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July 22, 2007

Comments

Scott W

Thanks. I thought I was some kind of pop-culture leper as the only one who didn't care to read Harry Potter. And only because I tried reading the book and watching the movie and was unable to whip up interest in either. Morally, I have no real issue with it. I do have major moral reservations about the books from other authors that followed in the HP wake.

Tim J.

Yeah, the last time I watched a Harry Potter movie (one I had seen a few times) I began to really be bothered by a number of things that just don't make sense. I had noticed them before, but my main appreciation for the movie series has always been the interaction of the main characters (Harry, Ron and Hermione, and their circle), and I overlooked a lot of other faults in order to enjoy that aspect of the films (I have only read the first book in the HP series).

But on this last viewing (The Chamber of Secrets), the foibles became a bit much and started to really interfere with my enjoyment of the movie. For instance, how is it that Dobby (the house elf) is able to out-magic Lucius Malfoy - an ostensibly VERY powerful wizard - knocking him on his can with a blast of magic, and Lucius, well, just slinks off with his tail between his legs? Wha?? He was about to KILL Harry (which makes no sense, either - logically or dramatically), but is apparently satisfied a few seconds later to just go off in a snit.

"Killing" Tom Riddle turns out to be WAY too easy (golly, what if Ginny had accidentally thrown that diary into the furnace? The whole story would never have happened! A little careless of The Most Diabolical Wizard In The World).

Fawkes brings Harry the Sorting Hat for some extremely important unknown reason, which Tom totally ignores (Durrr... All Dumbledore sent you was an old hat! HAW-HAW!). He KNOWS the sorting hat is an ancient magical device, but - somehow - totally misses the implications.

And on and on.

Such things make it harder and harder to suspend my disbelief, and there are many of them.

Adam D

I agree with these criticisms, though I enjoy the Harry Potter books and films (as does the economist linked to). They've got decent suspense and mystery elements and they are great on clever details.

What bugs me at least as much as the allure of occultism and the contradictions of the overall plot is the inexplicable transformation, over the course of the books, from a children's tale to an adult's. The last few books just aren't appropriate for kids by any stretch of my imagination. And the movies too are getting disturbingly dark.

The contrast with the first book/movie is strange. The first book didn't take itself terribly seriously, and read to me more like a Roald Dahl book. The contradictions weren't that big a deal even as I noticed them, cuz it was a silly book anyway. For fun. But the later books, though with fun elements, definitely take themselves extremely seriously. While the kids who read book one have grown up with the series, so it makes some sense for the later ones to be more adult, since the readers themselves are more adult, what are we to do with kids who just discover Harry Potter today? Tell them they need to stagger their reading of these books over a period of five/ten years?

Steve Ray

Jimmy:

You mentioned Janet and I in this blog so I thought I would comment. First, we love your blog and refer to and recommend it regularly.

Second, after you sent us Starswarm we got a slow start reading it -- not for lack of interest but for lack of time. But once we got started, we couldn't stop.

This story unfolds in an interesting way. You are at times inside Kip's head and discovering everything along with him, including who he is and why he is special.

Once we started reading we found ourselves staying up later each night to fit in "just one more chapter!"

Then Sunday arrived and Janet said, "Steve, hope you're not too busy today because we are going to lock ourselves away and finish this story." I agreed completely and I read until my voice was sore and then she took over. We took turns until the sun set over the horizon and the story was done. We were sad it was over.

We wished there was a part two. That, by the way, is one of the few things Janet liked better about Harry Potter than about starswarm. With Harry Potter you have many books and the story develops slower and draws you in over multiple volumes.

But Starswarm is a more wholesome story and the character is noble without the troubling questions of magic and sorcery. In any case, Janet and I highly recommend Starswarm and we are greatful to Jimmy for introducing us to this fascinating story. Let us know if a part two ever appears!

AnnonyMouse

Well, with all the attention HP is receiving in OSV you would think that it was accepted by a LOT of Catholics. I have problems with it, most are the ones mentioned above. But does it bother anyone, that the children are fed constantly, that "they" are the smart ones and the adults are the dweebs and stupid ones? Do you know how many cartoons cateer to this thinking? I tried to read Harry Potter but couldn't. I tried to watch it but lost interest.

I also have reservations about kids viewing the Simpsons too. And since we do not have much adult TV time, it just doesn't happen in this home.

Leo

Personally, I like these books.

I think it is helpful to distinguish criticism of the moral and literary aspects

I don't think Rowling's Catholic upbringing is a coincidence. I was struck by the repeated references to the powerful effects of Harry's mother's self-sacrificing love.

I think the risk of this series causing an unhealthy interest in the occult is slight - most of us are just poor Muggles and the spells are obviously pseudo-Latin and so more clearly fantasy than say the magic in Buffy or Sabrina. My main moral reservation is the use of God's name in casual conversation - probably descriptive of contemporary speech. Which is considered acceptable in a childrens book in a way that swear words are not.

I got into philosophical tangles trying to work out what is magic and where does magical technology fit into my schema of
Technology - based on natural laws which are blind and indifferent to the agent.
Grace - reliant upon the undeserved agency of a loving and rational God who cannot be bribed or threatened.

At one level, magic is presented as a "natural technology" based on laws(spells/potions), but which only some people can use. Or perhaps it depends on the agency of seemingly inanimate objects which have to be persuaded/bribed. I came to the conclusion that magic, of the sort described, cannot exist, and that I had to suspend some of my critical faculties to enjoy this magical story.

DarwinCatholic

I've enjoyed the HP books quite a bit, though I certainly wouldn't classify them as top notch Fantasy. (Of course, so very little is...)

I don't know that I'd see the HP plot as being a wish fulfillment type of plot, any more than the Pevensies entering Narnia is wish fulfillment or Arthur being the one person who can pull the sword, or David being annointed despite being the youngest. He certainly is notable from the get go, but aside from having more spending money than the Weasley kids, that doesn't seem to actually do him any good -- and it lets him in for a lot of trouble. Maybe I'm inclined to let it off in that he inherets a doom along with his fame.

Though I enjoy the books, it strikes me that, though she spins a good and highly imaginative yarn, Rowling writes a narrative with all sorts of background details that don't make sense. It's basically something you have to agree to ignore -- like the fact Lewis consistently mixes up descriptive details about his characters, and throws together mythologies that make NO sense together. (What the heck was Fr. Christmas doing showing up in a world with Christ?)

I tend to strongly agree with the dictum that magic without sufficient cost makes for bad story telling. Le Guin wrote about the principle pretty well, as I recall, in some of her essays on writing fantasy. For whatever reason, it's never really bothered me about the HP books, maybe because I don't see them as "real fantasy" in the genre sense.

As for the neo-pagan thing, though, I've just never been able to see it. I read a ton of fantasy and SF growing up, and some of it definately had a distinctly new age or pagan tone to it. But I don't find that in the Potter books at all. On the dangerous to the faith scale, I'd rate them as less harmful than Star Trek.

JoAnna

Too much wish fulfillment? One of the central themes of the book is that Harry doesn't like the fame, glory, etc. and would gladly give it all up if he could, especially if it meant he could get his parents back.

I love the series and I think it has a lot of Christian themes -- the power of love, how there is no greater love than to sacrifice your life for that of your brother, why it's important to choose to do what is right over what is easy, etc.

JoAnna

Oh, and Tim J. -- if Ginny threw the book into the furnance, it wouldn't have been destroyed for reasons given in book 7. ;) Just FYI.

Foxfier

"Killing" Tom Riddle turns out to be WAY too easy (golly, what if Ginny had accidentally thrown that diary into the furnace?

