Mail Bag: Reader Questions about Harry Haters, Doppelgangers, and Ring Writing

My email address is in all the books I have written and the ‘contact’ tab at the website provides even easier access to my inbox. That means, though I haven’t published a best seller since the peak of Potter Mania (2007-2008), in addition to ever diminishing royalty checks twice a year, I receive a fairly regular stream of notes from readers. Some are from young readers and as many come from older Potter Pundits and Serious Strikers, on and off the moderator channels.

After the jump I offer three quick examples of this mail that I have received in the last week or two with my responses. I share them in the hope that you will write, too; the best part of being “The Dean of Harry Potter Scholars” (TM), believe me, is the correspondence with thoughtful people about books we love and that we want to understand better.

On Mon, Sep 19, 2022 at 3:33 PM Ashlynne wrote:

I’m a 23-year-old Christian who’s the only one in my family that doesn’t believe Harry Potter is demonic or evil, even a devoted fan. 

How do I explain to my family and even some friends about why they are not so awful, that they’re worthwhile?

Thanks for your time!

Your friend,

Dear Ashlynne,

Thank you for your kind note.

I don’t think there is a right answer to your question, however. I have certainly not heard of a way to win over those who believe that Harry Potter is evil, spiritually corrosive, or just not worthy of an intelligent person’s attention. My books on the subject help those who are devoted fans like yourself understand better why they love them, but they are not of much use in convincing those who believe they are not any good to give them a try.

Not much use, though I have heard from some readers of How Harry Cast His Spell that reading opened them up to the possibility that they were mistaken, which opening led to reading and enjoying the Hogwarts Saga. In the face of real hostility or immoveable surety about their being inappropriate or anything but edifying. however, discussion of the soul tryptich, chiasmus, Christian symbolism, and literary alchemy is sadly a waste of time.

What I recommend you do is (1) purchase and read How to Have Impossible Conversations (see here and here for talks by and with its author) and (2) put the author’s principles to work in talking about Harry Potter with resistant family and friends when the subject comes up. In essence. the most important skill-to-acquire is to learn what the other person believes and why they believe it — and to demonstrate to their satisfaction that you understand them correctly and are not disadainful of their opinion even if you disagree.

Yes, I heartily recommend you read How Harry Cast His Spell, The Deathly Hallows Lectures, and Harry Potter as Ring Composition to understand the Christian content of Harry Potter and that you also spend some time with Harry Potter’s Bookshelf and Beatrice Groves’ Literary Allusion in Harry Potter for the literature backdrops that give Rowling’s stories their richness.

But for winning over the Harry Haters in your life? The skills you need are best found in How to Have Impossible Conversations, not guides to Harry Potter.

Thank you again for your kind note and thoughtful question!



———- Forwarded message ———
Date: Sun, Oct 2, 2022 at 7:42 AM
Subject: A Thankful response to “How Harry Cast His Spell”.
To: <>

Dear Mr. John Granger.

My name is Sara, and I live in Israel. I read your book How Harry Cast His Spell, and I am so grateful to you for it. I am a big Harry Potter/J.K Rowling lover, I was told and also could feel it myself that there was some Christian symbolism in the books, but being Jewish and having no Christian education of any kind, I really could not see any of it by myself.

Reading your book opened my eyes to a whole new world within the texts that I love so much, and made me appreciate Rowling’s artistry and mastery so much more. Also I must say, even though we are of different religions and traditions, your strong faith and the love of God that resonates from your writing struck a chord in my heart, and made me stronger in my own love and search for him and his true will. I thank you so much for that, indeed it came to me in a time of great spiritual need.

I wanted to add on the subject of doppelgangers about the connection between Pettigrew and Snape.

Pettigrew is a RAT and Snape is often described as a large BAT. Not only that there is similarity in the sound of the words but a bat can also be seen as a rat with WINGS, symbolically it is a rat with a “higher purpose.” I view Pettigrew and Snape as the dots of opposite colors in the Yin/Yang symbol. Pettigrew is the little bit of “bad” contained within the good, and Snape is not only the twinkle of goodness contained even within the darkest darkness, but he is also the only thing that makes it possible for it to exist, because nothing in God’s creation can be completely bad. Hence when Voldemort killed Snape he actually made it impossible for himself to keep existing in the world. (English is not my native language, I hope I have expressed myself properly)

