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

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

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

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Happy Hogwarts Express Day! Beware the mad Trolley Lady!

HogwartsExpressDear readers: Happy Hogwarts Express Day! Every year on September 1, the Hogwarts Express departs, in a cloud of steam and anticipation, from King’s Cross Platform 9¾, whisking a new set of eager witches and wizards off to another year of magical education and adventure. Best of luck, Hogwarts students! May all first-years get sorted into the houses their hearts desire!

Potter fans celebrate days like today, not because we’re crazy (well, a bit) or because we have trouble discerning fact from fiction. We celebrate days like September 1st because we are shaped by a series that claims reality – that which truly signifies – is not marked only by what we can observe with our senses, or what history tells us is fact, but also by those realities inside our heads. These are the realities C.S. Lewis said make up the “real theme” of the story: not what happens so much, but rather what it all means. Realities like love, friendship, imagination and compassion.

Remembering September 1st is a way of acknowledging that, at some point, everyone has to start on a journey. Maybe the journey is one of living up to a long family tradition, like Ron’s or Neville’s. Maybe it’s a journey of proving you belong through hard work and talent, like Hermione’s. Maybe it’s one of discovering who you are, where you came from, and where your real powers lie, like Harry’s. Regardless, on this day of departures, we at Hogwarts Professor wish you speed, luck, magic, and zero Dementors on your journey.

But do look out for the Trolley Lady. She is not just there to sell pumpkin pasties. She’s there to throw them at you like grenades if you try to get off this train before it reaches its destination.

Trolley Lady 5If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you haven’t yet read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: the rehearsal script for the hit West-End play that premiered this summer.

While reviews of the stage play have been enthusiastic, reviews of the production’s rehearsal script, inspired in part by Jo herself, but penned by Jack Thorne, have been… mixed. The script, published in late July, currently averages 3.9 stars on Good Reads, from almost 150,000 ratings. This seems generous, compared to reviews from those in the know. Mugglenet’s early reaction to the script asked if we could all “pretend this didn’t happen”. James Thomas, on this blog, firmly asserted the play is not the “eighth Potter story” it was touted to be. Potter expert Amy H. Sturgis, in her Good Reads review, says, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child reminds me in certain ways of the Star Wars Holiday Special (1978), in that one wonders how the creator lost control of the reins (or his/her mind) so thoroughly, given the ruthlessness with which this work undermines the seriousness of the themes and ideas of the text that inspired it.” Listen folks, anytime a work is being compared to the Star Wars Holiday Special, that’s not a good thing.

Cover 2And yet, reports have surfaced that Warner Brothers may be seeking the rights to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, in order to turn it into a trilogy of films starring Dan Radcliffe.

????

When confronted with this news, I had a strong reaction of wanting to get off this train. Now. Before it’s too late: before Potterverse gets swallowed up by the capitalist instinct to just keep the machine going if it’s generating a profit, whether the product is any good or not. And yet I can’t get off the train; I’m hemmed in by my own fond loyalty to ‘verse. It’s like being trapped by the Trolley Lady herself (Cursed Child version, that is). She’s this woman I thought I knew, who brought me comfort and nourishment, once upon a time. But now she’s coming after me, all of a sudden, with exploding baked goods and spikey hands. All because I want to get off.

Fortunately, according to Cursed Child, the Trolley Lady was bluffing. If you want off, all you have to do is jump.

Jack the Giant Slayer: Someone’s Been Reading My Spenser!

