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Archive for the ‘Inklings’ Category

Here’s an update on the episodes of The Secrets of Harry Potter podcast that you may have missed.

SHP079 Astronomy in Harry Potter http://harrypotter.sqpn.com/2012/05/04/shp079-astronomy-in-harry-potter/

In this episode, recorded live during the 2012 SQPN podcast marathon, the team of The Secrets of Harry Potter discussed the connection between the Black Family tree and astronomy. We also discussed the star-gazing centaur prophets both in Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Some links discussed during the show:

  • The Harry Potter Lexicon by Steve Vander Ark
  • J.K. Rowling announced her new book for adults, The Casual Vacancy, will be released worldwide on 27 September 2012. Click here to read more about it.
  • Pottermore is now open. All of us are on Pottermore, and if you want to add us, please click here to know our Pottermore usernames. Also, please let us know what you think of your Pottermore experience!
  • For fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, check out the upcoming movie, The Lion Awakes. You can also follow them on Twitter: @thelionawakes
  • We’re being promoted on a Tumblr blog, Harry Potter Celebration. We were featured the first week in April. Find them on Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter.

SHP078 An Interview with John Granger http://harrypotter.sqpn.com/2012/02/08/shp078-an-interview-with-john-granger/

Ari, Jim, Lyn, and I interviewed the “Hogwarts Professor” John Granger in this episode. We discussed Christian symbolism in Harry Potter, how John became a Harry Potter fan, the Christian culture war over Harry Potter, alchemical symbolism in the Harry Potter series, the ring structure of the Harry Potter series, alchemical symbolism in the works of C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, Charles Dickens, and Shakespeare, the structure and symbolism of Harry Potter as compared to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the “eye” symbols in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the cyclical nature of the Harry Potter series compared to the cyclical nature of the Church Year, the four layers of literary meaning, and much more. (We also discuss Twilight and The Hunger Games.) This is one of my favorite episodes of The Secrets of Harry Potter. Don’t miss it!

SHP077 Numbers in the Harry Potter World http://harrypotter.sqpn.com/2011/12/21/shp077-numbers-in-the-harry-potter-world/

In this episode, Jim, Bob, Lyn, Ari, and I discussed number symbolism in the Harry Potter universe. We compared the symbolism of the numbers 3, 7, and 12 in the Bible, Catholic Tradition, and in the Harry Potter series.

SHP076 Is Harry Potter a Christ/Messianic Figure? http://harrypotter.sqpn.com/2011/11/12/shp076-is-harry-potter-a-christmessianic-figure/

This is a controversial topic In Harry Potter scholarship. Listen to our debate/discussion and let us know what you think. Is Harry Potter a Christ Figure?

Many of the arguments that I presented in this episode can be found in my book The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter which can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Lord-Hallows-Christian-Symbolism/dp/1432741128.

Please leave feedback on each episode that you listen to in the comments section of the SHP blog. (The links for each episode are in this blog post.) We may read your feedback on an upcoming episode of our show.

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On an upcoming  episode of SQPN’s “Secrets of Harry Potter” podcast, we will be discussing chapter four of The Lord of the Hallows, entitled “Harry Potter and The Bestiary of Christ.” This week, I am posting excerpts from that chapter. Here’s the first installment.

“There might be eagles. There might be stags…”

Badgers!” said Lucy.

—conversation between Peter and Lucy Pevensie in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (LWW 112, emphasis mine.)

            In addition to the themes of free will, life after death, the immortality of the soul, and the power of love and self-sacrifice, the Harry Potter novels are rich in symbolism derived from ancient and Medieval folklore and legends. A wealth of information on Christian symbolism relevant to Harry Potter can be found in The Bestiary of Christ by Louis Charbonneau-Lassay.

This book was published in French in 1940 and in English in the early 1990’s. Much of the information in this book is a compilation of various Medieval bestiaries, which were treatises on animals and what they symbolized. Bestiaries were highly imaginative popular literature in Medieval times and were used to teach moral lessons and Christian theology. Some of the animal symbols in this book which are used in the Harry Potter novels include the lion, the serpent, the unicorn, the stag, the phoenix, the basilisk, and the weasel, among others. Our examination of animals used as symbols in the novels will begin with a closer look at the mascots of the four Hogwarts houses: the Slytherin serpent, the Gryffindor lion, the Ravenclaw eagle, and the Hufflepuff badger.

