(SPOILER ALERT – Proceed with Caution)

Every few years my older sister will reread the entire Harry Potter series. She will do the same with Lord of the Rings and other famous series. I decided to take a leaf out of her book and reread this classic fantasy series for the very first time since I finished Deathly Hallows nearly a decade ago.

It was a real treat revisiting all my old friends at Hogwarts. My passion for these characters ignited ten-fold.  Below I am going to explain why I personally find the Harry Potter books so compelling even as an adult, and any further conclusions I’ve come to since rereading all seven books.

They’re Rich in Metaphors and Allegories

One of the things that drew me most to Harry Potter was that even though they were children’s books, there was deep symbolism rooted in almost every aspect of Harry’s story. JK Rowling drew up Greek/Roman mythology, Christian theology, British folklore and Shakespeare, all of which served to create a well-though out, culturally-rich enchanted world. It is because of this complex layering that Rowling remains the author who has inspired me the most. I can only hope that if I ever write a novel that it can be as deeply stimulating.

Examples

Greek/Roman Mythology

Fluffy, Hagrid’s three-head dog guarding the trapdoor in The Sorcerer’s Stone,  is a stark reference to Cerberus, the three-head hound that guards the entrance to the underworld.

Remus is the name one of the two men centered around the mythical founding of the city of Rome. He and his brother Romulus were raised by a she-wolf.  Very fitting that Rowling bestowed the name Remus onto her werewolf character.

Shakespeare

Hermione’s name originally comes from the play The Winter’s Tale. Hermione is the wife of King Leontes of Sicily who wrongfully accuses her of adultery with his ally Polixenes. Many comparisons can be made between this core plot of the Winter’s Tale and the dynamic between Harry, Ron and Hermione, where Ron is constantly worrying about Hermione preferring Harry over him.

Christian Theology

A macro-theme of the Harry Potter series is undoubtedly the redemptive power of love. The notion of love, friendship and the connection we share with those who have departed is heavy derived from the Christian notion of resurrection and the teachings of kindness towards our fellow men. This theme is especially played up in the final installment of the series, the Deathly Hallows, where a great chuck of the plot revolves around the moral lesson that mastering death is not to avoid it, but to embrace it as the “next great adventure.”

They’re Damn Good Mysteries

I”m a die-hard lover of the mystery genre. My childhood was filled with watching Masterpiece Mysteries with my parents. I will never grow tired of the classic whodunnit. Now that I am older I can see more clearly that the HP books are just as much mysteries as they are fantasy novels.

I was able to see the crumbs of clues that Rowling left for the readers, such as the numerous mentions of Ginny in the Chambers of Secrets, or the hints that Remus Lupin was a werewolf during the Prisoner of Azkaban. So frequent were these clues that I had to smack myself for not picking them up the first go-around.

Rowling is very skillful in not dumping a lot of hidden information at the end, which can sometimes be a drawback in the mystery genre, but with the right amount of clues she makes the mystery “fair game” so that we don’t feel cheated at the big reveal at each book’s climax. In this way I wholeheartedly agree with the quote below taken from Just Write’s YouTube video about Rowling’s mystery writing.

With muted culprits, buried clues, and signature descriptions, Rowling tells mystery stories that are solvable and are incredibly satisfying to read from beginning to end.

-Just Write, Harry Potter: How J.K. Rowling Writes Mystery

Change in Favorites

Before I reread the series, I would have told you without thinking that my favorite book of them all was the Half-Blood Prince, firstly for its fascinating exploration into Voldemort’s past and secondly for the hilarious teen romances. Now I have found that my new favorite book is Order of the Phoenix.

As an adult I can better appreciate the darker, more worldly themes of the series’ fifth installment. I can more fully empathize with what Harry went through, becoming a social pariah and object of ridicule in the wizarding world. This is because I’ve watched a loved one be the victim of a relentless smear campaign. They aren’t fun, and while some get annoyed by how angsty Harry was in that book, I feel his reactions were completely appropriate for his age and the circumstances.

Here is the new ranking of my favorite books in the series

  1. The Order of the Phoenix
  2. The Prisoner of Azkaban
  3. The Half-Blood Prince
  4. The Goblet of Fire
  5. The Chamber of Secrets
  6. The Sorcerer’s Stone
  7. The Deathly Hallows

Deathly Hallows was my least favorite when I first read the series, and it’s still my least favorite. Not because it was dark; it just wasn’t what I imagined as the final book. I can honestly say that while waiting for Deathly Hallows to be published, I read some fanfic versions of Book 7 that I felt were more satisfying than the actual product.

Religious Sensibilities

This is a very personal observation, as I was not only rereading the books for the first time as an adult, but also for the first time since I converted to paganism. When I was Christian I found the religious objection to Harry Potter hilarious, and even more so now as a pagan. The Harry Potter series has nothing whatsoever to do with modern witchcraft nor the wider spiritual path of paganism.

In fact, the few mentions of real witchy practices, such as crystal gazing and cartomancy, are limited to the confides of the Divination classes, which are often quite negatively portrayed due to the incompetence of the eccentric, but still lovable Professor Trelawney. Rowling portrays having the Third Eye as something one cannot learn, but can only be born with, much in contrast to modern witches and how they handle their relationship with their divinatory rituals.

So I thought it was stupid for Christians to whine about Harry Potter seducing young children into Satanism, and now I find it even more pathetically dim-witted, since Rowling’s magical world itself mocks real witchy practices just as much as our own world does.

Conclusion

All in all, this was a wonderful experience to remind me why Harry Potter left such a strong imprint on my childhood and why I personally consider them “classics” that are worth revisiting now and again. I hope to repeat the ritual in a few years time to see if there is anymore insight to be had in this extensive, fantastical world.

 

 

 

 

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