Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #3: Christian Ending?

Ms. Rowling said in a 2000 Vancouver interview that she didn’t talk about her Christian faith because if she did readers from “age 10 to 60” would know exactly how the story would end. In another interview, she told the reporter with questions about her faith to come back after the seventh (and that, if he had read it, he wouldn’t have to come back because his questions would be answered). Harry offers himself as a sacrifice in Chapter 34, experiences something like a holding station for the after-life in Chapter 35, and then rises from the dead (or his figurative death) and slays the evil one in Chapter 36. Did Harry’s walk into the dark forest as sacrificial lamb strike you as Christian allegory, heroic monomyth, or what? Did it meet the expectations created by Ms. Rowling’s interview comments?

Comments

  1. mslilly says:

    It did meet my expectations. More than just Harry walking into the forest as “sacrificial lamb,” it was Harry willingly obeying the instruction of a Father[-figure].

    Next, Harry had the choice to pursue the Hallows instead of “Obedience.” I saw this as the great temptations of Christ to use his own power to defeat death and Hell instead of following a clear direction from Authority without understanding that he still would triumph.

    Moreover, Harry’s self-sacrifice then protected from Voldemort’s spells and power all of those who, prior to his “resurrection” and without proof of Hope, had stood behind him, all of those for whom he had sacrificed himself. The behavior of the magic in the book mimics our spiritual journey as we work to do what is right, find ourselves inadequate to overcome Satan’s power (which might or might not be personally directed at us?), and look to Christ for the love and protection we require.

    And then of course, there’s the fact that they are in King’s Cross Station, the fact of the blood sacrifice of Harry’s mother, the power of Harry’s blood, the transfer of power that ultimately becomes V’s weakness and H’s strength at the same time. It’s bloody obvious, isn’t it? (ouch).

    I think enough for now. I have FIVE PEOPLE in my house who have not finished the book yet: Burgundy, three exchange students, and my Beloved Husband. I hate having to be so careful. They keep catching me off guard by talking about what’s happening next and who will die; keeping a Poker face was never my strong suit (ouch again).

  2. msl, well-said. I think all the imagery is there, but the DECISIVE connection is the cover that the sacrifice provides for all the faithful. That, and the end of the conversation with Dumbledore which shatters the postmodern approach: yes, it’s in your mind, Harry, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real! (Love for God is to be with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength – and your neighbor as yourself. Exactly what Harry did in his alter Christus status.)

  3. People better versed in the Christian myth and the monomyth will be able to answer your questions in a more informed manner. But for me, those three chapters – the sacrifice, the conversation with the dead, and the triumphant return – are a resounding restatement of both. I have read them over and over, both for deeper understanding and for their emotional resonance.

    I have also said (on SOG) that JKR has out-allegoried C.S. Lewis. Harry’s walk in the woods trumps Aslan’s. His conversation with the dead – and the glimpse into hell – is incredibly satisfying on so many levels: it takes place at the same train station that JKR’s historic train ride ended; it’s a modern setting, which, for me anyways, brings the truths even closer to home, it recreates the traditional ending of books 1 through 5: the conversation with Dumbledore. And it gives Harry a choice, to go back or to go on, which really makes you pause.

  4. Mark Barnes says:

    It seems quite obvious that Rowling has been inspired by Christian themes, but it’s hard to argue that there is a Christian ending to the series. Certainly the themes of sacrifice, redemption and blood are very strong. But Rowling tells us her beliefs not just in the final narrative, but quite clearly in the questions that are asked by the Ravenclaw portrait. Luna’s question is about life (What came first, the phoenix or the flame?), McGonnagal’s about death (Where do vanished objects go?). Neither answer can be considered Christian, but it is these answers that shape’s the story’s ending.

    I’ve written more about this here: http://www.4-14.org.uk/life-death-and-harry-potter

  5. sibelius says:

    It’s metamyth, conforming to a hero archetype that goes back to thousands of years BC. The story of Christ follows the archetype, so does Harry Potter, so do countless other hero stories. Nothing especially Christian about it.

  6. crookshanks says:

    I think it is misleading to label Rowling’s books as “Christian” books, although they are obviously filled with Christian imagery and ideas. Rowling was creating multi-layered works of fiction, not a series of flannelgraphs, nor was she laying out a doctrinal statement. One can certainly nitpick or quarrel with this or that idea in light of orthodox Christian doctrine.

    Having said that, however, I do think that Harry’s willing self-sacrifice before Voldemort (“silent as a sheep before the shearers”), his figurative sojourn into Sheol for the very moving conversation with Dumbledore (father figure if not The Father) – and it is no coincidence that the railway station the conversation takes place in is called “King’s Cross” – and the protective effect of his sacrifice on the Hogwarts crowd, are every bit as clear in their intent as Aslan’s sacrifice on the stone slab and subsequent resurrection.

  7. Julie Sterrett writes:

    Perhaps because I was so desperately hoping that it would be, I saw Harry’s walk as Christian allegory. Therefore, yes I do think that it meets any and all expectations created by Ms. Rowling’s 2000 Vancouver interview. Although I am admittedly biased, there were several aspects of this book that I believe point to this interpretation.

    First would be the fact that the two headstones Hermione and Harry see in Godric’s Hollow contain direct quotes from the Bible. Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore’s quote is taken from Matthew 6:21: Where your treasure is, there will your heart also be. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death, the quote on James and Lily Potter’s grave, is taken from I Corinthians 15:26.

    Of course it stands to reason that anyone can quote Scripture, but there is more here. Albus Dumbledore, we come to find out, had treasured dreams of what Christians might call “worldly” endeavors, the search for power, fame, success. He learned, through the death of his sister, that his heart had sought these things first. It did not matter whose wand actually fired the killing curse, Albus Dumbledore was responsible for his sister’s death because of the condition of his heart. Dumbledore was flawed, and therefore could not be the Christ figure, the savior of the Harry Potter series. Perhaps he is more of an Adam figure… which may be in keeping with the I Corinthians 15 passage. Someone has died at the hands of Dumbledore (whether literally or figuratively), but Harry will conquer death in this book.

    Secondly, this books includes what could be thought of as the “temptation of Harry Potter.” Christ was tempted directly by Satan, as can be seen in Matthew 4:1-11. Harry was not tempted directly by Voldemort in the section to which I will refer. (Although Ron is directly tempted by Voldemort’s horcrux, in what I think is one of the most powerful scenes in the book. One of the reasons it is so meaningful is because it points to the way, much as C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters does, Satan works in the hearts and minds of people, preying upon their fears, needs, and desires. ) Harry is instead tempted by dark magic, namely the Deathly Hallows. He begins to wonder if this shouldn’t be what he goes after, rather than the
    horcruxes. Hallows= power for Harry. Horcruxes= the True greater good: the salvation of the world from Voldemort. Throughout the chapter “The Deathly Hallows” Harry wrestles with this temptation, right up until the death of Dobby. Harry is tempted to the point of wondering though, which is something Christ never was… Some would say the moment you start pondering whether to give into the temptation, it is sin.

    Thirdly, Harry Potter has mercy on those who have sought to do him harm. This has not been a constant in Harry’s life, but we have seen it throughout the seven books. One of the places where we see it in this book is with Malfoy in the Room of Requirement and directly after.

    Not only does he have love for those who are traditionally unloved in this magical world, for example, the house-elves, he also has mercy on those who despise him. On a recent trip to Rome, a tour guide described Christianity as the first “cult” or religion to preach the equality of all mankind. Harry Potter seems to believe in the equality of all magical and nonmagical beings, especially in this book.

    Something has just hit me as perhaps a somewhat tangential note: Ron Weasley as the disciple Simon Peter? Both are impetuous, both denied their leader, and then both came back stronger and more passionate than before… anyway, that’s probably off topic.

    Now, getting to the heart of the matter. I saw Harry’s journey through the forest, after discovering what his destiny was to be, somewhat like the Garden of Gethsemane for Jesus. He was struggling with his next steps, just as we see that Jesus did. Harry is able to speak with his parents, Sirius, and Lupin in the forest. Jesus spoke with his heavenly Father. Jesus knew that His Father would be with Him until that final moment when God the Father would have to forsake Jesus (as Jesus had taken on the sins of the world and God cannot look on sin).

    Harry had his family with him until those final moments, when he (knowingly?) dropped the Resurrection Stone.

    Being rather new to this forum of theorizing, I am not aware of anyone else saying this (although the likelihood of it being a new idea is rather small), but it struck me that the Patronus could have been symbolic for the Holy Spirit. It was the symbol of the Order of the Phoenix, used to show one’s true identity as a member, etc. The Holy Spirit is, for the Christian, a pledge, a stamp, showing his/her true identity in Christ (II Corinthians 5:5). As I think this may be a bit off topic, I won’t write more about it now. However, I thought it tied in a bit, because in the chapter “The Forest Again,” Harry’s parents, Lupin, and Sirius are said to be acting like Patronuses to him (p. 700). Their presence gives him “courage,” just as the LORD promises to
    enable Christians, through His Spirit.

