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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Throwback Thursday with Narnia, Newt Scamander, and Fantastic Beasts: Part II

fbFollowing up last week’s part one on the influence of C.S. Lewis on J.K. Rowling’s cast of creatures, here  is the second part of the paper (though edited) that I originally presented at the 2005 Witching Hour conference in Salem, Massachusetts, a lovely event that set me off on the last decade of Potter scholarship.

As we pack our bags (ones that hold many very interesting things) for another journey into the Wizarding World with Newt Scamander and his Fantastic Beasts, we pick up after examining the heraldic animals of Hogwarts as they connect to Narnia, as well as connections with domestic animals and wildlife.

Now, we’ll head off the map a bit, more into Newt’s territory, as we look at creatures more up his alley–that long scary alley with something scuttling over behind the bins….

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Throwback Thursday with Narnia, Newt Scamander, and Fantastic Beasts: Part I

fanblww  As we’ll doubtless be covering in the weeks to come, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is flying, crawling, and      stomping into theaters this month. While we are all interested to see more of the wizarding world, I am particularly  intrigued, as that slim red volume actually launched me into serious academic scholarship into the Potter-verse.

In 2005, I attended my first national Harry Potter Conference, The Witching Hour in Salem, MA. There I presented my paper,    “Fantastic Beasts: C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling, and the Menagerie of the Imagination,” a project that I began while I was  reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe aloud to my son. Though I had already worked extensively with the  Chronicles of Narnia, I noticed something during those read-alouds that I had missed in dozens of re-reads: when Peter,  Edmund, Susan, and Lucy arrive at the home of Professor Kirke, they speculate on the animals they will see, listing, specifically, eagles, stags, hawks, badgers, and snakes.

Taken with Aslan, who is the Lion of the title and at the back of all the stories, there in the first few pages of the first of the Chronicles of Narnia (yes, it is the first one, no matter what misguided publishers do to the order), we have the four Hogwarts House mascots and Harry’s Patronus.

When I made that head-slapping connection, I did not realize that, more than 10 years later, I would be thoroughly immersed in Potter scholarship and that the story of Fantastic Beasts would be appearing on the big screen, but I did know that I had made a magical discovery, one that propelled me through the paper for the conference and into a wonderful journey of literary analysis and exploration. So, as we gear up for Newt’s big screen debut and since Thursday is a day when we throw back, here is part one of a selection from that paper, greatly edited from its original bulk (my poor patient audience at the Witching Hour!), and an invitation, as always, to share your thoughts, and perhaps, your own experience with the intrepid Newt Scamander and his role in your Potter studies.

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