just a little bit sad? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is out, and it really is the end of an era. If you’re one of the 325 million people who has purchased at least one of the books in this series, like me you’re sensing the finality of a famous fantasy that magically whisked people into a previously unknown world of muggles, mythical creatures, and missing noses.
Oh, and it got kids reading again!
So now it’s over, and even though we have the whole series to revisit in the coming years, the story is very much like the portraits in Harry Potter’s world… active and animated, but not able to do anything new.
And talk about going out with a bang! Super duper top secret protection of the manuscript, false leaks, and even a band of spoiler monkeys who thought they were doing the world a favor by posting the ending on-line. Thank you party poopers! Maybe consider using your abundance of free time to like, get an education or discover a thing called a “job?”
Speaking of the ending, of course I’m not going to mention anything about it, but I do want to talk about another famous ending that’s coming our way sooner or later. Interestingly enough, did you notice that many of the key plot points in the Harry Potter series begin with the letter “H?” Hogwarts, Harry, Hermione, Hagrid, Half-Blood Prince, Hallows, Halloween, Horcruxes, etc. And so it is with our story as well, because when the last chapter of our life takes place and the back cover of our lives is shut, there are only two destinations possible for us:
And they both begin with “H”…
The first destination is called Hell. Most people know that word as a useful device for expressing certain emotions, others have a bogus TV/movie driven picture of Hell as the resident address for the Devil and his impish army of red-suited-crook-nosed-pitchfork-carrying demons having a par-tay in a blazing bonfire.
Then there are those who don’t believe in a place called Hell, and while I’d love it if this place didn’t exist, I don’t get to decide whether it’s real or not. No, I haven’t seen it, in fact I don’t even think it has a MySpace page or any videos on YouTube … but I’ll take Jesus’ word on it as being true. In fact, he mentions Hell more than heaven! Jesus knew Hell to be a real place because he created it as the final punishment for Satan and his demons:
Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)
This verse comes from a story Jesus told about the end of days when we are all judged. He’s pointing out that even though the original reservation for Hell was for Satan and his army, the guest list got longer when people decided to rebel against God and His message of salvation.
So no, Hell isn’t a religious invention designed to scare people into being good, it’s a real place that will be the final destination for every person who said “no” to God’s free offer of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
But there is another “H.”
Heaven is also a real place. It’s mentioned over 600 times in the Bible, so we’re not talking about a fuzzy concept here. People don’t use it as a cuss word (what the heaven?), and oftentimes mistakenly picture it as a cloudy harp playing jam session where we just float around and congratulate ourselves on getting in to the “good” place.
Um, no. Heaven is such an astonishing, remarkable mind blowing place, the Bible writers didn’t even bother trying to use specific descriptions. Sort of like when you experience a beautiful sunset or stand on the top of a mountain and then try to tell someone about it. For me, words don’t even come close – and the same holds true for heaven.
So there you have it. When the last page is turned on the books of our lives, the Book of Life will be opened, we’re going to end up in one of two places. There is no reincarnation, no Sixth Sense Ghostbusters, no deposit, no return, do not pass go, do not collect $200.
The great part is that you get to write the ending of your story. Jesus died on the cross and came back from the dead to rescue you from hell and offer a reservation in heaven. All you have to do is put your trust in Him alone for salvation, and your name will be written in the Book of Life. That means the conclusion of your era on earth will be the beginning of your eternity in heaven…
And that’s the best ending ever written!
In response to media speculation, Focus on the Family (FOTF) posted a statement on its website this weekend titled “Dr. Dobson: ‘What I Think About Harry Potter.’”
In the statement, the conservative pro-family ministry explained that FOTF founder Dr. James Dobson has never endorsed books or films from the megahit fantasy series, and that many papers mistakenly reported that he had given them an OK for Christian families.
The posting directly confronts the Washington Post, which published an article about what Christians think of the craze, and how the reporter had incorrectly assumed that Dobson favored the boy wizard.
“In a story about Christians’ views on the Harry Potter books and films, reporter Jacqueline Salmon wrote that ‘Christian parenting guru James Dobson has praised the Potter books,’” the statement read. “This is the exact opposite of Dr. Dobson’s opinion – in fact, he said a few years ago on his daily radio broadcast that ‘We have spoken out strongly against all of the Harry Potter products.’”