    Anyway, just as Christ knew that His death must occur in order to give life (Matthew 26-27), Harry knew the same. Just as Jesus looked to His Father in those moments before His death, Harry Potter looked to his parents and those who had been father figures to him during their lives. In the moments before he died, Harry Potter was mocked by the Death Eaters and Voldemort, sneeringly called the “Boy Who Lived,” as though the title were undeserved, just as Christ was mocked and called
    the “King of the Jews,” as though that title was a joke. Just as Christ was forsaken in those final moments, Harry had to face Voldemort completely alone. And his death is a sacrifice. Like a lamb, he goes in without defense, without complaint. It is because it was a sacrifice, given willingly that none should perish, that Harry is able to live.

    Harry’s time at King’s Cross is laden with symbolism that I am sure I do not quite grasp yet. The fact that it is called King’s Cross in and of itself speaks volumes. Here’s my working thought that I most likely will come to regret writing in the future: I have heard someone else say that the baby in this chapter is Voldemort; for, at the time that Harry is unconscious, Voldemort apparently is as well. Perhaps they both have gone to this “holding area.” This “child” is both crying and unwanted. Hell has been described as eternal separation from God. Cries will be lifted up for help and they will not be met. One of the places where the Bible talks about this is Luke 16, in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Christ tells a story that the rich man and a poor man named Lazarus both die. The rich man goes into “Hades” and is “in torment,” but Lazarus is carried away by angels to “Abraham’s bosom.” The rich man sees the comfort that Lazarus is receiving from afar and begs for the same mercy. Abraham explains that the time has passed for help, that neither the rich man nor Lazarus can cross the “chasm” that is between them. Harry feels as though he should help this crying baby, although it repulses him to even look at it.
    However, Dumbledore assures him that “there is no help possible” (p. 709, US version). To me it seems as though the King’s Cross chapter is representative of this passage of Scripture. Harry receives comfort through Dumbledore, and Voldemort is alone, unwanted, and despicable, all cries made too late.

    Why does Harry make the choice to go back to the world? “Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love. By returning, you may ensure that fewer souls are maimed, fewer families are torn apart. If that seems to you a worthy goal, then we say good-bye for the present” (p. 722, US version). Why did Christ die and then return to earth? To ensure that our souls could be made whole (not remain maimed), through His conquering of sin and death eternally. Because of Christ, fewer souls are maimed…

    And what happened when Harry came back? Those who loved him were protected. Seen first with Neville (p. 733), Voldemort’s curses seem to lose their power. Neville easily breaks free from the “Body-Bind Curse.” On top of his great loss in power, Harry is able to protect those who love him with Shield Charms, such as the one put between Neville and Voldemort on page 733, what’s described on page 734, and what he does between Voldemort and Mrs. Weasley after she kills Bellatrix Lestrange (p. 737). In a sense, Harry had conquered death. No one else dies at the hands of Voldemort and his Death-Eaters after Harry sacrifices his life. Christians believe that “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39) and that “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (II Corinthians 4:8-10). As nothing can separate Christians from the love of Christ, there is a strength and protection that is provided from God that ensures we will never be “crushed” nor “destroyed.” I think that this is what is being illustrated in the scene depicted within “The Flaw in the Plan.” The
    power of Harry’s sacrifice, protects those who desire to crush and destroy.

    Finally, Voldemort is conquered; he hits the floor with a “mundane finality” (p. 744; don’t you think that is one of the greatest
    lines??). Satan, in Revelation is described as “the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan” (chapter 19, verse 2). When the Bible discusses his final end it is in one verse, 20:10. That’s it. There is no more thought of him or his fate. He has been revealed to be the weak, defeated thing that he is, just as Voldemort, in his final moment is… “the snakelike face vacant and unknowing” (p. 744). He didn’t know, he didn’t understand the truth, just like Satan is unknowing and unwilling to accept Truth.

    There’s more, I know, but I’ve taken too much time and space already!

  8. I am reminded of Christ’s last hours alive. He was in a forest like place, with lookouts, but he gave himself up when they came for him. He would not even let anyone kill for him. “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword”. The waiting, the giving of himself as forseen and the tortures to come and of course the ressurection, are so very similar. If people do not get that, then heaven help them.

  9. Two Christian Heavyweight Hitters that I admire who like Harry but have real doubts about his staying power are John Mark Reynolds at Torrey/Biola and Mark Windsor at “Rafting the Tiber.” Both are more measured reviews than you’ll find on most fan sites and are well worth the time…

    http://www.scriptoriumdaily.com/2007/07/23/at-the-end-of-harry-potter-3-things-i-learned/

    http://yawper.stblogs.org/archives/2007/07/harry_potter_an.html#more

  10. sibelius says:

    Oh, man. First Christians want to ban the books from schools, then they want to claim it as a retelling of the Bible. How do we account for the many pre-Christian myths of heros being resurrected? Isn’t this as much of retelling of those stories too?

  11. jdilbeck says:

    It didn’t strike me at the time as a particularly Christian ending. As others have said, the visit to the after-life is quite common: Orpheus, Aeneas, et al. The sacrifical and probably doomed climatic confrontation is such a fantasy genre staple that it just didn’t occur at the time.

    Reading some of these posts, especially Julie Sterett’s long one, I can see strong parallels. However, one key difference remains: Harry had to die because he was tainted with a part of Voldemort’s soul. Christ was the completely pure sacrificial lamb. True, he died for the taint of sin in the world, but not because it was part of him.

    My first interpretation of the child, described as raw-skinned, crying in the afterlife, was that it was the part of Voldemort’s soul that had been attached to Harry, but was now separated in death. Voldemort, if the Nagini Horcrux worked, presumably was not entirely dead when Harry sacrificed himself. Of course, I could be reading it too literally. I suppose the child could have been all of Voldemort’s soul.

    Finally, I thought King’s Cross was a construct that Harry created, since Dumbledore asked where they were and indicated that it was Harry’s “party,” which I took as indicating that he had been summoned from somewhere else.

  12. Floo Powder says:

    Snape as Judas?
    Snape as the one who is to make sure that the lamb is delivered?

    a thought…………….

  13. Mark Barnes,

    I read your comments and blog post that you linked to above. Let me just start by saying that I really appreciated the way you interpreted the “think about these things” from Philippians 4:8. Quite insightful!

    However, I’m thinking about the conclusions you draw about the book and I’m not sure they follow, though I’m really glad you’re throwing them out here for discussion.

    Now, you mention the two questions asked by the Ravenclaw portrait. Again, I appreciate your connecting them distinctly with life and death (very interesting), but it doesn’t seem as clear to me that these necessarily contradict Christian belief.

    Honestly, when I read the phoenix passage, I immediately thought of God, for the bird (as you may well know) was for many centuries commonly viewed by Christians as symbolic of Christ. Yes, I could be reading into things, but perhaps this is simply another example Rowling’s subtle writing style when it comes to any sort of deeper meaning or theme. It’s there to see if you looking, but for those that aren’t it’s still a rollicking story nonetheless. Such is an increasingly common modern (or postmodern?) writing style, and it especially reminds me of Walker Percy and Flannery O’Connor in some respects.

    Getting to the second question from the portrait then (about things vanishing), this one also reminded me of God, specifically our relationship to him, only from a more mystical perspective, in understanding the idea that in dying, we find life. Let me know if you need me to elaborate here. (And again, like the last quote, it could be taken in different ways.)

    I also don’t follow your interpretation of Rowling as thinking we need to first conquer the fear of death, in order to conquer death: “Dumbledore says that by conquering the fear of death, death itself is also defeated.” Is this said anywhere? And why is the fear conquered? Could not Dumbledore’s statements (which you quote) just as easily be interpreted to suggest that it is the realization of the true nature of life and death (and what is important, love and all that is right and good) that caused him to describe it as “next great adventure.” In other words, his fear disappeared only after he came to a deeper understanding of death’s limitations. This interpretation, while not explicitly Christian (there is no explicit recognition that Christ conquered death for us), nevertheless mimics the Christian message, and certainly doesn’t have to oppose it. Basically, I’m still left wondering if you’re reading your own perspective into these passages, when in reality they’re much more subtle and left open to interpretation. I could be wrong though.

    That being said, let me add that I too would never argue that Rowling’s “answers” (if we can call them that) could ever fulfill Philippians 4:8, nor do I think that she herself would. Still, I have a hard time thinking her ideas are opposed to Christianity. Plus, perhaps more than anything (and these last thoughts are for everyone), let us not forget that these are children’s fantasy books, working through symbolism and metaphor. It’s their very nature to illuminate some things and probably obscure or neglect others. Indeed, such is the way of (dare I say all) human action and experience in varying degrees, being finite as we are.

    I really don’t think anyone arguing that this is a “Christian ending” wants to suggest it is exactly like the Gospels in all ways. Perhaps then, we should also all be asking what we mean by “Christian ending” or “Christian allegory.” Clearly, from the comments already made, some think it needs to be clearer than others do (and clearer in different ways, I might add).

  14. Peony Moss says:

    Could George’s losing his ear be an allusion to the story of Peter and Malchus? (Snape, trying to defend Harry, accidentally maims a “bystander”)

  15. Surely George’s loss of an ear was a little death prefiguring Fred’s rather larger death.

  16. Peony,
    That was my immediate thought also, with the ‘nod’ to the armed defence of Christ in the garden.
    Notice how JKR stays away from allegory, in that it’s Snape who cuts off George’s ear, but it’s Ron who denies Harry in the wilderness.