Bad example. That's all I can say until the Statue of Readatations wears out. ;^)

AnotherCoward


I'm with Darwin and JoAnna on this one. What Jimmy is calling Harry's wish fulfillment is the furthest thing from.

As to the economics of magics, I think it'd be one thing if the magic played a central theme to the story. It really doesn't. It's pretty much peripheral to the real plot and themes of the book. The presence of magic is, I think, largely used as a literary device to deliberately pull us from an otherwise ordinary world into a fantasy world - such that we know we're talking with otherwise normal people, but they act and think a little differently ... and that's okay because that's what they're like.

Some people like to say HP is full of Christian themes and what not. If so, cool. If not, oh well. Certainly, this isn't any overt metaphor of a C.S. Lewis variety. But the setting of Narnia and the setting of a world of magic hidden within our very real world aren't too different when you sit down and think about it.

Abigail

I read the first HP book and wasn't impressed, for just those reasons: I thought the magic in it was the most unmagical magic I'd ever encountered in literature.

My husband, curious, read one and loved it immediately, because he had the same experience as HP (well, minus the part where you find out you're the most important person in the world and all that): he left a world where he Didn't Fit In and joined a boarding school that was home.

So, he reads the books out loud to the family, and I have to say, either they've grown on me or JKR is way better than she used to be. I'm really enjoying the characters. I don't think I've come across such real teenagers in any other children's books.

As for the movies, well, they're good if you watch them as "scenes from Harry Potter" instead of an attempt to tell the whole story. I thought the same thing about the LOTR movies.

Re: wish fulfillment: Harry Potter immediately discovers that his notoriety is a curse, and spends the rest of the seven books resenting it.

speedmaster

I'm a devout Catholic and the HP books don't bother me in the least. Pure escapism imho, nothing dangerous.

Skygor

I agree that a lot of the magic in the series are catered to children in a fairy-tale approach. E.g. why does Cinderella have to get home before 12? A: Becuase. Lots of things exist because they are entertaining, especially in the earlier stories. I'd say that with existing series that take a more developed approach to magic, some people will pick it out more easily than others.

As for the neo-pagan thing. It's true that there is nothing subversive in HP to convert children as much as Pokemon or D&D. The problem occurs in that HP gets kids interested in magic, naturally. So they may go to the book store or library and look up say something of simple non-stage magical like fortune telling or astrology. Now while these are harmless superstitious that may be useful for Halloween, right next to them are the New Age, (non philosophical) metaphysics, and occult books. Most of which (especially Wicca) are how-to books, because no body knows about them and they are trying to establish themselves as ligament. This however is just more reason for parents to be involved with their children at all levels of their life.

Tim J.

Have to say that I don't think there is much, if any, real occult draw in the HP books. While there is some lack of respect for adults, there is also great veneration of adults. There is some abuse of "the rules", but there is general respect for law and order. I don't see any huge moral problems with the books or movies.

Perhaps my example of the Horcrux (already tersely explained by my wife in the car this evening) was not the best choice of magic elements to criticize, but it was not explained in the movies AT ALL. Not to mention that Harry catches Tom Riddle "monologueing" (see The Incredibles).

I stand by my other critiques. Events need to make at least SOME kind of logical sense, as well as being dramatically satisfying. Easy magic is not satisfying.

Suzanne from Okla.

"But does it bother anyone, that the children are fed constantly, that "they" are the smart ones and the adults are the dweebs and stupid ones? Do you know how many cartoons cateer to this thinking."

No one who has commented on how much they like HP has mentioned this problem of kids defying authority. It is the main reason we don't read them.

Tim J.

"...the children are fed constantly, that "they" are the smart ones and the adults are the dweebs and stupid ones"

Sorry, I just don't see that. The HP series is populated with a number of wise, smart, powerful, compassionate adults. There are also a number of vain, manipulative, stupid or cowardly kids. There are the Dursleys, of course, but their problem isn't that they're adults. They're problem is that they're just... awful... Dudley (the kid) especially.

I just don't see a great deal of kid-centered chauvinism in the series, and I am very sensitive to it. You do see it in a LOT of television and movies, but I don't think the charge holds against J.K. Rowling's books.

Shane

After reading the comments and Jimmy's post, I have to say that I think that both Jimmy and several of the posters suffer from having not read beyond the first book. Many of the criticisms that have been posted are actually proven to be erroneous. For example, Jimmy says that Harry has instant wish fulfillment. I was going to say that this is true to a point, but upon trying out a few sentences, I actually think that this is largely not true. Harry's wish is to have his parents, not to have fame. Even in the first book, this is demonstrated a bit, but it becomes much clearer in subsequent volumes. In fact, whatever instant wish fulfillment really does take place - that is, the limited fullfillment he does get from his fame - is met quickly with the realization that its not all its cracked up to be. As I said, he doesn't seem that interested in the fame in volume one, and as the other books go on he grows to downright hate it, wishing simply to be normal. He experiences all the problems that come with fame.

And this echoes a larger point. I would really encourage Jimmy and others who share opinions similar to his to go through and read the entire series, because the criticisms he raised are essentially mistaken.

I want to address specifically the statement that the kids are told that they're the smart ones, because this is demonstrably false. As Nancy Brown points out in her Catholic Family Guide to the series, one of the best things about the books is that the kids are constantly finding that they don't have all the answers and that they need adults to help them and offer them guidance. She points out that it is the antithesis of the problem she finds throughout the vast majority of children's literature: that parents, adults, and other authority figures are uncessesary.

Before having read the 7th volume, I was convinced that the series is a Christian morality tale much like Narnia or the Lord of the Rings, and after reading this last volume it is inarguable. I don't believe that Ms. Rowling has done as good a job as Lewis did, but I think that is more than made up for by the fact that her books are reaching literally millions upon millions - far more than Lewis' ever did.

One last point - if you're basing what you believe on the films, don't. They miss much of the important material which gives the Christian heart to these stories (for instance, they create much more of an atmosphere that Harry and his friends' actions have no consequences than do the books, which often do emphasize the consequences of disobedience).

A Simple Sinner

I have only seen the films and appreciate them as a form of a 2-3 hour escape. The effects are fun, and the acting is very decent.

When it comes to analyzing the writing difficulties JA points out, I can readily concede (at least as adapted to the films) how imbalanced they can be... But I guess I find the HP films to be in line with the other forms of secular entertainment I avail myself of from time to time...

Something that must be looked at in the light of our post-Christian, fallen world. IOW, it has to be viewed through a filter...

Mary Kay

at least some kids will be influenced by the novels into exploring the occult. That's a risk that is taken whenever magic is explored in fiction. Lord of the Rings did the same thing.

Jimmy, I don't buy this. When did LOTR prompt anyone to explore the occult?

Lacy

The books and films have been a wonderful escape into an interesting world. I haven't taken up witchcraft because of reading them, just as I didn't take up murder or cannibalism because I enjoyed Silence of the Lambs. I honestly have never heard of anyone pursuing serious wizardry from reading the books. That's ridiculous, imho.

Perhaps the writing isn't a masterpiece of fiction. It doesn't have to be. The good characters have a particularly endearing quality, and the movies have been an excellent accompaniment to the written series. It's just a fine entertaining escape.

My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie yesterday and we were thrilled to become reacquainted with our old "friends". Yes, the movie was dark, but it wasn't anything that anyone in the theater didn't enjoy, as evidenced by the cheers and applause at various points.

I am currently reading "Deathly Hallows" and am enjoying it.

