Friday, October 31, 2008

My Review: How Harry Potter Cast His Spell

I first heard about the Harry Potter books online. I read that they were encouraging witchcraft and a moral danger to children. I read that parents wanted them banned from school libraries. Other people countered that they were harmless fantasy, no more dangerous than The Wizard of Oz or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. After reading (and loving) the books, I took the "harmless fantasy" side and was thrilled when my son, who rarely reads chapter books if he doesn't have to, chose to read all of the then-published books, when he was in seventh grade. He got the award for the most Accelerated Reading points that year. How Harry Potter Cast His Spell goes beyond classifying the books as harmless; rather its author postulates that the books have a very Christian message and are filled with Christian symbols and themes.

The book explains how all the HP stories follow a formula and that each involves combat with evil and a figuative death, followed by a resurection with the help of a Christ figure. We are given a quick alchemey lesson (remember, alchemy was the medieval "science" of changing base metal into gold) and then told how the HP stories fit the alchemical formula.

The book looks at the Latin roots of the names in Harry Potter and shows how the names have meaning in the story. Those names often give clues to the characters' doppleganger (double or shadow.) Harry and Voldemort are the main ones of course but it is interesting reading about the others.

HP and his friends are compared to other "dream teams" in literature. Harry, Ron and Hermione are the characters of Spirit (heart), Body (desire) and Mind (will)respectively. Compare these to Kirk, Bones and Spock in Star Trek and Luke, Han and Leia in Star Wars. The author also describes the various Christ symbols in the work.

One very interesting point is when the author discusses the scene where Voldemort drinks the unicorn's blood to achieve immoratlity. The unicorn is a Christ symbol--and remember what the Bible says about unworthily drinking the cup of the Lord. The author also points out why the "re-birthing party" in Goblet of Fire is a Black Mass.

After pointing out some general themes across the books, Granger takes you on a whirlwind tour of each book pointing out the main Christian themes and symbols in each and how they are all tied together.

I've always loved to read and one thing that disappointed me when I moved from elementary school to junior high was that reading wasn't taught as a subject in junior high, as it had always been my favorite class. I was thrilled when, one day some time after school started, my English teacher passed out what appeard to be reading books. It was shortly thereafter that I learned that literature was not as easy as reading. It meant dealing with things like themes and symbols, and frankly, I've never cared for that kind of thing, and have always needed a guide to find them. I've also always wondered if authors really meant to have people analyze their work like that, or if this was just stuff English professors made up. Reading this book was interesting and one month, when I have lots of extra time, I'm going to re-read the HP books with this at my side to see if I "see" this stuff while reading the story and how it changes my experience of the story. The author did say that he never asked Rowling if his interpretations were correct, but also said that even if she said they were not, who says she is the only one who can interpret her stories?

I enjoyed this book and think most HP fans would like it too. If you are in the "HP is evil" camp, give this book a try--it might change your mind and open you to a wonderfully fun story.

Click here to read the first chapter.


  1. Have you heard the Secrets of Harry Potter podcast? You can find it over at - sounds like it's right up your alley.

    As for the themes being intended or know, I've thought about that some myself. And what I've come up with (though I can't take credit for these being original thoughts, but they did stick with me from whoever the wise person was who pointed them out to me) is that sometimes, it doesn't matter. Though a writer does write a book, sometimes with an intended reason, a reader reads a book in a very personal way. There have been some recent examples of old classics being extrapolated in completely the wrong way, in ways different than what the original authors intended. And I think that's because, when you let go of your thoughts and publish them (even on a blog!), you let go of some of what you "meant," and you open the door to the exciting adventure of what the reader will find when he sets off on the path you outlined.

    Sorry to ramble in the combox. :)

  2. I, too, have always wondered if authors get tired of having their works torn apart. I always thought they'd yell "Will you just read it already???" :)


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