  17. Chris,

    “I really don’t think anyone arguing that this is a “Christian ending” wants to suggest it is exactly like the Gospels in all ways. Perhaps then, we should also all be asking what we mean by “Christian ending” or “Christian allegory.” Clearly, from the comments already made, some think it needs to be clearer than others do (and clearer in different ways, I might add).”

    Exactly. The Lord of the Rings is not especially clear either, but Tolkien called the work “a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.”

    And I believe that the HP books are much clearer than LotR.

  18. Arabella Figg says:

    Hurrah for you, John, she got in King’s Cross, which you’ve so longed for. Not as a battle point, but a reconciliation point, which is much more effective. To me, it’s a reconciliation place between Harry and Dumbledore, bringing peace to both. Also peace/reconciliation between Harry and what he must do. And where are peace and reconciliation found? At the King’s Cross (Romans 5). Brilliant.

    I do think the baby was the part of Voldie’s soul stuck to Harry. LV created his own fate by refusing remorse–hungry, tormented, restless in death–and how he feared death–as in life. (Who would have suspected my little humor piece would pinpoint LV’s having a possible redemption through repenting!–my eyes bugged out on that one.)

    There goes Mrs. Fleasley again…

  19. In the chess game, in HPaPS, Harry was a bishop, remember? A prefiguring of Harry as a “little Christ”. The parallels are subtle but there for the Christian ending in that imagery. If we pursue our Professor’s idea that Harry is a Christian Everyman – a fallible human being being redeemed and by that process engaging others in the redemption in a revealed tradition – we get the incarnation in the world in which he lives (just as we get the same in our world in fallible humans). The Christian ending is very clear. And it naturally shares in the religious experiences of all human kind as the Incarnation itself did. No doubt it should bear much resemblance to many other religious ideas. Humans are capable of a relatively limitied repertoire of responses to the reality of God. See CS Lewis’ “TRANSPOSITION” in the book THE WEIGHT OF GLORY. The specifically Christian aspect lies in the symbology utilized throughout the series and culminates in DH.

    Someone should be able to get a PhD thesis out of tracing that, I think. Linking the symbology to metamyths doesn’t necessarily delimit it from being essentially Christian. The Resurrection Stone is pretty big hint to the essential meaning after all. The comparison of other religious traditions to that central Christian claim strikes the difference in the bull’s-eye every time. It is a Christian morality play by its elements and constitution, climax, and sequelae in HP’s wizarding world – a supposal, not an allegory per se.

  20. Mark Barnes says:

    Chris,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I wrote that “Dumbledore says that by conquering the fear of death, death itself is also defeated” as a kind of summary of the overall message, not as a paraphrase of a particular speech. Do you agree with me that the defeat of death is the key theme of the closing parts of the book? What else, after all, are the Hallows and the Horcruxes for?

    We are therefore being asked to compare and contrast the quest of Voldemort (for immortality) to that of Dumbledore and Harry (who learned to accept death, and not to fear it). In other words, the only way to defeat death is not to search for immortality, but to accept it.

    Back to the Ravenclaw questions. The phoenix inevitably became a symbol of Christ, because of the resurrection theme. But don’t you find it fascinating that Fawkes has gone, and seemingly gone for good? Many fans were hoping for more from Fawkes. But Rowling wants to make it clear: any hope of resurrection has gone. I know John sees a resurrection in each of the books, but that resurrection is symbolic not literal. We are frequently told by Rowling that there is no real hope of resurrection, and that death is final.

    That, of course, does not rule out life after death in Rowling’s world. But my reading of the Ravenclaw questions, suggests that Rowling believes in the circle of life. You cannot distinguish the beginning of life, and at the end of life vanished objects (including souls?) go into non-being, which is everything. That is very new age, very Phillip Pullman.

    This, then, ties in with the epilogue. If there is a resurrection, it is purely symbolic, not real. Many of the dead characters resurface as children in the next generation. Thus the circle of life continues, and the vanished objects have gone into everything.

  21. A friend who prefers to remain anonymous wrote me this note that I think fits here:

    Harry definitely seems more like a Christ figure in this deathly encounter, but he had also just received the Resurrection Stone. Christ is referred to as the Rock over twenty times, and resurrection is so plain as to almost be too obvious for a symbol. So it may be that he both has and is a symbol of Christ.

    Interesting also is how much more overt symbolism was in this book, with the line-circle-and-triangle of the Hallows occupying so much of the Trio’s thoughts and time.

  22. Arabella Figg says:

    Julie Sterret writes: “Dumbledore was flawed, and therefore could not be the Christ figure, the savior of the Harry Potter series. Perhaps he is more of an Adam figure…” My thoughts when reading the book were of David and Solomon. David, stained with his various sins, was not allowed to build the temple. That was given to his son Solomon. Yet God called David a man after his own heart.

    She also writes: “Harry is tempted to the point of wondering though, which is something Christ never was…” We are specifically told that Christ was genuinely tempted. I would think that would include the full spectrum of human temptation. Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine and who knows what he contemplated? The point was, he did refuse the offers. Perhaps this is why he told those wishing to follow him to ‘count the cost.’

    John, I agree. This was the most overtly Christian book of the series in its themes, symbolism, metaphors and directness. And the ending, how could one escape the Christian meanings?

    I also hope you provide a forum for us to express our feelings and thoughts about the book in general in addition to a point-by-point analysis. For me there are things and overall impressions I’d like to comment on. For example, my husband and I were both reading our copies; I was ahead of him. When Dobby died, I had to duck into the bathroom to cry so my husband wouldn’t see. Now there was an example of pure, sacrificial Christian love. All Dobby ever wanted to do, even at great risk to himself, was love Harry Potter, joyfully serve him and keep him safe. I still get choked up. The description of his dead eyes reflecting the stars…oh, my.

    There goes Flitquick again…

  23. The final chapters of the book were definitely allegorical of Christ’s passion.

    There was the temptation to seek the deathly hallows or destroy the horcruxes — in which Harry has to decide whether to save himself from death or save the rest of the world from evil. (Let this cup pass from me.)

    There was his struggle with his faith in Dumbledore. He believed he had been forsaken and used by his beloved headmaster because of the lies that were being spread in the press by Rita Skeeter. (Why have you forsaken me?)

    There was the time he spent, just before his death, desiring the company of those he loved, yet finding himself alone until his deceased parents, godfather, and friend appeared beside him, comforted him, encouraged him, and made that final walk with him to his death. (Could you not wait with me one hour?)

    There was his short talk with Neville Longbottom in which he asked him to make sure that the serpent Nagini was destroyed so that Voldemort could not, once again, escape death. Unknown to Neville, Harry gave him this task because Harry would no longer be alive to complete it himself. (A great commission?)

    There was his willing sacrifice, in which he voluntarily went to Voldemort and stood before him unarmed to die so that the others would be spared, and in so doing, his love provided a blood protection for everyone (as his mother’s had done for him when he was a baby). Voldemort could no longer harm them.

    And then there was the affect his death had on the rest of the people. Voldemort had Hagrid carry the body out of the forest and place it at his feet “where he belongs.” Voldemort believed that showing everyone Harry’s body, they would know that they were defeated and, in fear, give themselves up to Voldemort. Instead of being afraid and giving up, they were encouraged. Harry’s death gave them all courage. They took up the fight. (Using his example, they picked up their own wands (crosses?) and fought for the salvation of the world.)

    And then there was the resurrection. After his conversation with Albus Dumbledore in the spiritual waiting area at King’s Cross (King’s Cross? How metaphorical is that?), where he could have chosen to go forward into “the next great adventure” or back to defeat Voldemort, Harry chose to go back. Only by returning from the dead could he defeat Voldemort permanently. (He conquered death.)

    It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the first person to discover that he had come back was Narcissa Malfoy, a former enemy who, at that moment, helped him by keeping his secret in the hope that he would defeat Voldemort so that her family, especially her son, would be safe. (By just a tiny stretch of the imagination, this might remind us that the first person who saw the resurrected Christ was also a woman–Mary Magdelene–who had once been possessed by evil until Jesus exorcised her demons.) There were 7 of them, I believe. And how many horcruxes were there, little evil pieces of Voldemort’s soul possessing innocent things?

    And then there was the final battle in which Harry told Voldemort that his only chance for surviving (salvation) was by showing regret (repentence?) “I’ve seen what’s going to happen to you,” Harry says. And he has. Remember as he watched the suffering of that small portion of Voldemort’s soul while it lay dying under the chair at King’s Cross? Albus tells him that there is no help for it. He can no longer save that dying soul.

    Voldemort asked Harry if he thought he had some power or some spell stronger than his, and Harry told him that he believed he had both, but that Voldemort couldn’t understand it because it was love.

    I’ve only pointed out the more blatant parallels to the Christian story. There are so many others.

  24. The interesting thing about Harry’s sacrifice is that he simultaneously represents Christ (in that he returns and saves/prevents his friends from dying) and also a “little Christ”– a Christian– in that when Voldemort casts Avada Kedavra, he “dies to sin” and Voldemort’s evil has no further claim on his soul. On the literal level, although Harry does say “Thank God” once, his bafflement in the graveyard suggests that he is not in fact a Christian– not that he holds any alternate belief, he’s just completely uninstructed and clueless. The Dursleys probably thought of Sunday as a day to sleep in and then feed Dudley a big breakfast.

