Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Last year when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 was released in theaters, I decided to do a marathon of the movies, although it was spaced out over a week or two due to school commitments. This marathon culminated in re-watching The Deathly Hallows Part 1 in the theatre, and subsequently I decided to re-read all the books leading up to the release of the final film in the series, The Deathly Hallows Part 2. So on January 1, 2011, I picked up my worn copy of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone and began to read.
First Experience With Harry Potter
My history with the Harry Potter books and films has been an interesting one. I was first introduced to the world of Harry, Ron, and Hermione by my friend Paul, way back when we were sophomore’s in high school. This was back in 2002, a year before The Order of the Phoenix would come out in bookstores. I remember vaguely being aware of Harry Potter before hand, but no one I knew had read them or even talked about them before I moved to Minnesota. (More on that in a minute.) A new school and a new group of friends in Minnesota changed all that when Paul invited me over to his house one night to watch some DVDs, which turned out to be the first few Harry Potter films. He subsequently loaned me his copy of the books and I devoured them, reading them late into every night during high school. Eventually I caught up on all the films and books, and while I was never a midnight shopper fan of the series, I have savored each book and film as they come out. I owe a great debt of gratitude to my friend Paul.
I grew up reading mostly fiction. My tastes tended to mature as I grew older as well, and by the age of 10 or so I was reading what could be classified as “adult fiction”, in the sense of maturity, not topic ratings. But at the same time, I had an amazing filter; if a book bothered me, I quit reading it. Around this time, my mom told me something that had a profound impact; I was reading through “Elfstones of Shannara“, the second book in the Terry Brooks series and which is still my all time favorite series, and was having some trouble with the demons that appeared in the book. I forget precisely what my mom told me when I mentioned it to her, but she laid out to me quite clearly that it was fiction, mere fantasy, and if I could distinguish between reality and fantasy, and didn’t have a problem with the fiction, then I could make my own decisions about what to read or not to read. This unlocked my eyes to a lot of things in the world, and in particular the true nature of reality and good and evil, but has also led to problems with fellow Christians.
Christians and Harry Potter
I mentioned before that Harry Potter was not discussed around the circles I was in prior to moving to Minnesota. That’s because Harry Potter was wicked, evil, of the devil, a product of witchcraft, those books should be burned, children would grow up to be Satanists, etc. Even here in Minnesota, I remember a great debate that took place between educated, godly pastors and seminary professors as to whether Harry Potter was ok to read or so totally wicked it was as bad as witchcraft. To this day I know some people who have lightened up on the books, but still refuse to read them personally because all the rhetoric about them being evil was drilled into their head. Their loss.
The whole time this discussion was ongoing, I boldly continued to read and enjoy each piece of the Harry Potter universe I was exposed to. I consider these some of the finest books ever written, easily up there with any other popular or classical book or series. I don’t feel corrupted. When you know the truth, the truth shall set you free. Any Christian who knows the truth should be able to discern that these are works of pure fantasy. And there is much that should be praised in these books; at their core, they are deep Christian allegory on the level of CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Yes, many Christians, whether well-intentioned or not, have nitpicked these books to death (“See! Harry Potter disobeys authority at school! These books are satanic!”), which just demonstrates the sheer variety of opinion found in Christianity (what’s unfortunate with that is that everyone claims divine insight, to the point where it’s just ridiculous, because if the Holy Spirit was illuminating and “revealing all truth” to everyone with the Holy Spirit, then how do you explain everyone having a different opinion? And no, I’m not going to debate this rhetoric).
There is nothing evil or wicked or demonic or related to real witchcraft in Harry Potter, beyond the general level of corruption inherent in everything in this fallen world (which means that things such as your hymnal or English Bible is just as wicked, demonic, and corrupt). If you don’t wish to read Harry Potter, don’t read Harry Potter. But you have no business declaring everyone should share your beliefs as if you were the mouth of God. The books and films are immensely beneficial and profitable to those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
So, with all that unpleasantness aside, how was the book?
Excellent!! I had forgotten so much! It really was fascinating to read the book so soon after watching the film and seeing where the film was different. Some of the changes I definitely agree with, others I’m still a little peeved about. I forgot how quickly the older books can be read; I seem to remember it taking a long time when I first read them.
One thing that jumped out at me was just how little Hermione was in the book. It almost feels like she was elevated in status in later books when she proved more popular a character than Neville or anyone else, although to be frank secondary characters were not developed well in The Sorcerer’s Stone. And as far as I know, Hermione is the only main character to not ride a broomstick in any of the films. I’m not sure if that’s sexism or reverse sexism, but it makes an interesting observation.
I started reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets this afternoon. It’s been years since I’ve read the books, so I’m looking forward to working my way through all of them again. These are books meant to be enjoyed, savored, and revisited every few years. They are modern masterpieces.
I’ll be sure to blog more direct thoughts about the book and accompanying film after I finish Chamber of Secrets!
And for an interesting review of The Deathly Hallows (book), check out Orson Scott Card’s blog.