,Gratefully yours


Dear Sara,
Thank you for this wonderful email. I wrote How Harry Cast His Spell in 2002, twenty years ago this December. It was written up from notes I made for talks at the local library in Port Townsend, Washington, and self-published as The Hidden Key to Harry Potter ( I shouldn’t say “self-published” because a friend and his wife formatted my document into a beautiful book and he and several other friends paid for 5,000 copies to be printed).
Those books sold out in a matter of weeks because of an endorsement by the publisher of The Harry Potter Lexicon online and an appearance at Nimbus 2003, a fan conference in Orlando, Florida. Tyndale publishers bought the book, retitled and reorganized it into Looking for God in Harry Potter and then, after Deathly Hallows was published, I updated it again and it became How Harry Cast His Spell. That book’s success transformed me from an unemployed tent stitcher (yurt roofs!) to a niche celebrity, with a lot of friends I never would have ‘met’ except through notes like yours.
I apologize for the Gilderoy moment there. I just wanted you to know I am very grateful for your writing to share what the book meant to you, that it was a help at a meaningful moment, and to share your doppelganger idea, which is a very good one. Snape’s relationship with Pettigrew is fascinating because of the latter’s status as Marauder veteran and servant of the Dark Lord, neither of which affiliation is especially endearing to the Potions Master. They may be, as you suggest, mirror images or fallen and risen complementary antagonists, ‘bat’ and ‘rat.’
Something not discussed in How Harry Cast His Spell is Rowling’s use of parallelism or chiastic structure. It was first noticed by a professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at Fordham University in New York, a brilliant man named Brett Kendall. I asked him how he identified Rowling’s traditional story-scaffolding and he told me that chiasmus is the rule in Hebrew Bible studies, not the exception; it was the kind of thing he did all day in his study and teaching. You can read all about that in Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cycle.
Notes like yours are the wind beneath a writer’s wings, Sara. Thank you again for writing.
———- Forwarded message ———
From: Amnon Halel
Date: Mon, Oct 3, 2022 at 3:43 AM
Subject: Re: Rowling and Salman Rushdie in New York 2006 + Catch22
To: John Granger
Hi  Dear John!
Thank you very much and great that you published about Rushdie….
Anyway, I wanted to ask you something else  – Did you ever thought or written about Catch 22 and Harry Potter? I read Catch 22 many  times,  but many years ago and  felt there might be some contentions to HP, In the Humor, In the moral deep meaning and  in the foreshadowing technique. 
After your ring composition explanation I thought  for a while it is interesting to think about the unique structure of Catch 22. I was sure of course that Rowling read and love it since she chose it in her list of recommended books and even twittered about her rereading it,
I’m reading it again now (Catch 22) and it ‘s not simple to  grab the structure but it looks very interesting. I saw  there is a book that compare Catch 22 to the Iliad and that the Author believe that Heller used Ring Composition in his writing, after Homer, 
I couldn’t find the book to read online and I’m not sure if he really dived in to prove it but might be  a good place to start:  Leon GoldenAchilles and Yossarian: Clarity and Confusion in the Interpretation of The Iliad and Catch-22  (2009).
I saw in google also that Heller was also a very intensive planner and that in spoke about the way he knows the last sentence years before ending the writing and there are some charts he made similar to Rowling (for example:
I’m curious to know what you think about the Rowling- Heller possible links.

Thanks and in deep appreciation,

Amnon Halel
Dear Amnon,
Thank you for re-sending this note and for your patience with me. Between a new job, my PhD oral exams, Rowling’s new 1,000 page book, a niece’s wedding, and my wife starting a business, the last month is only a blur to me. My apologies for not responding promptly.
I confess that I did not write immediately as is my wont because I am embarrassed to say that I have not read Catch 22. I think I imagined I would find the time to read it before replying but I know now that’s not going to happen for months, alas. 
To encourage you in your exploration of a Rowling-Heller connection, in addition to the tweet you mention, Rowling included Catch 22 in her list of “top books every child should read” in answer to a request from the Royal Society of Literature. The editor of the celebrity lists found this selection curious:
Anthony Gardner, the editor of the magazine noted: “My impression is that when you are recommending books for children there are books that have stood the test of time and are always going to be popular but inevitably people are always going to want to make an effort to keep children in touch with what is being written at the moment. So there will be a degree of experimentation. Catch-22 is an interesting and mature choice. I think that is probably the most challenging book on JK Rowling’s list. Her list is a good one in that it caters for all ages.”
She mentions in that tweet that she first read the book at age 22, a most remarkable time in her life. She first studied story structure with Lucy Shepherd at Wyedean Comprehensive but 1987 was the year she graduated from Exeter and began her working life. I don’t think it a stretch at all to think that her remembering when she first read Catch 22 is a sign that it was an exceptionally meaningful reading experience for her — and that she was re-reading it at the height of the Radical Gender Extremists’ attempts to ‘cancel’ her in 2020 also speaks to its importance.
In other words, I think you’re on to something, though my own ignorance of the text in question makes me the last person to be able to contribute more than encouragement for you to write up this find. Given her familiarity with Homer and Greek myth, the book by Golden may work as a thread connecting Heller and Rowling through her profound interest in mythology and psychology. The similarity of the Heller chart for Catch 22 and the one Rowling released of her schematic for Order of the Phoenix is uncanny.
I hope that helps — and that you will let me know if you write anything up on the subject so I can share a link to it at HogwartsProfessor. Thank you again for asking me about this, for over-looking my ignorance of Heller and Catch 22, and for your always challenging and cordial correspondence.

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