    It’s a little off-topic, but in response to the point about other resurrected-hero myths, let me recommend this article: http://www.christian-thinktank.com/copycat.html
    The whole site is just excellent for in-depth, yet gentle and peaceable defense of the faith.

    I don’t see the Harry Potter story as Christian allegory but Christian myth. It embodies key elements of the Greatest Story, in repeated and layered ways, but you’re not going to derive a doctrinal system from it.

  25. colorless.blue.ideas says:

    This has been a very interesting discussion. There is something that has been puzzling me. Chris called the HP series “children’s fantasy”, with which many would agree. That categorization has bothered me for awhile.

    When reading HP1 (SS/PS), I thought it was more “juvenile fantasy” (or “young-adult” fantasy, to use a more current term.) But after HP2 (CoS), I had a bit of a discomfort with that label. By the time I finished HP4 (GoF), I was sure that was the wrong category. The ending of HP5 (OotP) clinched it: this was adult fantasy — or at least fantasy on the transition from child to adult. Yes, children could read it, but . . . there is more.

    Others with more knowledge, insight, and skill than I may have different takes on this, or may better be able to explain it: I am a scientist and not well versed in literary criticism. But I am interested in what others think.

    God bless you all!

  26. Mark,

    I agree that death is a key theme in the closing parts of the book; Rowling has hinted at so much herself. What I’m not so sure about is the way in which you create the dichotomy between Voldemort and Dumbledore/Harry in dealing with death.

    You say that for Dumbledore and Harry, it becomes apparent that “the only way to defeat death is not to search for immortality, but to accept [death].” One of the questions I tried to raise above is why are Dumbledore and Harry ultimately accept death? This is what you seem to be skipping over. Voldemort’s hunger for immortality in this life is connected to his unwillingness to put trust in two things especially: (1) love, and (2) the idea/hope that there might be something greater after death. Dumbledore and Harry on the other hand, seem able to embrace death precisely for these reasons. For them, they are willing to believe there are things greater than death (is this a type of “faith”?); it’s not some simple resignation or admittance of defeat.

    Regarding the Ravenclaw questions, I did suggest above that they might have alternative meanings from the ones you proposed, but I must admit that I’m still mulling over the significance (if any) and meaning(s) of these within the book. Rather than go into those again then, for now, let me just clarify why I don’t think your “circle of life” interpretation (can we call it that?) fits very well with other elements in the books.

    It seemed pretty clear in this book that there is some form of “life” after death, a life that is better for those who have sought after what is good and noble. This is at least hinted at by the children’s tale of the Deathly Hallows in ch. 21, as well as the appearance of James, Lilly, Sirius and Lupin via the resurrection stone in ch. 34, and finally with Dumbledore’s presence in ch. 35. The following passage at the end of ch. 35 is especially telling:

    Harry nodded and sighed. Leaving this place would not be nearly as hard as walking into the forest had been, but it was warm and light and peaceful here, and he knew that he was heading back to pain and the fear of more loss. He stood up, and Dumbledore did the same, and they looked for a long moment into each other’s faces.

    “Tell me one last thing,” said Harry, “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”

    Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry’s ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.

    “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?”

    In light of this clear afterlife, perhaps you’re right then to question whether a person’s invisible soul can be considered one of the “vanishing objects.”

    And yes, it is true that many dead characters resurface in the names of the children. But this is quite normal in human experience, especially for Christians. We remember the dead, especially those closest to us and the saints. By the way, I’m also curious, what were you suggesting by saying they some of the dead “resurface as children”? Reincarnation? Or no life after death except in remembrance? Your wording seemed strange to me.

    That’s all I have for now. Let me know if you have any other reasons for the “circle of life” interpretation. So far though, it just doesn’t seem to have the support to be considered a significant theme. The Christian elements, on the other hand, remain much more prevalent in the books.

    I’ll try to comment later on if I have any further ideas about the Ravenclaw portrait questions.

  27. maggery says:

    Did anyone else notice how when Harry is walking through the Forest (the Garden of Gethsemane), and then to his Death (Via Dolorosa), he is accompanied by a John (Lupin’s middle name), a James, a Peter (the impetuous Sirius), and his Mother? That was so cool.

    And Neville crushing the head of the Serpent. That was awesome too.

    Rowling will never quite hold a candle to Lewis, of course, and the parallels are imperfect at parts…but she’s obvioulsy not going for a perfect allegory. She smashed it out of the ballpark as far as my expectations for anything approaching a Christian ending were concerned. I was so happy I was dancing around the backyard. The dogs now think I’m insane.

  28. These were splendid comments (most of them!); I especially appreciated those by Julie Sterrett and Bettye.

    I’m just a little surprised that no one mentioned the dazzling context of the scene in the churchyard at Godrick’s Hollow. It is a beautiful, peaceful Christmas Eve, and in the church to which the churchyard is attached, Christian worshippers are at that very moment commemorating and giving thanks to God for the birth of Jesus our Redeemer and Savior. James’s and Lily’s graves are in the churchyard of that church, to which they undoubtedly belonged; the sound of Christmas hymns and carols rings out over Harry as he discovers the graves of his parents. And on their gravestone, we read St Paul’s words in I Corinthians 15:26: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

    For me, that was the moment I knew for certain: the Harry Potter books *are* Christian, and intentionally and unambiguously so.

  29. Ivan, I agree. I had made an essay on John’s personal boards that I believed book one to be similar to the Christmas story and that it would come full circle in book 7. I am so glad it did too.

  30. May I add something important to my last post (above)?

    It is this: When Harry searched for his parents’ graves it was Christmas Eve, and JK Rowling makes a point of telling us that the sound of Christmas hymns and carols from the nearby church hung in the air as he searched.

    What are we intended to hear (or recall to mind)? Almost certainly, we would have heard this – the final stanza of Charles Wesley’s great Hymn:

    Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
    Hail the Son of Righteousness!
    Light and life to all He brings
    Ris’n with healing in His wings.
    Mild He lays His glory by,
    Born that man no more may die;
    Born to raise the sons of earth,
    Born to give them second birth.
    Hark! The herald angels sing
    “Glory to the newborn King!”

    (I have never been to a Christmas Eve service where this hymn was not sung – usually at its closing. I think Ms. Rowling expected her fellow Christians to think of this hymn, which we all know.)

  31. Arabella Figg says:

    So many wonderful, thoughtful comments….

    I’d like to revisit King’s Cross again. I said earlier that I thought it a metaphor for peace and reconciliation (Romans 5). I still think that, but another metaphor has been teasing my brain.

    King’s Cross was Harry’s transition point for entering the wizarding world. This transition brought him a new life (by going through the wall), a new family (the Weasleys), a benevolent, loving God-like figure (Dumbledore), freedom from the constraints of his inhibited materialistic life (the Dursleys) and a home (Hogwarts), where he matured through testing and relationship and was transformed into his true identity.

    King’s Cross Station is a metaphor for being born again. I believe that’s why Harry’s subconscious mind “chose” this as his “party” for connection with Dumbledore. We are born again, we go to new life, then after-death immortal life. At King’s Cross, at the end, Harry unselfishly chose to delay mortal death in the place where he’d first found life.

    Aaarrrggh, Thudders is sending over the CD tower…

  32. Have to admit that until book 7, I thought that Albus Dumbledore was the Christ figure in this series. Not questioning Harry as such, just thought of D first…probably because of his physical resemblance to Gandolf in The Lord of the Rings, as well as his ties to the Phoenix, the fact that Dumbledore was, so often, Harry’s savior, etc.

    The fact that Dumbledore wasn’t perfect, merely human, reinforced my theory. Yes…Christ was a perfect sacrifice without stain, but He is wholey human and wholey God. Of course, I just didn’t want to believe that Dumbledore was dead after 6. (Why was there the pause between Snape and Dumbledore at the end of book 6. Obvious bit of occlumency there.) And at least 3 of the books plainly stated in order for the killing curse to work, you really had to “mean it.” Crouch as Moody taught the Defense Against the Dark Arts class that if they were to perform the killing curse on him, it would no more than tickle him. I still believed until 7 that Dumbledore would return to help Harry destroy Voldemort. (Guess he did, in a way, at the station.)

    Still saw similar symbolism in 7: Dumbledore cracked the stone in the horcrux ring (as Christ cracked the stone over the tomb). Dumbledore had to die first (in order for the power in his wand to transfer, eventually to Harry and give him power over death). Dumbledore’s death and his revelation of the Deathly Hallows (the Holy Trinity) allowed Harry to purify himself of sin (the piece of Voldemort that came out when he died) and defeat death to come back indestructable. (Harry didn’t feel the pain of the curse performed by Voldemort while he was still playing dead…1 Corinthians 15:55, “O death, where is thy sting?”). Dumbledore also sacrificed himself willingly. And Christ was tempted by the Devil, as Dumbledore was tempted by the Hallows. In the end, neither gave in.

