Some Thoughts on Harry Potter and Narnia

As a post-Christian epic (to borrow a phrase from a friend), Potter’s world is a fragmented world of profoundly Christian moral themes and postmodern moral confusion. J.K. Rowling admits to quite liking Narnia as a kid: “I adored them when I was a child. I got so caught up I didn’t think CS Lewis was especially preachy.”  And at least from my reading, she borrowed quite a bit from Narnia.

For example, the great theme from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” is the “deeper magic from before the dawn of time.”  This is essentially Divine Providence, the Emperor’s love for his people that goes deeper than anything the White Witch can scheme or execute to undo this deeper plan.  I found the exact same to be true in “Harry Potter:” the fundamental theme of the books is self-sacrificial love, Harry’s mother’s self-sacrifice for him and Harry’s own act of selfless love at the end.  And of course this self-sacrifice is the “deeper magic.”  Dumbledore, to the mockery of many, makes a constant point of noting that since Voldemort knows nothing of the power of selfless love, he will be defeated by it.  Just like the White Witch.

But the worldview is not quite coherent.  Dumbledore and Grindelwald split over the latter’s obsession with actions performed for the “common good.”  It’s not hard in our own century to see how the “common good” can become an invisibility cloak for any number of ruthless actions.  Yet at the same time, for the sake of the “common good,” Dumbledore orders Snape to kill him, and innocent man.  The end justifies the means.  Where’s the logic?  I missed it.  In other words, my take is that, while in Narnia, the logic of Narnia is held together by the implicit Christian worldview, in Potter’s world, this is missing.

Narnia too has a clear vision of the afterlife, Potter’s world a very murky one.  What is the point of self-sacrifice and love in Narnia?  Well, it is good because it’s logic is held together by the existence of Aslan, the Emperor, and their love, and the way the world is created to be a place of love, all the way back to when it was sung into existence in “The Magician’s Nephew.”  Those who acting in a selfless and loving way will be able to go “further up and further in” to the new Narnia that Aslan has prepared for those who love him. But what makes it good in the world of Potter?  It is simply asserted as good.  Self-sacrifice is good.  Period.  There are hints of an afterlife, and Voldemort’s shriveled soul lies on the floor in Harry’s sight in the limbo state he finds himself in, so we know that the lack of love shrivels the soul.  We just don’t know why.  This is simply how the universe is.  There is something of a logic to Potter’s world, we simply do not know who constructed it or made it as such.

I guess what I’m saying is that while I find “Harry Potter” to be a compelling story about self-sacrifice and love, and for that reason I quite like it, at the same time it betrays all of the internal contradictions of a post-Christian age.  Because there is no personal loving creator of the world, a profound morality is asserted, but often inconsistently, and without the logic to support it.

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