I'm with you, Speedmaster.

StubbleSpark

I love escapist fun stories, but I will not read the Harry Potter books because they clearly cater to immature minds (monster boogers and what not). My adult coworkers call me a snob because I would rather read something edifying and bright and they discount my criticisms out of hand because I have not read any of the books or watched a whole movie.

The standing rule in our office is you cannot criticize something unless you read it all the way through which is a really dumb rule that I am convinced is being secretly backed by an international cadre of bad writers trying to increase their revenues.

There are times when it becomes necessary to read horrible and dumb work by hacks like Dan Brown, Tim LaHaye, and Karl Marx but by and large I have a duty to my fellow countrymen not to encourage substandard or even harmful work.

I suppose it is reasonable to be too tired to read the Summa in one's spare time. Certainly most of the works by the modernist and post-modernist "artsy" literary types are also worth avoiding for light reading. But why shy away from the Silmarilion, or Dante's Inferno?

Harry Potter certainly is not the best there is on the market at what it does. It certainly does not sell itself as being inspiring or monumental or even mildly worth while. Why then the vitriol for not liking it enough to read it?

At least now I have some ammunition to support my claim that it is thoroughly not worth the time or money.

Shane

I think the rule that one must read something before criticizing it is absolutely fair and warranted. How can a person possibly criticize something which he has not come to understand in some way? Non-Christians constantly criticize the Bible without having read it. Non-Catholics criticize the Church without reading what She has to say. When this happens, we jump all over these people... how can we then do the same things ourselves?

I'm not saying a person needs to participate in a seance to criticize the practice of them or taking the point to other extremes that would require people to engage in all sorts of evil behavior to be able to properly criticize them, but certainly one ought to be familiar with seances, for instance, and have at least some working knowledge before one makes a criticism.

Esau

Actually, there's a Christian version of Harry Potter out now called: "Fablehaven"!

I guess they want to take a bite out of the 2.4 billion Harry Potter market.

Shane

The beauty of Harry Potter is that its got blatantly Christian themes in it and is still reaching millions upon millions. It isn't the sort of overt stuff that will come across as Christian to them now, but it is the sort of stuff that will be there when they are confronted with the Gospel in a more overt way and will make them think back to a time when they found these ideas wonderful and inspiring. On the whole, I think that there are tens of millions of people that are a lot more open to the Gospel message now then there were 10 years ago.

StubbleSpark

Shane exactly how many passages of boogers and farts must my adult dignity suffer before I have proper authority to criticize Harry Potter as unworthy?

Yes, people who want to do a detailed analysis of a given text must first read it.

I did this very thing by reading that awful Dan Brown book for a parish presentation I gave on the topic.

That experience has really jaded me about the supposed inherently edifying quality of all printed material. I think I would rather swim in cat pee covered in sores than read that insipid trash again.

Still I read Mormon, Scientology, Islamic, Buddhist, and Protestant literature. I do this because these are important to me as an amatuer apologist.

But Harry is not important. Therefore, I get to discount it out of hand. It is immature at best and a dangerous enchantment at worst. I do not read crap if I can help it. Therefore I will not read Harry Potter.

Francis Ocoma

I'd probably be called a Harry Potter geek, mainly because I know more about the books than many of my HP-fan friends, but I agree with many here that Rowling isn't exactly the most intellectually or spiritually stimulating of fantasy authors. Nonetheless, as an "HP geek" I can't help but to join others in nitpicking your critique, sorry. Anyone who read the latter books (4-7) would realize that the series is meant to "grow" with the main character, from the childish Philosopher's Stone to the really dark Deathly Hallows. Harry practically stopped liking being "The Boy Who Lived" by Book 2, and the only time he was treated exceptionally well (after Book 1) by the majority of his schoolmates was near the end of Book 7. Harry has been forced from one torturous situation to another. Clearly "wish-fulfillment" this is not.

There is also this weird double-standard, where the books are accused of being too much into the occult, and then at the same time they are criticized for being too vague, silly, and contradictory about magical rules. It's damned for mentioning magic, and damned for not obsessing about magic. People have completely forgotten that magic in Harry Potter is only used by the author as a tool to develop a story that she thought was pretty nice. And to think that this woman is now being demonized for supposedly turning thousands of kids into pagans is just plain ridiculous. It is the overall environment of kids that determines whether they will turn bad or not. Some books might influence them greatly into paganism, but I maintain, as someone who has read the books many times, and as a Catholic, that Harry Potter is not one of them.

Foxfier

Stubble, depending on what you're accusing the book of, you may or may not have to read it.

For the D'VC book, you can rather easily find a list of historical flaws-- simply because the guy claimed it was historically accurate. Harry Potter hasn't done that.

It's a simple story... oh... about the quickest way someone can make me stop listening is to launch into the "Dungeons and Dragons is Satanic!" thing. It has spell components, yes-- because that makes it so that the magic isn't over-powered. It's a game mechanic. If someone is going to get 10k gold pieces worth of powdered diamond to try to get someone brought back to life.... Well, it won't be a simple, automatic thing.

Esau

I agree with many here that Rowling isn't exactly the most intellectually or spiritually stimulating of fantasy authors.

If that's the case, why had many who were interviewed by CBS News on Friday actually placed the Harry Potter novels on the same level as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings?

That's almost like comparing a grocery store bargain book with that of a Pulitzer Award Winning book!

While they're not going to turn every kid who reads them into a practitioner of Wicca, at least some kids will be influenced by the novels into exploring the occult. That's a risk that is taken whenever magic is explored in fiction. Lord of the Rings did the same thing.

Harry Potter, yes. But Lord of the Rings?

I doubt Lord of the Rings actually influenced certain people to practice magic.

For example, how about the Ivanhoe or King Arthur novels? They may not have had Gandalf, but they did have Merlin. Did we find in the past those who were actually influenced by the Merlin character in those novels to practice magic?

Also, with respect to Lord of the Rings, Catholicism was a major allegorical theme in these Tolkien novels and those well-versed in the Faith would recognize their Catholic elements.

Esau

To be clear, my latter comment relating to Lord of the Rings was dealing with Jimmy Akin's comments and not Mr. Ocoma's.

misspeaches

Thank you, thank you, Stubblespark, for so clearly explaining why we don't all have to read all the Harry Potter books to know that we don't want to read them! I have never read these books nor seen these movies, and I am going to continue to avoid them forever. Maybe Scott W. and I can take put away our leper warning bells and quit yelling "unclean, unclean" whenever Harry Potter fans approach us.

To answer Mary Kay, I will point out that I am someone who was influenced to explore the occult as a teenager by, among other things, the Lord of the Rings tales. Oh how I longed to see a bit of grey in my eye color so I could believe I was descended from Elves. I remember finding plenty of occult books at the school and public libraries, and buying a how-to manual from those Scholastic Book Club order form that the teachers used to hand out. I learned how to conduct seances, read palms, and obey superstitions in a very short time.

I was attempting to learn to tell fortunes with playing cards, wondering how to get my hands on a real Tarot deck, and yet starting to be afraid of the power I was tapping into, when my mother, God Bless her, asked me, "How can you say you believe in all that supernatural stuff but claim you don't believe in the Bible?" Well, that got me thinking that if I was serious about believing in the supernatural then I needed to consider very carefully whether I was on the Right side. I knew even then that there were two sides and they couldn't both be right.

The occult practices were a horrible, terrifying trap, and Thank God He gave me a way out. I guess I would call the rewards I was getting from the occult activities (weird things at seances, premonitions coming true, knowing things about people that I shouldn't have known, the thrill of having a power that others did not) the diabolical opposite of signal graces, and they were like tasty little crumbs leading me further down a dark path. It took me over a decade to get over the nightmares that robbed me of sleep most nights.