    In regard to Harry and Dumbledore embracing death…(“Dumbledore says that by conquering the fear of death, death itself is also defeated,” and “the only way to defeat death is not to search for immortality, but to accept [death],”) I’d say it’s very Biblical. The only way to eternal life is to die to this life, and those who have salvation don’t fear death because they know what awaits. Also…Matthew 16:25: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

    Mark 8:35: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.”

    Luke 9:24: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”

    Luke 17:33: “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”

    Loved the imagery of the Trinity (Undefeatable, all powerful wand = God, Invisibility Cloak = Holy Spirit which gives you power to defeat things you couldn’t alone, stone = Christ, the stone that the builders rejected?) Also thought the use of the number 7 (seven books, seven horcruxes, etc.) was significant. It will be interesting to her JKR give her take 7 (tribes, stations of the cross, 7 seals, etc?) and the characters. Guess that will be book number 8. 🙂 I’ve wondered before if the main characters represented the disciples. (Judas was Mundungus…his love for gold, his desertion of Harry at the end, the fact that Snape had Confunded Mundungus so he must take part in this…just as Judas had to do what he did for the ultimate plan to work.) Also wondered if Moody was a nod to D.L. Moody? The sword = the sword of truth?

    Time Mag recently ran a cover story about the need to teach the Bible in public school because there are so many people who don’t understand Biblical references in literature, law, etc. (“Why We Should Teach the Bible in Public School,” http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1601845,00.html.) The article points out that Shakespeare alluded to Scripture around 1,300 times. I’d say anyone who doesn’t see the Biblical references in this series needs to read the Bible as carefully as they do their Bulfinch’s.

  33. Arabella Figg says:

    I’d like to revisit my comments about Dobby above.

    Dobby was enslaved by a cruel, evil master, who even forced Dobby to harm himself if he showed disloyalty. He heard about Harry in this household and came to admire and believe in him. At great risk to himself, Dobby served Harry in the only way he knew. Harry redeemed Dobby from slavery to a free life by giving him clothing (a sock). Dobby traded in his filthy rags and wore clothes proudly.

    Dobby, out of gratitude and love, served Harry faithfully and well. All he wanted to do was serve Harry, whom he loved and revered. Dobby joyfully and consistently proclaimed that he was “a free elf,” and embraced the dignity that freedom brought, including reward. Yet he was a devoted, loyal servant by choice to Harry. He tried to share this freedom with other enslaved house elves who rejected it. Yet his (and Kreacher’s) example eventually changed elf service (I believe).

    Dobby died serving Harry. The last thing he did was gaze lovingly upon Harry and die with Harry’s name on his lips.

    What a beautiful portrait of salvation, new life, being clothed in righteousness, freedom, restored dignity, joyful service, reward, devotion, martyrdom and looking to his “savior” at life’s end. I believe Harry and friends wrapping Dobby in clothes at the end was very symbolic of the righteously clothed Bride of Christ. I’m sure Dobby had a very happy afterlife experience.

    Now if only I could get the kitties to do laundry…

  34. RenaBlack says:

    So many of these posts have touched on the absolutely vast wealth of Christian symbols in DH. I’d like to point out two that I think were missed thus far:

    PIETA: When Hagrid carries (“dead”) Harry into the Great Hall, he is sobbing uncontrollably. I was immediately reminded of earlier descriptions of Hagrid which characterize him as a “mother.” That, combined with his beautiful grief, suggested to me the Pieta, Jesus’ body being held by his faithful Mother.

    EMPTY TOMB: In connection with that, I think it is also important to note that when (forgive the phrase) all hell breaks loose in the Great Hall and Harry escapes, he wears his Invisibility Cloak, his supposed corpse literally DISAPPEARING to the confusion of his allies and enemies alike. Empty tomb, anyone? (I also love how the Cloak plays a role in echoing the “righteous” Perevell brother’s acceptance of death–removing the cloak and embracing Death like an old friend, to paraphrase–in the earlier DH fable).

    A short sidebar: I was blown away. I’d had many hunches, even before you, John, and so many others in this community of ours verified them. But this was just SO beautifully done! When I finished at 2 am Sunday, I wanted to scream and jump around for joy. It’s books like these that make majoring in English and Theology the most rewarding choice I’ve made so far!

  35. When Rowling mentioned the bells ringing in Christmas Day, I knew that I was supposed to notice something. It took me a while to see it, but it is the connection with the Voldemort memory that immediately follows. It is an allusion to the events surrounding the first Christmas. Just as Herod and Satan sought to kill the infant Christ, whose victory over evil and gaining of the rod of power was prophesied, so Voldemort sought to kill Harry.

  36. I am more comfortable with Harry as “Christian Everyman,” even in this book.

    His relationship with Dobby is certainly more Christ-like. Though, in the sense that all Christians have the “ministry of reconciliation,” he could be Everyman here, also.

    The big problem, in my view, with Harry as a picture of Christ is that from which people are saved. Harry “dies” to protect the students, professors, and order members from the wrath of Voldemort (the evil one). Christ did not die to save us from the wrath of Satan. He died to save us from the wrath of God.

    So Harry can’t be Christ because he isn’t perfect and because he doesn’t bear the just wrath of a God-like figure.

    ———-
    Many thanks to John for his work.

  37. chrystyan says:

    Gods and heroes of myth may depict something like the Passion of Christ where they may be killed and rise again and thereby renew or transform the life of others. Christians might say this is not accidental–that man must undergo some sort of death if he would truly live and this message shines forth in myth. I am edified by reading these tales from a Christian worldview. Some might say that Christ himself is the ultimate fulfillment of these myths, shadows or archetypes. I certainly would. After all, didn’t the church remind Harry forcefully of Hogwarts (page 324)?!

    I don’t believe that Harry is a supposed to be a perfect rending of a Christ figure. I certainly can see him as an Everyman or as a Christ-figure. There is an Inking of the person and work of Christ, and I believe the series is Inkling literature. I’m amazed not only by the Christian ending of the story, but also the images, symbols and pictures scattered throughout the series. In DH, I noticed in several instances the picture of “spread out arms,” reminding me of the pose of crucifixion (Dobby on page 476, Dumbledoreon page 707).

    I also noticed in the Malfoy Manor chapter a similarity to the Passion when Draco was home for the Easter holidays….Harry’s face was distorted (by Hermione’s jinx), the fighting over the prisoners, accusing Harry’s followers (disciples?), arguing about the price or bounty, the Cruciatus curse, and Luna’s use of an “old nail” to cut the ropes and it slipped on to Harry’s wrist.

    Later on in the drama we also see those magnificent words: HE’S ALIVE!!! What a thrill to the awakened heart! These are just brief pictures, snatches in the narratives and there are so many more!

    [Voldemort] “he screamed with rage…that echoed across the dark gardens over the church bells ringing in Christmas Day…” (to me) a very poignant reminder of what Christmas Day brought.

    One could say these images are an accident, lucky chance, perhaps. Voldemort would.

  38. I’ve been reading through the comments here and over at Sword of Gryffindor. After reading and re-reading the Harry Potter books since 1999, and discussing them endlessly on forums since early 2001, I’m finding the strangest thing now happening to me.

    I loved this book, and saw it filled with Christian imagery and messages. Many of you have eloquently expressed the Christian themes. My thanks to all who have shared those thoughts here, with things that I also saw and with some that I’d missed.

    But I just don’t feel the need any longer to argue with people who refuse to see what, to me, seems so very obvious. That kind of discussion, defending the Christian themes in HP, no longer has any appeal for me, and I never thought I’d say it. Every time I read of someone’s disappointment in the book or that they think there is nothing particularly, or even, Christian, I find that it is spoiling my thorough enjoyment of this last and final book. I’ve started just skipping over comments from certain people, some whom I’ve talked with for a few years now.

    It’s not that their views challenge my belief in what I read. I just have found that those aren’t opinions that offer me any new insights, nor are they opinions which I need to spend time reading.

    So for the first time since 2001, I’m stepping away from all the comments and discussion about Harry Potter. I look forward to some face-to-face discussions with my daughters and with a few friends. But at this point, I don’t intend to be around much.

    It’s been fun, but I’m going to finish re-reading the book and post my thoughts on my blog, not for purposes of discussion, but for my own way of recording my thoughts on this last, and most Christian book of the Harry Potter series.

    Pat

  39. rosesandthorns says:

    Harry is both a Christ-figure and an imperfect “everyman” needing salvation in the series, and especially the last one.

    As Christ-figure, Harry willingly gives up his life to save more of his friends, and he ends up doing what his mother did, only instead of dying for just one person, he dies for the ENTIRE Wizarding world, protecting all of them from Voldemort.

    At the same time … as “everyman,” Harry willingly dies to his Voldemort-tained self, tainted since he was a baby (sin nature, anyone?), and is “born again,” still in a physical body, but with a soul that is saved from Voldemort.

    Using both, he can now “kill” Voldemort, for when Voldemort tries to kill him, he is able to disarm him and have the killing curse rebound on Voldemort. Just as Satan cannot touch our souls, and how Christ will have the final victory and crush the snake-like head of Satan beneath his feet.

  40. Many people have addressed the numerous parallels between Harry’s experiences in the closing chapters and the accounts of Christ’s death and resurrection in the gospels. No need to recount those here. There are so many specific events in DH that echo events in the gospels, as well as so many other literary “fingers” pointing in the same gospel direction. I think you have to try really hard not to see all this.

