Riddikulus! Humor as a Weapon against Fear and Evil

I have a guilty confession: I really like watching old re-runs of Hogan’s Heroes. Yes, Hogan’s Heroes, with the hokey tunnels and wacky disguises. Probably one reason I enjoy it is because my kids think it’s hilarious; we don’t have Image result for comedy maskcable, and it comes on every night on one of the stations we get with the antenna. It also reminds me of my childhood and the silly stuff we loved then, like Gilligan’s Island and Batman. However, after doing a little research, I began to realize that there was something more at work here, something far more complex than tunnels in tree trunks and microphones hidden under portraits of Hitler. Just as we see in the rich and complex texts we discuss here, even campy Hogan has something intriguing to say about fear and the power of laughter. [Read more…]

Signum U. Symposium: Beasts and Rogue One

Last month, I was pleased to take part in a Signum U./Mythgard Institute-sponsored symposium to discuss the two hottest fantasy films of the holiday season, and their various and sundry implications: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Also taking part were friends of this site Katherine Sas and Kelly Orazi (whom you’ll remember from their brilliant essays in Harry Potter For Nerds 2), Curtis Weyant (who is one of my own, personal go-to Star Wars nerds), Brenton Dickieson, Mythgard faculty member and author of the brilliant blog A Pilgrim in Narnia, and of course our moderator, Sørina Higgins. It proved a lively, lengthy and interesting discussion, especially after our host ended the “official” program, and the remaining panelists, having too much fun to hang up, chatted on unreservedly. Please enjoy, and feel free to add your own thoughts on these two films, and our nerdy discussion of same, in the comments.

You can follow Emily Strand on Facebook and Twitter (@ekcstrand).

Happy Birthday Gilderoy Lockhart! Pride as a Real and Fictional Flaw

We sometimes hear the word “pride” tossed around so much that it just becomes another slogan. People are encouraged to be proud of everything from their sports teams to their genetic make-up. However, this week, after a wonderful sermon on why pride is a problem (thanks, Pastor Alan), I re-read the first sentence of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a line that is surprisingly Image result for gilderoy lockhart harry potterrevealing, and I began to ponder pride a little more in terms of its role as a spiritually corrosive force in fantasy literature, just as it is in life. So, let’s visit that deadly sin that rears its ugly head around so many real and fictional corners.

Pride, not to be confused with self-respect or satisfaction with a job well done, is a sin that is ridiculously common among human beings.  No less a personage than Benjamin Franklin pointed out that if we think we have really overcome pride, then we will become proud of our humility. We are, by our very nature, easily drawn into pride. Perhaps that is why it is such an effective element to characterize fictional people. By creating characters who suffer from the sin of pride, authors can make these characters more believable while, at the same time, using that pride to make readers dislike them. For, strangely enough, although everyone has succumbed to pride, it tends to be an easy sin for us to condemn, even while we are guilty of it ourselves.

[Read more…]

Pack Your Bags! Newt Scamander’s Fantastic Beast-y Suitcase, Hermione’s Handbag, and their Literary Relatives

newtAs we look forward to the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in just a few days, eager viewers will doubtless be trying to pick up any element in the film that connects us to the Wizarding World we already know. From examining last names to see if any of the characters are relations of Harry’s school chums to hoping for glimpses of Dumbledore in that velvet suit he clearly bought at the Oscar Wilde estate sale, we’ll be looking for overlaps from Harry’s story into this, a totally different story from the same universe. One of the most interesting overlaps comes in the form of luggage. We are all eager (or terrified) to see what Newt Scamander is lugging about in his suitcase. Ron’s money is probably on something “mad and hairy.” But that case, and its unique properties, connect to a few other items in the Wizarding World, and to a whole host of other literary items that have insides bigger than their outsides. It’s a great plot device, and one that has a wonderful lineage, so let’s visit that little spot in the literary shopping mall where that suitcase must have originated, and spend a short while chatting about some of its predecessors in the Wizarding World and beyond.

[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…]