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

Good morning, Nerdy Bloggers!

Here’s Chapter II of my thesis.  This second chapter, I believe, is my strongest (and my longest) of the thesis.  At any rate, I’m very pleased with how it turned out.  I hope you enjoy it, too.  If you do, say so!  🙂

Blessings,

Nerdy Blogger

CHAPTER II

OF CHRIST, WIZARDS, AND LIONS: CHRIST FIGURES IN HARRY POTTER AND THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA

“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy.  “It’s you.  We shan’t meet you there.  And how can we live, never meeting you?”  “But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.  “Are—are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.  “I am,” said Aslan.  “But there I have another name.  You must learn to know me by that name.  This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.” – Aslan to Lucy and Edmund Pevensie and Eustace Scrubb, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, 541.

Central to many, if not all, symbolically Christian stories is the element of the Christ figure.  In the text of both Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, there are many Christ figures.  These figures do not merely represent Christ in the area of sacrifice, but also in the many other characteristics and actions of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Bible.  Christ figures can be seen in their identification with God the Father (in Harry Potter and Narnia, a father or father figure), compassion towards others, actions similar to those of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Bible, and as is perhaps most obvious, sacrifice.  These are the main elements of Christ that can be seen in the Harry Potter series as well as The Chronicles of Narnia.

Perhaps the most obvious Christ figures found in Harry Potter are Lily and James Potter, Harry’s parents.  Harry’s parents are deceased before the first page of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  Harry has been left to live with his very unpleasant aunt, uncle, and cousin, the Dursleys.  The reader discovers the nature of the Potters’ death—murdered by Voldemort himself.  Voldemort had intended to kill Harry that night as well, however, he was stopped unexpectedly.  Voldemort notes that James Potter fought courageously, but further says, “…but your mother needn’t have died…she was trying to protect you…” (Rowling Sorcerer’s Stone 294).  Similarly, Dumbledore further explains to Harry about his mother’s death, and exactly what gave him the name, The Boy Who Lived,

Your mother died to save you.  If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love.  He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark.  Not a scar, no visible sign…to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. (Rowling Sorcerer’s Stone 299)

The loving sacrifice of Lily and James Potter for their infant son mirrors the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the Church, giving himself up completely through death.

Like his parents, Harry Potter himself may be considered a Christ figure.  Harry exhibits many qualities of Christ, even from the very beginning of his life.  Kristin Kay Johnston makes an interesting point concerning this detail:

When Harry was a baby there were strange signs in the world, such as the appearance of hundreds of owls, as well as shooting stars, perhaps reminding us of the appearance of the angels and the star of Bethlehem at Jesus’ birth.  Recall also the fact that Harry as a baby has to flee evil—this recalls both Jesus’ flight into Egypt with Marry and Joseph as well as Moses being put into the basket to escape death.  (6-7)

This being said, it is also interesting to note the many other things that parallel with Jesus Christ and Harry’s birth.  Before Jesus was born, there were many prophecies concerning him, most notably the passage of Isaiah 53, which covers Jesus’ life, ministry, and resurrection.  Note also that there was a prophecy about Harry Potter.  The prophecy states,

THE ONE WITH THE POWER TO VANQUISH THE DARK LORD APPROACHES…. BORN TO THOSE WHO HAVE THRICE DEFIED HIM, BORN AS THE SEVENTH MONTH DIES…AND THE DARK LORD WILL MARK HIM AS HIS EQUAL, BUT HE WILL HAVE POWER THE DARK LORD KNOWS NOT…AND EITHER MUST DIE AT THE HAND OF THE OTHER FOR NEITHER CAN LIVE WHILE THE OTHER SURVIVES…. THE ONE WITH THE POWER TO VANQUISH THE DARK LORD WILL BE BORN AS THE SEVENTH MONTH DIES…. (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 841)

Harry’s life is marked and changed by this prophecy.  His life thus far in the series has followed the prophecy to the letter.  For Voldemort to be stopped, the prophecy must be carried out.   Harry must conquer Voldemort, as Jesus has conquered Satan.

