Harry Potter & Tolkien’s Rings A Christian Perspective
MADONNA reads Harry Potter to her daughter at bedtime, while Drew Barrymore takes her Harry Potter books to the film studio. As for Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Tony Blair calls it his favourite book1, while the movie version of part one, The Fellowship of the Ring, has broken all box-office records.
Who could possibly say a word against either? I shall, and for reasons that are as sound as they are Scriptural. This is not the first time the world has got it completely wrong. Back in Daniel’s day, the crowd bowed before Nebuchadnezzar’s gold-covered statue. Perhaps many reasoned, “It’s just a beautiful work of art”. And in a way it was – nearly thirty metres or 90 feet of glistening gold. Yet three men – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – saw through it all. However striking the statue may have been superficially, they knew it represented idolatry, and refused to bow before it, to the peril of their very lives.
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ring, likewise both “shine” superficially. They are skilfully crafted, entertaining, and well produced. One might almost say “enchanting”. Yet whatever their allure, they represent a pagan worldview where witchcraft is normalized, the occult is exciting, the netherworld is life’s stage, and the supernatural is practised without reference to God.
No discerning Christian can accept this. Many who are Christ’s have, sadly, been caught up in it, just as some of the early Christians frequented the pagan blood sports and adulterous theatre plays, prompting the now immortal protest of the Church Fathers that if a thing was wrong to do, it was surely wrong to watch.
Joanne Rowling majored in mythology when she took her degree at the University of Exeter2. J.R.R. Tolkien likewise had a lifelong passion for myth. While a professor at Oxford, he actually founded the Coalbiters – a group of intellectuals, including C.S. Lewis – who met expressly to recount the old Icelandic campfire myths and sagas. “Sat discoursing of the gods and giants of Asgard for three hours”, wrote Lewis of an early meeting with Tolkien in 19293.
Needless to say, this preoccupation with pagan myth is reflected in the Rowling and Tolkien books in question. By Tolkien’s own admission, his purpose in writing his Rings trilogy was to “modernize the myths and make them credible”4. Yet a healthy contempt for myth has long been a hallmark of orthodox Christianity. Tertullian in the second century routinely shredded the fables of heathens and heretics alike, while Alcuin – Charlemagne’s greatest scholar in the eighth century – said of a popular mythic figure of his time, “What has Ingeld to do with Christ?”5.
As the apostle Peter declared:
“We did not follow cunningly devised fables (Greek, muthoi, ‘myths’) when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty”. 2 Peter 1:16.
Note the contrast – “cunningly devised fables” on the one hand, and objective Christian truth on the other (“the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ … [we] were eyewitnesses”). The one is renounced, the other received; the one disclaimed, the other declared by the Church.
To this end, let us take a closer look at Harry Potter and Tolkien’s Rings. For our rule and reference, we “take the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God” – the same Bible upon which every American president swears his oath of office, and of which even Jesus declared, “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
In Harry Potter, the series centres on a school of witchcraft, Hogwarts. Its practitioners are overwhelmingly cast in a favourable light, from the kindly headmaster Dumbledore – actually a sorcerer – through Hagrid the oft-drunk but gentle gamekeeper, to Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione. All this is in an environment of spells, vampires, astrology, potions, divination, apparitions, crystal gazing, poltergeist and levitation. In Harry’s world, witches and wizards are normally “good”, and it is only if they go over to the “Dark Side” that they become “bad”.
Likewise with Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, where one of the leading characters is Gandalf the wizard. Gandalf is a “good” wizard and, in terms of his portrayal, a genuinely likeable person whom children adore and adults confidently follow.
Yet with the greatest respect to both Rowling and Tolkien, their “friendly” depictions of witchcraft are as false as they are fictitious. By definition, all witchcraft is abhorrent to the living God:
“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire [significantly, the warning starts in relation to what we allow our children], or one who practises witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead, for all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord”. Deuteronomy 18:10-12.