The Symbolism of the Four Houses

            During Harry’s first year at Hogwarts he is introduced to the Sorting Hat ceremony, a yearly ritual at the school in which the new students are sorted into one of four different houses, each house named after the four founders of Hogwarts: Salazaar Slytherin, Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Helga Hufflepuff. The hat sings a song to explain the qualities that the four founders of Hogwarts were seeking when selecting students for his or her house:

 

            You might belong in Gryffindor

            Where dwell the brave at heart,

            Their daring, nerve, and chivalry

            Set Gryffindors apart;

            You might belong in Hufflepuff;

            Where they are just and loyal,

            Those patient Hufflepuffs are true

            And unafraid of toil;

            Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,

            If you’ve a ready mind,

            Where those of wit and learning,

            Will always find their kind;

            Or perhaps in Slytherin

            You’ll make your real friends,

            Those cunning folk use any means

            To achieve their ends. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, page 118)

            The conflict of good versus evil at Hogwarts focuses on the enmity between two houses that are always in direct opposition to each other: Gryffindor and Slytherin. Harry Potter, our heroic Gryffindor, is a model of what this house stands for: chivalry and courage. Draco Malfoy, Harry’s Slytherin arch-rival, is also a model of his house’s ideals: ambition and pure-blood supremacy. Even the two characters names reveal their allegiances.  Likewise, Professor Albus Dumbledore, a Gryffindor, and Lord Voldemort, the Heir of Slytherin, have names that were carefully chosen for their symbolic meaning.

Harry’s name could be thought of as the verb “to harry.” The term “to be harried” means to be harassed or distressed by repeated attacks,” as when Harry is harried by the many attempts Voldemort has made to kill him. The name Potter has symbolic meaning derived from the Bible, where God is referred to as a “potter,” as in Isaiah 64:8: “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we are all the work of thy hand.” (KJV) Other references to God as the “potter” can be found in Jeremiah 18:5-6 and Romans 9:20-21.

Harry, Hermione, and Ron are in Gryffindor House, the House of the Lion. Their friend Luna is in Ravenclaw House, but here Luna is showing her support for her friends on the Gryffindor Quidditch team by wearing her unique lion hat.

The name Albus Dumbledore means “white bumblebee.” An alb is the white garment worn by a Catholic priest, and dumbledor is an archaic word that means bumblebee. Tolkien made use of this word in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil in “Errantry,” a poem which tells of a diminutive hero who vanquished the giant insects in battle. (Tolkien Reader 214) According to the Bestiary of Christ, the bumblebee was a symbol of the soul’s survival after death. The bee disappears in winter and reappears in the spring, thus becoming a signifier of the Resurrection.

"Dumbledore means 'bumblebee' in old English and JKR said that she liked to think of him walking down the corridors, humming to himself, so I thought I'd draw him humming away to the first spring bumblebee."--fan artist penguin2006

Draco Malfoy, on the other hand, has a name that has very negative connotations. Draco is the Latin word for “dragon” or “serpent,” both traditional Biblical symbols of Satan, most notably the serpent who tempted Eve in the book of Genesis and the serpent described in Revelation 20:2, “…the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan…” (KJV) The surname Malfoy can be thought of as the French mal foi, which translates as “bad faith,” so Draco Malfoy’s name literally means “Dragon of Bad Faith” or “Serpent of Bad Faith.”

Draco Malfoy's Dark Mark.

            The most extensive serpent imagery associated with any one character in the novels is that imagery which surrounds the supreme villain, Lord Voldemort. He is a descendant of Salazaar Slytherin, the founder of Slytherin House. He, like his ancestor, is a parselmouth who can speak to snakes. Voldemort has a hairless, snake-like appearance, having two slit-like nostrils instead of a human nose.

