I’ve blogged about Christian imagery in the upcoming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows films here:
This post is about the Christian imagery in the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince film. A cross can be clearly seen in this screencap, taken from the scene in which Harry and Dumbledore are apparating away from Horace Slughorn’s village.
Then there is the scene at the end of the film in which Harry, Ron, and Hermione are having a conversation at the top of the Astronomy Tower in the aftermath of Dumbledore’s death.
Look on top of the castle turret on the right side of this screencap. The decoration at the top of the turret appears cross-shaped from this distance, although a closer inspection may reveal that it is not a cross, it certainly looks like one. What are Harry and Hermione looking at in this scene?
They are watching Fawkes the Phoenix soar joyfully into the blue, of course. The phoenix is a symbol of the Resurrection whose origins I explained in my book, The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.
The mythology of classical antiquity described the phoenix as a majestic bird which flew to foreign lands to gather fragrant herbs and spices to heap upon an altar, set fire to them, and then burn itself to ashes, only to rise from the pyre after three days time. The early Fathers of the Church logically saw this myth as a typological symbol of the death of Christ, who rose from the tomb on the third day.
The phoenix was adapted by the early Christians as a symbol of the Resurrection as early as the first century A.D. Drawings of the creature appear amongst the Christian murals and “graffiti” that identify the tombs of the martyrs in the catacombs beneath the city of Rome. St.Clement of Rome, who was pope at the end of the first century, wrote of the legend of the phoenix in his First Letter to the Corinthians. He used the story of how the bird died and rose again as a new phoenix to explain the Resurrection of the Christian faithful which will occur at the end of time. –quote from pages 37-38
The symbolism of the phoenix has been important throughout the series. Harry met Fawkes, Dumbledore’s pet phoenix, in the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Fawkes saved Harry’s life by crying healing tears to heal a mortal wound Harry received from the deadly basilisk. The tears of a phoenix are the only known cure for the basilisk’s poisonous venom. Fawkes’s song gave Harry renewed strength and courage in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when the young hero had to face Voldemort in the flesh during the wizard’s duel in the churchyard. Dumbledore’s patronus is a phoenix, and the name of the Anti-Voldemort league that Dumbledore established is called “The Order of the Phoenix.” All of the good adult wizards that Harry admires—Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Tonks, Mad-Eye Moody, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley—are members of the new Order of the Phoenix. Harry’s deceased parents, James and Lily, along with Ron’s deceased uncles, Gideon and Fabian Prewett, and Neville’s parents, Frank and Alice Longbottom, were all members of the original Order of the Phoenix during the First Voldemort War. We even witness Fawkes the Phoenix saving Dumbledore’s life when Voldemort tries to use Avada Kedavra, the Death Curse, to defeat him: “Fawkes swooped down in front of Dumbledore, opened his beak wide, and swallowed the jet of green light whole.” (OP 815) Only the phoenix, like Christ, could take the curse of death upon himself and rise again in glory, unharmed. From the earliest days of Christianity, the phoenix was a symbol of the believer’s hope of Resurrection at the end of the world. Its ascension into the heavens, like that of the eagle, symbolized the soul’s desire for union with God. At the funeral which concludes the sixth book, Harry saw smoke rising from the white flames around Dumbledore’s body, and “Harry thought, for one heart-stopping moment, that he saw a phoenix fly joyfully into the blue.” (HBP 645)–quote from pages 40-41.
Here’s another screencap from the sixth Harry Potter film.
The tapestry behind Ginny is based on a very famous work of art, “The Unicorn in Captivity.”
It is the seventh in a series of tapestries entitled The Hunt of the Unicorn as an Allegory of the Passion. The unicorn is captured, killed, and resurrected in the series of tapestries, and is thus a Christ symbol. In The Lord of the Hallows, I wrote:
Another set of famous unicorn tapestries, currently housed in the Cloisters, the Medieval exhibit of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a set entitled The Hunt of the Unicorn as an Allegory of the Passion. These tapestries, woven in 1495-1505 in the Netherlands, depict the betrayal and passion of Jesus Christ as a unicorn hunt. Although the unicorn is killed in the sixth of the seven tapestries, he appears alive and well in the seventh tapestry. Here, the unicorn is a collared beast in a small enclosure, surrounded by a field of colorful flowers. “The Unicorn in Captivity” is symbolic of the resurrected Christ. A unicorn tapestry copied from this famous work of art appears in the film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), and can be seen clearly behind Ginny Weasley when she takes Harry by the hand in front of the Room of Requirement. –quote from pages 29-30.
If you would like to read more about what I have written about the phoenix and unicorn, as well as the symbolism of the lion, serpent, stag, griffin, eagle, and the weasel, please consider ordering a copy of my book from www.outskirtspress.com/thelordofthehallows. Other topics covered in the book include the influence of Inklings C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien on Rowling’s writing, Harry Potter’s Christian themes (such as free will, the immortality of the soul, and the power of self-sacrificial love), Horcruxes and Hallows, the Arthurian legends of the Grail Hallows, a belief in God in Harry’s world, the Biblical quotations in Godric’s Hollow, Aslan, Frodo, and Harry Potter as Christ figures, and much more!
The book is also available from http://www.amazon.com/Lord-Hallows-Christian-Symbolism-Rowlings/dp/1432741128 I noticed that Luke Bell’s Baptizing Harry Potter and Travis Prinzi’s Hog’s Head Conversations are listed as books that people also buy when purchasing my book. I’ve read both of those volumes, and I would definitely recommend them to all of the Harry Potter fans who follow this blog. Both books are excellent! 🙂
You might want to read these posts if you haven’t done so already:
Harry Potter and C. S. Lewis’s Silver Chair: https://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/exciting-narnia-news-and-the-deeper-meaning-of-the-silver-chair-and-harry-potter/
The Deeper Meaning of the Quest for the Deathly Hallows (a Grail Hallows Comparison) https://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/the-deeper-meaning-of-the-quest-for-the-deathly-hallows/
Weasley Is Our King! (The Weasel as a Christian Symbol) https://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/weasley-is-our-king/
The Power of Love and Self-Sacrifice in Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings: https://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/the-power-of-love-and-self-sacrifice-in-harry-potter-and-the-lord-of-the-rings/
An Excerpt from My Mythcon 41 Paper on Horcruxes and Sauron’s Ring: https://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/mythcon-41/
Melissa Anelli’s Unpublished Rowling Interviews (“Hallows of Hogwarts” and other possible titles for Book 7, and the Dumbledore as “God” & Grindelwald as “Lucifer” quote) https://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com/2010/04/30/melissa-anelli-and-j-k-rowling-interview/
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