There is no room here for “good” witches or “nice” sorcerers. All occult practice is detestable to God, period. “If this were the only passage dealing with occultism”, writes award-winning author Richard Abanes, “it would be enough to forbid all the practices found in the Harry Potter series”.6 No amount of sugarcoating or favourable typecasting can change this. Thus, in the New Testament, unrepentant sorcerers are as automatically debarred from Heaven as unrepentant murderers, idolaters and adulterers (Revelation 22:15). To those conditioned by years of toothless “God is love” teaching, it may come as a surprise to learn that God can actually “abhor” anything! Yet just as every authentic coin has two sides, so does the authentic Gospel of Christ – both proclaiming God’s love for sinners, and His hatred of sin. “Therefore”, says Paul, “consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but towards you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off” (Romans 11:22).
The scene of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is Middle Earth, a mythical locality with its own carefully crafted places and history, maps and languages etc.. The problem with Middle Earth is that, not only does Tolkien construct his own “geography” – with its non-existent place names – but also his own “theology” – with its mythical supernatural beings. His angelic Valar, for instance (books 2 and 3 of the Rings trilogy), supposedly shaped the universe, and are “called gods” by men. In Middle-Earth-speak, they are the “guardians of the world” and “Lords of the west” whose “thrones endure”.
Yet there exist no such beings as the Valar, and their fabrication by Tolkien, even if only as a literary device, represents the setting up of a false image of God. All false images, as we know from the thunderings of Mt Sinai – whether constructed from wood or invented by words – are an abomination to the Lord. Tolkien was a master wordsmith, having worked on the Oxford Dictionary for a time, as well as being a long-serving professor of English language and literature. This is what makes the sophistry of his Middle-Earth-speak, with its Gondor, Eru, Aman, Cirith Ungol, Eldrond, Isengard, Galadriel, Meneltarma, Thorin, Shelob, Valinor etc., etc., all the more beguiling. It is a high class hocus-pocus, a shamanism in literary tuxedo, which appeals by its very mystery.
“In this way”, writes Tolkien author Joseph Pearce, “he manages to accommodate paganism as well as evolution within his mythology”7.
If this were the only indictment of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, it would be a damning one. There is no way that any informed Christian can go along with a worldview which, even by the admission of a Tolkien admirer, “manages to accommodate paganism as well as evolution within its mythology”. How utterly at odds with our Saviour’s declaration, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
“BUT IT’S JUST ‘FANTASY’!”
So, too, is Internet violence and pornography. No one is physically harmed. It is all in the mind. But does that make it right? If fantasy is harmless, why not read Frankenstein and Dracula novels to our children at bedtime! As author and counselling specialist, Dr Robert S. McGee, says of Harry Potter:
“Just because it’s fantasy, doesn’t mean it gets a pass. If fantasy were not powerful … we wouldn’t rate movies, we wouldn’t have any critique of the lyrics of music, and we wouldn’t see people acting out their fantasies”.8
Fantasy is not an “off-limits” zone to God. If He is truly God – as He is – can He not see our thoughts – as He does! Even His Word is called “the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”. Unlike the hypocrites of His day, Christ teaches that “every thought” is to be made accountable to God (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:5), while Paul exhorts us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). “Keep your heart with all diligence”, says Solomon, “for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4).
For his part, Tolkien offers the supine defence that “fantasy is a natural human activity”.9 This is a misleading half-truth, rather like saying that “sex is a natural human activity”. It is, in the sense that God has endowed virtually everyone with this capacity; yet it is not, in that since the Fall it has been distorted by sin, so that it needs curbing in respect of its lawful use, and crucifying in respect of its lusts (Galatians 5:24).
Besides, Satan is the artful “dresser up” of his wares. When John Lennon wrote his ode to fantasy, Imagine, with its denial of heaven and hell, was it presented as a frontal assault on the Christian Faith? No. It was portrayed as harmless fantasizing (“Imagine”), and clothed in a melody so pretty that it would have made a Beethoven drool. Yet as he lay dying on the floor of his New York apartment, what comfort would the words have given him then!
DRINKING OF BLOOD
In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, we meet with the drinking of unicorn blood. Book four of the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, goes even further, actually including a macabre cemetery scene where the drinking of Harry’s own blood becomes the means of the evil Voldemort’s “regeneration”.
