Seeing Christ in the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows stands out to me; as my new favorite of the series, and as an excellent close on a series that has grown as I have grown, even in terms of existential questioning.

I remember joking with a freshman in my Physics class about how funny it would be if J.K. Rowling ended the series with some kind of religious appeal. He laughed and replied with a comment to the effect of, "That would be so weird. Why would she do that?"

Imagine my surprise when Christian undertones began to manifest repeatedly throughout the text. The church in Godric's Hollow, the Biblical references on the gravestones of Kendra & Ariana Dumbledore (Matthew 6:21) and Lily & James Potter (1 Corinthians 15: 26), the motif of the word "savior," and even the dialogue of Ron in the epilogue where he advises his daughter to "Thank God" that she inherited her mother's intellect. But these smaller instances of religious rhetoric affirm that J.K. Rowling's allegory to the New Testament was intentional.

The allegory manifests first with Dumbledore as a representation of Heavenly Father, a hypothesis that has existed in the other books since Chamber of Secrets. However, as Harry learns more about Dumbledore's personal life, and his plan for defeating Voldemort, Harry begins to ask questions that reflect core questions that all of us have probably asked our Father in Heaven at some point. This passage from the chapter "The Wandmaker" is a reflection of these questions:
"The Dumbledore in Harry's head smiled, surveying Harry over the tips of his fingers, pressed together as if in prayer.
You gave Ron the Deluminator. You understood him. . . . You gave him a way back. . . .
And you understood Wormtail too. . . . You knew there was a bit of regret there, somewhere. . . .
And if you knew them . . . What did you know about me, Dumbledore?
Am I meant to know, but not to seek? Did you know how hard I'd find that? Is that why you made it this difficult? So I'd have time to work that out?"
Dumbledore then proves to be quite a conniving character; planning for the greater good to be fulfilled at any and all costs, which may be how Heavenly Father appears sometimes, and how Dumbledore appears to one very confused Harry Potter as he learns more and more of what the purpose of his life is to be. Much like Jesus Christ might have felt, no? It actually should appear that way, because Harry Potter is a Christ figure. The evidence is both clear and plentiful:
  • Harry's nature parallels Christ-like qualities
  1. Forgives all men and creatures (Kreacher & Griphook)
  2. Refuses to kill (won't use Avanda Kedavra)
  3. Merciful to Voldemort in the end by telling him that remorse will save his life
  • Harry's actions mirror events from Christ's life
  1. Initial fight with Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest = Jesus suffering in the garden of Gethsemane
  2. Harry's willing sacrifice of his own life to save his friends = the Crucifixion
  3. Harry's return to life to finish the work he started = Christ's resurrection
Even Snape finds his place within the suggested allegory as a representation of Judas. Harry chooses to trust Dumbledore's judgement about Snape, despite how horrible his betrayal seemed to be. Like Judas betrayal in Heavenly Father's plan, Snape's betrayal had it's place in Dumbledore's plan: both resulted in a means of conquering Evil (Satan & Voldemort)

I'm sure many readers out there, like the freshman from my Physics class, did not see such a religious appeal coming from J.K. Rowling, and may even resent her for it. But such an appeal is not without a purpose. The main character, from a literary perspective, is the one the reader should be identifying with. Harry Potter is the main character, which means he is the source of the moral J.K. Rowling is communicating. When your main character is a Christ figure, that makes for a tall order of your audience, but is also very inspiring at the same time. Harry conquered Voldemort through decency and mercy, which allows the reader to aspire to be a better person; to find the Christ within us all. At the very least, Harry as Christ has the potential to inspire hope for Rowling's audience, the children that will finish Deathly Hallows and think, "If Harry Potter can forgive Voldemort, then maybe there's hope for my redemption."

I grew up with Harry Potter. I remember being in fourth grade, and our Language Arts teacher reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone aloud to us. Ever since then, I've had a deeper love for reading and stories. And much like Harry at that time, I had no idea what lay ahead of me. Now that I've reached the end of the Harry Potter series, I am at the point where I will soon close the book on my youth. However, the magic of my life has only begun, and I greet the years ahead with open arms for the adventures I know I will soon have. If there's anything I've learned from the Harry Potter books, it's to make your life extraordinary.

With my pen in hand and a prayer in my heart, that's exactly what I intend to do.
(P.S. I couldn't resist. *Giggles* Enjoy!)

Comments

  1. I just finished reading HP this morning at 4 - bad habit, just can't put a good book down! =)

    I had some of the same thoughts you have, and I know there will be an outcry from certain segments of the Christian community, but there were certainly enough parallels drawn, including time spent in the wilderness. At least Harry wasn't alone for that, though.

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  2. Your analysis is exactly why I have a hard time understanding the opposition from segments within Christianity. C.S. Lewis is fine, but JK Rowling is encouraging witchcraft? I just don't get that argument.

    One of the themes that struck me, particularly in the final battle in Deathly Hallows, is the notion that victory cannot be won alone - that a community of believers can overcome even the ultimate evil if they stand together and fight. In that battle, Rowling is explicit that every victory, except those between Harry and Voldermort and Bellatrix and Molly (the defeat of the two completely evil man and woman), occurs specifically because of the friends and family that flock to Hogwarts when they hear of the battle. Every victory is a result of multiple "good guys" defeating individual "bad guys" - and that is profound for the Christian community, IMHO.

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  3. Ray:

    I got an e-mail about your comment, and I was coming over to respond when I saw this in the little Ad bar:

    "Hooked on Harry
    With the sixth book, we wonder: Is Potter Bewitching our Youth?
    www.explorefaith.org"

    As a future English major, I've learned two things: books are a reflection of the person writing them, and that to hate anyone's writing (and by extension, them) is to completely misunderstand him/her. If you ever read Henry James, you'll see what I mean. I hated his stories the entire time I had to read them because I couldn't understand what he was saying. By undergoing that mild torture, I made a realization that has stuck with me; and it's a realization that people who wish to censor books haven't made.

    J.K. Rowling's Christian critics don't seem to realize that her novels are actually highly symbolic, even allegorical to their beloved scriptures. Magic isn't just magic in her books. It's a representation of Intentions. Notice how Harry only uses defensive spells; they mirror his good intentions. Harry Potter is a representation of the very best in people. If that's evil, then what chance to any of us have at being good?

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  4. Forgive my intrusion, but I enjoyed your thoughts; however, I would add one tiny comment. Don't forget the marks on his hands. I don't think that imagery was without purpose. I realize Harry only has a scar on one hand, whereas Christ has both hands marked, but I doubt this is an accident.

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