29 July 2007

Harry Potter and Catholics

Some comments on a post Mac made about buying Harry Potter 7 saddened me: some people seem not to have stopped and thought. I hate it when Catholics repeat the comments of ignorant Evangelical fundamentalists as though these latter have developed some insight which the Church seems not to have reached. I hate it just as much when people don't understand what books are for.

Ready? Deep breath ... J K Rowling is an excellent children's author and her Harry Potter series is great!

Now - I told you to take a deep breath - her books are not about witchcraft, any more than P G Wodehouse wrote books about the semiotics of Class, or than Lady Chatterley's Lover is about the economics of rearing game on a Staffordshire estate in the 1920s. Nobody is going to be inspired to Devil-worship by reading her books, who wouldn't be by reading about Quilp in The Old Curiosity Shop. Her books are about humans: and are about the differences between human beings, and how those differences are transcended by things like Love and Hate, by Selfishness and by self-sacrifice.

The fact of magic in the stories is as relevant as the fact of magic in a fairy story: was Rapunzel a real girl who could grow her hair 20 feet long and strong enough to allow a suitor into her tower? Was Snow White really lucky enough to come across a colony of seven dwarves? Of course not: tales are about the imagination, and about learning how moral choices are made; they are parables.

I bought, once, from a coin dealer, a couple of leptons as a present for my parents: a lepton was the lowest denomination coin in circulation in Palestine during the time of Christ. It was the widow's mite. Could either of those leptons have been the widow's mite? No, because Jesus' story was a parable. Did holding those leptons help us understand the story more? Of course they did!

The Harry Potter books are a series of stories: they are not works of apologetics, but there is plenty there for a Catholic child or adult to grab hold of: Hell, as the final end of those who have no remorse; the Communion of the Saints, in the sense that those who have died without meriting Hell are available to help those still on earth when called upon; self-sacrifice, in that the hero is called on to accept death, if that is the end to which he is lead; love for one's enemies, even to the risk of death; the joy of fellowship; Limbo.

I repeat: these are not works of Catholic apologetics, any more than Tolkien's stories were; but they are good and wholesome, and will inspire children towards what is good, and Catholic children towards what is Good and True.

4 comments:

White Stone Name Seeker said...

My oldest has read HP but the others aren't interested. They are great Artemis Fowl fans-books by Eoin Colfer.

I did fret a bit when the first born wanted to read the Harry Potter books, but we are firm here that there will be no witchcraft or New Age stuff (I am more firm on this than most because I used to be involved in some of this stuff)
While there was some evidence some time ago that places like WHSmiths were doing a great trade in those kinds of books off the back of the HP books and that some witch groups were getting calls from interested teens as a result - it seems to me it was more the hype over witchcraft than the books themselves that got things under way.

I think Pullman is the real avoidable stuff.

Jeffrey Smith said...

Bravo! Children won't be harmed by good fantasy. There's a lot of Gandalf in old Dumbledore. By the way, the Evangelicals also think Tolkien is demonically inspired.

On the side of the angels said...

couldn't agree more heartily,
I was in a major row with american right-wing catholics a few years ago about the whole issue and Ms Rowling actually e-mailed me to say thankyou.
My children's lives have been altered beneficially in so many ways via the books and films,the same way my son's maths improved vastly when he was playing computer games fighting monsters and demons [after which he was no longer plagued with nightmares - chesterton's 'red angel' and 'the dragon's grandmother' essays were made manifest]

The only things that are demonically inspired for children are the so-called 'true-to life' dramas which plague children's television and the reprehensible content of the 'teen magazines'.

Mac McLernon said...

I don't think the "widow's mite" is a parable... the Gospel (I forget which one) describes Jesus watching her put her offering into the treasury, and then he comments on it...
;-)