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July 16, 2007

Christian Harry Potter

by Dan

Since religion is never mentioned in the books, it’s hard to say if Harry is Christian. But from what I understand, J.K. Rowling certainly is. Cheryl and I have been re-reading the books in preparation for the release of Deathly Hallows later this week and just finished book 6. We started wondering about what might happen in the last one.

Now, Rowling is notorious for not giving out any details about what happens or how her books end. However, she has mentioned that at least 2 characters die, but that the book is “not a bloodbath.” She won’t comment on whether Harry makes it through or not. So we tried considering Harry Potter in the light of popular Christian beliefs and came up with some very interesting predictions.

Voldemort is Defeated

Yeah, I know. No rocket science here. One interesting thing to note is Voldemort’s close relationship with snakes, including his occasional possession of his pet snake Nagini before he got his body back. And if Dumbledore is right, Voldemort is even using Nagini as one of his Horcruxes, storing part of his soul inside it. I think Voldemort is a pretty easy metaphor for Satan, especially considering Satan’s appearance as a serpent to tempt Eve in the Garden of Eden. I’m not sure if Voldemort will die or just be defeated, but either way, the temptation of the Dark Side will remain to tempt future wizards.

Dumbledore Returns

If the books are written by a Christian and contain a lot of metaphorical references to Christianity, we must ask who represents Christ. If you choose a serpent as Voldemort’s animal side-kick, then what animal makes the best symbol for the Savior? The phoenix is the only creature I’m aware of that is reborn after death. And Dumbledore’s phoenix Fawkes features prominently in several parts of the series.

Other parallels to Christian beliefs include Christ drinking from a bitter cup, which matches Dumbledore’s attempt to salvage the Horcrux locket with Harry. Dumbledore’s funeral is also interesting as the table his body is lying on bursts into flame for a few moments, blocking his body from sight, and leaving a white tomb behind. Both times we’ve seen Fawkes die, he has burst into flame. And Harry thinks he sees a phoenix burst into the sky from the fire surrounding Dumbledore’s body just before the tomb appears. And there is Harry’s comment, originally made by Dumbledore himself, that Dumbledore will never be truly gone as long as there are those who are loyal to him.

I don’t think Dumbledore will come back to life as he used to be (Christ didn’t), but he will return after a while, further instruct Harry, and then leave again, as did Christ after his resurrection.

Snape and Neville Die

Predicting which of the major characters will die isn’t quite as dependent on Christian theology, but I think it’ll be Snape and Neville.

I don’t see Ron or Hermione dying as their relationship and character development are too interesting. And I don’t think either would make a good martyr — voluntarily or otherwise. They kind of represent a hope for the future, the purpose for which Harry fights and suffers.

Luna, one of Rowlings’s favorite characters, will also live as she is one of the few characters to believe in an afterlife. She provides a spiritual, if not religious, point of view in the book and has come to represent “faith in things not seen.”

Ginny will live as it would be cruel to us readers to kill her before Harry finishes with Voldemort, and it doesn’t make sense to kill her afterwards. She represents another type of hope for the future. Her brothers Fred and George, also favorites of Rowlings’s, will live just because they provide too much comic relief from what is going to be an intense story.

Mr. and Mrs. Weasly both live. Mr. Weasly has already had his brush with death, so I don’t think his death would have as much impact as it would have otherwise. And Mrs. Weasly symbolizes worrying about others too much.

I don’t think any of the teachers will die. Harry doesn’t even tell Professor McGonagall what he and Dumbledore were doing or what his plans are. I think it’s clear that there is no longer any one between Harry and Voldemort.

Draco Malfoy was instrumental in Dumbledore’s death, though he couldn’t bring himself to kill Dumbledore directly. But his motivation seems to be centered in Voldemort’s threats against his parents as much as his natural ambition. Draco has always been Harry’s arch-nemesis, just as Snape was Harry’s father’s. But I think Draco will end up helping the Order fight Voldemort, perhaps acting as a spy as Snape did. In contrast to Harry’s father and Snape, I think Draco and Harry’s relationship will develop into one of grudging respect, highlighting repentance and forgiveness.

Neville is who Harry would have been had Voldemort chosen differently. His parents are insane and no longer recognize him, having been tortured by Voldemort’s followers. And Rowling has mentioned that she doesn’t think Luna would make a good match for Neville (nothing written in stone though). He is one of the major characters that would make a great martyr. Especially if he’s able to help destroy one of the Horcruxes in the process.

I believe Snape will die too. Snape is the betrayer, a kind of a Judas Iscariot figure. But I think he will be redeemed. I think he and Dumbledore planned for the eventual possibility of Snape needing to kill Dumbledore and arranged for it to happen precisely as it did. Snape’s character development has been incredibly interesting and leaving him as just another bad guy to kill would detract from the confrontation with Voldemort. I don’t think he’ll ever reconcile with Harry, however, but maybe he will also help with destroying one of the Horcruxes.

Harry Lives

This is a tough one. Having Harry die would fit a long history of heroic characters who give their lives to save the day. And it could be done in a way that leaves Harry gone, but still around much like Dumbledore. But since Dumbledore represents Christ, I think Harry represents more of our own personal struggles against temptation and evil. He will live having won his fight.

UPDATE 2007-07-16: Just after I finish writing this (of course), I found out that Rowling has already admitted that Dumbledore will play a big role in book 7, despite being dead. Other hints include Snape being a good character and that Harry, Ron, and Hermione all live.

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