I’ve spent a bit of time lately, wondering why the Harry Potter books mean so much to me, a 41-year old grown woman.
I mean, I was well-into my 30’s when I was first introduced to the books, and it’s not like I was or am the Target Demographic, so what gives? Isn’t it a bit odd, that I’m so enamored with wizards and witches and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named? I mean, c’mon–I have T-shirts, and leggings, and earrings, and who-knows-what else, with The Boy Who Lived plastered all over them. I’M GROWN.
But I love the books, and I even love the movies (for those who don’t know me, it’s INCREDIBLY rare that I like both the books and the movies. Don’t even get me started.). I love the special effects, the illustrations, the logos–I wouldn’t say that I’m obsessed, but I AM wearing a Harry Potter dress today, to my place of professional employment, so…..
(Shout-out to www.charliesproject.com for having a KILLER outlet store! Snagged this beauty for like, $12. They get my nerd-ness.)
When I was a kid, I got a new Dad. My Dad loved all things sci-fi, and that, combined with my natural interest in fantasy and imagination, sparked a keen interest in worlds beyond our understanding. Dad introduced me to Star Trek, and Star Wars, and later on, the X-Files, Quantum Leap, Farscape, and much more. I remember watching V (I can still remember my utter abhorrence at the snake-alien lady who ate the guinea pig), the Twilight Zone (Gremlins on the Frickin PLANE!!), and even masterpieces such as Labyrinth and the Secret of Nimh. These were the shows and the stories that formed my life and fed my brain; these were the stories that showed that yes, there were bad (very bad, Jareth!!!) people and things out there, but there was always, ALWAYS good to counter-balance and to overcome. Stories about the unexpected victors have been my lifeline through some very dark times–times where good didn’t necessarily win, and I was left to pick up the pieces. These stories gave me hope, and pointed me in the direction to seek the good in the situations.
My all-time favorite book series will always be The Chronicles of Narnia. Aslan is “not a tame Lion,” and throughout my life, when things have been chaotic with no signs of stopping, that simple phrase has grounded me. God is in control, and He is not, nor will He ever be, our definition of “tame.” He is unpredictable, other than knowing that He is always good; He is wild in His love for us. Most of all, He is the Ultimate Victor, and He is present–PRESENT–in all that we face. He is the Foundation. The Chronicles of Narnia reinforced the basic theology and doctrine I was already learning in my Christian school, and married it to this beautiful narrative in my mind. I could trust Jesus, because He is Aslan, and Aslan is Not a Tame Lion…but He loves me. Reading the final book in the anthology, The Last Battle, seals the allegorical dimensions of the series. I still go back to key scenes in that book during times in my life–“Further Up, and Further In (originally said in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader)” or the scenes with the dwarfs and their Israelite-like stubbornness. It’s an amazing book, capping off a life-changing series. In fact, when I was in college, I had the opportunity to play The White Witch in a staged production, and it was awesome (including my death-scream. I got into it.).
Unfortunately, merchandise for The Chronicles of Narnia just doesn’t exist. Sure wish it did, ’cause I’d have it ALLLLLLLLL!!!!
So, I’m here, in my Harry Potter dress, celebrating Harry’s birthday. 🙂
The Chronicles of Narnia and the Harry Potter books heavily feature good vs. evil themes, along with underdog-type protagonists and big, evil, seemingly-unsurmountable baddies. There are elements of sacrifice, fear, violence, and deep, deep family relationships and friendships. The Pevensies grow up and out of their imaginations, while Eustace and Jill eventually helm the series; Harry, Ron, & Hermoine find their friendships solidified for a lifetime, and create their own family of support. The Harry Potter books come under heavy criticisms from Christian communities for their elements of witchcraft and wizardry–I get it. I’m not ignorant of it.
I’m careful with how much of the HP series I expose my son to. He hasn’t seen much of the first movie, and we haven’t started with the books. He knows the character, because let’s face it–he kinda looks like a mini-version of him. I dressed him up as Harry a few Halloweens ago, because he was just too perfect, and I knew that at 4 years’ old, I wouldn’t get another chance:
(Seriously, this is my favorite picture that my husband has taken of my kiddo, and I have it hanging up in a 20 x 24 print that he made up for me, in my living room, when you first walk into my house. It’s everything.)
The Harry Potter series, in particular, means the world to me. I read the entire series in a week–yes, a week. My heart went out to this little boy–this kid who was unloved and unwanted, who had no place in this world to call his own….who felt out-of-place and cast aside…I saw myself in him, and I think a lot of people do, as well.
I came into the series in 2007-2008: The Year in Kentucky. I had no friends; David & I had basically escaped in the year after our daughter died, taking a new job in a new apartment, in a new state. We had to find ourselves again, and each other, and I spent a lot of time by myself. I don’t remember how the books came into my world, but they’ve never left.
Being able to dive into a world that was so well-crafted and well-written, meant that while I was there, I wasn’t thinking about the trauma I’d just endured. My load was lifted, even for that short time, and for a while, I was just Cassidy–not “Cassidy, Who’s Daughter Just Died” or “Cassidy, Dave’s Wife,” or “Cassidy, Heart Patient.” I was just me–just a kid again, locked in a book like I used to be, seeing the words in vivid color as the scenes played out in my imagination. As strange as it may sound to say it, those books helped to rekindle a spark of life back in me, after everything had gone dark.
The books inspire creativity, friendship, and duty. They inspire work ethic and integrity, which I think is far more important then poorly-phrased Latin masquerading as “spells.” The books show the importance of bravery, intention, goals, and even the love of a family. These are life skills, things that our society is sorely lacking. For every negative a judgey type would like to assign to these stories, there are five positives to take its place. From a writer’s perspective, the stories are bulletproof—J. K. Rowling wrote with such vivid detail and continuity, that they feel like a world you could literally step into. They’re flat-out well-written, with a depth that is sorely lacking in children’s books.
I’ll teach my son the stories soon enough…when he’s old enough to understand that witches and wizards are very real, and are nothing like the ones in the books…they’re more like The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia, and less like Harry, Ron, & Hermoine. As Albus Dumbledore said, “The Truth. It is a beautiful and terrible thing, & should be treated with caution.” The same will go with how we approach the Harry Potter books with our child. There are boundaries in my love of the books, and there is a definitely respect for the truth sprinkled in the fantasy. There is not, however, a boundary in my great affection for the heart of The Boy Who Lived, especially as his story is so close to my own.
Happee Birthdae, Harry Potter….May your story continue to light up the imaginations of kids and adults all over the world…may you remind all of us who feel out of place and ordinary, that we are truly extraordinary when we are embraced with Love and Hope….always.