Countdown to Harry Potter 7: 1 Day July 20, 2007

Countdown to Harry Potter 7: 1 Day

This is from The Seeker’s column in the Chicago Tribune:

Is Harry Potter a Christ figure? Or does author J.K. Rowling simply employ a common literary technique that novelists use to describe their heroes by giving them Christ-like qualities? As Potter fans await the release of the seventh and final installment at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, it’s a question worth considering.

Although Rowling’s novels never explicitly mention religion, they do seem to follow in the traditions of C. S. Lewis in the Chronicles of Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings. The books espouse a moral message and certainly contain hints of Christian allegory as they set up battles between good and evil.

In the Harry Potter books for example, Harry’s friends Hermione and Ron stick by the hero’s side just as disciples stayed loyal to Jesus. Just as Jesus was the target of Satan’s wrath, Harry is the target of Voldemort’s vengeance.

Then there is the lasting declaration of Dumbledore, the father figure of the series, that there is indeed a fate worse than death. When characters put their lives on the line for others, they often are greatly rewarded. Those who seek immortality, such as Voldemort and his followers, lose out at the chance for what Dumbledore calls “the next great adventure.”

“There is nothing worse than death,” says Voldemort in “Order of the Phoenix.”

“You are quite wrong,” Dumbledore replies. “Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness.”

If indeed Rowling’s novels are Christian allegory, why do some conservative Christians go to such great lengths to protect their children from what they consider to be a sinister embrace of witchcraft and wizardry, banning the novel from school libraries and burning the book in front of churches?

Do you think Rowling’s novels have an agenda? And if you haven’t cheated and gone in search of the ending supposedly floating around the Internet, how do you predict the series will end?

[tags]atheist, atheism. Harry Potter, Christian, C.S. Lewis, Pagan, Tolkien[/tags]

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  • Is Harry Potter ™ Christian allegory, or is Christianity based on a literary style which incorporates a hero, a villain, temptations to join both sides, a period of being distrusted by even your followers, a rise to eventual victory, that is, assuming Harry lives, and saves the day, yet again. To make Harry a real Christ figure, wouldn’t he have to die to save everyone else, vanquishing Voldemort ™ at the same time?

  • Well, Voldemort’s the one who died and rose from the dead, isn’t he? Hmmm. But neither of them was born of a virgin, as far as I recall.

  • Jen

    But Jesus is just a revised Moses. I want someone to refer to a character as a “Moses” figure.

  • Susan

    Any parallels between Harry and Jesus (at least the ones mentioned in this article) seem to me to be far too vague to support any real conclusions. I mean, every good fantasy story has a hero with some loyal sidekicks, who battle with some horrible evil entity with powers far beyond their own. That’s not allegory, that’s just good storytelling, of a kind that’s been around since ancient times.

  • Tao Jones

    Since when is “Good vs Evil” a Christian allegory?

    Christianity uses archetypes, Christ isn’t the archetype.

  • Don’t know, will wait for Rowling to clarify her intentions.

    writerdd, Voldermort didn’t die and rise again, it says so in the books. If you want an explanation of this, see above.

    Jen, I don’t think Jesus is meant as a Moses figure. Where are the parallels? His teachings are certainly not much like Moses’. For example, he pretty much does away with priestly intercession (just about everything that had anything to do with The Temple shows that) which the Bible has Moses instituting.


    According to this article, Rowling does away with god.

    “Rowling’s work is so familiar that we’ve forgotten how radical it really is. Look at her literary forebears. In The Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien fused his ardent Catholicism with a deep nostalgic love for the unspoiled English landscape. C.S. Lewis was a devout Anglican whose Chronicles of Narnia form an extended argument for Christian faith (or at any rate for faith in Aslan. Close enough.) Now look at Rowling’s books. What’s missing? If you want to know who dies in Harry Potter, the answer is easy: God.”

  • Maria

    If indeed Rowling’s novels are Christian allegory, why do some conservative Christians go to such great lengths to protect their children from what they consider to be a sinister embrace of witchcraft and wizardry, banning the novel from school libraries and burning the book in front of churches?

    I have wondered this myself many times. Many conservative Christians are shocked when I tell them JK Rowling is Presbytyrian herself. As for the ending, I’ve heard that Hagrid and Hermine die, but of course that’s just a rumor……

  • ash

    finished the book! not sure if i’m disappointed at the ending, or just because it does…

  • Becky Robinson, Life is a magazine for people who can’t read, Time is a magazine for people who can’t think. It’s a smart move to take everything you read in Time with great skepticism, they’ll print any kind of tripe.

