God, C. S. Lewis, and J. K. Rowling?: Agape Love, Chapter I, Part II

Good afternoon, Nerdy Bloggers!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my thesis so far.  Here is Part II of Chapter I, “What’s Agape Love Got to Do With It?”  Let’s get a discussion going!  🙂

Blessings,

Nerdy Blogger

CHAPTER I, PART II

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, readers may find more examples of the agapē love the Trio bears each other and for those around them.  One of the first examples is of Ron and Hermione’s love for Harry when he, in an angry rage after finding out who is thought to be the betrayer of his parents—as well as their greatest friend and his godfather—is none other than Sirius Black.  Harry is ready to go after Black, but his friends are attempting to be the voice of reason: “‘You won’t, will you, Harry?’ said Hermione.  ‘Because Black’s not worth dying for,’ said Ron.  Harry looked at them.  They didn’t seem to understand at all” (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 214).  Hermione and Ron may not understand exactly what Harry is feeling; however, Hermione and Ron do understand that the greatest thing they can do for their friend is to keep him out of harm’s way.  To quote Dumbledore in Sorcerer’s Stone, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends” (Rowling Sorcerer’s Stone 306).  This sort of bravery is often found in the context of love for a person or for a higher cause.  Hermione and Ron’s love for their friend, their “active” love (Strong 1587) in this context may be considered an example of agapē love.

Hermione shows her agapē love for Harry in a way that at first does not seem so loving.  Harry mysteriously receives a Firebolt, the fastest racing broom in existence, for Christmas without a card, note, or message of any sort.  Fearing for his safety, Hermione informs Professor McGonagall about it, who promptly confiscates the broom to have it examined.  Upon the confiscation of the broom, Harry and Ron are two very irritated Gryffindor boys:

Harry stood staring at her, the tin of High-Finish Polish still clutched in his hands.  Ron, however, rounded on Hermione.  “What did you go running to McGonagall for?” Hermione threw her book aside.  She was still pink in the face, but stood up and faced Ron defiantly.  “Because I thought—and Professor McGonagall agrees with me—that that broom was probably sent to Harry by Sirius Black!” (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 232)

Hermione is faced with anger and isolation from the boys, but she feels a greater concern for Harry’s safety than for his anger.  Risking condemnation, Hermione shows agapē love the hard way—offending her friends with her good intentions.  This act illustrates Hermione’s lack of concern for her own feelings and her greater concern for Harry’s safety; this example may therefore be interpreted as an example of agapē love.

One of the many examples of the Trio’s agapē love for others is found in their willingness to stay and be with Hagrid during Buckbeak’s execution.  Hagrid has urged them to go on, not wanting them to see such a thing.  The three try to stay to help: “He turned to Harry, Ron, and Hermione.  ‘Go on,’ he said.  ‘Get goin’.’  But they didn’t move” (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 330).  This act of love the Trio displays towards Hagrid shows them to be caring and supportive through all things, even something as gruesome as an execution.  Here the Trio’s display of love for Hagrid mimics the way Christians are to show agapē love to other Christians, as well as others.

Further, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire we find Harry, Ron, and Hermione in a very different place.  Harry has just been witness to the resurrection and return of the Dark Lord, Voldemort, and the death of Cedric Diggory.  Dumbledore has asked the student body to leave him alone and not to interrogate him about his encounters.  This request causes a good portion of the student body to avoid Harry somewhat; however, this does not seem to bother him too much.  He says, “He found he didn’t care very much.  He liked it best when he was with Ron and Hermione and they were talking about other things, or else letting him sit in silence while they played chess.  He felt as though all three of them had reached an understanding they didn’t need to put into words…” (Rowling Goblet of Fire 717).  This seems to parallel with the Biblical story of Job.  When Job was suffering, as Harry is, his friends sat with him to comfort him.  Job 2:11-13 says,

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.  (Bible Gateway)

As Job and his friends have an understanding about his circumstances and suffering, so do Hermione and Ron.  This sort of compassion that Job’s friends, and Hermione and Ron display is most definitely an act of “active” agapē love towards other Christians.

