It’s a little later than I hoped, but here is the second installment of Deeper, a series revisiting the art that shapes us. If you’re interested in guest posting sometime, let me know! (and check out the intro post for a little more about what this is.)
As of the writing of this blog post, I am nearly halfway through what I’ve dubbed #CountdownToDeathlyHallows. (sorry. Twitterspeak. Won’t happen again.) In anticipation for the release of the eighth and final Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, I started re-visiting the series from start to finish, pretty much all of which I haven’t seen since they were in theaters.
Thursday night, my sister and I are going to catch Part 1 on the big screen, followed by Part 2 at midnight. I’ve never been to a midnight movie before — not too many things I want to lose that kind of sleep over — but it seems like a fitting way to say goodbye all over again to the world of Hogwarts. I expect to cry. (Especially since it’s going to be after 2 am when it’s over. But whatevs, it’s my birthday.)
It’s a bittersweet thing, turning the last page on a series like this… I remember not really wanting the last book to end, but wondering how the whole Voldemort mess was going to be resolved, who would die, and whose side Snape was really on. That kind of emotional investment that I felt, even as an adult reading these books, makes me wish they were around when I was a kid.
This might come as a surprise since I was a homeschool nerd and all, but I actually wasn’t an avid reader growing up. Oh, I didn’t mind reading. I’d even say I enjoyed it. But I don’t recall ever getting into anything too deep… all the stuff I love now like Narnia, The Last Unicorn, and A Wrinkle in Time, were books I read later because I was sorry I missed them.
It wasn’t for lack of trying on my mom’s part either. She read to me and my sister when we were toddlers, made sure we had plenty of good books on hand, and stressed the importance of reading things we like while being discerning. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (and any sequel) by Judy Blume, The Bunnicula books by James Howe, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl were a few favorites, all imaginative, funny books.
But to lose myself in a series, get so pulled into a world as rich and (dare I say it?) magical as Harry’s that I couldn’t stand the wait between books? I don’t remember anything like that, sadly.
I’d like to think my parents are cool enough that they would’ve let me read Harry Potter. I’m pretty sure they would have, though I hope they would’ve held back the later ones until I was a little bit older. (Then again, maybe there’s some value in letting kids see glimpses of darkness so they can recognize the light? Hmm.) When concerned parents everywhere were freaking out for fear that their kids would all make a mass exodus to the cult next door, my family wasn’t passionate either way. Cautious maybe, but I was in my teens by then, almost “too old” for the core audience.
Finally, to see what all the fuss was about, we rented the first movie and watched it. Then the second. Then I had to read the books. The first five were out, and like many latecomers to the HP universe, I fell in love with the characters, their world, and their story and tore right through them all, only to impatiently wait for the next. Mom asked what I thought. I said I really wasn’t sure what the big deal was…. the Harry Potter style of “witchcraft” was no weirder than the sci-fi or more dangerous than Disney fairy tales we grew up on, but rather just another plot device to push a story along.
I understand, respect, and support any person’s right to discernment and caution. I am very cautious when parents ask me if something is appropriate for their kids. I am not a parent, and I would never tread on reasonable concerns. But there’s a part of me that’s saddened when I see a beautiful story that makes kids want to read getting sneers and condemnation from people who have no int it. And while it seems the debate has calmed down, I suspect there’s still a good deal of concern among Christian parents who just want to keep their kids safe, and perhaps some who look down on its supporters.
If I’m asked about this one, here’s what I’d say: if your child can handle some scary creatures and darkness; if you’re willing to read the books too and have deep, honest discussion; if you’re okay with a world where evil is real and strong, but love and loyalty are equally real and even stronger; and if that world happens to use magic as a tool and the last and least slay monsters and change the world…. then please, consider giving it a try, and experience the wonder and beauty of Story together.
Then seek out more. Read Lewis, Tolkein, and L’Engle. When the next book phenomenon comes along, honestly investigate before deciding. Inspire a love for beauty, words, stories, and truth that will last forever.
The film version of Deathly Hallows Part 1 ends with a battle lost and a funeral. As Harry, Ron, and Hermione mourn the sacrifice of an innocent life, evil appears to be winning. Voldemort draws a sword, and laughs, and the theater goes dark, and my heart was heavy yet hopeful. The only reason I can accept this ending is because I know it’s not the end.
if one only remembers to turn on the light.” ~Albus Dumbledore