Throwing The Book At HP Fans

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - August 01, 2007
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I am bleary eyed as I write this because I spent the entire night reading - yes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We picked it up Saturday, the day it came out. My son Zach had first crack at it and was finished by Sunday afternoon. I got it and stayed up all night like an obsessed Hermoine the night before the O.W.L. exams. Now my husband, who gallantly volunteered to be last in line, has it in his eager hands. No spoilers here, just deep satisfaction, much-needed closure, and a desperate need for sleep.

The only thing that can put a damper on my joy is the knowledge that somebody out there is going to send me The Book. Maybe you’ve never seen it. I still have the last one someone sent. It happens every time a Harry Potter book or movie comes out. Someone thinks I ought to know the truth, which is, of course, contained in the little volume that exposes how evil Harry Potter is, how he influences innocent children to worship witchcraft. Yes, the devil will take hold of your child’s mind if you allow Harry in. On the cover of this little tract is a ghoulish kid with spiky hair and mad gleaming eyes - hey, that’s supposed to be Harry! He’s on a broomstick! He must be evil!

Only - he’s not. Why so upset about a book that promotes good over evil, love above hate? If you tell a 9-year-old kid that people are afraid for his soul if he reads the books he will laugh at you. Get real, the kids are likely to say. The books are fiction and the magic is make believe. If after reading the book you actually believe you can wave a wand, yell “expelliarmus,” and disarm your enemy, you need some serious therapy.

I grew up immersed in books, as did so many of you, and a good number of those books were peopled with witches, goblins, talking animals and beautiful princesses. The Brothers Grimm, Disney movies and later J.R.R. Tolkien were all a part of our lives. But kids aren’t stupid. We did not mistake Snow White’s fairy godmother for a real person. We knew these tales were the fantastic figments of the authors’ imaginations. Albert Einstein said, “Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

(Actually, the worse thing I took away from those early fairy tales was the wish that someday a handsome knight in shining armor would ride up and rescue me. Now there’s a message parents should worry about - but that’s a different column.)

So no, we didn’t grow up believing the fairy tales are true, but we did absorb the lessons contained within them. We learned that the good people triumph over the evil, courage defeats cowardice, and love conquers hate. It’s reassuring. And it’s extremely moral.

Let’s not forget that there’s more to the HP books than broomsticks and wands. They explore themes of right and wrong that go beyond the simple black and white. There is a titanic struggle between those who want to keep the magic world “pure” and those who fight for muggles’ rights. The so-called “pure bloods” have a name for muggle or part muggle witches and wizards - mudbloods. Persecution based on bloodline bubbles like a poisoned brew beneath the magical surface, and the characters have to choose which side they’re on.

The author JK Rowling’s respect for all life goes even further - in the second book Harry frees Dobby the house elf, a member of a race of little creatures who are treated like slaves.

And let’s not forget the most important lesson of all. Harry is The Boy Who Lived. And the reason he is alive is because of his mother’s fierce devotion. Harry is living proof that the greatest force in the universe isn’t magic and it isn’t evil. It’s love.

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