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the reader discovers another example of agapē love between the Trio.  When Harry believes he has seen Voldemort in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic, torturing his godfather Sirius, Harry is ready to jump and run to his aid.  Hermione suspects that this is a trap set by Voldemort and begs him not to go until he is certain about Sirius’ condition.  Hermione, trying to protect Harry from doing something incredibly dangerous, urges him saying, “‘Harry, I’m begging you, please!’ said Hermione desperately.  ‘Please let’s just check that Sirius isn’t at home before we go charging off to London—if we find out he’s not there then I swear I won’t try and stop you, I’ll come, I’ll d-do whatever it takes to try and save him—’” (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 735).  Hermione is almost certain that Voldemort is trying to trap Harry, but Harry is not about to listen to reason.  After unsuccessfully trying to contact Sirius, Harry chooses to go after Sirius, but not without the aid of Ron, Hermione, Ginny Weasley, Neville Longbottom, and Luna Lovegood.  Harry initially desires no company, but they insist.  The willingness of many of the members of the DA (Dumbledore’s Army, here: Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, and Luna) to go with Harry into the very face of danger, may seem just simply a heroic action, however, considering the Christian context of the stories Rowling writes, one may see these actions as agapē love.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince contains multiple examples of agapē love, but perhaps one of the most prominent examples is something Harry does for the rest of the group.  Harry passes off his prized Felix Felicis, a potion that brings good luck to the user, to Ron and Hermione and the rest of the DA before setting off on his mission with Dumbledore.  He says when they object, “‘I’ll be fine, I’ll be with Dumbledore,’ said Harry.  ‘I want to know that you lot are okay…. Don’t look like that, Hermione, I’ll see you later….’” (Rowling Half-Blood Prince 552).  Giving up one of the things that may be his only protection against the Dark Lord, Harry sacrifices this protection for the love of his friends.  This gift proves a little more than useful, and is perhaps the saving grace of those in the DA and the Order of the Phoenix.  Ginny recounts the tale of the battle that evening, but miraculously, not one of the members of the Order has died. She says, “…Harry, if we hadn’t had your Felix potion, I think we’d all have been killed, but everything seemed to just miss us—” (Rowling Half-Blood Prince 612).  This representation expresses the power of agapē love, denoting a certain depth of sacrifice, and demonstrates the breadth of Harry’s love for his friends.

The Trio are not the only characters who demonstrate agapē love in Harry Potter.  Professor Dumbledore demonstrates agapē love in his final moments in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  When Harry and Dumbledore reach the tower over which the Dark Mark stands, Dumbledore orders Harry to go alert Snape to what has happened.  As he is about to do so, he hears someone coming up the stairs.  Dumbledore tells him to back away and as Draco Malfoy bursts through the door, Dumbledore silently immobilizes Harry beneath his Invisibility Cloak.  Harry is perplexed at this because the only sound he hears is Malfoy’s cry of “Expelliarmus!” (Rowling Half-Blood Prince 584).  The text highlights his confusion and wonder at Dumbledore’s act:

He could not understand how it had happened—Expelliarmus was not the Freezing Charm— Then, by light of the Mark, he saw Dumbledore’s wand flying in an arc over the edge of the ramparts and understood…. Dumbledore had wordlessly immobilized Harry, and the second he had taken to perform the spell had cost him the chance of defending himself.  (Rowling Half-Blood Prince 584)

This selfless act seems indeed to fit the definition of agapē love set out by James Strong, author of the Strong’s Concordance, “the active love his people are to have for God, each other, and even enemies” (Strong 1587).  Dumbledore protects Harry when he could have protected himself and his dialogue with Draco that follows is evident of the compassion he wishes to show to him if he will “turn from their [his] wicked ways…” then he “will forgive their [his] sin” as mentioned in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (Bible Gateway).  This sacrificial, unconditional love displayed to both Harry and Draco may only be termed as agapē love.

These are but a few of the symbols and representations of agapē love found in Harry Potter.  For sake of comparison, a look at another Christian book series can make it easier to see similar symbols for agapē love.  C. S. Lewis’, The Chronicles of Narnia, like Harry Potter, contains multiple symbols of agapē love.  There appears to be a greater number of symbols for agapē love found in Harry Potter than in Narnia, which is likely due to the difference in length and complexity between each series.  At any rate, in Narnia agapē love is best illustrated through examples provided by the Pevensie children and Aslan.

One example of agapē love one may find in The Chronicles of Narnia is the example given by Peter, Susan, and Lucy Pevensie toward their brother Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  Edmund has betrayed them all to the White Witch, all for Turkish Delight and the thought of being “prince” next to the White Witch.  Once the Pevensies and the Beavers realize that Edmund has escaped to go tell the Witch what he has discovered, Peter tells Mr. Beaver, “‘All the same,’ said Peter in a rather choking sort of voice, ‘we’ll still have to go and look for him.  He is our brother after all, even if he is rather a little beast.  And he’s only a kid’” (Lewis Lion… 149).  Throughout the beginning of the novel, Edmund has been quite beastly to his siblings.  Despite this, when they discover he is missing, they run outside to look for him and bellow his name throughout the woods.  Even when Mr. Beaver tells them that they should run first, and leave the salvation of Edmund to Aslan, the Pevensies insist on looking for him.  This display of care and compassion can only be described as agapē love.