Voldemort

His loyal minions, the Death Eaters, are each identified by the Dark Mark, a distinctive snake and skull tattoo. This is a symbol from Christian art: the skull and serpent are often depicted at the foot of the Cross of Calvary. The skull represents death, the punishment for the sin of Adam, and it is symbolic of the fallen nature of mankind. According to Jewish legend, Adam’s burial place was at Golgotha, the “place of the skull.” The skull at the foot of the cross was there to represent Adam’s skull, and the serpent was present as an allusion to Satan, the great tempter in the Garden of Eden who brought about the fall of mankind.

In this depiction of the Crucifixion by Fra Angelico, the skull of Adam is present at the foot of the cross.

As the teenager Tom Riddle, Voldemort opened the Chamber of Secrets and unleashed the great serpent, the basilisk, upon the Hogwarts School. The basilisk, or cockatrice, is another symbol of Satan which is mentioned in Isaiah 14:29 (KJV): “Out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.”  In The Bestiary of Christ, the basilisk is described as a symbol of Satanic evil. This is mentioned in a description of a little country church that was decorated with “the image of a knight on foot striking a helmeted basilisk with his sword. It is the struggle between Good and Evil, so often and variously depicted, and could be seen as Christ fighting with Satan.” (Bestiary 423) This imagery is found in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in the chapter that describes how Harry used the Sword of Godric Gryffindor to slay the basilisk.

The name Godric means “power of God,” reminding us that the Christian, like Harry, will not be abandoned in his or her fight with the Great Serpent. We have the “power of God” on our side in our conflict with the Dragon. Also note that the surname Gryffindor can be thought of as the French griffin d’or which means “griffin of gold.”  The griffin, according to the bestiaries, is a symbol of Christ because of its dual nature: it is both lion and eagle, just as Christ is both God and Man. The eagle is a creature of the heavens, symbolizing the divine nature of Christ, and the lion is a creature of the earth, representing Christ the Man. The griffin’s mastery of the earth and sky came to be associated with Christ’s Ascension. The griffin was, through its association with Jesus Christ, thought to be the enemy of serpents and basilisks who, as previously mentioned, are symbolic of the Devil.

Griffins from the recent film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

The eagle, mascot of Ravenclaw House, was a symbol of Baptism because the ancients believed the eagle’s life was renewed by plunging itself three times into a body of water, hence its depiction on Christian baptismal fonts. The eagle was often depicted as a slayer of serpents in many cultures, and thus viewed as an enemy of Satan. Its ability to soar to great heights was associated with Christ’s Ascension, as well as with St. John, the evangelist who was considered to be the most “intellectual” of the four gospel authors. This association of the high-flying eagle with great intellectual acumen may be the reason J.K. Rowling made it the mascot for Ravenclaw, whose motto is “Wit beond measure is man’s greatest treasure.” The eagles in Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have a brief but important role, used symbolically to represent Divine Providence or Divine Intervention.

"The Eagles are Coming" by fantasy artist Michael Whelan depicts the rescue of Frodo and Sam in The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien

That the Gryffindor mascot is a lion is not surprising; the lion is a Biblical symbol of Christ and a symbol of the Resurrection.  In Revelation 5:5 Jesus is referred to as “the lion of the Tribe of Judah.” The lion was also a symbol of the Resurrection to the early and medieval Christians because it was believed that lion’s cubs were born dead. When the cubs were three days old, the father lion breathed on them and brought them to life, just as Christ lay in the tomb for three days before the Resurrection. This same symbolism of Christ the Lion is used by C. S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia. The character of Aslan is a magnificent lion and a literary “Christ figure” who sacrifices himself to save the life of a human traitor. He is gloriously resurrected due to the workings of “Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time.” We know that Jo Rowling read and loved this story as a child, and I believe that Lewis’s Narnian Chronicles had an influence on the plot and symbolism of the entire Harry Potter series.

Aslan's dramatic resurrection in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

Perhaps that is why Aslan’s colors are associated with Gryffindor House: Peter Pevensie’s shield was decorated with a red lion rampant, and his sword had a golden hilt. (LWW 160) Aslan’s army had tents of crimson and yellow, with banners depicting the red lion. (LWW 168) The colors of Gryffindor House are, of course, red and gold.

High King Peter, a knight of Narnia clad in Aslan's colors.

