“What’s Your Favorite ‘Kid Story’?”

Lancelot Shaubert, longtime friend of HogwartsProfessor and author of Tap and Die, sent me an email-request this morning:

John, it’s Lancelot, quick question:

Do you have a great kid story you can share ? I’m collecting them on my site to cheer folks up and to revive the comments section:


Lancelot Schaubert

By “great kid story” he didn’t mean “a story for children” but “a story about kids.” I obliged him with a story about one of my own children, now living in Greece, back when she was only ten years old and her world was Harry Potter, violin practice, and roller-blading. I have shared this story after talks I’ve given during the Q&A, because someone inevitably asks me if I think Harry Potter is good for young people to read.

You can read that story after the jump. Please follow the link above, though, if you have a minute, read the great kid stories there, and write out your favorite. [Read more…]

Rowling Not Writing Book About Wizards — Good News on At Least Three Levels

This tweet from Rowling is good news on at least three levels: [Read more…]

Cormac Jones: The Cosmic Chiasmus

An Orthodox Christian man in Texas with whom I correspond sent me a link to Cormac Jones’ ‘The Cosmic Chiasmus’ yesterday. His note did not include anything except the url and he really didn’t need to explain why he thought of me while reading Jones’ wonderful article. My friend has heard me speak both at his parish, St Maximos Orthodox Church in Denton (‘Everything I Need to Know I Learned from St Maximos the Confessor’) and at a Classical Christian school in Dallas about ring composition and the symbolism of the cross. Jones’ ‘The Cosmic Chiasmus‘ turns on theological points made by St Maximus and the chiastic narrative structure of Christian scripture and Orthodox liturgics and iconography.

I differ with Jones on several points, as you might expect, given my sad self-importance and preoccupation with these subjects for more than ten years. Having written my MFA thesis on the relation of ring writing and literary alchemy, a subject expanded on in my PhD thesis, I was disappointed with Jones’ choice of Maximian references (specifically, his neglect of more pertinent ones and the translation of the passage he leans on most heavily with respect to logos), his framing of the question (his focus is exclusively Christian rather than universal), his relatively pedantic and academic posture (there’s little in the piece’s presentation of the parabolic quality he celebrates), and in the experts on inclusio and symbolism he cites as authority, all of whom are excellent but which list of sources does not include Mary Douglas, John Welsh, or Rene Guenon.

Writing up a detailed review of these differences might be of some interest to Jones and satisfying to me, I suppose, but to few others. Unfortunately, such a critique would also necessarily obscure the importance of ‘The Cosmic Chiasmus‘ especially for Christian students of the Bible and iconography and the symbolism in each. Worse, my focusing on my points of difference with Jones’ approach and choices he makes would be read incorrectly as a suggestion that I am not wonderfully excited by this article and that I do not hope it receives the widest possible audience. That would be the worst possible misunderstanding and take-away. I beg readers interested in understanding Rowling better, especially why they enjoy her novels more than those of other writers, to read Jones’ piece, regardless of their religious beliefs.

As readers here know, I hope, I think the writing of J. K. Rowling is as popular as it is because of her integration of three traditional elements in her stories, from the relatively short and sweet stand-alone Christmas Pig to the epic Strike series in progress. She is writing psychomachian allegory of the soul’s journey to perfection in Spirit, exteriorized presentations of the inner spiritual transformation of every human person, allegories she suffuses with alchemical symbolism of repentance, purification, and apotheosis as resurrection, all of which she gives a signature chiastic or ring structure. How this allegory, symbolism, and narrative scaffolding work together to foster and advance the transformation of a reader’s vision through the imagination I think is best understood through the critical lens of Coleridgean and Patristic logos epistemology and soteriology.

Jones’ article, as you’d expect, makes no references to popular culture or contemporary fiction. What ‘The Cosmic Chiasmus‘ does, though, is, in the context of explaining the symbolism of the Cross in chiastic narrative as it does for a specifically Judeo-Christian audience, is attempt to explain the universal power of this kind of writing on the human soul. Though we differ on particular points that are more and less important, Jones ‘gets’ and brilliantly presents the ‘so what?’ I have tried to say for the last twenty years about why Rowling’s work affects readers the way it does.

