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Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Deathly Hallows, Part 1: My Very Opinionated Piece

(Spoiler alert: If you have not seen the movie, or read the book, you may wish to skip this.)

Friday’s Forecast: More Christian Allegory in Harry Potter

This is not a review but more a continuation of my thesis that the Harry Potter books can be considered Christian allegory. As far as I know, J.K. Rowling has not indicated they are and so let me reiterate that this is conjecture on my part—but conjecture that makes sense to me. Rowling may not have been aiming for Christian allegory, but it’s amazing how well things Biblical fit in with the story of Harry.

017Let’s look at the latest movie, The Deathly Hallows, Part 1. First, the title itself. “Hallow” is usually used as a verb and it means “to make holy.” We find that the hallows are the sorcerer’s stone, the invisibility cloak, and the wand used by Dumbledore.

What power does each of these possess? The sorcerer’s stone has the ability to raise the dead. Resurrection of the dead. Obviously we associate that with Jesus.

The invisibility cloak offers protection to the wearer. It has aided Harry throughout each of the books. Would it be too farfetched to associate this with the Holy Spirit?

And the last hallow is the wand. The wand confers great power to its possessor. Great power is certainly an attribute of God.

Three hallows. And three comprising the Godhead. Simple coincidence or did Rowling choose this number and these particular attributes on purpose?

Some critics have given the movie less than glowing reviews. But to me, the movie captures the effect Rowling was going for, if indeed my premise is correct. If the books are Christian symbolism, this movie gives us many parallels, as we have already seen by consideration of the hallows. Let’s delve a little further.

For most of the movie, Harry is cut off from others, except for Hermione and Ron, and even Ron abandons him for a while. He wanders from place to place, in the wilderness, searching for answers, questioning why Dumbledore did not tell him more, beginning to doubt if Dumbledore is good, doubting that he can fulfill the role thrust upon him, and simply wishing he could escape.

Parallels to this in the Bible include the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for forty years, a period of hardship and trials. The people constantly doubt God, just as Harry doubts Dumbledore in the movie. This movie shows powerfully how alone and hopeless Harry feels.

Another example from the Bible is Jesus fasting for forty days and then being tempted by the devil. When the locket is destroyed, who can deny the similarity between Voldemort’s lies and the lies of the devil? And the horcrux is destroyed by a sword. What does a sword in the Bible represent? God’s word. God’s truth.

Also in the Bible we find Jesus praying for the cup to pass from him. His friends slept while he prayed in the garden, totally alone. When he hung on the cross, he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In the same way, Harry feels Dumbledore has forsaken him. This is the time of greatest darkness; this is the time before the greatest victory.

When the early Christians committed to Christianity, they often paid with their lives. In Part 1 of The Deathly Hallows, we see the commitment to Harry also results in this ultimate sacrifice.

And yet Harry endures. He even endures the abandonment of Ron, just as Jesus had to endure the abandonment of Peter. Yet both Ron and Peter return with a new zeal. After passing through this period of darkness, Harry and his followers emerge with a new determination. And we’ll see where that leads in The Deathly Hallows, Part 2.

Enduing the hallows with the attributes of the Godhead; the wandering of Harry in the wilderness; the doubting of Dumbledore, as many doubt God; spewing of lies by Voldemort, sounding much like the devil; destroying the locket, Voldemort’s lies, with a sword, just as Satan’s lies are destroyed with the sword of God; Ron’s abandoning Harry, just as Peter abandoned Jesus; and dying for a commitment, all seem to indicate Biblical themes interwoven throughout The Deathly Hallows.

Did Rowling deliberately set out to make this a Christian allegory, or did these Biblical parallels slip in subconsciously?

Or, am I simply reading something into the story that’s not there?

As always, your opinions are greatly appreciated!

Next Week’s Theme:

Dying to Self; Living for God

Monday, November 22, 2010

Harry Potter—Christian Books?

I approach the topic of Harry Potter with some trepidation. A couple of years ago I was with a group of Christian friends and mentioned a quote from one of the Harry Potter books. I got my eyebrows singed from the blast of outrage. How could I read that trash? Didn’t I know J.K. Rowling was leading our children into Satan worship? Didn’t I realize she was using her books to drum up more witches for Satan?

After moving back a few feet and scanning the area for cover, I asked this question:

“What makes the Harry Potter books different from The Lord of the Rings? Was Gandalf not a wizard? Was Saruman not an evil wizard? What’s different about Harry and his lot?”

