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.