God, C. S. Lewis, and J. K. Rowling?: Redemption, Chapter III, Part I

Good morning, Nerdy Bloggers!

We’re nearing the end of my Thesis series.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.  I will be posting the final part of this redemption chapter tomorrow and the conclusion the next day.  Also, for your convenience I’ve linked all the posts up in the God, C. S. Lewis, and J. K. Rowling tab, in case you want to browse back through them easily.  Now, without further ado, Chapter III!

Blessings,

Nerdy Blogger

CHAPTER III, PART I

THE END RESULT: REDEMPTION IN HARRY POTTER AND THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA

“Your mother’s sacrifice made the bond of blood the strongest shield I could give you…. While you can still call home the place where your mother’s blood dwells, there you cannot be touched or harmed by Voldemort.  He shed her blood, but it lives on in you and her sister.  Her blood became your refuge.” – Albus Dumbledore to Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, 836 (emphasis added).

Redemption is one of the main tenets of Christianity, if not the ultimate tenet.  This principle is important because within it, Christianity finds its basis.  The work of Jesus Christ in his crucifixion is all in vain if not for the redemption found within that work.  Indeed, this point of doctrine is noted biblically in Hebrews 9:12, “He [Jesus Christ] did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption,” as well as in Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Bible Gateway) and in multiple other places as well.  Without this final act of redemption, there is simply no need for agapē love or the necessity of a Christ figure.  It is this symbol of redemption that is the fulfillment of agapē love and the Christ figure, and it is this symbol that is found throughout and is intrinsically linked in Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia.

It would appear to be a common thread in the Harry Potter series that the title character or someone in his company is always redeemed in the final scenes of each novel.  This is most true of Harry himself.  Harry is known through out the wizarding world as “The Boy Who Lived.”  This is because his life is the result of redemption, and this redemptive work is the motivating action for the entire series.  Commenting on this work, the sacrificial death of Lily and James Potter, Catherine Jack and David Paul Deavel note, “His parents’ sacrifice of love marks Harry more deeply and formatively than his magical talents or even than the lightning bolt scar on his forehead” (58).  Harry lives because of his redemption, as Christians live through Christ.  By this same token, Romans 6:11 says, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Bible Gateway).  As Christians are alive in Christ’s redemption, Harry is alive through the redemption made by his parents.  His parents’ sacrifice redeems infant Harry, allowing him to become a redeemer to others.

The mark Harry received from Voldemort was no accident.  Harry is the one prophesied to defeat Voldemort and remove his reign of terror over the wizarding world permanently.  The text of the prophecy fits Harry to the hilt; Harry is the son of “those who have thrice defied him,” his birthday is on July 31st, “as the seventh month dies,” and Voldemort did indeed, “mark him as his equal.”  However, Harry “has power the Dark Lord knows not” (Rowling Order of the Phoenix 841).  It would appear that Voldemort has chosen Harry to be his personal opponent, and much like the prophecy concerning Christ and Satan in Genesis 3:15 which says, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Bible Gateway), Jesus is Satan’s personal opponent.  Satan’s defeat is achieved through Christ’s resurrection, “crushing” Satan’s head.  Harry’s role as the redeemer of the wizarding world closely parallels with Jesus’ role as the redeemer of Christians.

One element of the Harry Potter novels that might seem insignificant through the entire series is the centerpiece of the first novel.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’s title says it all—the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone in accordance with the legend and the British book title) can be identified as a symbol of redemption.  Concerning the Sorcerer’s Stone, the text states, “The ancient study of alchemy is concerned with making the Sorcerer’s Stone, a legendary substance with astonishing powers.  The stone will transform any metal into pure gold.  It also produces the Elixir of Life, which will make the drinker immortal” (Rowling Sorcerer’s Stone 220).  The Elixir of Life is what Voldemort is seeking throughout the first book; this elixir offers an interesting comparison with the biblical “Elixir of Life.”  In John 4:13-14, Jesus, speaking to a Samaritan woman, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” It is also interesting to note that Jesus describes this water in John 4:10 as “living water”—the biblical Elixir of Life (Bible Gateway).  It is simple to conclude from this illustration that the Elixir of Life which comes from the Sorcerer’s Stone is congruent with the living water offered by “Christ Jesus…the chief cornerstone” (Bible Gateway Ephesians 2:20).  This is just one of the many examples of redemption found in the Harry Potter novels.

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, there is a symbol for redemption that is perhaps less obvious than much of the symbolism found in Harry Potter.  When Harry and Ron decide to take the flying Ford Anglia to school when they miss the Hogwarts Express, the two boys crash into the Whomping Willow and are in huge trouble.  How these two escape the severe hand of Severus Snape may be seen as an almost allegorical representation of redemption.  Consider this author’s interpretation of Harry and Ron’s sentencing:

Harry and Ron represent Man and Professor Snape represents Satan the Accuser.  Satan has no power to condemn man, so he fetches those that do, Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall, who represent God the Father and Jesus the Son.  Man is forgiven his sin (Misuse of muggle artifacts, underage wizardry, destruction of school property, and performing magic before muggles), but still must suffer the consequences (detention), but is spared bane of hell, away from the presence of God (expulsion from Hogwarts and the God figure, Dumbledore).  After Man is absolved his sin, he is rejoiced over in Heaven (the celebration in Gryffindor tower).  (Rowling Chamber of Secrets 79-85)

