(Note: If you haven’t read the final book of the Harry Potter series, you will find possible plot points below that may detract from your literary enjoyment. You are hereby warned.)
About a month ago, I sat at a restaurant along with fellow HJ writer Mike Furches. Halfway through the meal, our discussion shifted to the upcoming release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in JK Rowling’s epic saga. Mike admitted he hadn’t read the books but reminded me of the controversy that has surrounded the series since its inception: a magical world filled with witches, wizards, spells, and a foreboding sense of evil. As a result, the series has been the subject of lawsuits and book burnings—many coming from well-meaning Christians. Mike then recalled an article in late 2000 where Rowling stated clearly, “Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.”
Well, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has been released to the public, and I think it’s high time that Christians that either haven’t read the books or have been openly critical of them give J.K. Rowling a major apology. For the series will stand alongside such epic tales as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings in its impact and relevance to people of all ages about good and evil, and ultimately about Jesus himself.
The book opens with the same foreboding sense of darkness evident at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. By the end of the first chapter, there is no doubt that the body count will be high, regardless of whether Voldemort is destroyed or not. He wants Harry dead and will use any and everyone in order to accomplish his task. Saying he’s not happy is an understatement.
At the same time, Harry is about to turn seventeen, effectively granting him passage into wizardhood. But this also means that the magical protection he enjoyed while living at the Dursley residence is about to expire, putting all of them at great risk. The Dursleys have to move, and Harry has to get to a place of refuge quickly. The getaway is both saddening and exhilarating as the reader realizes yet again that the price of any victory will be costly.
There will be no ride aboard the Hogwarts Express this year, as Harry has a distinct mission: find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes in order to defeat Voldemort. Assisted by Ron and Hermione, the three learn what it means to live life as wanted fugitives, uncertain of who to trust while watching the circle of evil tighten around them slowly but surely. Their friendship, solidified in the first six books, is tested in the crucible of danger, loneliness, and despair.
Harry’s journey will take him to Godric’s Hollow to visit the town cemetery, to the home of Xenophilius Lovegood to inquire about a necklace he wears, and to the residence of Draco Malfoy under dire circumstances. But these are all necessary in order for him to make one final entrance into Hogwarts, where the battle between good and evil will ultimately be decided.
Rowling brings up significant issues throughout the book, including (but not limited to) genocide, slavery, betrayal, trust, love, and sacrifice for the cause of revolution. On this last point, Harry learns through a conversation Dumbledore had with Snape that the final Horcrux is his scar and that the ultimate sacrifice will have to be made. His walk into the forest to face Voldemort is eerily reminiscent of Aslan’s walk to the Stone Table and Jesus’ walk to the cross. He gives up his life willingly, only to come back and kill Voldemort as the dark wizard’s flawed confidence is revealed, then finally exploited. As the tombstone of James and Lily Potter says, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26), and Rowling makes those words resonate with meaning in the final battle.
Just as reading the Old Testament gives clues to what will eventually happen when Jesus comes on the scene, it is only when all the pieces are put together that the picture is formed and makes sense. Rowling’s masterstroke is similarly ambiguous at first, but as the pages go by in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final picture is revealed as an epic battle of good and evil, with good having the upper hand on the last page. This is why it is dangerous to have preconceived judgments about situations, individuals, or books, for one could be made to look quite foolish in the process. And to that end, apologies are necessary.
Bravo, Ms. Rowling, for introducing Harry Potter, a cast of hundreds, and the eternal story of good and evil to millions of eager readers.
The puzzle is now solved, and we are better for it.