To this day I must be very careful when selecting my now rare sci-fi/fantasy reading. I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then would I look upon...a book about the occult, to paraphrase Job. I always remember Luke 11: 14 - 26, where Jesus teaches about the devil, and warns about an evil spirit. To quote from the New International Version, 24"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' 25When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first." It was not enough for me to throw out the twelve sided dice and the cards and the how-to books, just making a clean sweep. I have had to take care to fill the void with spiritually uplifing practices, like reading the lives of the saints, praying the Rosary, acts of mercy, et cetera.

So the Harry Potter books will never enter my home, for me or anyone else to read. What I have a hard time believing is how quick so many people are to dismiss these books as harmless to their faith. Are they really, really that harmless? I know from what others have said that they would not help equip me as a soldier of Christ (and are thus a waste of my time), and they would harm me (given my background). I have a hard time believing they are truly harmless to most other people.

But hey, if one Day I find y'all standing around the Throne having a great conversation about "those Harry Potter books we used to read," then I guess I will have plenty of time then to catch up on the story.

Esau

To answer Mary Kay, I will point out that I am someone who was influenced to explore the occult as a teenager by, among other things, the Lord of the Rings tales. Oh how I longed to see a bit of grey in my eye color so I could believe I was descended from Elves. I remember finding plenty of occult books at the school and public libraries, and buying a how-to manual from those Scholastic Book Club order form that the teachers used to hand out. I learned how to conduct seances, read palms, and obey superstitions in a very short time.


Garris!?

Nos non possumus volare, et vos non potestis elephantum vorare!

justin

Would Jimmy, by any stretch of the imagination, be going to Comic Con in San Diego? Something in me hopes for some good Catholic presence in the nigh-pagan geekery when I'm there. Because being a comic fan can still be part of being Catholic.

justin

Would Jimmy, by any stretch of the imagination, be going to Comic Con in San Diego? Something in me hopes for some good Catholic presence in the nigh-pagan geekery when I'm there. Because being a comic fan can still be part of being Catholic.

A Non

Actually, there developed a neo-pagan cult around The Lord of the Rings as well.

You can find an example here: http://www.elflore.org/ But there are many others. Just actually go through the critical writing on the series, especially about its reception in 60s America, and things will be made clear.

Shane

Stubblespark, what I am saying is simply that you have no right to criticize something if you haven't read enough of it to know that you are criticizing it fairly. You needn't read enough for a detailed analysis, but if you're criticizing something for being something it is not, there is a real problem there. In some cases, this requires more reading than others. For example, a person who has only read a few chapters of the Old Testament might criticize it for being all about violence and racial purity. This would be a very understandable a viewpoint for someone who's only read a few chapters, but the reality is that it is objectively a badly mistaken viewpoint. In this case, more reading is necessary to offer even the most minor of opinions. I would respectfully suggest that Harry Potter also requires a bit more than a cursory glance for someone to be able to criticize it for what it really is.

But that aside, I think we can all agree that if a person is criticizing something for being X when the thing is not really X at all, then that person's not read enough and ought to either read it or refrain from speaking on the matter.

And I... I really have to say, Stubblespark, that your statements about "boogers and farts" makes me very tempted to put you in the category of someone who is criticizing these books for being something that really aren't at all. There is a bit of this stuff in the books - at a ratio of about once per every 2 chapters or so. It's hardly got a strong presence. I really wonder if you've even opened one.

Emily Snyder

Jimmy,

I appreciate your comments and, were they written for the first three - possibly even the first four books - I think I should agree with you. However, from books 4-7, especially from 5 onward (as has been mentioned elsewhere in the comments) the books took a definite turn towards not only the good, but the really good. (I won't say excellent, but it borders with HP7.)

Likewise, I'm right there with you on the ham-fistedness of her writing and her unfortunate use of CAPSLOCK for whenever Harry is angry (which, if you haven't seen this, you should! :). However, I found that books six and particularly seven were very well written, with good insights, good turns of phrase - pieces of solid literature.

I also found, as others have hinted at here...but NO SPOILERS...that several loose ends which I was wont to criticise from other books were neatly and even poignantly and significantly wrapped up here. All in all, it was like finding a satisfactory ending to Lost!

I do urge you to read the books if you would like to continue criticism. The first three (or four or five) are not wholly indicative of the overarching plot which is beautiful in its delivery and in its philosophy (read: tentative theology). My guess is that Rowling has made a spiritual journey over these past 17 years (she began writing in 1990) as much as any woman may.

I'll have a review up (fingers crossed!) this week at the CGF. But thank you, as always, for starting good conversations!

Emily Snyder

Note: Hrm...upon reviewing the "Puppet Pals and Wizard Angst" (YouTube link above) there are two places that might throw someone who's rather sensitive - minor, minor things - but the crucial funny bit is at 1:21.

Francis Ocoma

One disadvantage of writing serial novels, as shown in the Harry Potter books, is that the first few books in the series tend to be criticized for having plot-holes. This leads to the author being suspected of "not having thought it through". (Golly, to think that Rowling planned the books for many years before writing the first one, she must be pretty daft not to have thought things through, eh?) But when a series is meant to be read as a whole, it's obvious that some things will have to be discovered later on. We don't know everything yet at the start, because the reader shares the journey of discovery with the main character. And what are we to do while the knowledge is incomplete? Why, we make theories, of course! And this is what keeps the fans happy. The fandom flourishes from all the theory-discussions and fan-fiction writing, while the high-browed critics complain of "flawed economics" and "crappy writing".

'thann

Ah, finally something about which Jimmy and I disagree! I was beginning to get worried that he had me mesmerized or something.

I hate fantasy literature, but I love the Potter books.

For years I refused to read them because they were "fantasy literature," but as a Christmas gift this past year, I agreed to allow my son (an actor) to read them to me. I was hooked after the first chapter. He has already read book 7 himself, and is well into reading it aloud to me. It's definitely a page turner. The seven books mature along with Harry in both plot development and writing style. Rowling did this by design.

An 11-year-old can pick up book 1 and enjoy it at his or her own level, and a more mature 17-year-old can delve into book 7 and not perceive it as childish.

And to support what others have said here, I personally know dozens of people who are practicing neo-pagans who are geatly devoted to and influenced by LOTR.

'thann

Mike Melendez

I'm not sure where it fits into this conversation, but I am enjoying the Potter books and reading the seventh currently.

I agree they are are not in the same category as Tolkien's trilogy, but maybe more along the lines of "The Hobbit", which was also written for older children, or, at least, one child, Tolkien's son. That said I would agree "The Hobbit" holds together better than the Potter books, but that's because it takes the viewpoint of a lowly character who gets involved in events much larger than himself. Neither he nor the reader needs to understand the larger events. Rowling tries to write at both levels which results in a breakdown in the upper level. All that said, the Potter series easily bests some of the other fantasy fiction out there.

The Potter books are an easy read that move at a reasonable pace without violating and, in fact, reinforcing some of the ideas that help create human civilization in all of its flaws. Put simply, they are fun to read without leaving a bitter taste in the mind. They are escapist literature, not teaching literature.

SDG

Authors can't let the fact that somebody in the audience is going to go nuts based on what they write stop them from writing. If they did, we wouldn't have the Bible. But authors can craft their work in a way that tries to minimize potential harmful effects, and I have sympathy for those who think that J.K. Rowling didn't do as good a job of this in writing the Harry Potter series as J.R.R. Tolkien did in the Lord of the Rings.

