A Gathering Voices post by Greg Garrett
The gala premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2 was Thursday in Trafalgar Square, one of London’s most iconic and symbolic locations, and it marked the end of a 14 year journey with the most popular fictional cast in the history of story-telling. It has been a journey that has watched children who began the series grow to young adulthood, those who read about Harry and his adventures as teenagers become parents who may now read the stories to their own children, and those of us who were already all grown up—well, we’re still grown up. But all of us who love Harry Potter are feeling something like the young man interviewed in the Telegraph who said (as many others did in many other media stories released last week), “It was like watching my childhood come to an end.”
After 450 million copies of the Harry Potter books have sold world-wide, the highest-grossing film series in history is finishing its telling of Harry’s adventures, and it is the end of the Potter phenomenon for now. So many people are writing about it, mourning it personally, and I, for one, am wondering why a mere entertainment has become such a giant part of people’s lives.
I’ve written and spoken a lot about Harry Potter, have read the books multiple times, have seen all the films over and over, and so I know that these are stories that engage us with strong heroes (and heroines), a compelling struggle between good and evil, an outcast and orphans who finds a home and a family. In the book I’m writing now on post-9/11 culture, I’m arguing that the Potter books and films deal increasingly with topical issues of the day, one of the things that often leads audiences to consume popular culture. It reflects their world—or gives them insight into it.
But I also wrote a book about the Potter saga, One Fine Potion, that suggests Harry's story is an extended retelling of the life of Jesus and the Gospel narrative. It’s full of spiritual and even religion insights, and J. K. Rowling, far from being a witch or Satanist, has identified herself repeatedly as a member of the Church of Scotland who attends services and based Harry’s entire story on the life of Christ. These books and films can teach us dramatically about self-sacrifice, love and compassion, faith, courage, and the necessity of community.
By the time you finish watching the final film or reading the final book, you’ve been exposed to may of the grand themes of the Bible. Perhaps not surprisingly, Rowling told the media on the release of the final book that the two Bible verses quoted in that volume—the most overtly-Christian elements of the series—were the thematic core of all she had written.
So what do you think? Does this feel like the end of something to you and your family? Why do you think so many have connected with the Potter saga?
On a more somber note, this is my final post for Gathering Voices. I want to thank my fellow bloggers and Westminster John Knox for this fun experiment, and all of you who have read my Monday posts on religion and culture. I will continue writing my Thursday column on faith and politics at Patheos, and throw myself into finishing my book on 9/11, which will be out from WJK in Fall, 2012. Blessings--GG