The reason the ministry leader is against the material is obvious given the presence of magical characters (witches, wizards, ghosts, goblins, werewolves, poltergeists and so on) in the Harry Potter stories.
“[A]nd given the trend toward witchcraft and New Age ideology in the larger culture,” FOTF added, “it’s difficult to ignore the effects such stories (albeit imaginary) might have on young, impressionable minds.”
Dobson’s sentiments echo those of other conservative leaders including Dr. Ted Baehr, founder of MovieGuide.org, and Linda Harvey, president of Mission America.
“[T]he world of Harry Potter is still an elite occult world where secret knowledge is the way to power and success,” noted Baehr in a review of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the fifth installment of the “Potter” film series.
“‘Order of the Phoenix’ tries to mitigate that by saying that anyone can become a great wizard, but once again, that involves learning the secret occult knowledge of how to do witchcraft and how to wave a magic wand properly,” he added.
While notably, the series is fictional and presented for the purpose of entertainment, Harvey posed in a recent column: “Is a little entertainment worth imbedding some very unfaithful ideas in the heads of children?”
“Sorcery is named specifically in Scripture as a violation of God’s law (Deuteronomy 18: 10-12; Galatians 5:20 and elsewhere), and it’s not a joke,” she wrote. “Besides, Harry does not think like a Christian in many other ways. He nurses and feeds grudges against his relatives and his rivals at school, and revenge is portrayed as justifiable.”
In addition to Dobson, another conservative Christian leader whose stance on “Harry Potter” had become muddled through media is Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Although several publications have reported that Colson endorses “Potter,” the ministry founder recently stated that he doesn’t personally recommend it.
“I’d rather Christian kids not read them,” he expressed in a commentary last week.
“But,” he added, “with some 325 million of them in print, your kids will probably see them and hear others talk about them, and they’re probably going to read them anyway.”
Knowing this, Colson urged parents to use the occasion to teach them to be discerning – like the prophet Daniel in the Bible who studied at a school that trained Babylon’s magicians, astrologers and sorcerers but did not defile himself because of his deep devotion to God.
“Dare them to have Daniel as their role model, not Harry Potter,” Colson stated.
Instead of “Harry Potter,” Colson recommends parents to introduce other fantasy books such as “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Lord of the Rings,” because they have more of a Christian framework.
Since their release, both the newly released movie and book have been drawing in record numbers. “Deathly Hallows,” the newest and final volume of the “Harry Potter” series, released on Saturday and had a print run of 12 million in the United States alone. The “Order of the Phoenix” film, meanwhile, took in $44.8 million in its first day, the best single-day gross ever for a movie on a Wednesday.
If there’s a child in your house, then you probably know what’s going to happen when the clock strikes 12 tonight. The final Harry Potter book—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—will be unleashed on the world.
The big question that has millions of kids on edge: Will Harry live—or will he die?
But the big question many parents have is: Should their kids be reading novels about wizards and witches and magic?
A Christian expert on Potter mania says, “It depends.”
Connie Neal, a veteran youth pastor and mother of three, is the author of a book titled What’s a Christian To Do with Harry Potter? Neal says parents must use discernment in deciding whether to allow their kids to read Harry Potter. For example, kids with an unhealthy interest in the occult should probably not read these books. Other Christians believe their kids benefit from the moral lessons the Potter books teach.
Neal’s belief that it’s okay for Christians to read secular novels comes from her reading of the biblical book of Daniel. Daniel, you will remember, was a teenager when he was taken away from Jerusalem to live in exile in Babylon. There, he was taught the language and literature of the pagan culture. He studied at a school that trained Babylon’s magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers. The actual practice of sorcery and astrology was, of course, forbidden by God. But Daniel studied it well to understand it.
One day King Nebuchadnezzer called on his magicians and astrologers to interpret a dream; none could do it. In a rage, the king ordered that all of his wise men be put to death. Daniel asked to see the king, who then asked him, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” Daniel responded: “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery which the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.”
Daniel had immersed himself in his culture’s pagan literature in order to understand it. But, because of his deep devotion to God, he didn’t defile himself. As Connie Neal told BreakPoint, “God put Daniel in Babylon to be a light in the darkness—and he was. He was not afraid to read literature that resounded in the hearts of the people with whom he lived. He used his familiarity with this pagan literature to reveal the true and living God.” And Neal knows some kids who have done the same in our own post-Christian culture.