My very long essay on just this subject.

Cajun Nick

I just wanted to encourage anyone who might have put off reading SDG's very long essay on this subject.

Don't be put off by the "very long" part: it's worth the read. Print it out and read it off-line if you don't have the time to read it all at one sitting. (Plus, it's not really all that long.)

I gave it to my pastor (a big Tolkien - Lewis fan) a year or so ago, and he really appreciated it too.

Greg

The main thing I don't like about the Harry Potter series is the blurring of good and evil. Good and evil are never clear cut.

Snape is dark and brooding, appears evil, but is good (so far). Harry's aunt and uncle who took him in when he was a baby, and raised him and appears kept him somewhat educated although they were a bit strict on him, are portrayed as evil people. If they were into keeping Harry for simply some type of inheritance, they would have done what was minimally required, and that would have been it, but we see Harry with prescription glasses, decent clean clothing, and not suffering from malnutrition. Are they really evil or was Harry just a brat? And finally Harry Himself, here is a boy that is supposedly good, who must go around breaking rules and these are rules that have been in place at Hogwarts for many years and are in place to protect the students, but yet Harry ignores the rules to save his own skin but in the end is never reprimanded for breaking the rules in the first place.

Finally, the portrayal of adults as bumbling buffoons who are oblivious to the goings on around them is another issue I have with the book. Children think they know it all, but a GOOD book should support the idea that you can turn to adults and those in authority to help you out of trouble. I mean please, Harry, who is just learning magic is somehow more powerful than the adults who are teaching it to him? But discussing the portrayal of adults and authority figures in the Harry Potter series should probably wait for another day.

God Bless

A

SDG

The main thing I don't like about the Harry Potter series is the blurring of good and evil. Good and evil are never clear cut.

Well, to begin with, this surely is an overstatement. For example, the evil of Voldemort and the Death Eaters is pretty "clear cut," as is the goodness of Dumbledore.

But beyond that, while "clear-cut" good and evil is a well-established convention in high fantasy and European fairy-tale tradition, in much literature -- including the Bible -- as well as the real world, good and evil are often not so clear-cut. E.g., King David has his moral failings; King Saul has his moments of decency.

Likewise in the real world, individuals from presidents and bishops to our relatives and neighbors are often neither "good" nor "evil" in a simple, binary way, but a daunting mixture of both.

I absolutely agree with the merits of clear-cut good and evil in mythical literature, and I have my own reservations about some stories in which good and evil merge and shift. But the critique of Harry Potter needs to go deeper than this to be persuasive.

Megan Elizabeth

In defense of LOTR, I think that Tolkien took precautions to actually warn people away from the occult.

The main magical object in the series is the One Ring. The One Ring is obviously bad--it was created by a dark lord so that he could control the world. What happens to characters who use the One Ring? Bilbo picks it up and at first he thinks it's fun. (kind of like Ouija boards are "just a game"?) Yet almost immediately it begins to work on him. He lies about how he got it. Many years later, when he tries to bequeath it to Frodo he finds it nearly impossible to leave the ring behind. Frodo is warned not to use the ring, yet he does anyway, and there are negative consequences to that. Then, of course, there is Gollum. He killed in order to get the ring and in the end it destroyed him.

I do think there is a strong message in LOTR that those who use magic are playing with fire. I haven't read Harry Potter so I can't comment on that.

Darwin

I don't buy this. When did LOTR prompt anyone to explore the occult?

I certainly don't think that exploring the occult is a reasonable response to reading LotR, or Narnia, or even Harry Potter. However, having ventured once or twice into the peculiar world of science fiction and fantasy conventions, I can assure you that a number of LotR fans to indeed get into all sorts of weird New Age stuff.

No good thing is so good that no one ever managed to use it as an excuse to go bad.

paul zummo

Well, no accounting for taste then.

Just kidding. I had a conversation with a co-worker last week about the books, and when I asked if his daughter read them, he told me that she didn't read past the first. "They aren't classics." Well then.

The Christian themes in this book are obvious. I don't want to give away the end, but I'll just say it's C.S. Lewis-esque.

By the way, if people want to bash the books, fine. There are enough pop culture phenomenons that I find distasteful that I won't accuse others of snobbery. But if you're going to criticize the books, using the movies as a means to do so is pretty weak, especially considering how much the movies chop off.

Kevin Cary

On the comment from Esau that the LOTR is allegorical, read some of what Tolkien himself has to say in interviews and especially in the forwards to the books. He categorically denies that any part of any of the novels are intentionally allegorical. He felt that a story that was intentionally allegorical limited the readers freedom in using his imagination.

AnnonyMouse

Thank you SDG for your essay and pointing out the differences between the magic in the classics, and the magic pursued in these books.

It seems to me that some that support the book so vehemently, OSV has two weeks worth of how HP can be good for you, are overlooking the obvious or trying to make those who have strong reservations seem like old fuddy duddys.

Thanks.

TeresaHT

Certainly, this isn't any overt metaphor of a C.S. Lewis variety. But the setting of Narnia and the setting of a world of magic hidden within our very real world aren't too different when you sit down and think about it.

See, this why it's a very bad idea to make judgements/ statements about an entire series without reading it. Yes, there is overt theological metaphor in the Potter books. But it's in book 7, along with the scripture quotations. I think Rowling just established herself as the best Christian fantasy author of the turn of the century. (Personally, I think she is a better novelist than Lewis. I'm sorry if that's blasphemy.)

Esau

This Harry Potter MANIA is going TOO FAR!

I just heard over the radio that they're now offering children GRIEF COUNSELING!

People, what has become of our society when fictional characters are treated as actual, real things?!

I thought only those in the sanitarium suffered from these psychotic episodes -- but a supposedly rational society in general?!

nutcrazical

I'm a big Harry Potter fan, but right now I'm typing without a clue what to type next. I suppose the people who have actually read the series have done a good job of defending it here, and I don't have much to add.

For some time my literary tastes have been changing - "maturing," I guess you could say - and now I don't think as highly of most of the books in my bookcase as I used to, but Harry Potter I still love. I'm still planning to shove the first book down my hypothetical children's throat when they turn 11, and then the second when they turn 12, and on. Not sure how I'm going to keep them from devouring the series at once when they're still tweens, but it'll have to be done, because book 6 and 7 are definitely for older teens only.

Having finished reading the series, the only moral problem I see with it is what seems to be a justification for euthanasia, but I'm not even sure if that killing counts as euthanasia. It was more of a vital strategical move. Maybe you will all have to read and decide...

The other flaw I see with the series is - the romance, which is so horrible and badly done that it completely ruined book 6 for me, and was the sour note of book 7. The worst thing is that the love story written most badly was Harry Potter's himself. Rowling is a Jane Austen fan, and Jane Austen being such a good romance writer, well, I just don't get it. There's a difference between writing a romance novel and writing a romance arc into a larger story, yes, but it's like Rowling didn't even try.

Oh, right, there's some suggestions that the protagonist got rather intimate with his future wife while she still was "future wife", but it's all so bad I don't think that's going to inspire any child to go and secretly snog his little crush. Not that a child should read books 6 and 7 (or any one beyond the second, for that matter).

Still love the books. The characters are all very solid, and it always fills me with wonder to reread the earlier books and notice things I didn't notice before, such as an important-for-book-6 piece of broken furniture breaking in book 2. Planning seven books' worth of plot in such a detailed way before doing any writing... at least that must be appreciated.