We love fairy tales around here, as I suppose everyone knows. I have an author friend who evaluates people’s personalities based on their favorite fairy tales (hers is Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”; mine is “Cherry the Frog Bride,” in case you are wondering). I have to confess, “Jack and the Beanstalk” has never really been one of my favorites, even in its Appalachian incarnations of “Jack and the Bean Tree” or “Jack and the Giants”; perhaps goofy Jack just always seemed like too much a klutz for my taste. Maybe I just never approved of his kleptomania. But I’ve gained a different perspective, after finally seeing Jack the Giant Slayer (2013). Join me after the jump for more on how Hollywood got some things really right with this one, and how someone did some good reading, particularly from the works of some of my favorite tellers of tales: the immortal Edmund Spenser and his protégé, C.S. Lewis.
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Reclaiming the “Discarded Image”: Guest Review of Dr. Monika Hilder’s The Feminine Ethos in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia

Last year, I had the great honor of writing the preface for a new and fascinating book by a delightful scholar. Unfortunately, since I wrote the Preface, it might be in poor taste for me to write the glowing review I would like post so that everyone would check out this fantastic contribution to Lewis Studies. So instead, I recruited my friend and fellow Narnian, the brilliant Ralph Lentz, to review the book. He produced this amazing essay, which I am proud to share. I believe his talents may be just as useful in English as they are in the History Department. We may steal him yet. Enjoy!

Reclaiming the “Discarded Image”:
Monika B. Hilder’s The Feminine Ethos in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia
A Theological Review by Ralph E. Lentz II, Appalachian State University

C. S. Lewis wrote, by his faith and his studies, from a pre-Modern thought-world that was not schizophrenic—from a world that did not divide faith and reason, the natural and supernatural, fact and value. As a Medievalist, Lewis had digested the Whole, from Thomas Aquinas’ notion that grace perfects nature, to Nicholas of Cusa’s idea of the “coincidence of opposites.” In her brilliant new book The Feminine Ethos in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia (Peter Lang, 2012), Monika B. Hilder reveals Lewis’s dedication to this pre-Modern, orthodox Christian vision of an integrated world of beautiful paradox. And, following Lewis, she does it in a wonderfully imaginative and subversive way by focusing on what she calls “theological feminism” (12, et passim.). Through her analysis of all seven books of the Narnia series, Hilder demonstrates how Lewis, far from being chauvinist and misogynistic (as some critics have charged), actually challenges the pagan conception of power based on force and the twisted image of sexuality that it supports. In contrast, Lewis’s use of “theological feminism” points to “another City”[1] where the “sword between the sexes” has been cast away, and where the contraries of Male and Female can become one without confusion or contradiction (cf. Genesis 2:24). A model of careful analysis, comprehensive scholarship, and eloquence, the book itself merits a substantial review—particularly in light of its theological implications. Hence the purpose of the present essay.
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There Be Dragons

[Editor’s Note: Welcome to the next title in the HogPro Book Club: C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. To get things started, Professor Pazdziora offers some reflections on literary and spiritual themes in the book. So, grab your copy and your reading memories, and get ready for a great series of challenging discussions on The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.]

There Be Dragons

A Reader Remembers
The Voyage of the
Dawn Treader

I know nothing about cartography. So maybe that’s why it’s always seemed to me like a strange and mystical science. There’s poetry in maps. I stare at those squiggled lines and neat text—geological tortures reduced to splotches of ink—the Sahara to Yellow 5 and the Nile to Blue 47—and wonder: have the mapmakers really been there? Did they sketch this from memory? From travellers’ tales?
From dreams?

It’s no surprise, really, that maps are central to modern fantasy literature. Tolkien began it, of course, perhaps following the example of Rider Haggard and the researches of (ahem) Allan Quartermain, or the legendary map that sent Squire Trelawney and the good doctor on their ill-fated adventure.

Any edition of The Lord of the Rings is incomplete without a large foldout of Christopher Tolkien’s painstaking and perfect maps of the Shire, Middle-Earth, and Mordor. Bilbo Baggins began his adventure with a map, of course. A map that showed where the treasure was hidden, a map with a secret door. And on the edge of the map—at the end of the journey—was the dragon.

And so the mapmakers gave us the warning:

Here there be dragons.

That was the legend on the edges of maps, the signifier that admitted fear of the unknown. The ancient cartographers drew dragons around the boundaries of the world. The quarters inaccessible to human voyagers were realms of deathly peril. Sea Serpents. Giant Squid. Sirens. Kraken. And dragons.

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