Christian Content in Newt’s Adventure? Third Thoughts about J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

fb17We’re working our way through the Seven Keys to J. K. Rowling’s artistry and meaning to work the locks on the novelist of renown’s first screenplay, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. So far, we’ve covered the Ring Composition structure of the Newt Saga’s first installment and Narrative Slow Release, the over-arching questions that the author introduces in the opening episode of her various series. There is a fairly lively discussion still going on at both those threads and I hope you’ll join in to share your comments and corrections.

The key I want to take in hand today was once fairly controversial among serious readers of Harry Potter, not to mention the dedicated legion of Harry Haters, academic and church divisions. That key, of course, is the Christian content and traditional symbolism of the Hogwarts Saga. When I first wrote about this in 2002 at perhaps the height of the Potter Panic, Harry Potter had become something of touchstone or litmus strip for devotion or apostacy among certain Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox sects. Back then few professors were interested in Rowling’s work except as a cultural artifact and evidence of a world-wide return-to-the-intellectual-cradle.

fb28My demonstration in the book which eventually became How Harry Cast His Spell that the first four novels were nigh to overflowing with Christian symbols and artistry (and magic!) taken directly from the English literary tradition’s extensive vault and my argument that this was actually the reason for Harry’s global popularity were both well received among serious readers, less so with church ladies and academics. Now this radical idea is usually found in the “we’ve always known that” file of Rowling appreciation. Which is good news.

Today I want to open the discussion of the Christian content in Fantastic Beasts. I think, after seeing film once and having read the screenplay in the Scholastic 297 page edition, that Beasts promises to be at least as misunderstood as Harry’s adventures were and for much of the same reasons. The movies will have a traditional message and it will almost certainly be as obscured by cultural war concerns and virtue-signalling as was the Hogwart’s Saga’s artistry and meaning. For much more on that, join me after the jump. Spoilers everywhere below! [Read more…]

The Back Story We’re Not Told (Yet): Second Thoughts about J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

fb21Is Newt Scamander working as Dumbledore’s secret agent in Fantastic Beasts? I think so.

Last Sunday I posted my first thoughts about J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts screenplay-as-filmed and the response to that  post has been rewarding and exciting. If you haven’t read that long-playing post, please do. The short version is that Rowling, whose Harry Potter series and individual novels were written on the traditional story-telling turtle-back template of hyper-parallelism (tagged ‘Ring Composition’ by anthropologist Mary Douglas), has not departed from form but has written her first screenplay on the same model. The blowback in my inbox this week, from Potter Pundits who have seen the film but not read the screenplay text, and from two traditionalists who have read the screenplay but not seen the movie, has been uniformly positive.

In the week since I wrote that post, Fantastic Beasts has been blowing its competition out of the water in box office sales. Reviews have been positive for the most part but, really, do Potter-philes read reviews to make the go/no-go decision? We’re all but obliged to see the film and read the screenplay, if only to keep up in conversation with other Harry-heads about Newt’s adventures (and complain about while secretly looking forward to seven years of Harry Potter on teevee beginning in 2018).

fb30Today, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, I want to take the next big step in understanding Fantastic Beasts to fuel those conversations. In this marathon discusssion, I’ll be pointing out the probable parallels we should expect, not between scenes in this movie, but between Rowling’s series artistry here, just begun, and that of her Hogwarts Saga, complete, and her Cormoran Strike mysteries, of which unfolding work we have the first three books. I think there are significant pointers in the first Beasts installment about what the five film franchise will divulge just as there were in Harry’s Philosopher’s Stone and Cormoran’s Cuckoo’s Calling. Hint: it’s the back-story to-be-uncovered in each chapter.

The big reveal is that Scamander and Grindelwald are already well known to each other — and that Newt’s mission impossible from a certain Transfiguration professor is to find and subdue his nemesis.

If you haven’t seen the movie or read the published screenplay, you might want to stop here. If you’ve already enjoyed the story once or twice (or more) in the week since it opened, join me after the jump for a first sally in what very well may be an almost decade long adventure in story interpretation and speculation. [Read more…]

Why Newt Carries His Magical Creature Friends in a Battered Brown Suitcase


Is It a Ring? First Thoughts on Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

newt-scamanderThe movie made from J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay is a visual ring composition. I have not received my copy of the screenplay yet (come back Wednesday of next week for more on that) but, having watched the film yesterday and taken four pages of notes in the dark, I can say the film’s scenes conform to the chiasmus or ring formula that anthropologist Mary Douglas describes in her Thinking in Circles and which J. K. Rowling uses as something of a template for her Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike novels.

If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to be spoiled, okay. That paragraph should be your last. If you have seen the film and would like to see how Rowling brought her ring artistry to the third draft of her screenplay, I’ll see you after the jump. [Read more…]

Guest Post: Christmas Gift List #3 — From the Bookshelf of C.S. Lewis

1From the Bookshelf of C.S. Lewis —  A Third Hogwarts Professor Christmas Gift List for Serious Readers

By Chris C [Chris’ Christmas List #1 is here and List #2 here — and  we’ll post #4 after Thanksgiving!]

In 1963, a few days after C.S. Lewis had passed on (and according to one amateur historian, not long after the real Sixties got started with a literal bang), his literary executor named Walter Hooper returned to Lewis’s lifelong home known as the Kilns. When he arrived, he noticed smoke coming from the backyard. Hooper rounder the corner of the house, only to see the grounds and housekeeper Fred Paxford (the inspiration for Puddleglum from The Silver Chair) dutifully tossing most of Lewis’s letters along with volumes from his library into the oven of a backyard stove. The caretaker said he was just following orders on behalf of Warren Lewis (brother of C.S.) yet Hooper managed to convince Paxford to hand over what was left.

f38810022We may never know how much text or correspondence was rescued from that One thing is for certain, along with Hooper, the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College has done a very admirable job of compiling a list of most (if perhaps not all) the books Lewis kept on his shelves. I got to tell ya, I’d really like to see the length of those shelves, because it looks like it would take the Babylonian Library to house all the books named on the list. That’s where my idea for this installment of the HogPro Christmas Gift List came from. What better holiday gift for Inklings fans than some recommended reading more or less endorsed by none other than C.S. Lewis himself!

In presenting this list of possible gifts to fans of Lewis, Tolkien, or Rowling, I’d ask that everybody pay extra-special attention, because in addition to listing a number of select volumes for your inspection and delight, I also thought it was important to highlight just how the chosen books in question can help shed a light or two on the thought behind the Narnian Don and the Writer of the Rings (and perhaps, maybe, Ms. Rowling as well). [Read more…]