For people who read the last book, did the location where he had his conversation with Dumbledore strike them? King's Cross. Think about it.

SDG

He categorically denies that any part of any of the novels are intentionally allegorical.

I think this is overstatement; at least, I've read quotes from Tolkien saying that while the work is not itself allegory, there is allegory in it. And, in a widely reported quote, Tolkien acknowledged that LOTR is "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work, unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision." Since LOTR is not religious in an overt way, I would venture to suggest that this "fundamentally religious" dimension (which, again, was "conscious in the revision") probably involves a significant allegorical dimension.

TeresaHT

Certainly, this isn't any overt metaphor of a C.S. Lewis variety. But the setting of Narnia and the setting of a world of magic hidden within our very real world aren't too different when you sit down and think about it.

See, this why it's a very bad idea to make judgements/ statements about an entire series without reading it. Yes, there is overt theological metaphor in the Potter books. But it's in book 7, along with the scripture quotations. I think Rowling just established herself as the best Christian fantasy author of the turn of the century. (Personally, I think she is a better novelist than Lewis. I'm sorry if that's blasphemy.)

TeresaHT

Certainly, this isn't any overt metaphor of a C.S. Lewis variety. But the setting of Narnia and the setting of a world of magic hidden within our very real world aren't too different when you sit down and think about it.

See, this why it's a very bad idea to make judgements/ statements about an entire series without reading it. Yes, there is overt theological metaphor in the Potter books. But it's in book 7, along with the scripture quotations. I think Rowling just established herself as the best Christian fantasy author of the turn of the century. (Personally, I think she is a better novelist than Lewis. I'm sorry if that's blasphemy.)

Esau

To Those Who Deny the Catholic Allegorical Theme of Lord of the Rings:

"...But, at the end of the day, we may, with Tolkien’s approval, speak of the saga as a Catholic masterpiece. A postscript to this might be the observation that no Protestant could conceivably have written this saga, since it is profoundly “sacramental.” That is, redemption is achieved wholly via physical means–cf The Incarnation, Golgotha, the Resurrection, and the Ascension–and the tale is sprinkled with “sacramentals,” such as lembas, athelas, Galadriel’s phial of light, mithril, etc."

Link:
Does it make sense to speak of The Lord of the Rings as a “Catholic masterpiece”?

Martin Tohill

Oh, right, there's some suggestions that the protagonist got rather intimate with his future wife while she still was "future wife",

. I think Rowling just established herself as the best Christian fantasy author of the turn of the century

Two different posters but I can't reconcile these two views. If it were some character other than HP then I could give it a pass. To me this shows the low moral tone of the book.

Darwin

Oh, right, there's some suggestions that the protagonist got rather intimate with his future wife while she still was "future wife"

Eh? I just finished book seven, and I'm not sure at all where one would have got that idea... I mean, unless one considers serious kissing to be "rather intimate" in an unacceptible way...

TeresaHT

Ooops- sorry about the multiple posting!

I should also add that I don't think anyone should have to make excuses for not reading Harry Potter. Read what you want. There are so many books, but so little time. I understand that not everyone enjoys (or benefits from) fantasy, and not all fantasy lovers like Harry Potter. Non-Potter fans shouldn't have to feel apologetic or defensive about not liking the series.

But all that aside, it isn't fair try to offer serious criticism of works you've not read, or have only read in part.

Francis Ocoma
especially considering how much the movies chop off.

...and blatantly change. A lot of glaring stupidities in the movies are ridiculed even by HP-fans, since those usually aren't in the books.

Look, there are a lot of bad things that can be said about the books, especially if seen as children's books. I personally think that little kids should not read beyond Book 2, because some of the disturbing images will damage their minds. Yes, there's the crude jokes and the questionable puppy-love themes. But allow me to give you the gist of Book 7, just to prove a point.

SPOILERS DELETED.

I hope I didn't spoil anyone, but my point is that this is at least a nice if imperfect attempt at a moral story; this is a Christian theme, not a pagan one.

Jimmy, I know you're not saying the books are morally unacceptable, so let me just explain why even your literary complaints might not be fair: Ham-fisted? Harry never had a hint of why he was even targeted as an infant until Book 5, and never fully realized its significance until the end of Book 7. He never even showed any extraordinary magical skill until Book 3!

His future was not given to him on a silver platter because the next six years of his life could never realistically be called envious. Often he wished he never had the scar and that he wasn't famous, and he resented other wizards being jealous of him due to their false image of his life. What's the good of occasionally getting a few of life's pleasures if you live with your unpleasant aunt's family every summer, you're often not trusted by anybody, you have to escape almost-certain death more times than anyone would like, and you're trapped in a prophesied destiny of being murderer or murder-victim? Honestly, I'd rather be a Muggle.

Seamus

I just heard over the radio that they're now offering children GRIEF COUNSELING!

I trust it takes the form of saying, "They're just fictional characters, kid. I counsel you to get over it and go play ball."

rose

Well, I don't think that the HP books are great literature, but they are fun. Rowling is not a very good writer, but she is (IMHO) a crackerjack storyteller, especially in the later books. In the later books, some of her characters acquire a lot more subtlety: by the end of Deathly Hallows, for instance, twinkling-eyed Dumbledore has become a much more flawed and interesting character than the relatively generic Wise Old Mentor he was in the first book. And while Harry gets a lot of stuff handed to him on a plate in the first book, things get a lot harder for him. In Book Five, he faces some apalling consequences for his habit of charging off to the rescue without telling any adults; and in Book Seven, he is faced with the need to literally lay down his life that others may live. In fact, the entire theme of Book Seven is the renunciation of power and the acceptance of death, as opposed to Voldemort's willingness to commit any crime to gain power and immortality.

There are certainly some moral problems with the HP series. (For instance, modifying people's memories is supposed to be perfectly okay--what the heck?!) But I think they're perfectly fine for teenagers (they *do* get "older" as the series goes along), and for those of us whose taste runs that way, they are *awesome* fun.

SDG

Jimmy, thanks for deleting the SPOILERS in the post above. I certainly didn't want to learn the climax of Book 7 this way. Posters, please be considerate and avoid revealing major plot points!

Esau

I trust it takes the form of saying, "They're just fictional characters, kid. I counsel you to get over it and go play ball."

Seamus,

If only that.

There are actually Grief Counselors being made available to children!

If that's the case, in light of the fact how some adults are behaving in a similar manner, perhaps they should extend the services of these professional grief counselors to the adults as well!

Also, where were all these 'professional grief counselors' back then for those children who experienced similar 'fictional' disappointments???

For example, how about that snappy scene in 'Bambi'???

It almost seems that the offering of these grief counseling services to children is merely part of a PR ploy to promote further publicity and sales for the final Harry Pothead book!

nutcrazical
and I'm not sure at all where one would have got that idea...
Harry kept remembering "moments" in secluded corners at Hogwarts. One can only guess at what they were doing. In book 6, the girl gets asked if it was true that Harry had a tattoo in his chest or in his back, I forget where, but it was a question that presumed that she must've seen him without a shirt, while they were alone. Which is a presumption that is never denied.

I'm not saying they had sex. I highly doubt they did. But they did "things" which are never described for the reader, which leaves one thinking of the worst. The one decent conversation between Harry and his girl the reader witnesses is back in book 5, in the library, and they get together in book 6. One gets the impression it's a pretty physical relationship. I'm sure this wasn't Rowling's intention, but that's what bad writing does.