Aside from the fact that this is a mimic of the central Christian doctrine that sinners are saved by the precious blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:19), and aside too from the question of how such a ghoulish scene could ever find its way into a “children’s” book, the Bible expressly forbids the drinking of physical blood. “Abstain from blood and from things strangled and from fornication”, was the unanimous edict of the apostles at the Church’s first council (Acts 15:29). This restated God’s earlier prohibition to Noah, after the Flood, that “you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Genesis 9:4), and highlights that the practice is forbidden in all its forms.
COMMUNICATING WITH THE DEAD
It is quite common for the dead to give and receive messages in Harry Potter. The departed spirit of Professor Binns is one of Harry’s teachers at Hogwarts, where Nearly Headless Nick is also its “resident ghost” of 400 years. No less than twenty ghosts make their appearance through the wall at Harry’s school house induction. In Tolkien’s Ring, too, the spirit of one fallen in battle more than 3,000 years ago is now on the prowl, seeking an earthly body – his quest largely forming the focus of Tolkien’s story.
Fantasy or not, any attempt to communicate with the spirits of the departed is an affront to Jesus Christ, who alone “holds in [His] hand the keys of death and the grave” (Revelation 1:18, J.B. Phillips). Both Protestant and Roman Catholic theology alike denounce it, as they do occult practices in general:
“Saul engaged [the witch at En Dor] to conduct a seance and bring up the spirit of Samuel … As with other practices in this list [of Magic, Sorcery, and Divination], it was forbidden by the law of God, practised by bad kings, and condemned by the prophets”. Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 1986), p. 668, emphasis added.
“All practices of magic or sorcery … are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion”. Catechism of the Catholic Church (St Paul’s, Vatican, 1994), pp. 513, 514, emph. added.
WHO RULES NATURE?
In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, nature is under the manipulative control of the dark “Lord Sauron”, and his evil wizard, Saruman. It is he who sends out birds to spy, causes mountains to shake, and commands the gathering of clouds and falling of snow. In Harry Potter, likewise, owls are the sorcerers’ messengers, cats their eyes and ears, and lightning and storms their servants.
This represents an inversion of the real world, where God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, alone has jurisdiction through His Son over nature and its elements. The geometrical revolution of the planets (eg., Kepler’s amazing Three Laws of Planetary Motion), and the symmetrical precision of the eye that beholds them, alike declare a common Creator of both, and the sheer majesty of His works. “This most beautiful system of the sun [and] planets”, wrote Sir Isaac Newton, “could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being … as Lord of all”.10 Not the smallest sparrow falls to the ground without His knowledge, while the mightiest peaks of the Himalayas, with their marine fossils (eg., Everest)11 and near-horizontal strata (eg., Lhotse), to this hour proclaim the dread of His judgments upon the generation of Noah that forsook Him.
It is He who parted the sea for Moses, who prolonged the day for Joshua, who sent the rain for Samuel, who gave the drought to Elijah, and who, as the “Word made flesh” in Jesus Christ, stilled the storm, walked on water, and caused the miraculous haul of fish. To Job, and to all the earth, He challenges:
“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that an abundance of water may cover you? Can you send out lightnings, that they may go, and say to you, “Here we are”! Does the hawk fly by your wisdom … does the eagle mount up at your command?” Job 38:34, 35; 39:26, 27.
Yet God, in His infinite majesty, upholds all these by the Word of His power! Life, therefore, is not a result of fate, or chance, or serendipity, but of Divine Providence – perfectly consistent with free choice – especially for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). This is why Roger Williams named the capital of Rhode Island, which he founded, Providence, in honour of the God who had led him, through all his troubles, on a good path.
“But are you saying that occult practitioners cannot do anything?”, someone may rejoin. No. There is a degree of lying power which Satan can bestow on his servants, as we see with the magicians of Egypt who could copy Moses’ early miracles up to a point (Exodus 7:11, 22; 8:7, 18-19). But Christ – at whose crucifixion even Nature itself bowed in homage with its midday darkness – has conquered principalities and powers, and He alone among men has “all authority in heaven and on earth”. Matthew 28:18.
