Harry Potter is Alone: There is No God

Harry Potter is Alone

Harry Potter is Alone

And Harry saw very clearly as he sat there under the hot sun how people who cared about him had stood in front of him one by one, his mother, his father, his godfather, and finally Dumbledore, all determined to protect him; but now that was over. He could not let anybody else stand between him and Voldemort; he must abandon forever the illusion he ought to have lost at the age of one, that the shelter of a parent’s arms meant that nothing could hurt him. There was no waking from his nightmare, no comforting whisper in the dark that he was safe really, that it was all in his imagination; the last and greatest of his protectors had died, and he was more alone than he had ever been before.
– From Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling

There, distilled down from thousands of pages spread over seven books, lies the essential difference between J. K. Rowling and J. R. R. Tolkien, between Hogwarts and Narnia. Harry Potter is alone.

Harry Potter knows instinctively what he does not learn clearly until the end of book six — he is all by himself, and his entire future rests upon his shoulders. As Rowling writes, “There was no waking from [that] nightmare.”

In J. K. Rowling’s imagined world of Muggles and Wizards, magic permeates reality. Even when it goes unnoticed, the magical realm provides the solid, true foundation to all of life. Hogwarts and the Ministry protect England, even as they give it meaning. Wizards and witches travel the countryside, saving the ignorant from dangers too great to be imagined. Those in touch with magic must save the rest; they must serve as humanity’s guardians.

The characters also reflect that bias toward the magical few. Potter and Riddle each rejoice as boys to learn they have magical powers and predecessors, while the uninitiated Muggles must be kept in the dark, never to know that magic exists. Magic, in Rowling’s universe, should be feared, unless it can be controlled. If it can be controlled, it must be done wisely, for there is no one to save us.

What Hogwarts Teaches Us

I mentioned Tolkien’s Middle Earth and Lewis’s Narnia at the beginning because they stand apart from Rowling’s world. At Hogwarts, Dumbledore protects the children, for a time, and the wizarding community protects the Muggles, in a sense. But a deeper truth suggests itself, although rarely does it do so explicitly. That truth is that no greater power exists, no greater reality can be known, and no greater Savior is coming. Harry Potter is alone.

That stands in stark contrast to the worlds of Tolkien, Lewis, and many others of their kind. I mention those two only as those most likely to be familiar to the modern reader. Tolkien’s Middle Earth is a created world, sung into existence by powers greater than those that now walk the earth, and Lewis’s Narnia is run by the Lion who lives and reigns.

Good literature invokes what is true about our world. It tells us that Jesus sits at the right hand of His Father, now interceding on our behalf and one day returning to reign. Timeless classics point us to a hope beyond our world, teaching the reader to look outward and upward for hope.

J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series never does that. The books make clear that this world lives or dies on its own two feet. If Harry Potter and Dumbledore cannot save us, Voldemort wins. There is no God. Harry Potter is alone.

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  • Kim Shay

    I liked this. Thanks for writing it.

  • http://www.quietedwaters.com/ Josh

    Thanks for your kind words, Kim.

  • Glop Glop

    I disagree with the idea that there is any Jesus-figure interceding or reigning in LOTR. If Frodo doesn’t destroy that Ring, Sauron wins. No one is going to rescue Middle Earth. Claiming Tolken as on the side of Truth? Silly. Tolkien is awesome because he’s awesome. God without a God.

  • I Glopped Up!

    Whoops, that’s GOOD without a God.

  • http://www.quietedwaters.com/ Josh

    Glop, in one sense I agree with you: there is no clear Jesus figure in the LOTR trilogy. Tolkien intentionally stayed away from all allegory, and Frodo has no interceding savior.

    On the other hand, however, like I mentioned in the post, Tolkien’s Middle Earth is a world sung into existence, as seen in The Silmarillion, and Tolkien writes of Gandalf and others with comparisons to angels and servants of a higher power. So while LOTR does not include a savior figure, it is written within a created world, overseen by a creator and safeguarded by his servants.

    You’ll remember that Frodo actually fails in the moment of trial; he doesn’t destroy the ring. Yet even without his success, the ring is destroyed, and good triumphs. Middle Earth was, in fact, rescued despite Frodo’s weakness.

    Tolkien saw himself as on the side of truth, once saying, “The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact,” as well as, “At its best, the fairy story or fantasy is far from being a flight from reality; it is, rather, a flight to reality.” Tolkien reacted strongly against Lewis’s Narnia allegory, but he did not go so far as to say that his stories were a flight from reality; instead, he thought they pointed to a deep reality that includes the true myth of Christianity.

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