Harry Potter as Timeless Classic – and Investment

The three quick but fail-proof tests of an English fiction ‘classic’ or ‘great book’ according to C. S. Lewis are “Does it make you better, wiser, and happier?’ with the necessary follow-up ‘Do you like it?’ (because if you don’t like it, the book’s no good). Those are grand tests on a personal and subjective level (and perhaps that is the only one that matters). Establishing a standard that can be shared universally requires a historical review. I assume that the qualities of proven English ‘greats’ provides a dependable test of future or possible ‘greats;’ it seems, then, that there are four shared qualities in English classics, namely, remaining in print for more than a century, asking the great questions about human life, offering Christian answers, and presenting these answers with artistry that fosters their experience and assimilation by a reader suspending disbelief.

Perhaps the acid test of a “classic,” though, is in monetary value (“follow the money”). Harry Potter has passed three of the four of the English classic criteria — failing only the ‘century in print’ standard — and passes Lewis’ ‘better, wiser, happier, and delighted’ litmus. Data from 2008 online booksellers now reveals that Ms. Rowling’s Hogwarts adventures also has become an investor’s classic and tough times hedge. [Read more…]

Putin and Dobby: Separated at Birth?

I frequently joke in my talks about how much Vladimir Putin looks like Dobby the house-elf — and share as an aside that this has been the subject of some conversation and controversy in Russia since the premiere of the Chamber of Secrets movie. For those skeptical or just curious about this possibility, I urge a trip to this ‘Duck of Minerva’ post on the subject. I hope those who check it out will share their reflections here.

Scrooge and Malthus: Satire versus Satirical Writing

Mr. Jerry Bowyer is an economist, author, Great Books lover and friend of this blog (HogPro All-Pros will recall it was Jerry and Susan Bowyer who spotted the ‘House of Gaunt’ with its ‘Dark Mark’ in Thackeray’s Vanity Fair). Forbes magazine ran a fascinating column by Mr. Bowyer last December on the allegorical and satirical meaning of Dickens’ Christmas Carol called ‘Malthus and Scrooge.’ I bring the column to your attention for two reasons.

First, it’s spot-on brilliant, it’s well written, concise, and it opens up the familiar Christmas pageant story to an aspect of Dickens’ writing that escapes most 21st century readers, namely, the 19th century targets at which Dickens was aiming. [Read more…]

The Divine Mirror in Pilgrim’s Progress

Mirrors are a big part of fantasy literature in the English tradition. It starts in a big way with the Alice classics by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), an Oxford Platonist, Anglican clergyman, and mathematician, when he sends his heroine Through the Looking Glass and it echos through Goudge’s work (as we saw yesterday), Tolkien’s Mirror of Galadriel and Frodo’s Light which is essentially a phial of water taken from the pool-mirror, up to the Godfather mirror fragment that plays such a large part in Deathly Hallows.

The tradition of mirrors in fantasy fiction and its origin in the natural theology and logos epistemology of Samuel Taylor Coleridge is discussed at length in The Deathly Hallows Lectures, chapter 5, ‘The Seeing Eye,’ so I won’t beat that to death again here. What I want to share today is what I think may be the first and what is certainly the most important pre-Coleridge use of a mirror that reflects the ‘I’ that is, as Lewis says, “a sacred name.” [Read more…]

Elizabeth Goudge: ‘The Well of the Star’

Much has been made of the influence of Elizabeth Goudge’s Little White Horse on Ms. Rowling’s Harry Potter books — and with good reason. As I detail in the last chapter of Harry Potter’s Bookshelf: The Great Books Behind the Hogwarts Adventures, beyond Ms. Rowling’s pointing to this fantasy as a favorite of her childhood and saying it was a “direct influence” on her work “perhaps more than any other,” Horse‘s structure, symbols, and anagogical freight would tell us the same. In brief, the model for what Harry represents, the polarities of the magical world, and the alchemical artistry of Ms. Rowling’s work can be found in Ms. Goudge’s classic.

Beth, dear friend of this blog and writer at BookwormJournal, found another Goudge story, a Christmas tale titled ‘The Well of the Star,’ that also seems a potential influence, especially with respect to mirrors and sacred sight (Coleridge’s natural theology, i.e., the hermetic idea of reflection and recognition as the heart of knowledge and Communion). Beth’s helpful comments and citations are here and I recommend them. Little White Horse readers will remember first the well in Merryweather Manor’s walled courtyard where the heroine of that story finds the hidden string of pearls, essentially “those of great price,” that resolve the contraries of the magical valley and then Loveday’s silver mirror, in which Maria sees her golden aura. Goudge is a wonder; as Ms. Rowling said about Horse, it “is a very well-constructed and clever book and the more you read it, the cleverer it appears.” “Clever,” I’m afraid, doesn’t do it justice.

More tomorrow on perhaps the original Logos mirror in English fiction, the Shepherd’s Palace mirror in Pilgrim’s Progress! Thanks to Beth for finding and sharing this neglected Goudge classic.