One physical characteristic of Harry that parallels with Christ is Harry’s lightning bolt scar.  Harry received his scar the night Voldemort murdered his parents and attempted to murder Harry, the mark of his battle.  When Christ rose from the dead and showed the disciples his scarred hands and feet, he was showing them the marks of his battle, so to speak.  The image of the lightning bolt scar has more significance to this comparison when thought of in the light of Luke 10:18.  The verse states, “He [Jesus] replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven’” (Bible Gateway).  The lightning bolt scar marks Voldemort’s fall from his “glory,” so to speak, when he was at his greatest power.  As Jesus’ scars mark his conquering over death and triumph over Satan, Harry’s scar marks his conquering over death (the killing curse, Avada Kedavra) and triumph over Satan (Voldemort).

Another characteristic of Christ we see in Harry Potter is Harry’s identification with his father.  Harry is told multiple times throughout the novels “you do look extraordinarily like James” (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 427).  Not only does Harry resemble his father physically, but also throughout the novels the reader is shown that Harry grows to resemble his father in his actions and attitudes.  Perhaps the most explicit example of this can be found in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  In Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry discovers who his godfather is, and the identity of the person who handed his parents over to Voldemort.  Throughout these experiences, Harry’s identity as his father’s son is solidified, particularly in the final chapters of the novel.  Harry goes as far as to stop Sirius Black and Remus Lupin from killing the man who handed the Potters over to Voldemort, Peter Pettigrew, saying, “I’m not doing this for you.  I’m doing it because—I don’t reckon my dad would’ve wanted them [Sirius and Remus] to become killers—just for you” (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 376).  Albus Dumbledore later confirms Harry’s decision.  Dumbledore says, “‘I knew your father very well, both at Hogwarts and later, Harry,’ he said gently.  ‘He would have saved Pettigrew too, I am sure of it’” (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 427).  Harry’s actions are in line with his father’s, much like Christ’s actions and will are in line with his father’s.  Further, Catherine Jack and David Paul Deavel say in their article, “Character, Choice, and Harry Potter,” “While Harry has not forgiven his parents betrayer at this point, he still has the model of his father as a guide to his own actions, and Harry chooses to follow his father’s example rather than to indulge his own desire for revenge” (59).  When Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane in Luke 22:42, he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Bible Gateway).  Jesus followed his Father’s will and took the cup, dying on the cross.  Harry in the same way has carried out, what the reader can reasonably conclude would be his father’s will, sparing the one who was responsible for his death.

The reader may find another point of interest concerning Harry and his Christ-likeness during the attack of the dementors on Harry, Hermione, and Sirius Black.  Harry sees a familiar face forming a Patronus charm as he is blacking out; this face Harry that he sees, he believes is his father.  Harry puzzles over this during the rescue of Buckbeak the hippogriff and Sirius Black with the Time Turner.  Knowing his father is dead, the prospect of James Potter conjuring the Patronus is a complete impossibility.  When Harry realizes it was he who conjured the Patronus, the form of the Patronus is what causes such a great surprise.  Harry’s Patronus takes the form of a stag, the very same form his father would take as an animagus, a witch or wizard who can turn his or herself into an animal at will (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 108).   Dumbledore draws out a particularly interesting point about Harry’s Patronus; he says,

You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us?  You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble?  Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him.  How else could you produce that particular Patronus?  Prongs rode again last night…. You know, Harry, in a way, you did see your father last night…. You found him inside yourself.  (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 428-29)

The point Dumbledore makes is indeed a curious one.  Harry not only resembles his father physically, and understands what his father might do, but he also is much like his father in ways he does not fully realize: the spirit of James Potter seems to dwell within him.  In the same way, Jesus identifies himself with his Father in John 14:7: “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (Bible Gateway).  Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father, and in the same way, whoever sees Harry, sees his father.  As Sirius points out, “You are—truly your father’s son, Harry…” (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 415).

