Harry Potter and the List of Evil Things

Posted on July 3, 2011


I just finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It feels like quite the accomplishment for me, for it’s the third book I’ve read this summer. For many people who often read, this, no doubt, falls short of the meaning of “accomplishment,” but that’s okay. It’s been years since I’ve picked up a book and finished it (not including school books, of course). Actually, the last book I remember reading cover to cover was Pride and Prejudice, a reading requirement for my Romantic Literature class. That was back in the spring of 2009, when I was a Junior, taking as many classes as possible from a soon-to-retire teacher that assumed the title of “Best Teacher EVER” in my mind.

But back on point.

My sister and I made the joint decision to watch all the Harry Potter movies in order leading up to the release of the final film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. We’re both unbelievably excited (have you seen the trailer?)! Neither of us, however, cared much for Harry Potter until before the the 6th film was to come out in theaters, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

I think I was about 12 years old when I read an article in the Daily Herald (I feel like I’m italicizing to no end in this post … ) about the opening of Rowling’s third book of the series to come out, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. One of my junior high friends had lent me the second book in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I wasn’t a very fast reader, but I was loving the book. At that point in my life, I read constantly. I had never read anything so exciting before, and I was excited to see that a book that I was reading was part of something so big and great, that it was getting published in our local paper.

And then it happened. It, being, that someone from our church had emailed my mom and informed her that the lightning mark on Harry Potter’s face was representative of the “mark of the beast,” from the Bible. Along with some other Scripture passages listing the evil of witchcraft and wizardry, I was all but allowed to touch The Chamber of Secrets anymore. I was disappointed and confused as to why the book was deemed evil, but I believed what I was told and forgot about the series entirely for years.

It wasn’t until college that I had given much thought to Harry Potter again. I had become a huge fan of Lord of the Rings (despite there being multiple wizards with powers in the books). My only thought regarding the wizards is that they were considered fantasy, and that fantasy wasn’t to be taken seriously. After all, if supernatural powers weren’t being used to accomplish real evil or wrong purposes, what was wrong with fantasy? The series’s author, J. R. R. Tolkein, even wrote the books with a Christian perspective in mind, having the books reflect Biblical characters and events.

It wasn’t until that Junior year when I read Pride and Prejudice in my favorite teacher’s class, that my same favorite teacher taught another class, Adolescent Literature, and required students to read the first Harry Potter book. I wasn’t stunned or angry with the idea, but it did make consider the idea that that same woman who had emailed my mom 8 or 9 years earlier could have been wrong. That just maybe, these make-believe, fantasy stories weren’t filled with evil ideas for readers to take and transition with into their real lives. That the idea of supernatural ideas were not to be taken seriously or literally used, but that they just served the purpose of storytelling. The Harry Potter books were, indeed, not evil, but possibly contained “objectionable elements,” as we learned to called them in our college lit classes, and that it was up to an individual to decided for himself first, whether or not something was actually an objectionable element, and then second, based on the objectionable elements (or lack thereof) to read the book (or watch the film, or listen to the music, etc.).

So I started to read the first book. I had never read it, but I found it really interesting. Unfortunately, being busy with college, I never finished the book and quickly forgot about Harry Potter. It wasn’t until a Christmas or Thanksgiving holiday later that my sister posed the idea of watching all the Harry Potter movies, and then go see the next one to come out in theaters (The Half-Blood Prince). I agreed, and we watched all of them.

We both loved them. True, I was mixing all of the stories together, unsure of what a lot of things meant since I hadn’t read the books. And yes, I did feel like the beginning movies were directed towards more of a younger audience. But I enjoyed them thoroughly, and have since seen the next films in theater.

Over the next year and a half, my sister has purchased and read the entire collection. As July 15 gets closer, we both become more excited to see the end of the series on film.

And then I got back to reading again. I wrote about the first book I read this summer in a post here. And following that book, I read the second in the series. And then I was ready for another book to dive into. With my sister owning all the Harry Potter books, and the upcoming enthusiasm of seeing the final movie, I decided to give the Harry Potter books another go. So I borrowed The Sorcerer’s Stone from my sister, and now I can say that I finally read it in its entirety, from start to finish.

All I have left is 6 books. More than likely, I won’t finish the series before we see the final movie, but I’m okay with it. It’s just great to be able to read the series, guilt-free, without a thought that I’m doing something wrong. I made a decision for myself, and Harry Potter books/movies got nicked off the list of evil things that I’m not to take part in.

What I’ve learned is that it’s a silly and foolish thing to deem something bad before researching it. Believing something because someone tells you that it is bad is the easy thing to do (especially for a 12 year old, so I grant myself some clemency). The harder thing to do is actually research and have solid reasoning for supporting why you do or don’t “fill in the blank.” Harry Potter, as I’ve read a little of, and watched the films, doesn’t contain any information supporting the claims in the email sent to my mom. I think the information within it might have been conjured by someone who didn’t even read the books.

I can’t imagine what the emailer would have thought Fluffy represented in real life if she had actually read the books. Ha!