Stronger than Death
In 1999, I interviewed Alan Jacobs about J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels. After that interview, Dr. Jacobs collected his thoughts for an essay called "Harry Potter's Magic," published in First Things. Now that the final Harry Potter book has been published, a number of MARS HILL AUDIO listeners have suggested that I talk to Jacobs again to discover his take on the completed saga. While we won't be able to do that interview, you may be interested in reading the essay Alan wrote after reading the seventh book, "The Youngest Brother's Tale," published in Books and Culture. Jacobs argues that "The key theme of the whole series is the opposition of death and love: the devastation wrought by those whose fear of death causes them to shun love as a weakness, and, in contrast, the rich rewards in store for those who will not allow the fear of death to block love, who know that love risks all for the beloved."
Meanwhile, The First Things website has published a brief but thoughtful response to some of the accusations leveled against Rowling's book by conservative Christians. In "Harry Potter and the Christian Critics," Mark Shea argues that the magic in these books is 'incantational,' not 'invocational,' exactly like the magic of Gandalf. Born with the talent for magic, Gandalf says the magic words and fire leaps forth from his staff, just as from Harry's wand. No principalities or powers are invoked in HP. Indeed, if any words are 'invocational' they are the prayer to Elbereth and Gilthoniel uttered in Middle Earth. Yet nobody accuses Tolkien of promoting the worship of false gods. That's because we understand Tolkien's fictional subcreation and its rootedness in Christian thought. I suggest Christian critics try to extend Rowling the same charity.""
Posted by Ken Myers on 10/1/07"