Another characteristic of Harry’s Christ-likeness is found in the theme of sacrifice.  In many ways the reader sees Harry running into the line of fire for his friends, and in many instances, this involves a certain element of sacrifice.  This element of sacrifice falls into line with Christ’s example of sacrifice at his crucifixion.  Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” but also in verse 15 of that same passage, Jesus also says, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (Bible Gateway).  Jesus called his disciples his friends and willingly laid down his life for them.  Harry has been shown to do this on a number of occasions, putting himself in harms’ way, always thinking of his friends before himself.  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix features many examples of this, particularly in the case of Sirius Black.  While Harry is taking his O.W.L. exams he drifts off into a vision, in which he sees his godfather, Sirius Black being attacked by Voldemort.  Before stopping to fully understand the situation, Harry rushes off into a plan to go save Sirius, not caring what happens to him, as long as his godfather is safe.  He says to Hermione when she tries to convince him that his vision might be a trap laid by Voldemort, “Hermione, it doesn’t matter to me if he’s done it to get me there or not—they’ve taken McGonagall to St. Mungo’s, there isn’t anyone left from the Order at Hogwarts who we can tell, and if we don’t go, Sirius is dead!” (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 734).  Harry shows no regard for his own life, caring only for the life of his godfather.

In a similar manner, Harry is willing to rush into the line of fire for Hermione as well.  Taking another example from a passage in Order of the Phoenix, the reader can see this clearly:

The second Death Eater, however, had leapt aside to avoid Harry’s spell and now pointed his own wand at Hermione, who had crawled out from under the desk to get a better aim.  “Avada—” Harry launched himself across the floor and grabbed the Death Eater around the knees, causing him to topple and go awry.  (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 789)

This action, trivial though it might seem, shows Harry doing everything in his power to spare his friend, when he could have very easily been killed himself.  A similar incident is repeated a few pages later:

But the Death Eater Hermione had just struck dumb made a sudden slashing movement with his wand from which flew a streak of what looked like purple flame.  It passed right across Hermione’s chest; she gave a tiny “oh!” as though of surprise and then crumpled onto the floor where she lay motionless.  “HERMIONE!”  …A whine of panic inside his head was preventing him thinking properly.  He had one hand on Hermione’s shoulder, which was still warm, yet did not dare look at her properly.  Don’t let her be dead, don’t let her be dead, it’s my fault if she’s dead…. (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 792-93)

Harry, blaming himself for what happened to Hermione, would have been devastated if she had died, shouldering all the responsibility on himself.  It would seem that Harry would have preferred to take the place of his friend if anything had happened to her, judging from this quote.  These two examples illustrate Harry’s willingness to lay his life down for his friends, and in many ways identify him as a Christ figure.

There are many other examples of Christ figures in the Harry Potter series.  One character seems to stand at the forefront for many, however, and that character is Albus Dumbledore.  Dumbledore is portrayed in the novels as a wise and knowledgeable teacher, just as Jesus was viewed in his day as a wise and knowledgeable teacher.  Indeed, the disciples and those who followed Jesus were constantly amazed at his actions and teachings.  Mark 7:37 says, “People were overwhelmed with amazement. ‘He has done everything well,’ they said” (Bible Gateway).  Dumbledore is also described as “…the only wizard Voldemort ever feared” (Rowling Goblet of Fire 679), this because of his power and wisdom.  These characteristics match Dumbledore with Jesus in demeanor and the respect he received because of his wisdom and the miracles he performed.  It seems to be in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when the reader sees Dumbledore at the peak of his Christ-likeness.  Perhaps one of the most symbolic elements in the entire Harry Potter series is found in the final chapters of Half-Blood Prince, and that particular element is found in Albus Dumbledore at the final moments of his life.  These descriptions offer an almost complete allegory to Jesus’ final moments on earth.