    But there’s much, much more in Deathly Hallows that solidifies the claim that the whole series, especially this last installment, is essentially Christian. The following things are true in both Deathly Hallows and in the Christian understanding of reality: Remorse (repentance) is the only avenue for salvation. No one is beyond the hope for salvation through repentance, including Percy, Grindelwald, and even Voldemort (who failed to take advantage of the hope held out to him). Fitting judgment awaits those who fail to repent. (Dumbledore calmly informs Harry that nothing can be done for the pathetic embodiment of Voldemort’s soul fragment at King’s Cross.) A substantial and relational eternity awaits those who are faithful. Evil is no illusion and can only be overcome through sacrifice, love, and faith. The good life is a life of service performed in fellowship, not in solitude. (Thus, a variety of people destroy the Horcruxes, when Harry thought he was going to do it solo.) It’s not through power, but through apparent weakness, that righteousness is accomplished. (Underestimated underdog Neville wields the Sword of Griffindor and crushes the snake.) Vengeance is not ours. (This is why it was crucial for Neville to NOT kill Bellatrix, for example.) Love requires hoping for reconciliation, not punishment, towards those who have wronged us. (This is why we should be thrilled about Dudley and Draco’s changes of heart towards Harry.)

    Some will say friendship, hope, faith, sacrifice, etc. are universal human ideals, and don’t need to be attributed specifically to Christianity. But from the beginning, I believe Ms. Rowling has been taking us down a very specific road, with many, many indications that this road will bring us right to the King’s Cross. I hope people are not disappointed with this. Ms. Rowling has done more than most to demonstrate how beautiful and satisfying the story of Christ really is.

  41. I’d like to briefly crash the Ravenclaw party that Mark Barnes and Chris have been throwing in the postings above. Very interesting discussion. I would like to add, however, that I think we’re supposed to be aware of the limitations of Ravenclaw “wisdom” rather than applying it too readily. There have been a few places where Rowling has indicated that the sort of heady knowledge displayed by Ravenclaw is not the same as true wisdom. I think this comes through most clearly in book number 7 in a couple of places. First of all, I think it’s the Gray Lady who, misunderstanding Harry’s desire for the tiara, instructs him that the sort of intellectual knowledge the tiara would provide is not what he needs at the moment. Second of all, I think the responses of Ravenclaw’s guardian voice to the answers also instruct us to not put too much faith in this sort of reasoning. The voice commends the answerer with the phrases “well-reasoned” and “well-phrased.” Honestly, that doesn’t seem too encouraging to me. I think Ravenclaw’s wisdom is more akin to the sort of Greek head-knowledge wisdom which cannot comprehend the gospel, according to the apostle Paul.
    Luna the Ravenclaw is a great companion to Harry not because she’s a philosopher, but because she’s a Lovegood.

  42. Hi everyone!

    I’ve enjoyed reading through this segment – though I won’t make any direct comments for now. I did want to mention that I just started a google group dedicated to discussing fantasy fiction (including HP7, of course) and religion. I wanted to invite John personally but obviously extend the invitation to anyone who’s interested in a more free-wheeling type of discussion than is possible on a blog site.

    http://groups.google.com/group/fantasy-and-religion

    Best,

    Mike

  43. Seamus Clay says:

    Responding to Mark Barnes:

    Back to the Ravenclaw questions. The phoenix inevitably became a symbol of Christ, because of the resurrection theme. But don’t you find it fascinating that Fawkes has gone, and seemingly gone for good? Many fans were hoping for more from Fawkes. But Rowling wants to make it clear: any hope of resurrection has gone. I know John sees a resurrection in each of the books, but that resurrection is symbolic not literal. We are frequently told by Rowling that there is no real hope of resurrection, and that death is final.

    Rowling belabors several key questions in the books without giving direct answers, so that plays a role in whether you see Fawkes in book 7. Rowling asks why Harry’s wand surrepetitiously defended him from persuers early in the book, and in spite of interviewing a couple of wandmakers, Rowling never offers a definitive answer. I believe the reader is left to assume that Fawkes temporarily operates Harry’s wand, directly or indirectly, through the tailfeather in its core.

    It reminded me of Romans 8:26, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” If spells are allegories for prayers, and if nonverbal spells are allegories for silent prayers, then what about intercession of the Holy Spirit? Wands casting spells of their own accord would go a long way toward completing the allegory, and having the first known such occurrance come from the “Chosen One” through a phoenix wand seems significant.

    Harry wins the Elder Wand, but decides to “disenchant” it and use it only to mend his broken Fawkes Wand instead. In contrast, Tom Riddle rejects the other phoenix wand in favor of the Elder Wand (the power OF Death), and insodoing symbolically rejects whatever symbolism the phoenix tends to imply (power OVER death). There’s tons of allegory here.

    To say Fawkes is gone, never to return, is a bit of an overstatement. Fawkes doesn’t die, but just flies away. It was extremely rare for a phoenix to act like a pet anyway.

    The Order of the Phoenix doesn’t change it’s name after Dumbledore dies and Fawkes flies away, but keeps its phoenix symbolism. Fawkes was a tangible way to connect Dumbledore with phoenix symbolism, but was not the (only) phoenix allegory. Dumbledore’s visit with Harry at King’s Cross a year or so after the death of his body certainly implies the continuation of the soul in a way that can reconnect with the living; in itself, that’s not the sum of Christian resurrection, but it hardly rules out life after death.

  44. Mark Windsor says:

    I don’t see the Harry Potter story as Christian allegory but Christian myth. It embodies key elements of the Greatest Story, in repeated and layered ways, but you’re not going to derive a doctrinal system from it.

    Here lies great wisdom. It’s a story, not the gospel according to Jo. It doesn’t have to have exact parallels to the bible to still be considered a Christian story.

    Reading some of these posts, especially John’s long one, I can see strong parallels. However, one key difference remains: Harry had to die because he was tainted with a part of Voldemort’s soul. Christ was the completely pure sacrificial lamb. True, he died for the taint of sin in the world, but not because it was part of him.

    But here you run into a rather important point. There is a difference between the word “Jesus” and the word “Christ”. Jesus was the man, the Son of the Living God, who bore the sins of all humanity on the cross. The word “Christ” is a title. The Greek Christos means redeemer or savior, it’s not Jesus’ last name. In this story Harry is a Christ-like figure, but he’s not intended to be Jesus himself, completely pure and untainted. (If you expect Harry to be Jesus, then you run into some serious moral issues scattered throughout the last three or four books.) No one can be Jesus and it’s unrealistic to expect Harry to be without taint of sin.

    …but it struck me that the Patronus could have been symbolic for the Holy Spirit.

    I don’t think so. While Rowling’s Latin isn’t very good, and I’m sure she was bluring it some for the sake of age, “expecto patronum” is a pretty clear statement. Expecto derives from the Latin “Exspecto”, meaning “I expect”. Another meaning is “I await”. “Patronum” is actually a Latin word meaning “protector” or “defender”, and is derived from the Latin pater, meaning “Father”. It’s basically, “I await a defender.” To me, that’s always been a pretty clear allusion to a guardian angel.

  45. Mark Windsor says:

    Oh, and thanks for the link, John. Much obliged.

  46. esoterica1693 says:

    Sivert:
    There are several understandings of what it is that Christ died to save us from and how he did it. One is that he saves us from the wrath of God, but that is not the only one, though it is held by a wide swath of Christians. However, the view most common in the Early Church and still very prevalent in the Eastern Church is that he did indeed save us from the power of Satan and overcame the powers of evil and sin which held us captive. Rowling does a very good job of portraying this approach to the atonement.
    See
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christus_Victor
    for a decent quick overview, following the work of Gustav Aulen.
    Some denominations have made one view of the atonement or another (and there are more than the 3 Aulen outlines in his book!) normative, but others have not, allowing several or all of them to be in play simultaneously.

    I agree that Harry is at times Everyman and at times a Christ figure. Generally more the former than the latter. But since JKR is writing symbolically, not allegorically, he can be both at different times.

  47. Harry Potter became an instant hit the moment it was published. Ironically, the character of Harry Potter never wants to become famous. Content with becoming an average wizard, greatness is thrust upon him. I’m sure J.K. Rowling never expected a similar greatness to thrust itself upon her name. I wonder if a single person exists in America or England who does not know who Harry Potter is. What is it about this young wizard boy that intrigues so many? Perhaps we find comfort in reading about a hero we can relate to. On the other hand, it may just be the wonderful stories that abound in these books. Maybe we enjoy reading about a nobody becoming a somebody. The list goes on and on. I would like to suggest that one reason exists above all others: the stories and characters found in the Harry Potter series echo the greatest true story of them all, the story of Jesus Christ. You may burst out laughing or completely disagree, but I think Christian themes and morals have a way of making it into literature without anyone realizing it. Everything seems to exist and to be created that way. No matter how hard you try to get away from the truth, it will still keep popping up. God created things so that they would point back to His glory. We can even find parallels between the Bible and Harry Potter.