All of which is to say I recommend ‘The Cosmic Chiasmus‘ to readers here with all enthusiasm and without reservation. The article fails to say all things to everybody as any discursive argument must, but what it does say about the centrality of understanding chiasmus and its attendant symbolism for living a proper human life is invaluable, even essential. I urge you to set aside an hour as soon as you can to dive into this piece’s depths and reflect on its applications in your inner and outer orientation with respect to God, man, and the world, your logos inner essence and its relation to the Logos fabric of reality.

Many thanks to my friend in Texas for sharing the link to this wonderful article and to Jones for writing it!

Hogwarts Legacy Gameplay Showcase: Return of the “Goblins are Jews!” Claim

Read about ‘Hogwarts Legacy,’ a role-playing computer game set in the Wizarding World of the 19th Century, at the Wikipedia page dedicated to explaining its ins and outs or just watch the video embedded in the tweet above. The game won’t be available for play until next February but it can be ordered before that time, whence the big news of the day: a ‘Gameplay Showcase’ debuts today to encourage those gamers interested in the product, a crowd estimated to number in the millions around the globe, to purchase it in advance.

As you might expect of anything involving J. K. Rowling today, the game already has its critics. Take a look at Did Hogwarts Legacy Seriously Just Make The Anti-Semitic Goblins The Villains? at the gamer.com or vice.com’s Hogwarts Legacy Imagines a Harry Potter Without JK Rowling. Each contends that, although Rowling was not involved in the evolution of the game as a creator or consultant, that her “bigotry” and “transphobia” by necessity inform it, based as it is on the Gender Critical and racial prejudices that permeate her novels. A touchstone argument for both critics is the risible chestnut that Rowling’s Goblins are caricatures of Jews, rapacious for money and privilege.

Beatrice Groves exploded this contention in March 2019 with two posts on the supposed anti-Semitism, Rowling’s Goblin Problem? and The Sword Until Recently Known as Gryffindor’s. To their credit, the creators of the game and its owners, a division of Warner Brothers-Discovery, have not redesigned the game to remove the Goblin Rebellion core of the narrative.

None of the HogwartsProfessor faculty and adjutants are ‘gamers’ so please be sure we welcome contributions from those of you who are — in the form of a Guest Post — about the Hogwarts Legacy Gamesplace Showplace to explain and critique what the big deal is. Let us know what we’re missing as well as the bugs and room for improvement in the game design and format!


‘Sorting Hat’ Pronounced Dead at 98; Requiescat in Pace, Leslie Phillips

Leslie Phillips, CBE, actor, voice artist, and UK legend, died yesterday, aged 98. Though a star in over 150 movies, mostly bawdy comedies, he is best known to Americans as the voice of the Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter movies, a part he voiced in the film adaptations of Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, and the second Deathly Hallows.

Phillips’ participation in the Potter movies was somehow very fitting. The repertoire company of UK greats that were assembled for the eight Hogwarts blockbusters, after all, was somehow reminiscent of the troupe that made the Carry On film series, 31 movies over forty years, one of the most successful franchises in British history. Only the adaptations of Ian Fleming’s James Bond adventures has gone on longer. Leslie Phillips starred in three of the first Carry On romps — Jim Dale, a voice much more familiar to American Potter-philes, was in eleven of these politically incorrect farces — and his “Ding-Dong!” “Well, hello!” and “I say” catch-phrases helped make the franchise as popular as it became.

At Phillips’ death, Dale is one of the only surviving Carry On stalwarts, Sid James, Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Williams, and Joan Sims having died years ago. Phillips refused to move to Hollywood even though he had had some success in a 1957 Gene Kelly musical because he feared becoming a “poor man’s David Niven.” He wound up instead after a long career in English comedies as the voice of Godric Gryffindor’s headdress, the iconic Sorting Hat at Hogwarts. No doubt his fans in the UK recognized his voice — “Ding Dong!” — and were delighted at his appearance in the Warner Brothers films, a link to the grand tradition of Pinewood Studios.

Read all about him in the Daily Mail obituary or his Wikipedia page and watch a documentary about the Carry On films made on the occasion of the 40th anniversary party for cast and crew in 1998. I couldn’t help but think while watching that of the much slicker productions made for the Harry Potter 20th anniversary reunion last year. If any of you have Leslie Phillips memories to share, please do — especially those who think, as I do, that his voice role in the Potter films was a hat-tip from Leavesden Studios to Pinewood.