J.K. Rowling’s description of the Hufflepuff dormitories will seem familiar to fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: There are “little underground tunnels leading to the dormitories, all of which have perfectly round doors, like barrel tops,” she said in the Bloomsbury live online chat on July 30, 2007. This description sounds remarkably like the description Tolkien gave of Bilbo Baggins’ home, a comfortable hobbit hole called Bag End. Bilbo’s home is a cozy, luxurious tunnel-like construction with perfectly round doors.

Gandalf visits Bag End in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Hufflepuff House is known for the virtues of loyalty and hard work, and is represented by a badger mascot. Perhaps a Narnian influence can be detected here as well: in Lewis’ Prince Caspian the badger Trufflehunter is one of the Old Narnians that aids Caspian in the war with the wicked usurper, King Miraz. Trufflehunter the Badger is loyal to Aslan even in the darkest of times. Trufflehunter’s faith in the Great Lion remains strong, even when many other Narnians have ceased to believe. Likewise, there are many Hufflepuff students who are loyal to Harry: some are members of Dumbledore’s Army, and many more are among the large number of Hufflepuff students who stand alongside the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws who fight to defend the castle in the Battle of Hogwarts.

Loyal as a badger: Trufflehunter was known for his loyalty to Aslan in Chronicles of Narnia. Loyalty is also a virtue that the members of Hufflepuff House are known to display.
 Please subscribe to this blog so that you don’t miss the next installment of “Harry Potter and the Bestiary of Christ,” which is entitled “The Slaying of the Unicorn.” If you would like to order a copy of The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter by Denise Roper, the book can be obtained from www.outskirtspress.com/thelordofthehallows.

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I just read a fascinating interview with Daivd C. Downing, the author of the Inklings novel Looking for the King. His comments on C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and Charles Williams are very insightful and exhibit Mr. Downing’s great knowledge of the Inklings’ personalities, interests, and other biographical information. I really love what he had to say about the quest for the Spear of Destiny and the theme of renunciation in The Lord of the Rings:

DOWNING: The spear of Longinus (the traditional name given to the soldier who thrust his lance into Christ’s side) is only one of many ancient artifacts associated with the Crucifixion. But it has a special aura about it because of its alleged powers. It is said that the Emperor Constantine claimed to have the spear, given to him by his mother Helena after her famous pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Legend has it that Constantine boasted he would never lose a battle so long as he possessed the spear. After that, all the conquerors seemed to lay claim to it.

Charlemagne said he had the spear, adding that it always brought him victory and even allowed him to read the thoughts of his enemies. As the fabled lance came to be known as the Spear of Destiny, it is said that both Napoleon and Hitler tried to lay their hands on it — though accounts differ widely about the veracity of these claims.

But if the Spear is seen as a talisman of power, that would make it almost the opposite of “Christ-centered.” Christ emptied himself of power on the cross, refusing to call down legions of angels to come to his aid. As Tolkien suggests in his Lord of the Rings epic, perhaps the truly Christ-like act is not to seek out such power, but to renounce it. That is a question I try to explore in Looking for the King.

Renunciation of power as a primary theme in The Lord of the Rings has intrigued me ever since I read Rendel Helms’ explanation of it in Tolkien’s World. Nearly all of Tolkien’s most noble, heroic, and admirable characters are tempted by the Ring (or some other type of power), and they exhibit their true worthiness by renouncing it. In the novel and in the films, we see that Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, Aragorn, Galadriel,and  Faramir are all tempted by the power of the Ring and all of them exhibit great moral courage and strength of character by renouncing it. Another example of renunciation in The Lord of the Rings is when Eowyn renounces her “love” for Aragorn when she finally realizes her first desire was for honor and glory as a warrior and then afterwards, her desire was for power as the wife of a king. She then confesses that she no longer wants to be the Queen of Gondor when she finds true love with the humble steward, Faramir. The depressed and lonely Eowyn finds true love and happiness only when she renounces the selfishness of honor, glory, and the tempatations of power.