I don’t remember the reply since my mind is a sieve and the chaff gets blown away. I know “they” sought to justify Lord of the Rings as Christian literature. And it is. But I also believe the Harry Potter books can be classified as Christian literature (and, of course, that’s up to Rowling and her publisher).

How can I make such a statement? I am definitely not an expert on Harry Potter, but I have read all of the books at least once. Some of them three or four times. I believe they can be considered Christian allegory, as much as, or perhaps more than, The Lord of the Rings and here are just a few of the reasons:

  • This is a classic story of evil versus good.
  • Lord Voldemort and the Slytherins are associated with a snake. Sound familiar?
  • Harry is prophesied to be the Chosen One.
  • Voldemort, who represents the devil, rebels against Dumbledore, who represents God. Rebellion, hmm . . . . sound familiar?
  • Dumbledore’s “son,” Harry (and I know he is not his real son, but Dumbledore takes him under his wing), is the one chosen to defeat Voldemort.
  • Harry represents Jesus, growing up in humble circumstances, just as Jesus did.
  • Like Jesus, he has times of great popularity and times when the masses turn against him.
  • The Deatheaters use the Crucio curse on Harry. Crucio is a Latin word meaning “I torture,” and it’s the word from which we derive our word “cross.” Need I say more?

This is from my brain and I’m not J.K. Rowling. I have not read articles or books with any of this information and you are welcome to dispute my conclusions. I’m not positive that this is what she had in mind when she wrote the Harry Potter books, but this makes sense to me.

Any thoughts? Agree, disagree? Wish to singe my eyebrows? All comments are welcome!

Theme this week: Harry Potter—Christian Books???

Monday: SUNrise: Harry Potter—Christian Books?

Tuesday: Sunsets: Becoming a Harry Potter Fan

Wednesday: Moonlight: What Makes the Harry Potter Books Successful?

Thursday: Quotes from Dumbledore

Friday: Forecast: My thoughts on The Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Moonlighting: Writing and Happiness

imageAs many know, I am writing a book. This week’s theme is “How to be happy,” so, I ask myself: Does my writing make me happy?

Happiness eludes me as I do the actual writing. Groping for the right word, forgetting the names of characters, forgetting what day it is (in the book and in real life), leaving a character out of a scene when he/she should have been there, and trying to give each character a unique personality tries my soul. Have I told you my brain is like a Teflon-coated sieve—yeah, I think I have. Writing for me is a grueling experience.

But, oh, when the right word is found, when a new plot twist reveals itself, when a character speaks to me in a new way, then the rejoicing begins. One thing I have found in my writing is that as I strive to glorify God, I draw closer to him. Peace and contentment surround me when I finish a particularly difficult section in my writing.

When I picked up my fifteen-year-old manuscript and dusted it off a year or two ago, I was filled with insecurities. Would anyone be interested in what I wrote? Would I have the necessary skills to write a novel, albeit a children’s novel? To begin with, I was timid about speaking (writing) to other writers, afraid of the blunders I might make, because my brain is like a yada, yada, yada.

But you know what? I may not be the sharpest hoe in the shed, but my thinking has improved during this time. Maybe there are not as many holes in the sieve as there once were. Maybe because I’m using my brain, I’ve quit losing it. My passion for writing has benefited my thinking ability and with that my confidence has grown.

And since I have written of James Herriot for the past two days, let me again mention him here. His books are well loved because he had both purpose and passion. He wanted to provide the best veterinarian care possible (his purpose) and he did so with compassion. He found happiness in his work and shared that happiness with us through his writing.

When we have a purpose in life and we work to fulfill that purpose, happiness ensues. We should all find the thing we’re most passionate about and pursue that with a…uh, passion.

Passion minus purpose equals frustration.

Purpose minus passion equals drudgery.

Purpose plus passion equals happiness.

I think I just made that up. And that produces happiness in me.

What’s your purpose in life? Are you fulfilling your passion?

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sunsets: Reflecting on Thankfulness for Days Gone Past

image When I attended Troy University, music played across the quad in the middle of the campus. One day, as I walked to class, John Denver’s song of Country Roads elicited a longing in me. Tears coursed down my cheeks as I longed for the place from my childhood, the farm outside of Opp, Alabama where my grandmother lived. It was a place where my cousins and I played in the barn, using square bales of hay to build forts, houses, or mazes. It was a place filled with teasing from aunts and uncles and the air was thick with laughter. It was a place of fresh vegetables from the garden, fresh milk from a cow, and fresh meat from hog killings. It was a place of playing outside all day in the fresh country air. It was a place of cows and pigs and the place I learned where baby pigs came from. It was a place of delight at seeing newborn pigs, all pink and round and not at all like their long-snouted mother. It was a place of my roots, a place near the farms where, for several generations, my ancestors had lived and struggled to grow crops and raise cows, pigs, and chickens.

