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October 25, 2011

Harry Potter

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harry

Contributor: Hannah Vickers

Growing up, being the youngest of four girls and a daughter of a pastor, my sisters and I never really were allowed to view a great deal of violence on TV, so besides the occasional hair pull, or a slight shove now and then, we were oblivious to the harshness of reality. Our games, books and movies were filled with the usual Disney storyline that always ended with a happily-ever-after. PBS was a must, and anything outside of our little town of Cut-N-Shoot, Texas was blurred by a force field of safety. But, even the strongest parental protection over us could not shield us from a worldwide phenomenon that touched American children in 1997—the magical world of Harry Potter.

When J.K Rowling’s first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, hit the market in 1997, it reached a level of best-sellerdom never before achieved by a children’s novel in the United States.[1]  On his 11th birthday, young Harry Potter discovers the life he never knew he had: the life of a wizard. Immediately after he starts attending Hogwarts, a prestigious school for wizards and witches, his journey begins with his two new friends, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasly. As soon as the book hit the shelves, even in our small town, it was an immediate hot commodity. My mother, who regularly read books aloud to my sisters and me, decided to purchase and read Harry Potter. Many aspects of the book did not sit well with her, or with many other parents in our community, but the point in the book that sealed my parents’ decision to forbid us from everything affiliated with Harry Potter was the events that occurred in Chapter 5: “Harry discovers a dead unicorn in the forbidden forest. Out of the shadows, a hooded figure came crawling across the ground like some stalking beast.…The cloaked figure reached the unicorn, lowered its head over the wound in the animal’s side, and began to drink its blood.…The hooded figure raised its head and looked right at Harry – unicorn blood was dripping down its front.[2] The satanic sacrifice of an innocent animal wasn’t something on my mothers “to do list” of life morals to teach her children, and she believed the book, even if it wasn’t its intentions, introduced us to something very evil and merciless. Emily Anne Woodrum, who wrote “The Harry Potter Controversy,” said, “This particular quote can draw many parallels to Christianity.” She believes the cloaked figure to be symbolic of Satan and the unicorn to be symbolic of Jesus. Through stories about Harry Potter, children are “being introduced to human sacrifice, the sucking of blood from dead animals and possessions by spirit beings.”[3] Regardless of religious affiliation, and even if Rowling’s characters aren’t biblically symbolic, many parents may not desire for their children to read about evil characters who drink blood to gain power.

While some parents did not allow Harry Potter to be read in their homes because of the graphic violence, and others felt that it was “anti-Christian,” many thought that it should not be labeled a book for children at all. Carol Rockwood of St. Mary’s Island Church of England School argued that, “The Bible is very clear and consistent in its teachings that wizards, devils and demons exist and are very real, powerful and dangerous and God’s people are told to have nothing to do with them.” She added that, “I believe it is confusing to children when something wicked is being made to look fun.”[4]

Although the news was overflowing with articles full of negativity from Christian families towards Harry Potter, readers, taking a stand, began to defend their cherished book. One man wrote in “The Harry Potter Debate,” “Harry Potter is a good role model for children. Harry is a boy wizard that despite all the hard breaks he has in his life still manages to prevail over his adversaries. The stories are full of universal themes. Learning to face up to fears, standing up for what one believes in and realizing that people with different backgrounds can work together and become friends are skills that everyone could use reminding of.” Wanting to assure her audiences that her book was harmless, the author, J.K Rowling was also quoted in the same article and said, “’I have met thousands of children now, and not even one time has a child come up to me and said, ‘Ms. Rowling, I’m so glad I’ve read these books because now I want to be a witch.’ They see it for what it is,” she emphasized. ”It is a fantasy world and they understand that completely.” [5]

After seeing both sides of the arguments, if I were a parent, I would probably follow in the footsteps of my mother. Although I do not think Harry Potter is a book for all ages, or that it should be marketed as a children’s book, I don’t think it is complete blasphemy and that it should be banned from schools or that children are going to get the wrong ideas about life from the book.

Harry Potter fans devouring the latest. From Life Online

As I have written about how the beginning of the “Harry Potter Era” transformed news articles and parents views on what is and isn’t acceptable for children, it’s ironic because the era came to an end this year. The controversial book that aged as we did will no longer be in the headlines of newspapers but will simply be a book that you may or may not be introduced to as a child. In a digital age filled with families lining up for iPods, iPads and iPhones, there was one exception to the rule: For well over a decade, millions lined up at midnight to get their hands on a copy of a hardback book.[6]


[1] CARVAJAL, DOREEN . “Children’s Book Casts a Spell Over Adults; Young Wizard Is Best Seller And a Copyright Challenge – Page 2 – New York Times.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. http://www.nytimes.com/1999/04/01/books/children-s-book-casts-spell-over-adults-young-wizard-best-seller-copyright.html?ref=harrypotter&pagewanted=2 (accessed September 26, 2011)

[2] Rowling, J. K., and Mary GrandPré. “Diagon Alley.” In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. NY: A.A. Levine Books, 1998. 250.

[3] Woodrum, Emily Anne. “Harry Potter Controversy.” East Carolina University. http://www.ecu.edu/cs-lib/reference/instruction/harrypotter.cfm (accessed September 26, 2011).

[4] Ross, Shmuel. “Harry Potter Banned? — Infoplease.com.” Infoplease: Encyclopedia, Almanac, Atlas, Biographies, Dictionary, Thesaurus. Free online reference, research & homework help. — Infoplease.com. http://www.infoplease.com/spot/banned-harry.html (accessed September 26, 2011).

[5] Apologetics Index. “The Harry Potter Debate : Research Resources – religious cults, sects and movements.” Apologetics Index: Christian Apologetics and Cult Information. http://www.apologeticsindex.org/p03.html (accessed September 26, 2011).

[6] Slack, Andrew. “The ‘Harry Potter Generation’ opens at the close – CNN.” Featured Articles from CNN. http://articles.cnn.com/2011-07-15/entertainment/hpa.fans_1_wizarding-world-hogsmeade-gryffindor-common-room?_s=PM:SHOWBIZ (accessed September 26, 2011).

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