Oh, and the girl wears a dress that is described as "too low cut" by one of the characters, "Auntie Muriel". Auntie Muriel absurdly criticized everyone in the party, but her criticism towards Harry's future wife didn't help the general bad impression of the girl I had, specially since she dragged Harry into her room the day of his birthday to give him something to remember him by. Which the reader does see. Good thing they were interrupted.

nutcrazical
Also, where were all these 'professional grief counselors' back then for those children who experienced similar 'fictional' disappointments???

For example, how about that snappy scene in 'Bambi'???

We didn't have Grief Counselors for Bambi because we weren't so stupid back then.

Adolfo

While I disagree, I did enjoy your criticism. But an economist's literary opinion? Talk about draining the life out of anything...

Esau

We didn't have Grief Counselors for Bambi because we weren't so stupid back then.

Exactly!

Thanks, nutcrazical! ;^)

Although I didn't actually watch Bambi back then, my classmates who did didn't actually become traumatized due to a fictional character having met their demise!

I would love to see who in the world is actually paying for these professional grief counselors for these avid HP readers who are supposedly suffering such trauma.

Again, I suspect it's the Harry Pothead PR folks.

Jordan Potter

like the fact Lewis consistently mixes up descriptive details about his characters, and throws together mythologies that make NO sense together. (What the heck was Fr. Christmas doing showing up in a world with Christ?)

Why wouldn't Father "Christ"-mas show up in a world with Christ? Aslan, of course, is the Narnian Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity -- he's not just an allegory for Jesus Christ, he really is Christ, redeeming Narnia in their parallel universe as He redeemed us in our universe. So, if you want to tell a "What if there were parallel worlds that God created and redeemed as He did ours" sort of story, why couldn't God decide to create one in which mythology and folklore from our world could frolick and play together?

GregK

Criticizing J.K. Rowling's writing style seems about as sensible as criticizing Tiger Woods' golf game.

Esau

Jordan Potter:

FYI, Tolkien also criticized C.S. Lewis for his having mixed various mythologies together.

Esau

Criticizing J.K. Rowling's writing style seems about as sensible as criticizing Tiger Woods' golf game.


Great, first I heard over the weekend J.K Rowling being considered as great a writer as Tolkien on CBS News.

Now, it seems her 'greatness' is being on the same level as Tiger Woods!


What next???

J.K. Rowling is more popular than Jesus Christ???

Darwin

Why wouldn't Father "Christ"-mas show up in a world with Christ?

The danger of typos...

I meant to say "without" not "with". Yes, Aslan is meant to be the incarnation of Christ in Narnia, but Aslan's story is not the same as that of Christ in our world. It makes no sense for their to be a "Christmas" in Narnia. Aslan was never born of a woman in Narnia, nor does Christianity exist in Narnia, so why would there be a Christmas?

The showing up of Fr. Christmas and the "always winter and never Christmas" strike me as, instead, being rather ham-fisted attempts at play off concepts which Lewis figured would be familiar and important to children.

I enjoy the Narnia books a lot, but one has to accept that (especially in the first few) Lewis is downright sloppy in the way he throws things together. But then, this is the fellow who lifted Numenor out of Tolkien's (as yet unpublished) work and used it in his own novels -- not only getting Tolkien's mythology wrong, but even spelling it wrong.

Esau

...Rowling is just too ham fisted...

...rather ham-fisted attempts...

All this talk of ham-fists is making me hungry!

Does anybody know where and how this term originated?

SDG

I meant to say "without" not "with". Yes, Aslan is meant to be the incarnation of Christ in Narnia, but Aslan's story is not the same as that of Christ in our world. It makes no sense for their to be a "Christmas" in Narnia. Aslan was never born of a woman in Narnia, nor does Christianity exist in Narnia, so why would there be a Christmas?

Because, clearly, the Narnian world is not and never has been hermetically sealed from God's doings in our world, including the creation of Adam and Eve (and their Sons and Daughters) in God's image, as well as the assumption of human nature in the Incarnation.

As Lewis later established, the heritage of terrestrial sacred and redemptive history was brought intto Narnia from the very beginning by King Frank and Queen Helen, the first King and Queen of Narnia. It is of incarnational significance that Lewis has Aslan put a Son of Adam and a Daughter of Eve on the thrones in Narnia from the very beginning, though they had been a mere cab driver and his wife in London, should reign as King and Queen in Narnia, for those who share Christ's humanity and redemption will reign with him.

Besides, "always winter and never Christmas" is excellent poetry.

But then, this is the fellow who lifted Numenor out of Tolkien's (as yet unpublished) work and used it in his own novels -- not only getting Tolkien's mythology wrong, but even spelling it wrong.

Sheeeesh. You're putting down Lewis for an homage to a friend's work? And quibbling about a phonetic spelling of a word Lewis had only heard spoken, never seen written? Again I say sheeeesh.

SDG

Criticizing J.K. Rowling's writing style seems about as sensible as criticizing Tiger Woods' golf game.

Super-successful doesn't necessarily equal super-talented. One might counter that it's more like criticizing McDonalds' culinary accomplishment.

SDG

FYI, Tolkien also criticized C.S. Lewis for his having mixed various mythologies together.

Yes, Tolkien was a bit cranky on that subject. He was the kind of person who didn't like to have his peas and mashed potatoes touching, you know what I mean?

But I'm not persuaded there's an in-principle argument to be made against the kind of mythological mish-mash Lewis did in Narnia -- or for that matter J. M. Barrie did in Peter Pan, what with mermaids, pirates, Indians, fairies, talking animals and a boy named Pan all hugger-mugger, just as they are in a child's mind, which is of course what the Neverland is.

Incidentally, Lewis defended Narnia on precisely this ground, arguing that all the different characters of all different mythologies do quite happily coexist -- in our minds. Tolkien's cranky reply: "Not in mine, they don't -- or at least not at the same time!"

Point: Lewis (in my book).

freddy

Jimmy,
Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I've enjoyed the Harry Potter books with my children, but not for their literary value. While Rowling has a great creative genius and her characters are enjoyable and complicated, the world she creates just doesn't work. It's fun, mind you, and not nearly as much of a mess as the "Star Wars" universe, but ultimately what we call in our family "popcorn books."

In addition, I've found the experiment (whether intentional or not I don't know) of writing each book geared toward older and older readers: (Not explaining myself well, sorry! It seems that the first book is more geared toward 11 year olds, the next to 12 year olds, and so on, to keep up with Harry & his friends' ages.) Anyway! that experiment isn't going to do the books well in the long run as younger readers will be frustrated by the later books, and older readers will be bored by the earlier books.

Just my take!

Darwin

SDG,

I guess we'll just have to differ. I hated Peter Pan as well... :-)

SDG

I hated Peter Pan as well... :-)

The actual Barrie novel/play, or one or more adaptations?

In any case, I'm something of a Panatic myself. :-) (See all Peter Pan related reviews at Decent Films, including Finding Neverland, the silent 1922 version, and Return to Never Land… only the 1960s Mary Martin kinescope is missing, though mentioned in the 2000 Cathy Rigby version.)

And, of course, I am a Narnian to my bones (without in any way relinquishing my ties to Middle-earth, or to Prydain for that matter.

I guess we'll just have to differ.

Hence de gustibus and all that.

Darwin

The original novel. (I disliked all movies I've seen as well, but I figured that followed since I didn't like the original.)

I guess I'm just more of a Tolkien-ian, at root. I enjoyed all the Narnia books to one extent or another (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe definately the least) but really only liked Silver Chair and Last Battle unreservedly.

Bill Q

Darwin writes:
It makes no sense for their to be a "Christmas" in Narnia.