Now personally, I don’t recommend the Potter books. I’d rather Christian kids not read them. But with some 325 million of them in print, your kids will probably see them and hear others talk about them, and they’re probably going to read them anyway. So use this occasion to teach them to be discerning—like Daniel. Dare them to have Daniel as their role model, not Harry Potter.
And if your kids do enjoy Harry’s magical world, you should give them copies of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
These books also feature wizards and witches and magic, but in addition, they inspire the imagination within a Christian framework—and prepare the hearts of readers for the real-life story of Jesus Christ.
To capitalize on the “Potter” mania that is sweeping across the world, the Church of England has released a guide on how to evangelize using the popular “Harry Potter” phenomenon.
The guide’s author, Owen Smith, is a youth worker at St. Margaret’s Church in the United Kingdom and also wrote “Mixing it Up with the ‘Simpsons’” – a book that was released earlier this year by the Church of England’s publishing company in hopes of showing how Christianity is relevant to life today through issues tackled in the popular U.S. TV cartoon series.
In his latest work, “Mixing it Up with Harry Potter,” Smith enables youth leaders to draw parallels with daily life and help young people discuss “big issues.”
“Using film scenes in which the characters make tough decisions to prompt discussion about moral choices and extracts from the books that demonstrate the power of words and their impact on others, the resource has creative ideas for using the Potter books as a basis for Christian teaching,” the Church of England announced in a press release.
Other ideas in the book include discussing stereotypes of what is “normal” to examine how living a Christian life might cause a young person to stand out from their peers.
“The excitement and anticipation generated by the Harry Potter books show just what a great storyteller J. K. Rowling is,” said Diocese of Oxford Bishop John Pritchard, according to the Church of England. “Although the fictional world of Harry Potter is very different from our own, Harry and his friends face struggles and dilemmas that are familiar to us all.”
From theological concepts such as sacrifice and mercy, to everyday issues such as fears and boasting, each of the guide’s 12 sessions reportedly provides a basis for an hour’s discussions and activities. The sessions include Bible verses that present the Christian perspective on the theme, and prayer activities drawing on the topic.
“Jesus used storytelling to engage and challenge his listeners,” Pritchard noted. “There’s nothing better than a good story to make people think, and there’s plenty in the Harry Potter books to make young people think about the choices they make in their everyday lives and their place in the world.”
For years now, Christians have been split on whether the Harry Potter novels have a negative influence on a person’s faith, in particular that of youth. Former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr, George Carey described the series as “great fun and a serious examination of good and evil.”
Pope Benedict XVI, however, has taken the opposite view and lambasted the megahit fantasy series, describing it as “deeply distorting Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly.”
In his introduction, the author of the newly released guide acknowledges that some Christians have expressed concerns over the influence of Harry Potter, but argues that engagement with the phenomenal success of the series is more productive than criticizing it from the sidelines.
“These sessions draw parallels between events in the world of Harry and his friends, and the world in which we are seeking to proclaim the gospel to young people,” Smith writes. “The magic in the books is simply part of the magic that J. K. Rowling has created, in the same way that magic is part of the world of Christian writers such as C. S. Lewis.
“To say, as some have, that these books draw younger readers towards the occult seems to me both to malign J. K. Rowling and to vastly underestimate the ability of children and young people to separate the real from the imaginary,” he adds.
As publication approaches for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” J.K. Rowling’s seventh and final Harry Potter book, another “Potter” frenzy is expected to explode following last week’s release of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the fifth movie from the series.
“Mixing it Up with Harry Potter” is hoping to ride on the wave and is now available for churches to purchase from a range of Christian and general booksellers. The book is designed for use with 9-13 year olds.
Whether Christians may agree with it or not, the newest and final volume of the “Harry Potter” series has come full force into bookstores.
The tension had especially been built up over the past few weeks for the release of the “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” and that anticipation came to an end on Saturday at midnight for many.
“Speculation has been mounting for weeks, if not years in fan circles, as to how the final book will conclude the best loved story of the modern day,” explained Christian author Nancy Carpentier Brown in a statement. “Will Harry die? Is Snape really a good guy or bad guy? Will the dead Dumbledore play a part in the last book? Will Harry conquer the evil Lord Voldemort?”