In chapter 26, Harry and Dumbledore are in search for one of Voldemort’s horcruxes.  Their search takes them to a cave.  In this cave, the device that is protecting the horcrux is a basin filled with a potion that cannot be dipped into, but is solid to the touch, with the horcrux at the bottom.  Dumbledore, after examination of the basin, determines that the only way to get to the bottom is to drink the potion.  Dumbledore claims the job and gives Harry these instructions, “Harry, it will be your job to make sure I keep drinking, even if you have to tip the potion into my protesting mouth.  You understand?” (Rowling Half-Blood Prince 569).  Harry obeys Dumbledore’s orders despite his protests during the ordeal.  This might draw some comparison between this particular passage with Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane found in the Gospels.  Matthew’s Gospel in chapter twenty-six and verses thirty-nine and forty-two quotes Jesus as saying, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will… He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done’” (Bible Gateway).  Jesus has willingly accepted his duty, as Dumbledore has too accepted his duty to take the potion, “the cup,” so to speak.  The suffering Dumbledore sustains during this time is substantial; he is weakened greatly, as Jesus was during his time of prayer in the garden.

When Harry and Dumbledore make their way to the lightning-struck tower at Hogwarts after their venture into the cave, the two are faced with as surprising turn of events: treason and betrayal.  Draco Malfoy has been given the task of killing Dumbledore, by none other than Voldemort himself.  As Harry and Dumbledore land atop the tower, they hear the sound of someone running up the stairs.  Before the door is flung open, Dumbledore wordlessly immobilizes Harry who is hidden beneath his invisibility cloak.  The text states,

The door burst open and somebody erupted through it and shouted, “Expelliarmus!” …Then, by the 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)

Harry, under the invisibility cloak and prevented from all movement so as though not to burst out in action, is as safe as possible in the given situation.  Dumbledore’s actions, driven by agapē love for Harry, have spared Harry’s life while taking no heed for his own.  This indeed proves to cost Dumbledore his life.  This action of sacrifice is remarkably similar to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  Dumbledore offered no resistance to his captors, exactly as Jesus did not.  Indeed, the prophet Isaiah speaks of Jesus’ actions, saying in 53:7, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Bible Gateway).  Even as Dumbledore is betrayed and slain by one he called friend, Severus Snape (the Harry Potter equivalent to Judas Iscariot), the reader is given an image that is startlingly similar to a crucified Jesus, giving up the ghost.  The text states, “For a split second, he seemed to hang suspended beneath the shining skull, and then he fell slowly backward, like a great rag doll, over the battlements and out of sight” (Rowling Half-Blood Prince 596).  The image of the Dark Mark, a shining skull, brings on images of the hill on which Jesus was crucified, Golgotha.  John 19:17 states, “So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha)” (Bible Gateway).   Harry and Dumbledore have journeyed to the “place of the Skull” and Dumbledore has been crucified, so to speak.  Jesus only had one friend present at his crucifixion, John, the disciple whom Jesus loved.  In the same way, Harry is intensely loyal to Dumbledore (one may recall the great display of Harry’s loyalty to Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and is his only friend present, and in the same way Harry can be called “the disciple whom Dumbledore loved.”  These final moments of Dumbledore’s life offers an almost complete allegory to the final moments of Jesus’ life.

Works Cited in Chapter II, Part I

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.

Deavel, Catherine Jack and David Paul.  “Character, Choice, and Harry Potter.”  Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture.  5.4 (2002): 49-64.  <http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/logos/v005/5.4deavel.pdf&gt;.  58-59.

Johnston, Kristin Kay.  “Christian Theology as Depicted in The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter Books.”  Journal of Religion & Society Vol. 7 (2005).  <http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/pdf/2005-5.pdf&gt;.  6-7.

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

Rowling, J. K.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  New York: Levine-Scholastic, 1999.  79-85.

—.  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.

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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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One Response to God, C. S. Lewis, and J. K. Rowling?: Christ Figures, Chapter II, Part I

  1. Pingback: Harry Potter as a Christ-Figure | When All Else Fails

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