Indeed, this allegory is not quite as apparent as the other symbolism offered in Harry Potter, but this interpretation offers a look at redemption comparable to John Granger’s comparison in Looking for God in Harry Potter.  Granger writes about the fight with Tom Riddle at the end of Chamber of Secrets calling it, “the most transparent Christian allegory of salvation history since Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (133).  Granger sees Harry as Everyman, Tom Riddle as Satan, Ginny Weasley represents man’s virgin innocence and purity, the basilisk is sin, Dumbledore is God, Fawkes the Phoenix is Jesus, the Phoenix song is the Holy Spirit, the sword of Gryffindor is the sword of the Spirit (Granger notes Ephesians 6:17), the Chamber of Secrets is the world, and Hogwarts represents heaven.  He sees this allegory play out as such,

Man, alone and afraid in the world, loses his innocence.  He tries to regain it but is prevented by Satan, who feeds on his fallen, lost innocence.  Man confesses and calls on God the Father while facing Satan, and is graced immediately by the Holy Spirit and the protective presence of Christ.  Satan confronts man with the greatness of his sins.  God sends man the sword of the Spirit, which he uses to slay his Christ-weakened enemy.  His sins are absolved, but the weight of them still means man’s death.  Satan rejoices.  But the voluntary suffering of Christ heals man!  Man rises from the dead, and with Christ’s help, man destroys Satan.  Man’s innocence is restored, and he leaves the world for heaven by means of the Ascension of Christ.  Man, risen with Christ, lives with God the Father in joyful thanksgiving. (Granger 135-36)

Granger’s allegory indeed offers a strong parallel between the Christian Salvation story and Harry’s redemption in Chamber of Secrets.  Similarly, Kristin Kay Johnston notes, “…Harry descends into the underground chamber to fight the evil serpent (the basilisk) and rescue Ginny ‘from the dead’” (6).  Although Johnston and Granger’s interpretations of the literature are varied slightly, each still points to the scenes in Chamber of Secrets as a redemptive work.  The presence of these symbols in the pit Chamber of Secrets (the actual chamber, not the book) places them as a ray of hope of redemption in the midst of the dreadful surroundings.

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban we move from the depths of the Chamber of Secrets to the skies on the wings of a Hippogriff.  Prisoner of Azkaban is one of the most popular of the Harry Potter novels.  Prisoner of Azkaban is also different from the other novels of the series in its format.  The ending is what sparks this contrast.  Unlike the other five volumes of Harry Potter that have been released, Harry and the Trio are not the ones being rescued at the end of the novel; rather, Harry and Hermione are the redemptive figures in Prisoner of Azkaban.  The redemption of Sirius Black and Buckbeak the Hippogriff is the main focus.  There is no great encounter with Voldemort as seen in the other novels, although there is an encounter with his servant, Peter Pettigrew.  Harry feels his and Hermione’s efforts to save Sirius were futile since Sirius is still believed to be a loyal servant of Voldemort, murderer of Peter Pettigrew, and Judas Iscariot to Lily and James Potter.  Professor Dumbledore believes differently however, saying “Didn’t make any difference? …It made all the difference in the world, Harry.  You helped uncover the truth.  You saved an innocent man from a terrible fate” (Rowling Prisoner of Azkaban 425).  As Harry has spared Sirius from a terrible fate, Christ has spared the Church their terrible fate.  Colossians 1:13-14 states, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Bible Gateway).  Sirius Black has been rescued from “the dominion of darkness” that is Azkaban Prison by the son of his best friend.  As in John 8:36, being set free by the Son is being free indeed (Bible Gateway).

In all of the Harry Potter novels, the final scenes usually point to some form of redemption.  In the finale of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry is redeemed from Voldemort through the “old magic” of his mother’s love.  In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry and Ron are rescued from expulsion from Hogwarts, and Harry and Ginny are redeemed from death through Fawkes the Phoenix and his gifts.  Sirius Black is spared the fate of a Dementor’s Kiss in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry is redeemed from Voldemort and the Deatheaters by the echoes of those Voldemort has murdered; and in what appears to be a literal interpretation of Hebrews 12:1, these echoes are much like an actual, “great cloud of witnesses” (Bible Gateway).  Dumbledore comes to the rescue in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, foiling Voldemort and saving Harry and the DA.  And in his final redemptive act, Albus Dumbledore lays his life down for Harry in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  That there is some symbol of redemption found in the finale of all the Harry Potter novels may be very telling.  Biblically speaking, redemption is the final end point of Christ’s work on the cross.  The redemption of his saints is the main focus—the chief result of salvation—as is noted in Revelation 12:10, “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down’” (Bible Gateway).  The defeat of the evil one, the redemption of saints from evil, and the authority of the redeemer is established—this is the pattern the redemption story follows in the Bible, but also in Harry Potter.  This same pattern can be identified in The Chronicles of NarniaThe Chronicles of Narnia offers many examples of redemption.  Much like Harry Potter, an example of redemption can be found in each volume, and oftentimes, this symbol of redemption is the centerpiece for the entire story.

Works Cited in Chapter III, 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.

Granger, John.  Looking for God in Harry Potter.  USA: SaltRiver, 2004.  67-68, 99-100, 133, 135-36, 182.

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.

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?: Redemption, Chapter III, Part I

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

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