While many Christians have criticized the boy wizard of occult magic, others have been quite impressed with the youth novels. And with all the press going towards the seventh book in the “Potter” series, Christian groups have been jumping in as well to promote Christian values that they feel are inherent in the fantasy tale.
The Church of England just recently came out with a study guide that goes along with “Harry Potter,” using the popularity of the literature to tie in with Christian themes.
Other Christians have gone even further, however. Some say that the books are indeed Christian-centered novels and always have been.
“In the midst of all this political correctness, this tolerant, non-judgmental, relativistic world, enters a story about a school where right and wrong are defined, rules are enforced, misbehavior comes with detention, evil is evil and must be fought and goodness is rewarded,” said Brown, author of The Mystery of Harry Potter: A Catholic Family Guide and a former mother completely against the novels. “Rowling has packaged a Christian story with a wrapping of witchcraft and magic, and through this disguise had drawn millions of children – millions of adults to read a redemptive moral story that perhaps can teach more than a religion class ever could.”
Looking at the symbolism in the J.K. Rowling creations, other people have gone so far as to claim that Harry Potter is even a symbol to represent the Son of God – Jesus.
“As we approach the release of the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series, Potter friends and foes alike are in for the surprise of their lives,” wrote Abigail BeauSeigneur in an article on the most-visited Harry Potter fan site, Mugglenet.com. “The story of Harry Potter is, and always was, a Christian allegory – a fictionalized modern day adaptation of the life of Christ, intended to introduce his character to a new generation.”
To back up her claims, she cites examples such as their prophetic births, personality traits, life events, opposition to authority, battles against evil, unfair trials, as well as similarities between Lord Voldemort and the devil.
So the question that remains is whether or not J.K. Rowling is a Christian in disguise.
“Rowling is a genius to tell a Christian story in the unexpected disguise of a witchcraft tale – people who would never pick up an overtly Christian story are reading Potter by the millions, attracted to it by its modern themed packaging,” concluded Brown in a statement. “Christianity has always produced great writers. Tolkien, Lewis, Percy, Chesterton to name just a few. I believe J.K. Rowling is a Christian writer.”
But then again, there are many Christians who would disagree.
“[T]he movie version of ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix’ is liable to still do great business at the box office,” stated Dr. Ted Baehr, founder of MovieGuide.org, as the fifth installment of the “Harry Potter” film series was released last week. “Regrettably, however, this means that even more children will be lured away from God and His Infallible Word, which says that witchcraft is evil and abhorrent. Instead of dreaming about the joys that God gives us through Jesus Christ, they will be dreaming of casting spells, using magic spells, riding brooms, and rebelling against their parents.”
According to the Associated Press, “Deathly Hallows” has a print run of 12 million in the United States alone, and Internet retailer Amazon says it has taken 2.2 million pre-orders for the book. Britain’s Royal Mail says it will deliver 600,000 copies on Saturday; the U.S. Postal Service says it will ship 1.8 million. Over 20,000 requests were received at Amazon.com on July 17 alone.
[KH: see how bad the influence of the British Anglican Church is]
NEW YORK — With author J.K. Rowling’s revelation that master wizard Albus Dumbledore is gay, some passages about the Hogwarts headmaster and rival wizard Gellert Grindelwald have taken on a new and clearer meaning.
The British author stunned her fans at Carnegie Hall on Friday night when she answered one young reader’s question about Dumbledore by saying that he was gay and had been in love with Grindelwald, whom he had defeated years ago in a bitter fight.
‘“You cannot imagine how his ideas caught me, Harry, inflamed me,’” Dumbledore says in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final book in Rowling’s record-breaking fantasy series.
The news brought gasps, then applause at Carnegie Hall, the last stop on Rowling’s brief U.S. tour, and set off thousands of e-mails on Potter fan Web sites around the world. Some were dismayed, others indifferent, but most were supportive.
“Jo Rowling calling any Harry Potter character gay would make wonderful strides in tolerance toward homosexuality,” Melissa Anelli, Webmaster of the fan site http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org, told The Associated Press. “By dubbing someone so respected, so talented and so kind, as someone who just happens to be also homosexual, she’s reinforcing the idea that a person’s gayness is not something of which they should be ashamed.”