Another example of agapē love in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is Aslan’s compassion on Edmund.  When the White Witch approaches Aslan to make claim on Edmund’s life, he bargains with her, exchanging his own life for Edmund’s.  Aslan announces to the Pevensies and the other Narnians, “‘You can all come back, ‘ he said.  ‘I have settled the matter.  She has renounced the claim on your brother’s blood’” (Lewis Lion… 176).  He subjected himself to a traitor’s death at the hands of the White Witch and her minions.  Aslan’s sacrifice is exactly parallel with Christ’s agapē love for the church with his own death and resurrection found in the Gospels.

Yet another example of agapē love found in The Chronicles of Narnia is found in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  Eustace Scrubb, the Pevensies younger and perfectly insufferable cousin, has been turned into a dragon by a magical bracelet and the “dragonish thoughts in his heart” (Lewis Dawn Treader 466).  After Eustace spends about a week or so as a dragon, Aslan appears to him.  Aslan cures his dragonish state, but only after Eustace learns a difficult lesson.  Aslan takes Eustace to a well to bathe, but before he can do so, he must shed his thick, scaly dragon skin.  Eustace proceeds, but only sheds one skin to find another lying beneath it.  He tries this three times until Aslan says, “‘You will have to let me undress you’” (Lewis Dawn Treader 474).  Aslan proceeds to tear the skin off with his huge claws, and afterwards throws Eustace into the well.  Eustace is healed.  This picture of agapē love exemplifies Christ’s love for the church in his care and “cleaning up” of Eustace, the unlovable.  As Isaiah 1:18 says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Bible Gateway).  Eustace’s “sins” have been washed away by Aslan’s agapē love.

Clearly, agapē love is present throughout these examples in both Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia.  In many cases, this sort of love is held between close friends, families, or friends who are like family, such as with the Pevensie children, Lily and James Potter, the Trio, Harry’s love for Sirius and Dumbledore, as well as Sirius and Dumbledore for Harry, not to mention Aslan’s love for Edmund and his people, the Narnians.  In multiple examples, agapē love is also accompanied by sacrifice, particularly in the cases of Lily and James Potter, Dumbledore, and Aslan.  All three of these examples mimic Christ’s sacrificial love for the Church.  This love for the Church is integral in the study of Christ figures in Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia.  As seen in numerous instances in the Gospels, Christ’s actions are driven by agapē love.  Without this sort of agapē love, there is no Christ figure.  Characters in these stories become like Christ as Philippians 2:1-2 says, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” (Bible Gateway).  “Being one in spirit and purpose” becomes the result of agapē love and the creation of a Christ figure.

Works Cited in Chapter I, Part II

Bible Gateway.  King James Version.  New International Version.  2006. 27 Apr. 2006 <http://biblegateway.com/&gt;.  1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 John 4:8; 2 Chronicles 7:14; 2 Samuel 22:2-3; Acts 4:12; Colossians 1:13-14; Ephesians 1:7, 2:1-5, 2:20; Genesis 1:1-31, 3:15; Hebrews 9:12, 12:1; Isaiah 1:18, 50:6, 53:1-12, 61:10; Job 2:11-13; John 1:29, 3:16, 4:10, 4:13-14, 8:36, 14:6-7, 14:26, 15:13, 15:15, 19:17, 20:26-29, 21:9; Luke 10:18, 22:42, 24:46-47; Mark 7:37, 15:3-5; Matthew 1:21; 24:31, 26:36-39, 26:42; Philippians 2:1-2; Revelation 5:5, 11:18, 12:10; Romans 6:11; Titus 3:5.

Lewis, C. S.  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  The Chronicles of Narnia.  New York: HarperEntertainment, 2005.  107-97.

—.  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  The Chronicles of Narnia.  New York: HarperEntertainment, 2005.  419-541.

Rowling, J. K.  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  New York: Levine-Scholastic, 2001.  22, 534, 679, 717.

—.  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  New York: Levine-Scholastic, 2005.  552, 569, 584, 596, 612, 652.

—.  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  New York: Levine-Scholastic, 2003.  734-35, 789, 792-93, 824, 836, 841, 843-44.

—.  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  New York: Levine-Scholastic, 1999.  38, 108, 214, 232, 330, 376, 415, 425, 427-29.

—.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  New York: Levine-Scholastic, 1998.  173, 173, 177-79, 220, 271, 283, 286, 294, 299, 306.

Strong, James.  The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.  21st Cent. ed.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.  1587.

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About The Nerdy Blogger

Ashley Whitehead Thomas is The Nerdy Blogger. She holds a B. A. in English Literature from Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee and began her M. A. at Signum University in Spring 2013. Ashley blogs, reads, writes (for fun and for hire), and spends time with her husband, Ryan, and their two cat-monsters, Luna and Oliver.
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