I did it. I finished Harry Potter. I stayed up until 1 p.m. last night to do it, zipping through the last few hundred pages. I read the book to see if it’s okay for my little sister Victoria, 12. Also because my younger brother Jeffrey, 17, wanted me to read it.
Throughout the first few chapters, every time I read the word “witchcraft” I winced. It goes against everything in my faith, as it’s something God particularly despises. I got this same sick feeling every time I read the word. Here’s why: Never before had the word been associated in my life with something positive, such as a really, really good story—which is what Harry Potter is. I found as I continued reading, and my associations changed, I got this feeling less and less until, by the end, it was barely noticeable. A good thing? To be desensitized to witchcraft? Not sure.
My main issue with Harry Potter—and one that I’ve heard from other people before, too—was that, for children, there’s no clear difference between the good and bad. In the Lord of the Rings Triology, for example, there’s a dark side and a light same. Same with the Chronicles of Narnia and a host of other children’s books. But with Harry Potter, there’s good within the dark—which gets things muddled. Aka: How could there be “good” within the practice of witchcraft?
Here’s what I say to that, after having read the first book: Wait until children are old enough to know that the witchcraft of the Potter world doesn’t translate into the witchcraft of the real world. Wait until kids are old enough to read the store for what it is: a story, and not get confused by it. This age varies from child to child naturally, but I think middle school is a good age for most. By seventh or eighth grade most kids can think abstractly and separate the real world from the fake one without difficulty. In Harry Potter, Rowling constructs a different world. Good exists. So does evil. But they coexist within the world of witches and wizards. (And, if you haven’t figured by now, I write about this from the perspective of a Christian.) In the real world, Christians draw power only from God. Anything not from Him can only be bad. Kids have to be old enough to realize the two different worlds: one fake, depicted with both good and evil within the practices witchcraft and wizardry, and the other real, where God despises those things. As long as children can separate the two, they’ll see there is definitive good in Harry Potter and definitive evil.
I’ve concluded my little sister—who is very well read—can not only handle reading the books but will enjoy them immensely. She is grounded, strong in her faith and, I believe, will read the books for pure story. Note: Kids who aren’t so grounded and who are younger I could see becoming intrigued by witchcraft and wanting to learn more about it in the real world.
A couple parts in the book particularly moved me. Themes throughout the story include bravery, friendship, self-sacrifice and love. When Harry’s fighting a bad guy at the end—Voldemort, who has inhabited a Hogwart’s professor—Harry discovers the professor cannot touch him. He wonders, later, why he couldn’t. Albus Dumbledore, the head of Hogwart’s—Harry’s school—explains it this way: “Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you to leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign…to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed, and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.”
I love that part—was my favorite in the whole book—and wanted to share it. For Christians, Christ within us—who sacrificed himself because of his love for us—means his Spirit is with us always, especially when we face battles such as Harry did. Darkness has but one choice in the face of light, and that is to flee. Which brings me to my last point: Another reason why I like Harry Potter is for its parallels to the spiritual world. Two worlds co-exist with each other in the books: one of normal people going about their business (called “Muggles”) and the other of magic, with witches and wizards. In this world, too, two worlds co-exist: This earthly, temporal world that will one day fade away and the spiritual, eternal world that will last forever.
One book down, 51 to go.
Second book: “Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by a Two-Time Pultizer Prize-Winner.” (author: Jon Franklin)
Date to be finished: Saturday, Jan. 14
Pages to read: 214
Time left to read: 7 days
Big switch from Harry Potter to this one, right? I plan to mix the genres, subjects and authors I read for fun, to get a little taste of everything this year. I picked this next book after reading about it in several other books. Jon Franklin’s name kept popping up, getting referenced as one of the founding fathers of the nonfiction genre. The book I’m about to read is considered a ground-breaking one on the craft of nonfiction writing; no one really had written a “how-to” book on the subject before Franklin. So I’m pretty excited to delve into it. This week will be especially busy for me, as I have night meeting coverage Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (Village Board Monday, School Tuesday and Town Wednesday), but I’m resourceful. I’ll find a way to get it read, even if it means staying up until 1 p.m., like I did for Potter.
Let the reading begin!