“‘DUMBLEDORE IS GAY’ is quite a headline to stumble upon on a Friday evening, and it’s certainly not what I expected,” added Potter fan Patrick Ross, of Rutherford, N.J. “(But) a gay character in the most popular series in the world is a big step for Jo Rowling and for gay rights.”
Dumbledore may now be the world’s most famous gay children’s character, but he’s hardly the first. “And Tango Makes Three,” a story by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell that features two male penguins raising a baby penguin, topped the American Library Association’s latest list of books attracting the most complaints from parents and educators.
In 2005, PBS decided not to distribute an episode of “Postcards From Buster” that had been criticized by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings for including lesbian characters. The Potter books themselves have long been threatened with removal from school and library shelves, with some Christians alleging that the series promotes witchcraft.
In Rowling’s fantasy series, Gellert Grindelwald was a dark wizard of great power who terrorized people much in the same way Harry’s nemesis, Lord Voldemort, was to do a generation later. Readers hear of him in the first book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” in a reference to how Dumbledore defeated him. In “Deathly Hallows,” readers learn they once had been best friends.
“Neither Dumbledore nor Grindelwald ever seems to have referred to this brief boyhood friendship in later life,’” Rowling writes. “However, there can be no doubt that Dumbledore delayed, for some five years of turmoil, fatalities, and disappearances, his attack upon Gellert Grindelwald. Was it lingering affection for the man or fear of exposure as his once best friend that caused Dumbledore to hesitate?”
As a young man, Dumbledore, brilliant and powerful, had been forced to return home to look after his mentally ill younger sister and younger brother. It was a task he admits to Harry that he resented, because it derailed the bright future he had been looking forward to.
Then Grindelwald, described by Rowling as “golden-haired, merry-faced,” arrived after having been expelled from his own school. Grindelwald’s aunt, Bathilda Bagshot, says of their meeting: “The boys took to each other at once.” In a letter to Grindelwald, Dumbledore discusses their plans for gaining wizard dominance: “‘(I)f you had not been expelled we would never have met.’”
Potter readers had speculated about Dumbledore, noting that he has no close relationship with women and a mysterious, troubled past.
“Falling in love can blind us to an extent,” Rowling said Friday of Dumbledore’s feelings about Grindelwald, adding that Dumbledore was “horribly, terribly let down.”
Dumbledore’s love, she observed, was his “great tragedy.”
By Ben Shapiro
I am not a fan of the Harry Potter series. Nonetheless, I, like every other sentient human being, know something about Harry Potter. Most of my friends are fans. My three younger sisters are fans. I’ve seen the movies. I’ve read small portions of several of the books.
So when J.K. Rowling announced last week that Albus Dumbledore, the aged headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, was gay, I was somewhat confused. When did the old dude with the funky beard turn into Gore Vidal?
According to Rowling, Dumbledore was always Gore Vidal. At a Carnegie Hall reading, one of Rowling’s fans asked whether Dumbledore had ever found “true love.” “Dumbledore is gay,” Rowling gleefully responded. Dumbledore was apparently in love with his rival, Gellert Grindelwald, a dark wizard. “Falling in love can blind us to an extent,” Rowling explained. Dumbledore’s homosexual crush, Rowling stated, was his “great tragedy.” Rowling went on to label the Harry Potter books a “prolonged argument for tolerance” and told her fans to “question authority.”
Why did Rowling surreptitiously plant a creepy subtext in the most popular children’s book of all time? She didn’t. By most accounts, there is nothing in any of the books to suggest that Dumbledore is gay. It’s easy enough for Rowling to retroactively adopt politically correct attitudes about homosexuality — she never had to face the public scrutiny that surely would have ensued had she made Dumbledore openly gay. Instead, she raked in over $1 billion by appealing to kids and their parents, then conveniently announced Dumbledore’s orientation before a swooning fan base in New York.
In announcing Dumbledore’s homosexuality, Rowling was truly attempting to legitimate herself as a deep thinker and profound author, an artist with more to offer than Quidditch and appallingly unsubtle alliterative names. It wasn’t enough for Rowling to author the most successful book franchise in modern history — now she wants to be Philip Roth.
And the most convenient way for Rowling to pose as a “serious author” is to take a political stand that will earn her the enmity of Christian conservatives. The media made the most of the silly obsession of a tiny group of religious Christians who opposed Harry Potter because of its glorification of magic; now they’ll scour the earth looking for religious Christians burning “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” because of Dumbledore’s predilection for purple outfits. The media, which has always fawned over Rowling, will no doubt rave whatever she chooses to write next — after all, anyone “victimized” by the religious right must be a great author.
