Several years ago, I overheard my wife reading the first Harry Potter book to our daughter, then age 10. I was struck by the graphic content, the power, and the vivid descriptions, and soon became an avid reader of all four books. The mystery, the suspense, the complexity, the characters, and the puzzles all kept us enthralled.
Unlike J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling has idealized the world of magic, excluding ordinary non-magic folk almost completely. The author is well-educated and is very good at writing stories that are incredibly appealing. She has skillfully woven together numerous magnetic elements, including loyalty to friends, rags to sudden riches, winning in sports, dark secrets, and being able to make wishes come true.
Harry is a very admirable stepchild, capable of living even-mindedly and cheerfully in the face of his stepfamily’s unrelenting resentment and boorish behavior. He is honest, fair, hard working, an exemplary athlete and a “natural” magician. His is the most positive and uplifting example in the books, but even he is not above suspicion, as he speaks with snakes and has a susceptibility to power.
On the dark side we have, in the first book, the darkest evil magician drinking the blood of the most beautiful and harmless magical creatures, the unicorns. Then there is the outright physical possession of another person by this Evil One. The second book has another bloodthirsty creature that turns people to stone with a glance. The third has entities stealing peoples’ souls and locking them away. The fourth has the Evil One drinking Harry’s blood. Rowling deceptively veils the blackest magic as “Dark Arts,” and has that professor act very ambiguously in his loyalties. Rowling now promises “darker” topics to come.
I am not the fan I once was. Do children discriminate in all this grayness? For those who succumb to the dark lure, the Internet contains many opportunistic sites offering revenge and power over others through magic and voodoo. The outcome of this gross misuse of energy can be confusing, disturbing, and even frightening.
Please, uphold the light.
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