18 October 2007

The Potter and the Carpenter

A few weeks back, a night or two before a couple of my more intrepid friends left these Hibernian shores to explore the Orient, I troubled them and friends of theirs with a rather risque reading of the Harry Potter books. Basically it was a crude magic-as-sex equation focusing on the Hogwarts experience as a magical rather than a sexual coming of age. Wands as penises and cauldrons as wombs were at the heart of the analysis, along with generalised observations about celibate teachers, emasculation, and surrogate homosexuality. I quoted chapter and verse with a gleeful grin as eyes widened, brows furrowed, jaws dropped, and ears were covered.

I may come back to it someday.

To balance out that reading, I felt obliged to whisk through a quick and rather more wholesome Christian analysis of the books, doubtless to the astonishment of one of my more brilliant friends who had remarked some years back that it was a shame that I'd ditched English as an undergrad to focus on History; English would have taught me how to read, she'd said. I'm pretty sure that between my comedy Freudian analysis and my sober religious reading I redeemed myself that night.

The Godric's Hollow sequence in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is central to any Christian interpretation of the series.

We've known since Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone that the magical community celebrate Christmas, but there's never been anything to suggest that it was anything other than a secular holiday for them. HPDH changes that, as we're basically told that the magical community attend Christian services, at least at Christmas, and that they receive Christian burials. This should remind us that Harry was baptised and had a Godfather. Indeed, if we've been paying attention we'd have noticed earlier in the book that Harry marked the burial place of Moody's magical eye with a cross.

In the churchyard Harry and Hermione find the Potter and Dumbledore family graves, respectively adorned with quotations from 1 Corinthians 15.26 and Matthew 6.19, passages that arguably give us the keys to how the series should be interpreted - though I think we should be careful about casting J.K. Rowling as a modern C.S. Lewis. Her books have Christian themes: they're not straight allegories.

Not just themes, mind, but imagery too. Look at the War Memorial in Godric's Hollow, magically transforming into a statue of a man and a woman cradling a baby; yes, they're the Potters, but it's hard not to see them as a surrogate Holy Family, especially considering that it's Christmas and the Lily was the classic medieval symbol for Mary; that Harry is a Christ figure is obvious enough.

Or think about how Ron finds his friends. Yes, he basically follows a star, doesn't he? At Christmas?

There's plenty more to be said on that, but lest you think I'm reading too much into it, I'm glad to see that J.K.R. has basically come clean.

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