Rowling’s gutless decision to “out” Dumbledore months after the release of the last book in the Harry Potter series smacks of manipulation. Next she’ll be telling us that Harry was actually an anti-war protester, Voldemort was a stockholder in Halliburton, and Hermione explored her sexuality during her college days before settling down with Ron. Rowling will clearly say anything for a buck — anything to keep herself relevant.
Rowling, like so many artists, can’t simply use her talents in ways that would please her readers. She can’t stick with children’s books — that would “minimize” her, the same way singing non-political country would “minimize” the Dixie Chicks. She has something “important” to say, and we had all better listen.
Unfortunately for Rowling, her limited talents — the Harry Potter books pale in quality when compared with Edward Eager — are unsuited to the task of taking on large social issues. Rowling isn’t Twain; she isn’t even Stephen King. Rowling commenting on “love,” “great tragedy” and resistance to authority is like Keanu Reeves teaching master classes on acting. All Rowling has accomplished by “outing” Dumbledore is undercutting her own broader appeal and demonstrating her own insecurity and intellectual shallowness.
WAKEFIELD, Massachusetts — St. Joseph’s School in Wakefield, Mass., has banned a series of Harry Potter books from its library, saying themes of witchcraft are inappropriate for a Catholic school, the Boston Globe reported.
The decision to remove the books from the elementary school’s library has sparked controversy among students, educators, and parents — many of whom are unhappy with the ban.
The Rev. Ron Barker, pastor of St. Joseph’s, told parents it was his job to “protect the weak and the strong.”
The wildly popular Harry Potter books and their author, J.K. Rowling, have already been blasted by Christian conservatives for glamorizing witchcraft and the occult. The fantasy series is now charged with encouraging homosexuality following the author’s announcement that one of the novels’ main characters is gay.
Roberta Combs, president of the 2.5 million strong Christian Coalition of America, said she was disappointed that Rowling chose to label Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of fictional Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as gay.
“It’s not a good example for our children, who really like the books and the movies. I think it encourages homosexuality,” said Combs, who has called for a ban on the seven-book series.
“I would never allow my own children or grandchildren to read the books or watch the movies, and other parents should do so too,” she added, according to the U.K.-based Daily Mail newspaper.
Earlier this month at a book tour stop in New York City, Rowling was asked: “Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?”
In response, the British author said, “My truthful answer to you... I always thought of Dumbledore as gay.”
“I know that it was a positive thing that I said it, for at least one person, because one man ‘came out’ at Carnegie Hall. I’m not kidding,” she added afterwards.
Upon learning of the “outing” of the Hogwarts headmaster, many Christians who formerly had no qualms about children reading the books have reevaluted the books.
Tom Barrett, editor of Conservative Truth, reported in a column posted Monday on WEBCommentary that he has discovered hundreds of posts in chatrooms from parents and grandparents who had encouraged their kids to read the books but are now “finally starting to see the light.”
“They have repented and have removed the books from their children’s libraries,” said Barrett. “They say they are trying to undo the damage they have done to the children by their exposure to them.”
One website received over 3,000 postings in a day with many outcries from disappointed Christian fans, according to the Daily Mail.
“Not only has she destroyed a great hero, but she has tarnished the entire series,” read one post.
Meanwhile, in a commentary posted on the website of the Christian Broadcasting Network, which has also called a ban on the Potter books, self-described cult expert Jack M. Roper reiterated past warnings from conservatives to parents over the impact that the disguised witchcraft contained in the novels may have on children.
“Over time the child can become adapted to the dark world of witchcraft and not even know that it is dangerous,” he said.
“As a cult researcher for many years, I have seen contemporary witchcraft packaged in many seductive forms, and Harry Potter is the best,” continued Roper.
“Potter makes spiritualism and witchcraft look wonderful.”
While non-Christians may see the tales as “innocent fantasies,” as Bennett noted, “Christians who understand God’s condemnation of witchcraft, which is prominent throughout the Bible, should know better.”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final of Rowling’s novels on the fictional Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, has been out since July 21 and has sold more than 350 million copies worldwide. It is currently on the best-sellers list of the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.