This Christian theme of renunciation is also found in the Harry Potter series. In the first novel of the series, Harry is able to take the Philospher’s Stone from its hiding place in the Mirror of Erised because he only wants to stop Voldemort from using it to obtain an immortal body. Harry has no desire to use the Stone for himself and gladly renounces the temptation to use it to obtain as much life and wealth as anyone could ever want. In the seventh novel Harry renounces two of the Deathly Hallows: the most powerful wand ever made–the Wand of Destiny–along with the Resurrection Stone. The uncanny similarities between the Wand of Destiny and the Spear of Destiny are described in my book, The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.

I also agreed with David C. Downing’s remarks about the recent controversial opinion voiced by actor Liam Neeson with regards to who or what Aslan represents in The Chronicles of Narnia.

LOPEZ: Could Narnia’s Aslan be Mohammed, as Liam Neeson recently suggested?

DOWNING: Neeson is a fine actor, but he is not a theologian or a Lewis scholar. Of course, Mohammed said he was a prophet of Allah; he did not claim to be divine himself. So the analogy doesn’t really work.

 I suppose what was meant is that Aslan could represent the God of any religion. That is high-minded and well-intentioned, but it doesn’t do justice to the Chronicles. You can pick up just about any guide to the Narnia books to discover how deeply rooted they are in Lewis’s Christian faith. In my book Into the Wardrobe, I argue that the Chronicles constitute Lewis’s Summa Theologica, the fullest and most comprehensive expression of his Christian worldview.

I wouldn’t presume to give Mr. Neeson any tips about acting. And I think he would do well to avoid any politically correct but puzzling remarks about the spiritual foundations of the Chronicles.

You can read the entire interview with David C. Downing here:  http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/255485/thinking-and-believing-interview?page=1

Also, I’d like to recommend this blog post to Christian fans of The Lord of the Rings. This is a link to a blog post about Samwise Gamgee made by my friend and fellow author Michelle Weston: http://www.mbwestonblog.com/2010/12/somewhat-daily-inspirations-i-am-samwise.html

Comments are welcome! 🙂

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If you have not read Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel by David C. Downing, you may wish to read my review of it at https://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/my-review-of-looking-for-the-king-an-inklings-novel/

I just read a short interview with author David C. Downing here:

http://ignatiusinsight.com/features2010/ddowning_interview_nov2010.asp

While visiting the Ignatius Press website you may want to look at the books that they have published on Lewis and Tolkien. I’ve read nearly all of the Inklings-related titles that Ignatius Press has released, and just about every one of them was a great read. In the interview, David Downing made a statement with which I wholeheartedly agree: “I’m sure that part of my attraction to both Lewis and Tolkien is simply that both are master story-tellers. But there is also a power of Goodness in their work. As an English major in college, I spent much of my time reading contemporary novelists who are experts at portraying troubled people–selfish, neurotic. brutish, and downright evil. But very few twentieth century novelists besides Lewis and Tolkien (and Chesterton) have the power to show us what good people look like–characters with integrity, compassion, courage, and a willingness to sacrifice for others. I’m sure this ability to portray good characters convincingly is derived from their Christian world-view, a sense that ultimately, it is not evil or chaos, but Goodness that reigns in the universe.”

I believe that this ability to portray good characters with whom readers can easily love or identify with is one of secrets of the success of the literary works of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and J. K. Rowling. Aren’t Harry Potter and his friends good examples of characters who have “integrity, compassion, courage, and a willingness to sacrifice for others,” as Dowling described it? Bonds of loyalty, love, and friendship strengthen Harry, Ron, and Hermione as much as Frodo and Sam on their seemingly impossible mission to defeat the Dark Lord. True romantic love can be found in Tolkien and Rowling’s stories. Yes I like Aragorn/Arwen and Harry/Ginny as couples…

"I do not believe this darkness will endure." This is one of my favorite scenes from The Return of the King Extended Edition.

…but I just adore Faramir and Eowyn,…

A Hobbit Wedding

…Rosie and Sam, and these two stubborn kids:

My most favorite couple.

 

Every sinner who has turned away from temptation to follow the difficult path of repentance can find hope in the stories of Boromir of Gondor and Severus Snape.

"I would have followed you, my brother, ...my captain, ...my king."--Boromir to Aragorn

This beautiful fanart, "Severus and Lily" by Wmash, can be found at deviantart.com.