    When you think of themes in Harry Potter, one of the first topics to hit your mind will most likely be good versus evil. Lord Voldemort wants to rule the wizarding and non-wizarding world. Fate drops the job of destroying Voldemort on the shoulders of Harry Potter. As Harry grows from boyhood to manhood he must solve the mystery of how to kill Voldemort. This battle of good versus evil resembles the battle between God and Satan. As Christians we realize that God has already won, but Satan will never give up until ultimately God does Him in permanently when Christ returns. He continues to do his best to keep us from bringing others to Christ and to keep others from coming to Christ. Similarly, Voldemort refuses to accept his probable defeat and does his best to bring as many pure-bloods to his side as possible. He does not understand the meaning of love. In early books he finds he cannot harm Harry because of the sacrifice of Harry’s mother to save Harry’s life. Satan does not understand the importance of the sacrifice Christ made to save us from our sins. Once we accept Christ, he can only fool around with us, he cannot have our soul. Voldemort’s agenda in the wizarding world also resembles the way many Jews treated Christians as Christianity began to spread. Some Jews were too proud to admit they were wrong; others did not want to believe that Gentiles could have equal salvation with the Jews. The Jews were God’s chosen people, but many did not understand that they were chosen to be a light to the nations. Salvation was not just for the Jews. Even Paul and Peter had trouble understanding this, but God corrected them. Likewise, many of the pure-blood wizards in Harry Potter believe that only they should have magical abilities and the right to rule. They do not want mudbloods (wizards with non-magical parents) and half-bloods (wizards with only one magical parent) to have equal status with them.

    The character of Severus Snape resembles Paul and Peter in that he originally pledges his loyalty to the dark lord, but once he experiences love (in this case, he loves Harry’s mother, Lily) he changes sides and risks all for Harry’s sake. We find more than one lesson in Snape’s story. Snape’s work as an undercover death eater parallels the way we as Christians must be in the world, but not of the world. He lives with the death eaters, but works with and for Dumbledore. In fact, at Dumbledore’s order he kills Dumbledore. Some may think of this as another Judas betrayal, but I prefer to see it as another sacrifice. Dumbledore sees the potential damage his death would cause to Draco Malfoy’s soul if Draco follows his orders to kill him. He knows his death approaches and accepts it willingly.

    In the first few books, Dumbledore shines as a God-like, father-like figure to Harry. I believe that this impression still exists, even if his character takes on a completely different meaning in the last book. First, in “Deathly Hallows” rumors circulate about Dumbledore’s past. Is he as wonderful as he seems? Or does he have a dark past that changes everything? As it turns out, Dumbledore is not perfect. He has his faults. Still, not all of the rumors are true. In a similar way, Satan will circulate rumors in our world and put thoughts into our mind that make us question the truth of the Bible. Harry wonders why Dumbledore never told him the complete truth during their times together and finds that he cannot have a complete understanding of the mysteries until the very end. We can’t expect to understand everything in the Bible, but we can ask God for the ability to discern what we read in the Bible. As Harry learns, we must have patience. There would be little point to the facts if they were pointed out to us all at once. Sometimes we must discover the truth for ourselves. When we’re ready, we’ll know what we want to know and will be able to use that knowledge wisely. Second, because Dumbledore has faults we see that no one is perfect. The fact that Dumbledore has faults parallels what the Bible tells us about human nature. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. While in earlier books Dumbledore seemed a fatherly figure, finding out that he has faults as a human wizard goes along with this teaching we find in the Bible. No one is perfect. It is worth mentioning that although Dumbledore does not come back in the final book alive and resurrected, he does show up a few times in two forms. His brother, Aberforth, becomes essential to Harry’s survival. Also, once Harry sacrifices himself to save his friends he meets Dumbledore in a place called “King’s Cross.” It is only here that Harry learns the final and complete details on Dumbledore’s past as well as on how to defeat Voldemort permanently.

    There are six (the anti-Christ’s number) main horcruxes, but Harry learns from Snape that he, himself, is a seventh horcrux. In order to defeat Voldemort, he must willingly allow Voldemort to place the killing curse on him. He faces death bravely, knowing that death is inevitable, and sacrifices his own life for the lives of his friends. When Harry supposedly dies he wakes up at King’s Cross railway station, an otherworldly realm where he meets Dumbledore. Dumbledore explains that because Harry’s blood lives on in Voldemort’s veins, he can not die. His sacrifice, however, defeated the piece of soul that attached itself to Harry, leaving him with a clean soul of his own. This sacrifice parallels the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for us when he died on the cross (although I’m sure there was no pun intended when Rowling named the railway station King’s Cross). Harry died so his friend could live, but also rose again to defeat Voldemort once and for all. For a short period, Voldemort really does believe he’s killed Harry Potter. Satan probably thought he had defeated Christ when Jesus died, but the resurrection brought new hope for believers and conquered the Devil. We find another example in this part of the book. While Harry is at King’s Cross Dumbledore tells him, “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love.” Those we have lost will always live on in us, but we must not worry about whether they were saved or not. We must not let their deaths keep us from shining as a light for Christ in this dark world.

    One of the main themes of the seventh book is death. Harry must die to himself in order to live. We must pick up our crosses, dieing to ourselves, and follow Christ. Without Christ our sins pronounce our death sentence, but with Christ we no longer fear death.

    One theme evident in the entire series is sacrifice. Lily, Harry’s mother, sacrifices herself to save Harry from Voldemort. This leaves a mark on Harry and keeps him safe from harm for many years. Dumbledore sacrifices himself for the better good. He willingly plans his own death and consequently saves the soul of Draco. In the fifth book, “Order of the Phoenix,” Harry saves his cousin Dudley from the Dementors. In the seventh book, Dudley finally pays Harry back for the service made. Dudley pronounces he does not think Harry is a waste of space and leaves tea by Harry’s door as a present. At the beginning of “Deathly Hallows,” several of Harry’s friends risk their own lives to keep Harry safe and one of them, Mad Eye Moody, dies. When Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Luna are captured and imprisoned in the Malfoy mansion, Dobby the house-elf saves them, but dies in the process. Countless others die throughout the book, mainly in the battle for Hogwarts.

    The battle for Hogwarts reflects a theme that came out full force in the fifth book: community. In most of the book Harry, Hermione, and Ron are on a mission they refuse to tell anyone the details of. The three rely on each other, without one the other two do not do so well. Harry’s friends provide support and loving care to him, encouraging him in his fight against evil, not to mention his fights against his own hormones. Also, by the end of the book they find that they still need the help of others to accomplish their goals. Members of the Order of the Phoenix and other good wizards on Harry’s side join together to fight the death eaters, giving Harry time to find and destroy the last horcruxes without interference. Likewise, we as Christians have many battles to face. We find support in community. We pray for each other and treat each other as we wish to be treated. We find that we all have a part to play in the building up of the church and no individual God-given gift can accomplish anything on its own. In the end, however, we cannot make decisions for one another. We cannot save another person by praying the salvation prayer for them. The individual must make the choice to accept Christ into their heart on their own, and Harry alone can conquer Voldemort. He must decide to run and stay safe or to confront death and sacrifice himself for all his friends.

    The choice of the individual becomes important in more than one way. The name of the book is “Deathly Hallows,” but what are the deathly hallows? The deathly hallows are three items that, when united, make the possessor a master of death. The items include a resurrection stone, a wand called the Elder Wand that always wins a duel, and an invisibility cloak. Harry finds out that he is the descendant of the original possessor of the invisibility cloak. Dumbledore attempted to find three at a young age, consequently finding that he could not be trusted with power. The items are tempting and in the wrong hands can create chaos. From Dumbledore’s experience we learn that gaining items we desire will never fill our empty spots. We cannot find fulfillment in earthly items. Only Christ can fill the holes in our lives.

    The three deathly hallows carry individual significance, as well. Harry finds more than one use for the invisibility cloak throughout all seven books. It serves as a shield that keeps him from the eyes of others. God’s word serves as a shield for us. He is always with us, even when it does not seem like it. Still, we must choose to accept Christ and meditate on God’s word. Harry must choose to put on his invisibility cloak. When he uses it, it protects him. Without it, his presence is discovered and he loses his shield. He must discern when to use it and when not to use it. The resurrection stone brings allows you to talk those you have lost, but users find those brought back do not want to come back. We learn that no one can truly bring back the dead, but those dead will always be with us. Also, there is always hope. We will one day join those lost to us as Harry finds in his short time at King’s Cross. Dumbledore hides the resurrection stone from Harry in a snitch that he leaves Harry in his will. Only at death does Harry realize how to take the stone out of the snitch. He whispers, “I am about to die,” and the snitch opens. Now, Harry has become mature enough to use the item properly. He conjures up the spirits of those he has lost to encourage him and walk with him as he faces death.

    Dumbledore leaves a book that tells the story of the deathly hallows behind for Hermione and a deluminator that takes away and gives light to a room to Ron. Ron finds that his gift has more significance to it than he thought. At one point in the book, he decides to leave Harry and Hermione. He did not expect the heroic voyage to take so long and gets tired of waiting for the destruction of Voldemort. Ron thought Dumbledore had left more specific instructions with Harry that would make the journey easier. Realizing things aren’t going to be as easy as he hoped, he leaves. When he realizes what he has done and decides he wants to go back, a light from the deluminator enters his body and leads him back to Harry and Hermione. Similarly, Christians often expect that once they accept Christ all will go perfectly well for them. They forget that many will persecute them for their faith and that the Bible will not always make sense to them. This misunderstanding will often lead us to turn away from God, but God will plant lights and seeds in our lives that will lead us back to Christ.