In "The Magician's Nephew," the novel the precedes "TLTWATW" in the Narnia time line, the first king and queen of Narnia come from our world -- England, actually. So, they could have easily brought their Christian traditions with them into Narnia.

Esau

Yes, Tolkien was a bit cranky on that subject. He was the kind of person who didn't like to have his peas and mashed potatoes touching, you know what I mean?

SDG:
Even if that were the case, I'd still have to concur with Tolkien.

You're talking to somebody who doesn't particularly like KFC's STOMACH BOWLS! ;^)

me from England

meh. I'm a devout Catholic and I enjoyed all 7 books.


Also, I think it's a bit odd that you consider yourself knowledgeable enough about the books to comment in such a way on them, when you have only read the first one.

SDG

You're talking to somebody who doesn't particularly like KFC's STOMACH BOWLS! ;^)

So there are extremes at both ends of the spectrum. I like to scoop up mashed potatoes with my meat, which puts me somewhere in the middle, I think.

As one who has taken great pleasure reading Barrie's Peter Pan aloud to his kids at least twice -- and Narnia any number of times -- I just can't buy into Tollers' epicurean fastidiousness on this point.

Some Day

What are the morals of the books?

What is the source of "magic"?

Is there any benefits for the world or is magic in the end for the individual?

How strangely similar to the masonic influences of the real world with important characters in the books society belonging to secret societies as voldemorts or that order of the phonix?


This is the same as any of these pseudo-wondorous stories.

It is deliberately made to fill that hole man has because we were created for God, and we can see God in the wonderful temporal things of the middle ages like castles and cathedrals, all bought by the Precious Blood of Our Lord on the Cross, yet 500 years of decadence has brought us to this worlds ugliness, yet our desire for those things do not disappear. So what do those who control and work for Satan do?

They give you Disneyworlds, with castles and princes and princesses. Not real of course, as they destroyed that already, but they can't destroy the ardor for beauty in our lives. They give you wondorous scenes of castles with satanists- I mean wizards and such.

All to fill the hole of what the Devil has destroyed.


But the Church is invincible...
And the ruins of Christianity will rise again!

SDG

What are the morals of the books?
What is the source of "magic"?
Is there any benefits for the world or is magic in the end for the individual?

Do you always ask questions like that when it comes to, say, Cinderella or The Wizard of Oz? Just wondering.

How strangely similar to the masonic influences of the real world with important characters in the books society belonging to secret societies as voldemorts or that order of the phonix?

You shouldn't wave sharp objects around like that, man. You could poke an eye out.

Esau

meh. I'm a devout Catholic and I enjoyed all 7 books.

Also, I think it's a bit odd that you consider yourself knowledgeable enough about the books to comment in such a way on them, when you have only read the first one.

Posted by: me from England | Jul 23, 2007 12:45:58 PM


me from England:

Were you talking to me???

For your information, as Kasia, Mary Kay, and the rest of the others who have seen my past comments can attest concerning C.S. Lewis & his Chronicles, I happen to LOVE the series!

The only thing that I wanted to point out was that Tolkien was critical of the mixing of mythologies in Lewis' work; that's all, which I can concur with.

By the way, I read the entire series in my youth and even now still consider the books amongst my favourites.

Tim J.

Esau, I think "me from England" was probably responding to Jimmy.

I hope to read the book, but I just can't imagine finding the time, especially since it is in line behind a daunting number of other books.

Esau

My bad, Tim J.

His comment came right after mine and so I thought he was responding to what I said in my preceding comment about Lewis' work.

About being "behind a daunting number of other books", I hear you brother!

I almost wish I was the guy in that Twilight Zone episode where he finally got all the time in the world to read all the books he ever wanted -- with my glasses yet intact, of course!

(Thank God for contacts!)

Tim J.

By the way, Jimmy... I bet I'm not the only one who would be interested to see you take a stab at some fiction writing.

Any chance we'll see something like that sneaking out anytime soon... like in the next couple of decades?

nutcrazical

Esau - I doubt it, Harry Potter doesn't need publicity. That's even more absurd than saying the pope is trying to drum up some attention for himself. I doubt there was a more anticipated book in history. And with good reason, I might add. They must be the best young adult books released in recent history.

It really saddens me that Jimmy decided to judge the entire series based on the first book. I say you can't make a proper judgment until at least reading up until the third. And that's pushing it - I'd recommend to go all the way to the fifth, but then, that's my favorite one.

nutcrazical

Oh, and the whole idea of Grief Counselors is what proves that society is getting more stupid with every day. Get yourself a Bible, go to church, and pray.

Jimmy Akin

By the way, Jimmy... I bet I'm not the only one who would be interested to see you take a stab at some fiction writing.

Any chance we'll see something like that sneaking out anytime soon... like in the next couple of decades?

Fiction? I don't have enough time to get my non-fiction projects done!

My blog also is (or until recently has been) approximatley equal to a novel a month in word count in terms of the part of it that I compose.

Fiction is also a very different skill set. Doing non-fiction, I just have to say what the facts are. I don't have to make up entertaining non-facts. I may have thoughts about what fiction I like, but producing it is an entirely different animal.

labrialumn

Jerry Pournelle, the author you recommended, is a Catholic.

Esau

Oh, and the whole idea of Grief Counselors is what proves that society is getting more stupid with every day.

nutcrazical,

That's the reason I remarked: "Exactly!"


Esau - I doubt it, Harry Potter doesn't need publicity. That's even more absurd than saying the pope is trying to drum up some attention for himself. I doubt there was a more anticipated book in history.

I was simply exagerrating to make fun of the whole Grief Counselors bit.

labrialumn

Susanne,
Alles in Ordnung, eh? Yes, the children must always obey, and not be nasty rebels like that Joe Ratsinger and his brother running away from Hitler Youth.

You just don't get it, do you? Right and wrong are more important than alles in ordnung. I'm sorry, but I've run into that argument before, and I still find it untrue to the books - and to Christianity.

ok, I am stopping reading now, as I see that someone is talking about the 7th book. Straight to Azkaban with you and your ilk. Do not pass 'go', do not collect 200 galleons!

Maureen

Some people have a hammer and see the whole world as nails. And then some people follow this up by trying to stick nails up their noses.

There really isn't any form of art, or material object, or facial expression, that can't be turned into an occasion of sin by _somebody_. We are all occasions of sin for each other.

And yet, startlingly enough, God doesn't counsel us to go into hiding, shrivel up, and die.

Kasia

Amen, Maureen!

I was going to leave commenting to the more learned among us, but I just HAD to jump in when I saw Nut's comments. I'm going to try really hard not to spoil anything here, but feel free to censor me if you think I do:

Re: the dress being low-cut, we are never TOLD how low it is cut, and considering that Fleur's 11-year-old sister is also a bridesmaid, there's no reason to suspect it's indecent. Also note that she's a bridesmaid: hard to believe she chose the dress. And the way I read the whole thing was that Auntie Muriel was clearly one of those nasty, gossipy old ladies whose judgment should almost never be trusted, especially as she is an avid Rita Skeeter reader. I doubt the dress conformed to Marylike standards of modesty, but there's no reason to think it was showing off her business.

Re: the intimacy issue, all we know at any point is that they kissed. Maybe more happened, maybe it didn't, but seems to me that charity is supposed to assume the best, in the absence of evidence to the contrary?

Re: how well they knew each other and whether their relationship was "pretty physical", they knew each other for years before they got together, and I suggest you go back and re-read the fifth and sixth books (especially the sixth).

I would say more, but I really don't want to put out an inadvertent spoiler - I'm trying so hard not to!

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