It was a place where my family gathered for Thanksgiving and other holidays. It was a place we ate our fill and then gathered by the fireplace, watching the flickering flames. It was a place we cracked pecans on the bricks of the hearth while listening to my uncles trying to undo one another in the telling of jokes. It was the place I loved the most upon this earth.

It was the place I longed for when John Denver sang: Take me home, country roads, to the place I belong.

It was the place stories were told of days gone by. And it is the place I am the most thankful to have known.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Friday’s Forecasts: Life-Changing Books

  • 001 I have to say that every book I read as a child was a life-changing book. Each one taught me about people, places, new words, emotions, or morals.
  • I loved reading, but my mother didn’t and tried to stop me whenever possible. Probably she did the opposite of what she set out to achieve. Just as when a parent forbids their child to see a friend, it makes that friend all the more tantalizing. More than likely, my mother helped cultivate the love of reading in me.
  • It always amazes me how many people have written books and how many people want to write books. What is in us that wants to share our words with others? A need to be understood? A need for praise and glory? (Which comes to very few writers.) A need to work through problems by writing of them? A wish to share our legacy with our children and grandchildren?
  • Speaking of which, I have seen two movies in the past few weeks that had as their theme the breakdown of society if we no longer had children. I would hope we would have enough faith in God that if that ever happened, we would still be able to carry on as civilized people. In one of the movies one of the characters said, “It’s sad to think no more books will ever be written.”
  • I think some people have a difficult time understanding the words of Solomon: There’s nothing new under the sun.
  • Think of books, or movies, if you prefer, about aliens. Is it possible to come up with any image that has never been seen before? Many authors get their ideas for such creatures from looking at God’s creation. As we (writers) create, we are only copying the Great Creator!006
  • One thing I have not mentioned this week is the influence of poetry upon me. Edna St. Vincent Millay and Emily Dickinson are two of my favorite poets. It’s too bad that poets quit writing for the masses and made their poetry so obscure that it’s difficult to enjoy.
  • And I do write poetry. Someone asked me why I don’t write more. The answer is: Because it’s very difficult. To me blogging is easy. Writing a short story is a little more difficult. Writing a book is very difficult. Writing poetry is almost impossible. (Good poetry, that is.)
  • Two books I found lyrical, almost like reading poetry, were Green Mansions, a book that I pulled out of that treasure trove on the first floor of that house in France, and The Yearling.
  • As I said before, writers are simply reflecting God just as the moon reflects the glory of the sun. And the moon will never be able to outshine the sun!

Next Week: Thankfulness!

Thursday’s Thoughts: Life Changing Books

008 I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.  ~Anna Quindlen, "Enough Bookshelves," New York Times, 7 August 1991

014 The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.  ~Mark Twain, attributed

I have written a book. This will come as quite a shock to some. They didn't think I could read, much less write.
~
George W. Bush

Books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own.  ~William Hazlitt

I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done. ~Steven Wright 002

Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new after all.  ~Abraham Lincoln

No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books.  ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Books are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time.  ~E.P. Whipple

003 He who lends a book is an idiot.  He who returns the book is more of an idiot.  ~Arabic Proverb 016

Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. ~Groucho Marx

A blessed companion is a book, - a book that, fitly chosen, is a lifelong friend,... a book that, at a touch, pours its heart into our own.  ~Douglas Jerrold

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wednesday’s Writing in the Moonlight: Life-Changing Books

The sun of righteousness will rise will healing in its wings. Malachi 4:2

Just as the moon reflects the rays of the sun, Christians need to reflect God. Hence I’m calling my writing life moonlighting. Also I thought the name fit because I write better in the quiet of the night. I have read many books on the craft of writing and have subscribed to Writer’s Digest for probably twenty years or more. I have also read numerous articles on the web. You would think I would have learned something by now!