    Maria is right, JKR is a Christian, it’s something I hadn’t known until she pointed it out here the other day. You would think that someone who is published in a major “news” magazine would know how to look something like that up on the internet.

  • I am not saying I agree with with Time article, I just found it amusing that there are so many articles out there trying to turn Harry Potter either into a christian message, or in this case, against it.

  • Good grief. If those qualify as parallels between Harry Potter and Jesus, how could one possibly write a long story with a central hero and avoid such parallels?

    The most striking thing about the series is how totally religion is ignored. God and Jesus are never mentioned. Church is never mentioned. No character who is in trouble ever prays or calls on a deity for help. It’s not just a world where God has died, it’s a world where God was never imagined in the first place.

  • Becky, having read the 7th book, and against my own predictions, I’d say that it is clearly a Christian allegory. Not surprising, given what JKR has said about her intentions.

  • commonsense

    Read the 7th book and if she meant it as a christian allegory it is a failed one.


    There is a logical explaination for why Harry didn’t die (if he can be said to have died in the first place) – he didn’t survive because he walked to his death like a lamb to the slaughter, the same result would hold even if he went down figting as long as it was voldy that killed him. If someone else used a killing curse on him he would have died also because the protection he had was only from voldy. He didn’t die for all sinners (including deatheaters ) only for his friends.

    I think Jo’s not a completely convinced christian – she set it up as christian allegory but couldn’t bring herself to write in (something as corny as) a higher power so went for convoluted logic instead – there are many holes in her reasoning – eg. James died for Lily and Harry too, why didn’t that protect them, what’s he, chopped liver?

    What think you?

  • commonsense, I’ll wait till JKR gives an explaination, she’s the best person to do that and, if she chooses, to explain her religious convictions.

    The scene in King’s Cross Station is obviously a near death experience, Harry is told that he can choose to go back or “go on”. And the Dumbledore he meets there is able to explain things that Harry didn’t know beforehand. I’ve never been nearly dead but I doubt it’s the ideal time to be cogitating.

    It’s remarkable that materialists reading a seven book series with the supernatural as one of the dominant themes try to find ways to bend it to their ideology. I think it’s Ann Druyan you’re looking for in the book store.

  • Kyle

    Death is the last enemy to be defeated. 1 Cor. 15:26

    It is a very Christian statement. I think I’d be reading into the text to say that its an allegory, but it is useful, for sure.

  • Maria

    commonsense, I’ll wait till JKR gives an explaination, she’s the best person to do that and, if she chooses, to explain her religious convictions.

    And she finally did! I just watched a Dateline interview with her. Now that the series is over, she said she’d finally answer questions about whether or not there were “religious undertones”, in the books and her own religious beliefs. So what did she say? Well, for starters she said that there were indeed religious undertones in the books. She said that many of the religious undertones in the books mirrored her own religious struggles. When asked what those struggles were, she said her biggest struggle has been to “keep believing”. Looking back on the books, that makes a lot of sense, especially in book 7. Hope this answers some questions!

  • danny

    I just finished reading the last HP book, and before knowing anything about this subject, it was obvious to me that the message of Scripture is in there.
    For example the fact that Voldermort’s symbol is a snake, Harry has to sacrifice himself for his friends, the protective power of sacrificial blood.
    Though in the other books is not so obvious, in this last book 2 Bible verses are quoted : “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” page 283, and
    ” Where you treasure is, there will your heart be also.” page 281.
    Is not a clear paralel between the book and the Bible but there are some important christian values transmited to the reader, values that are denied by the contemporary society.
    As for the fact of hiding the message in witchcraft story, I think is the same as the Chronicles of Narnia of C.S. Lewis. Is a great way to give the message to millions of children who don’t have acces to the Bible story anymore.
    My opinion.

  • Erised

    Personally, I see many parallels of Christianity in Harry Potter. It’s all a matter of what you’re looking for. If “conservative” Christians are searching for the wrong within JKR’s books – they will interpret any idea or phrase into their fixed thoughts. If someone with an open, clear mind read the books – they’d find the messages that Jo layed beneath her words.
    Most people will pre-judge based on the fact that “witchcraft” enters the picture. As a fan of Jo’s writing, all I found was the story of bravery and love, and good conquering evil straight to the end.
    I’m a Christian myself, and I can read these books without feeling as if I’m engaging in anything sinister. Find the good in what Jo has written, the truth – and you’ll see the true magic of the story.

    So, sure – Lumos turns a light on in the world of Harry Potter – But so does a lightswitch in the muggle world. Who defines magic?

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