 

“All the heroes in all the stories in the world are heroes only because they are in some ways like Jesus.”–Peter Kreeft in Because God Is Real, page 212.

The loving self-sacrifice of Lily Evans Potter, her brave son Harry, humble Frodo Baggins, wise Gandalf, and Aslan all resonate with the Greatest Story Ever Told, the story of Christ. Seek and ye shall find: if you look for the King of Kings in these stories, you will find him.

What are your thoughts on my ramblings? Comments are welcome. 🙂

 

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I’ve blogged about Christian imagery in the upcoming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows films here:

https://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/christian-imagery-in-deathly-hallows-film-photos-of-godrics-hollow-churchyard/

 and here: https://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/harry-potter-film-wizardry-christian-imagery-in-deathly-hallows-rhr-moments-more/ 

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/

If you like this blog and would like immediate updates on  my latest posts, please enter your e-mail address in the subscription box. Thanks! 🙂

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Today I finished reading David C. Downing’s Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel and I gave it a 5-star review at goodreads.com. This is the synopsis of the novel:

Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel
“It is 1940, and American Tom McCord, a 23-year-old aspiring doctoral candidate, is in England researching the historical evidence for the legendary King Arthur. There he meets perky and intuitive Laura Hartman, a fellow American staying with her aunt in Oxford, and the two of them team up for an even more ambitious and dangerous quest. Aided by the Inklings-that illustrious circle of scholars and writers made famous by its two most prolific members, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien-Tom and Laura begin to suspect that the fabled Spear of Destiny, the lance that pierced the side of Christ on the cross, is hidden somewhere in England. Tom discovers that Laura has been having mysterious dreams, which seem to be related to the subject of his research, and, though doubtful of her visions, he hires her as an assistant. Heeding the insights and advice of the Inklings, while becoming aware of being shadowed by powerful and secretive foes who would claim the spear as their own, Tom and Laura end up on a thrilling treasure hunt that crisscrosses the English countryside and leads beyond a search for the elusive relics of Camelot into the depths of the human heart and soul. Weaving his fast-paced narrative with actual quotes from the works of the Inklings, author David Downing offers a vivid portrait of Oxford and draws a welcome glimpse into the personalities and ideas of Lewis and Tolkien, while never losing sight of his action-packed adventure story and its two very appealing main characters.”–synopsis at goodreads.com
I enjoyed this book for many reasons: the Spear of Destiny plot was intriguing, the original main characters (Tom and Laura) are likeable and interesting, and the most importantly, the Inklings dialogue was based on quotations from their published works, letters, and biographies. When reading this book I felt that I had actually met C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. Hugo Dyson’s appearance in the novel is brief, but nearly all of his lines were really hilarious. I also enjoyed the cameo appearance by Tolkien’s daughter Priscilla. Downing’s detailed descriptions effectively captured the atmosphere of wartime England in 1940. He made so many references to places of interest to seekers of the “historical” Grail Hallows that I was compelled to search online for photos of the places he described in such fascinating detail. One such location, for example, is the cave of the Knights Templar at Royston. I was also very interested by the Celtic Cross at Gosforth and it’s link to the Spear of Destiny legend.

Look at the bottom of the fourth drawing for the figures of a crucified man, a figure holding a spear, and a figure collecting the blood. Is this ancient stone carving a link to the Spear of Destiny legend? Another interesting place that we visit in this novel is the Abbey of Malmesbury which has a stained glass window designed by Edward Burne-Jones that is described in detail.

The first figure is of St. George, and the second is of the devout king, St. Ethelbert. The third figure is supposed to be St. Longinus the Ceturion with the Spear of Destiny. Downing gives his readers a convincing story of how the legendary spear may have been hidden in England and how the lance that Hitler obtained from Austria’s Hofburg Museum in the Second World War was probably not the true Spear of Destiny.

There are many wonderful Inklings moments in this novel. At the suggestion of C. S. Lewis, Tom McCord attends a lecture on the Holy Grail legends given by Charles Williams at Oxford. After the brilliant lecture, Tom has a conversation with Williams:

“I can’t say I’m a believer,” said Tom. “It all seems like wish-fulfillment and hocus-pocus to me.”

