Guest Post: Harry Potter and C. S. Lewis’ Four Loves

David Holland writes:

One of the books on my summer reading list this year was C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves.  It is an excellent read, as Lewis always is, but as I read I started making connections with the Hogwarts saga.  I found that Harry follows a clear progression of each of Lewis’ four loves, and that Rowling’s characterizations of Harry’s loves match Lewis’ descriptions very closely.  Considering that one of the overarching themes of the Potter series is the power of love over evil, I believe that Rowling would see all of four of these as powerful forces in the life of her protagonist.  Below is a brief description of how I see Rowling and Lewis overlap.  I would love to hear your thoughts!

Affection – “storge” – Rowling makes it clear in the beginning of the first book that Harry has never really had friends, so he starts his Hogwarts adventure with Affection, which is a general respect for most people with whom he comes into contact.  He shows this love before he has made any friends, and it is out of his Affection that Friendship eventually blooms.  He maintains this Affection for almost all of the students at Hogwarts, with the obvious exception of Malfoy and Co.  While Harry may never be very close with those outside Gryffindor and the D.A., he maintains cordial enough relations with them.  We may not notice Affection when everything is going well, but when the Affection is upset (people believe he is heir of Slytherin, he is chosen for the Triwizard Tournament, people think he is crazy), there is a general sense that something is off in the tone of the book until it is restored.  Lewis makes it clear that Affection is an important part of human relationships, and Rowling stresses this in Deathly Hallows when Harry is saved from Dementors by Ernie Macmillan and Seamus Finnigan (along with Harry’s Friend Luna) who drive away Dementors.  At some level we could call Ernie and Seamus “friends” of Harry, but Lewis actually establishes quite stringent requirements for Friendship and I think that to use the same term for Ernie Macmillan’s relationship to Harry and Ron’s relationship to Harry doesn’t quite do justice to the latter.

Friendship – “philia” – Lewis spends a great deal of time expounding on Friendship.  Similarly, Rowling devotes much of the series to Harry’s Friend-love with Ron and Hermione, so much so that examples are almost too numerous to name. To paraphrase Sorcerer’s Stone, there is something about fighting a fully grown mountain troll that made Harry, Ron, and Hermione friends for life.  Lewis stresses the importance of common interests, dreams, and fears among friends, which Harry and his Friends certainly share.  He also notes that deep friendships are often mistrusted by those in authority (Snape, Umbridge, Filch, even McGonagall on some level).  Friendship may be misinterpreted as Romance by those outside, mistrusted by those in authority, and never attained by those who would rather manipulate than cooperate, but Harry, Ron, and Hermione show the importance and power of Friend-love in the fight against evil and darkness.

Romance – “eros” – Harry eventually finds himself in the grip of Romantic Love (Eros).  As Lewis describes it, I think this can only fit with his relationship with Ginny, since Cho seems like too much of a schoolboy’s crush.  In our conversation about this subject, John suggested that Harry actually has three girlfriends which correspond to the three alchemical stages by hair color – Cho (black), Luna (white/blonde), and Ginny (red).  He asserts that Harry’s relationship with women turns dramatically with Luna and that because of her he gains a new respect and admiration for them.  This is a point which I am still contemplating, and I would love to hear your thoughts on it.  Regardless, the Romance that Harry feels with Ginny is much deeper and much more thoroughly developed, and springs out of Friendship, as Lewis suggests that Eros often will.

Charity –“agape” – Having experienced all three of the other loves Harry is finally ready to show what Lewis calls “Charity”.  Charity is purely Gift-love because there is nothing self-serving in it.  Lewis says that the other loves are all important, wonderful, and beautiful when experienced in healthy relationships, but they are not quite the same as divine Christlike love.  He argues that Charity is the one love that is most like Christ’s love, and Harry clearly demonstrates this when he willingly sacrifices himself in the Battle of Hogwarts for his friends.  After all, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” – John 15:13.  The love which Lewis declares is most Christ-like is also the culmination of Harry’s progression through each of the four loves throughout the series.

These were the connections that I made, and for those of you who have read them both I would love to hear your thoughts, especially if there is anything I missed or if you believe I simply read too deeply into it (always a danger!).

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  1. Thank you for the comparative analysis. I find your explanations easy to comprehend in spite of not having read the Lewis selection.

    Has anyone read Gary Chapman’s “Five Love Languages?” I am curious as to how a similar analytical read/comparative chart would play out. I know of the book only. Just wondering.

  2. Steve Morrison says

    Lewis starts off with a chapter on likings and loves for the subhuman, covering things like patriotism and love of nature. Possibly this corresponds to Harry’s love for Hogwarts itself, or for the Wizarding world in general?

  3. Rochelle says

    I haven’t read this book of Lewis’s (and I need to!), but your analyses seem to make sense and fit well with the way Harry grows throughout the books.