From the time I first found out that regular people wrote books, that you did not have to be a genius (although I suspect that might help), I have wanted to be a writer. I don’t remember learning to read. I remember devouring every book I could get my hands on in first grade. As I’ve mentioned, we didn’t have many books at home, so I eagerly read any textbook our teacher gave us or any book we were allowed to check out from the school library. The reading books used in first grade were the Dick and Jane series. I still remember some of the stories, such as the one where the dad buys cowboy outfits for his children (and I wondered, why didn’t my dad buy me a cowgirl outfit?). The next year, or at least some time in the future, the kids find the outfits and put them on to find they no longer fit.

Isn’t it funny how certain stories “stick” in our memories? I suppose that one stuck because I longed to have such a happy family, a family where laughter came easily and parents were focused on making their children happy. Why am I mentioning this book in a post on writing? Because every book we ever read has led us to this point we are at in our writing.

I would say the authors who have influenced my writing the most are Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Agatha Christie—three very different writers, each with a distinctive style. Yet they all have this in common—unforgettable characters. I am one of those who believe story trumps all. If you don’t have a compelling story, no one will want to read what you write. But, if you do not have compelling characters, no one is going to remember what you write.

Specifically, of the books I have read on the craft of writing, two stand out. The latest one I read (and probably why I remember it so well) is Stephen King’s On Writing. The biggest lesson I garnered from his book is to keep on keeping on. After his accident, when he still had difficulty sitting up for long periods of time, he began writing again. How often do we let a mild headache, or just a feeling of tiredness, keep us from doing those things we know we should do? In other words, writers need to be disciplined. We should not let minor aches and pains, or any other minor distraction, keep us from writing.

The other book I remember well is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. And the take-away from it? One step at a time. Remember John Lennon’s quote from last week? “The goal was always just a few yards ahead.” I take it one chapter at a time or one page at a time or even just one word at a time. When I first started writing, I would write in chunks of time. Fifteen minutes and then I would take a break to play a computer card game. When I finished my game, fifteen more minutes of writing. Little by little, “bird by bird.”

When I think of coming up with a completed novel, the idea seems overwhelming. It always amazes me that so many people have been able to achieve it. As many people who write know, it ain’t easy! But it is very rewarding, especially if we are able to reflect just a bit of God’s glory!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tuesday’s Sunsets of Days Gone Past: Life-Changing Books

I’ve written of this before so forgive me if I repeat myself. Growing up, books were as scarce as hen’s teeth. My mother and father didn’t read novels and, furthermore, my mother thought them all foolishness. Read the “truth,” she told me, “not junk someone made up.” Until the age of ten the only books I remember in our home were a set of encyclopedias and a set of short stories and poetry that came with the encyclopedias.002 I still have them on a shelf in my closet. Because I read them over and over while I was growing up, their covers are ragged and pages torn. 003 My mother probably didn’t realize what those books actually were. I never saw her open any of them, so I guess she thought I was reading “true” articles from the encyclopedias. This was one of my favorite stories: 004

And, after we moved to France. when I turned eleven, we moved into the supposedly former Nazi-headquarters house. (For more on this, see: God's Plan.) The first floor contained a treasure-trove of books. And, thus began my love affair with books. Probably to get me out of the way and because I had nothing else to occupy my time, my mother allowed me to ride the bus onto the army base once a week and check out an armful of books. But she fussed continuously at me for reading too much. To avoid her scrutiny I would use a flashlight and read under the covers at night. She soon discovered the flashlight and took it away. However, my mother has always left a light on at night in the bathroom. After everyone was asleep, I would tiptoe into the bathroom and sit on the floor and read. And laugh and cry.

The library on base had one wall of children’s books. Horses were my passion and I read Black Beauty, National Velvet and all of the Black Stallion books. When I ran out of those, I read Old Yeller and Lassie, Come Home. The Wizard of Oz books came next and Little Women and its sequels. Most, if not all, of the classic children books stood on those shelves and, as far as I remember, I read them all.

When I finished that wall, I moved to the section labeled “Teens.” I read a few of them, but found none of interest. I don’t remember a single title from that wall of books. Most I didn’t bother reading, but simply moved on to the adult section and discovered James Bond. Probably not suitable reading material for an eleven-year-old girl.

I never paid attention to age-appropriate books. When I was in sixth grade, we went to the school library once a week. We sat at tables in assigned seats and waited our turn to check out a book. On the shelf by my table within arm’s reach were books I had never read or even heard of by someone named Dr. Seuss. The memory of reading them is very vivid, perhaps because the other kids at my table laughed at me for reading “little kids’ books.”

Books from my childhood. Books that molded and shaped me. Books from my sunsets.

What are your favorite books from childhood?