    The final deathly hallows item is the Elder wand. This item has a long and dark past, but finds its ultimate significance in the final battle between Harry and Voldemort. The Dark Lord possesses the wand and believes he has gained its allegiance. As it turns out, the wand really belongs to Harry and will not kill its own master. When Voldemort casts the death spell on Harry it backfires and kills Voldemort instead of Harry. Like scripture, the wand was used by the Dark Lord, Satan against Harry, Christ. We find this story in the Gospels as Satan uses scripture to tempt Jesus, but Jesus uses scripture to rebut and defeat Satan.

    “Deathly Hallows” contains much of the great story found in the Gospels. We have more than enough reason to read and enjoy the Harry Potter books. Many may balk at my statement or laugh at me when I say I am both a Christian and a Harry Potter fan, but I say that this statement is not a contradiction. You may think that many are led astray by these books, but I say Harry Potter is no worse than the Easter Bunny or Santa Clause. We can teach our children what is fact and fiction in these books and discuss the evident themes found within them. By discussing them with an open mind we can learn from the series. Harry’s story is full of Christian themes and is a great way to introduce others to the greatest story of them all: the story of Christ.

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  48. Harry Potter is not representative of Jesus Christ. Take it in….throw daggers at your computer screen for a moment and then continue to read. Harry starts out slightly like Jesus…a baby born and loved and then hated and an assasination attempt is made on his life so his protectors take him to Egypt..I mean England to live with people that no one would expect him to live with…also, Jesus at 12 entered the Temple and He sat among the great teachers and was actually forgotten by his parents who got after him when they found him. So Harry went to Hogwarts at 12 to learn from the great teachers as well, Ok? I think the similarity ends there. We know nothing else of Jesus’ life until he’s 30 and entering the ministry, where he is perfect and has his disciples there not to keep him in line or help him with the “right” answers but rather to teach them what to do after He goes to be with the Father. Harry, on the other hand, being the typical person searching for God or at least for some higher calling…needs his friends. He needs Ron and Hermoine and Ginny and Hagrid and Mr & Mrs Weasley. Proof in point, Harry has to go back to Privet Drive every summer for protection. If he really was Jesus he wouldn’t need that protection and it wouldn’t have taken him 7 years to defeat Voldemort. Jesus Himself, took 3. And that was only because those around Him needed the time with Him for training.
    I see Harry as a seeker. He IS a seeker, Rowling herself dubbed him as such!!! Throughout the books he is on a quest…at first it’s fun…chasing around ghosties and goblins in the dark…ohhh it might be a little dangerous but ehhh not that bad, right? Then it starts to get a little dangerous and Harry becomes a bit crabby with his friends because they still see it as fun and it’s starting to hit him that it’s not just a game…People searching for a higher power tend to do the same thing. Unsaved you fumble around in the dark looking for something anything to fill that void…some people party and drink to fill it and they are having a good time when it suddenly hits them that there should be something more to life. But they get crabby because they see it and their friends don’t, their friends want to keep partying and drinking and drugging. So they move on a step. So Harry moves on a step and his friends DO come with him they step it up. In HP5, Order of the Phoenix we see that they truely do wish to back up his mission, his search. The showdown between grown men and women hiding behind masks to fight a bunch of teenagers speaks mountains. How often, these days, are grown ups hiding behind titles or large corporate corner office desks trying to tell the youth of the world what to believe and who to follow? As we move into book six, all of the people who had held out that maybe just maybe Snape wasn’t evil because all of us deep down don’t want anyone like Snape to truely be evil, are let down completely…he kills god. He slaughters a begging Dumbledore right in front of Harry. How dare he? Well, we see then that Dumbledore must not have been a “god” figure or he would have known Snape was going to kill him and he would have stopped it right? Nope, book 7 shows us that Dumbledore DID know and as Jesus did, he allowed it to happen…he even ASKED him to do it and his “begging” was a mere plea for Snape to hurry up and get it done. Whew, we can all wipe a collective bead of sweat off our foreheads…there truely is some good left in this collapsing world of Harry Potter…But alas, we find this out only upon the death of Snape by the hands of the Evil Lord Voldemort. Once again Harry has watched death from under the cloak of invisibility. If Harry was supposed to be a shadow of Christ why did he not stop these two deaths? Why did he not strike them down? Or why did he not “magically” resurrect them? Because he’s NOT Jesus. He’s Harry Potter, John Doe, Jane Doe, Carrie Fox, John Granger, any one of us would have been too horror struck by what they were watching to stop it. Again, he’s a seeker, trying to find the right answers.
    The thought that his walk into the forest was his walk to Golgatha, his death and time in between death and resurrection and then the final fight was a representation of Jesus’ death and resurrection and Our final fight against Satan himself. I do not see it that way. I see it as a Christian’s born again-ness. You must go broken. You must admit that you need help. You must DIE to the flesh. Most Spirit-filled churches and many others now tell you that born again believers need to be baptized by full immersion ~ You go under the water, symbolizing your death ~ Harry went before Voldemort, unarmed, ready to die ~ Then you “die” and God sees what you are doing ~ Harry died, and ‘god’ (Dumbledore) was there to talk to him and tell him what had happened ~ Then you come out of the water a new creation in Christ Jesus ~ Harry woke up. Now, I find it interesting that IMMEDIATELY he was tested. Narcissa is told to check on him. Uh oh. Here comes Satan….How often as Christians are we tested almost immediately after publicly declaring our faith? Well, Harry played dead and Narcissa figured him out immediately ~ obviously his heart was beating…Had Harry been a Jesus figure he would have just disappeared…Jesus did not really come back in the flesh after dying on the cross. He could enter locked rooms and disappear without a flash. Harry was merely a Christian being tested. But he held strong to his plan to let Satan..I mean Voldemort think he was dead and Narcissa gave him a way out ~ She loved her son. Even though she was evil mostly, there was still a twinge of love inside her. I don’t compare her to Mary Magdeline as someone else did because I see no correlation. Mary was clean and saved by the time Jesus was resurrected. Narcissa was the first person that Harry had “saved” ~ She was the first one that he lead to the “truth” This was alleged for a long time in the 7th book, she is constantly quiet and subdued unlike Bellatrix who is loud and proud of Voldemort.
    The walk back to Hogwarts ~ We see Harry being carried back by Hagrid to show off Voldemort’s prize ~ again people compare this too Jesus being killed and Satan and his followers and the Sadducees and Pharisees all celebrating that He was dead. I don’t. I see this as what sometimes happens to Christians…They return to their friends a changed person and are not the same anymore, some people even feel dead to the friends they once had. Some friends will even disown you, and some families consider Christian converts “dead” to the family…pretty scary huh? Well, I see it that way but I also see it as the trickery it was. The Christian allows Satan to think he’s dead to him so he can sneak past the guard and get back to his friends and get them all saved so that they can rally against Satan. Christians will go to the bars, they’ll go to the streets where the drug dealers are…to me this is playing “dead” to Satan, he leaves you alone a little bit because until you speak the Word of Christ out he doesn’t know your thoughts but hey, if you are back in your old stomping ground then…*shrug* you must not be much of a Christian right? Wrong. I do see the final battle as the final battle for our souls. But not with “Jesus” leading the way really. I see it as a combined group, which is what we as the Body of Christ are supposed to do. Had it been JesusHarry leading the way, he would have killed Nagini rather than disappearing under the cloak to leave Neville to do it. Had it been JesusHarry leading the way Lupin and Tonks and Fred would not have died…so on and so forth. Yes there is a lot of Christian allegory…yes there are a TON of Christian themes…but I don’t agree that Harry is a Jesus-figure.

  49. esoterica1693,

    Thanks for the info. I knew that some took the view that the atonement was paid to Satan. But I did not know that that many early church fathers took that view.

    I need to pull out Irenaeus again…

  50. narnianmum says:

    Okay, this is my very first post but I have been lurking for quite a while. I read John’s book, “Looking For God in Harry Potter” several months before the release of book 6 and I was involved in the BNU group out of which came the Stoppered Death theory. I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s take on the Christian themes in book 7 but there were a couple of things I noticed that I don’t think anyone has mentioned.
    First of all I’d like to say that even C.S.Lewis’s Allegory was not perfect. Aslan did not die for the sins of every Narnian. He only died for the sins of Edmond the traitor.
    Secondly, I have heard several people bring up possible candidates for the Judas character in the HP books. I would like to suggest Wormtail because he was the one who gave up his friends for ‘silver’ and died at his own ‘hand’.
    Lastly we can debate all day long (and you all have) if Harry is meant to be a Christ figure in the books. The fact is that several people in the series sacrifice themselves. Most notably Lily, but also Dumbledore, Snape, and Dobby. There’s a beautiful scene in chapter 25 “Shell Cottage” that takes place three days after they bury Dobby, (p506) “Harry looked out the window at Dobby’s grave. Luna was arranging sea lavender in a jam jar beside the headstone.” I think a lot of people may have over looked this but I think the image of the woman bringing spices to the grave on the third day is very powerful.

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