    PJ, I don’t think Gary Chapman’s book would work in a similar way, because that book explores how each person has a dominate “love language”, or a language in which they are most likely to show love to others, and best understand it if presented to themselves in that language. It’s not so much progression as personality type, and I don’t think we know enough about how the characters handle romantic relationships to be able to pinpoint any of these languages in those books. (Wow; it shocks me to say there’s something I don’t think Harry Potter can be compared to)

  4. @Steve, I didn’t even think to include that! I will need to go back and revisit that chapter.

  5. Carrie-Ann Biondi says

    Would Steve‘s suggestion account for Harry’s affection/love for Hedwig?

  6. Steve Morrison says

    Lewis actually chose not to include love for animals in that chapter, on the grounds that

    Whether animals are in fact sub-personal or not, they are never loved as if they were. The fact or the illusion of personality is always present, so that love for them is really an instance of that Affection which is the subject of the following chapter.

  7. Carrie-Ann Biondi says

    Ah–thanks for the clarification, Steve! That makes sense, especially given how intelligent the pets are.

  8. This is a really nice analysis. However, my problem with Lewis’ “The Four Loves” is that I think that his analysis of philia is comparatively weak. Though the image of the friends walking side by side is powerful, I don’t think it goes far enough.

    I would venture to analyze the philia of the trio within the lens of spiritual friendship, as written about by the Cistercians. They too talk about how outsiders may see the friendship as exclusive or inappropriate–but within the friendship, it is a love filled to overflowing between the members.

    …however, you can say this because their philia is embued with caritas. Hmm. Anyhow, I really appreciated this article!

  9. From How Harry Cast His Spell (2008), Chapter 16, ‘Half-Blood Prince’:

    At Dumbledore’s funeral, too, Rowling repeats the theme of Harry’s safety being linked to Dumbledore’s presence. Harry explains to the Minister of Magic that Dumbledore may be dead but he is not gone and that Harry’s loyalties remain with the headmaster. But as we have seen, Harry may be Dumbledore’s man by public confession, but he is not yet a Dumbledore man through and through, because of his prejudices and anger. As we learn in the last year of his Hogwarts adventures, Harry has another year to struggle from just being Dumbledore’s image to being his likeness. This is possible if Harry continues to imitate Dumbledore in his choices, and, specifically, his choice to believe in Dumbledore despite his doubts.

    Dumbledore has revealed to Harry that freedom exists primarily in our free will efforts to realize our destiny. Dumbledore’s choices in his death are Christlike, and if Harry is to defeat Lord Voldemort with love, he has to follow in his headmaster’s footsteps.
    Harry has been ascending the ladder of love that Plato described in The Symposium. The four Greek words for love are storge (familial affection), philia (friendship), eros (sexual or romantic love) and agape (selfless love). Harry has managed to climb from the family love he never knew at the Dursleys (but found at Hogwarts) to a romantic love with Ginny at the end of Half-Blood Prince. What is left for him to master is the selfless or sacrificial love that his mother showed in her choices while battling Voldemort and that Dumbledore showed in the Cave and on the Tower.

  10. Thank you David, from this David for a great synopsis on Lewis’ book.

    I thought of the ways our lives can mirror Harry’s walk through those early years at and away from Hogwarts. How the struggles through the adolescent years are the growing pains we all must face in one way or another, yet we see each of those four forms of love appear and if we are willing……… allow Affection, Friendship, Eros to lead or grow towards Agape. Interesting that even in ancient Greek writings the word “agape” was rarely used. The one exception perhaps was Plato and it was rare in his writings.
    Enter in Christianity in the first century and the word was the “key word” in the writings of the Church Fathers describing the ministry of Christ or “Christ-likeness” and the even in the gatherings of the first century Christians in “agape feasts”.

    Harry Potter certainly grows into the “agape” of self-sacrifice and “kenosis” (he empties himself) in his walk in the forest (DH2) to give his life for the sake of his friends and the wizarding world. At that moment anything of personal physical value in possessions, power, fame, even his relationships are relinquished for the good of others. (John 15:13) Harry had the example of his father, mother and others within his memory to strengthen him when he doubted he could carry his sacrificial act to its conclusion.

    But…… the that is why Albus Dumbledore describes Harry as the better man.
    “Where your treasure is there will your heart (agape) be also”. (Matt 6:21) (DH2)

  11. Rochelle, thank you for sharing insights into the Chapman book. You give me some meat to chew as I reread HP this summer. Perhaps I will discover fodder for a new posting!

    Everyone stay safe in this unbelieveable heat!!!!!

  12. Kathleen says

    Maybe this belongs in the parent substitution or father figure category, but it seems to me that Harry had a brief but intense friendship with Sirius Black. Sometimes friendships are like that, they don’t endure because one person dies, however it doesn’t make it any less legitimate than the longstanding ones.

  13. David James says

    Kathleen, great point on Harry’s relationship with Sirius.

    Their relationship was intense even more so than a “friendship”.

    Sirius took on the role of being the emotional and connecting “father” figure to Harry, albeit from a distance mostly but very intensely when in person. Rowling brings the importance of one being designated a “god-father” to a young relative and how that role in life god-father to god-son is not to be taken lightly.

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