Laura winced, but Williams didn’t seem to mind the comment at all. “Fair enough,” he said. “It is only the arrogant or the insecure who claim to know about such things, unless perhaps you are a genuine mystic. For the rest of us, all we can do is choose what to believe.” (page 58)

The line “all we can do is choose what to believe” really stood out for me. I recently blogged here about how “making the choice to believe” is a theme in Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and C. S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair. This line introduces the reader one of the story’s most important character arcs: Tom McCord’s journey from agnosticism to faith.

Another favorite moment of mine is when Tom is allowed to attend an Inklings meeting at the famous pub, The Eagle and Child (a. k. a. the “Bird and Baby”). The conversation turns to the “dying god” story of various mythologies–the Egyptian Osiris and the Norse Balder to name two examples– and the role of such mythologies in C. S. Lewis’s conversion to Christianity. Tolkien explains, “We believe that the great and universal myth, the dying god who sacrifices himself for the people, shows everyone’s inborn awareness of the need for redemption. As we understand it, the Incarnation was the pivotal point in which myth became history.” (page 144) During this conversation Tom “felt himself outnumbered, a whole tableful of believers, and every one of them a formidable intellect.” (page 145)  Tom’s main obstacle in making the “choice to believe” at this point in the story seems to be the problem of evil. If God is all-good and all-powerful, why does so much pain and suffering exist? Lewis helps Tom to understand that if God intervened every time someone did an evil act or had an evil thought, God would be taking away the Free Will of humanity.

There are also numerous references to the published works of the Inklings authors as well as hints of “future” publications. An example is when Lewis says, “We’re hoping that Tollers will favor us with the latest installment of his ‘new Hobbit’.” (page 150) The new Hobbit of course, would be published about 15 years later as The Lord of the Rings. I loved that the characters of Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, and Strider are all mentioned in the novel. Lewis also alludes to the series of novels that he is about to write when he says that he has been sheltering war evacuee children at his home: “They’re charming creatures, though they don’t know how to entertain themselves. I was thinking that there might be a story in that–children sent away from London who have a series of adventures in the country. I started something a few months ago.” (page 251) The story that Lewis was referring to, of course, would be the first book of The Chronicles of Narnia. 🙂 

Another part of the story that I loved was Tom and Laura’s visit to Tolkien’s house. Apparently “Tolkien” (the fictional character in the novel) is quite the expert on the various legends of the Spear of Destiny, and his vast knowledge helps Tom and Laura to understand all of the unsolved mysteries of their quest. (pages 163-170) I loved this part because Professor Tolkien recounts the history of the Holy Lance in great detail, and I could definitely identify with the good professor in this scene. Much of what he says in this chapter I had discovered myself from researching the history of Spear of Destiny for my book, The Lord of the Hallows. (Visit www.outskirtspress.com/thelordofthehallows for more information.)

I won’t spoil the climax of the novel’s main action, but the climax of the story’s spiritual dimension is Tom’s conversation with Lewis, in which they return to their discussion of the problem of evil. Lewis says, “If some amoral brute created the world, he also created our minds. And how can we trust moral judgments given to us by this same amoral brute? If you reject God because there is so much evil in the universe, you need to explain where you obtained your standard for discerning good and evil.” (pages 211-212) Lewis offers further proof of God’s existence in humanity’s “homesickness for heaven,” and then he quotes St. Augustine: Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee. “If the Christian view is right, we are all exiles from paradise.” (page 214) Tom then realizes that his entire quest may not have been his own, but the will of Another. He prays for the first time in the novel and by doing so, Tom makes his choice to believe. Initially, Tom went on a quest for the historical King Arthur, but did not find him. He found faith in the King of Kings instead.

This novel is a must-read for Inklings fans and is available from the publisher, Ignatius Press, at http://www.ignatius.com/Products/LFK-H/looking-for-the-king.aspx?src=iinsight. You can also find a listing of Dr. David Downing’s scholarly books on C. S. Lewis and a few short, but very positive reviews of Looking for the King at the publisher’s site. This novel was truly a delight. Please let me know if this review was helpful to you in the comments section. Thanks!

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