Travis Prinzi on Potter Fairy Tales and Morality

HP Progs gives us the perfect lead in for the release of Tales of Beedle the Bard by interviewing Travis Prinzi, webmaster of The Hog’s, friend of this blog, and author of Harry Potter and Imagination (now available for pre-order here and the Table Of Contents for which brilliant book can be found here). The discussion in the comment boxes at HP Progs took an interesting turn when Travis urged a reader to consider the possibility that Ms. Rowling’s work does indeed have an intrinsic moral message.

Check out Travis’ talk at HP Progs, the conversation about the books’ morality, and feel free to join in there using your own or these Rowling morality quotations I found for the Schoolboy Novel chapter in Harry Potter’s Bookshelf:

“I did not conceive it as a moral tale, the morality sprang naturally out of the story, a subtle but important difference. I think any book that sets out to teach or preach is likely to be hard going at times (though I can think of a couple of exceptions).”

But she is writing morality tales.

“I know it’s unfashionable to use this word, morality, and I never set out to preach, but ” “undeniably, morals are drawn.”

There’s “definitely” a “certain morality” in the stories. What saves Harry in the end are his “free will, courage and moral certainty.”

And the best for last:

From Karen Manners Smith’s “Harry Potter’s Schooldays: J.K. Rowling and the British Boarding School Novel” in Reading Harry Potter: Critical Essays (ed., Giselle Lisa Anatols, Greenwood Publishing (Praeger), 2003, p. 78)

“Rowling in her interviews speaks of the morality in her books, even if it is of gentler, subtler kind than Hughes employs, and even if amusement is surely the larger part of their design. She mentions “the moral heart” of the first book, and says that “the moral point becomes clear toward the end of each book,” adding that “the morals tend to come quite naturally, often as I approach the end I realize what I’ve been writing about” (Dening; “WizKid;” “Enchanting Chapters in the Life of a ‘Modern-Day C.S.Lewis’ “).”

And — Don’t forget while you’re out and about to enter the Hog’s Head contest to win a free copy of Travis’ book, Harry Potter and the Imagination!

Harry Potter and Imagination offers a challenging and rewarding tour of the inspirations for and meanings behind J.K. Rowling’s lauded series. Travis Prinzi ably explores how the Harry Potter books satisfy fundamental human yearnings, utilize mythological archetypes, and embody their author’s social vision. From Arthurian romance and Lovecraftian horror to postmodernism and political theory, Prinzi provides new insights into the Harry Potter phenomenon. Harry Potter and Imagination will not only fascinate and entertain readers, but will also convince them that Fairy Tales matter.

Dr. Amy Sturgis, Past Watchful Dragons

There is no more insightful commenter on the Harry Potter novels than Travis Prinzi – and Harry Potter & Imagination is an ideal showcase for his original thinking and lucid writing. This trail-blazing guidebook into the world of Harry Potter – showing the imaginative way between two worlds – is a must-read.

John Granger, The Deathly Hallows Lectures


  1. Arabella Figg says

    Unlike what SeaJay wrote at HPPRogs, there really isn’t an either/or regarding intentional vs. accidental moralizing. I don’t think any author moralizes by accident. An author does have a point to make and I like how Rowling speaks of morals naturally unfolding out of the story situations she creates. She has a great gift for this. And how even she could be surprised by her own story. It’s a clever and careful author who can both “delight and instruct,” with just the right amount of weight.

    Kitties delight and instruct, but can sometimes leave you scratching your head…

  2. Red Rocker says

    So can we agree on what the moral point of each of the books is?

    This is not to question the author that there is indeed a moral point. I can see many. I’m just wondering if we can agree on one, or more realistically, a distinct cluster of moral points for each book.

    I can start the ball rolling.

    For PS three of the moral points would be: if wishes were horses, beggars would be riders; the only person who can be trusted with power is the one who doesn’t seek it; you can’t tell a book by its cover???

  3. Arabella Figg says

    Speaking of telling a book by it’s cover, have you seen the 10th Anniversary edition of Sorcerer’s Stone with a gorgeous new cover by Mary Grandpre? See and read about it at Barnes & Noble; the copy says:

    ‘The special anniversary cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone depicts 11-year-old Harry looking into the Mirror of Erised, which Harry comes across in his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and learns that the mirror shows you what you most desire.

    “It’s a real treat for me to get another chance to visually bring Harry back to his fans in not only a new scene, but in a new light,” said American illustrator of the Harry Potter books, Mary GrandPré. “Going back to draw the first cover for the anniversary edition was an opportunity for me to show another side of Harry… a vulnerable side. Having come to know and love Harry the way we all have, after experiencing the whole series, I think we can appreciate him even more on an emotional level.”‘

    On to your interesting idea Red Rocker, about each book’s morals. For PS, I offer the following:
    1. Longing for the past prevents you from moving on to your future.
    2. Blood and heritage don’t determine a person’s worth.
    3. A life well-lived is more worthy than a life long-lived.

    Even a cat could agree with those…

  4. Arabella Figg says

    Perhaps a great moral/spiritual theme of PS (also the series) is “Greater love has no man than he who lays down his life for a friend.” Harry, only beginning his spiritual alchemical journey, was willing to die to save his friends, Hogwarts and WizWorld, (see his impassioned speech to Ron and Hermione, PS Scholastic 270). This demonstrates his “Christ symbolism.”

    Re my #3: I was thinking of both Harry and Nicholas Flamel. Flamel had been triumphant in the spiritual alchemical process and lived a pure, transcendant and long life. Yet, for the greater good, he destroyed the Stone, seeing death as only “the next great adventure.”

    Dumbledore ruminates that “the Stone was really not such a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all–the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are the worst for them.” (PS Schol., 297).

    And cats laugh…

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