Thus whenever the apostles clashed with sorcerers, the latter always either beat a hasty retreat, as with Simon the magician and Elymas the sorcerer, or went over to their side, as with the magicians at Ephesus who burned their occult books (Acts 8:9 – 24; 13:6-12; 19:11-20). Satan can certainly corrupt, and even counterfeit, but he can never create, like God, out of nothing. Only the Lord is worthy of our worship, as the poet John Milton exults:
“On earth join, all ye creatures, to extol Him first, Him last, Him midst, and without end”.
Psychic phenomena abound in Harry Potter, who is portrayed as a “True Seer” able to foretell the future. In Tolkien’s Rings, too, its witches and elves possess certain psychic powers, as does Gandalf the wizard and “Saruman the wise”.
In real life, of course, the record of psychics is nothing short of abysmal. For the 1994 Melbourne Cup, one Melbourne newspaper challenged six psychics and astrologers to name the winner. Between all six, not one came even close!
Not even Nostradamus, the most celebrated psychic of all, came remotely close with his predictions that Mt Olympus would be flooded, John Calvin murdered, the world all but destroyed by 1732, and Venice would rival “the might of ancient Rome” as a world power!12 Compare this with the remarkable accuracy of the Bible in predicting the place of Christ’s birth (Micah 5:2), the time of His coming (Daniel 9:25), the manner of His death (Psalm 22:16), the reason for His sacrifice (Isaiah 53:3-12), the day of His rising (Hosea 6:2), and the spread of His Gospel (Isaiah 42:1,6). No wonder Isaiah could pour scorn on the psychics:
“Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, and the monthly prognosticators stand up and save you … Behold, they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them”. Isaiah 47:13, 14.
According to the World Book Encyclopedia Millennium 2000, under its entry Witchcraft, “some cultures believe witches have the power to shape-shift into animals”13. Satan, of course, is the grand illusionist, and nothing he gets up to can spook the believer cleansed by Jesus’ blood, and clad, as a conscious daily act of faith, in the “whole armour of the Lord” (Ephesians 6). “One little word”, said Luther, “can fell him”, through Jesus’ Name. As even Balaam the magician acknowledged, “there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor is there any divination against Israel,” Numbers 23:23.
Yet such “shape-changing” is a common occurrence in the Harry Potter series, where even Harry’s dead father appears as a stag, while one of his teachers becomes a werewolf. In Tolkien’s Ring, too, dead creatures reappear in the most hideous animal-like forms. This is a bizarre and quite demonic concept, denying the Creator’s clear distinction between people and animals, and reflecting a paganism that goes right back to the half-lion, half-human sphinx of Egypt. No wonder when Jesus cast out the demons from the Gadarene demoniac, they begged His permission to enter the 2000 pigs! (Mark 5:13).
Cult-buster and author Caryl Matrisciana observes that such playing with devil’s fire “humorizes and normalizes something that is very dangerous”14. Far from being “fun”, it is downright wrong, and something no right-minded Christian can have a bar of.
“But aren’t there some noble elements of bravery and heroism in both Harry Potter and Tolkien’s Ring?”, someone may say. Indeed there are. But that does not make their concept right. The Norse and Teutonic myths of Woden included noble strains of bravery in their heroes. To this day “Wednesday” takes its name from Woden and his mythic exploits. Yet what Christian writer has ever tried to turn Woden into an example of “character”. Whatever his claimed heroics, they no more sanctify his paganism and bloodletting than deodorant spray can sweeten a corpse.
Just because there is “honour among thieves”, as the saying goes, do we make robbers our role models? No more, then, should Christian writers attempt, through compromising weasel words, to find “theological insights” in the fictitious heroes of Rowling and Tolkien – as Bruner and Ware do in their effusive treatment, Finding God in the Lord of the Rings!15
“But what of Cinderella?”, it may be rejoined. There is no comparison between the incidental magic of a fairytale, and the central role of witches and sorcery in J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien. “We need to distinguish”, as John Houghton says, “between magic performed as a serious exercise of power, and magic as a storyteller’s symbol of life and transformation”.16 The one is manipulative, the other merely illustrative. Trying to equate them is like putting medically prescribed morphine on the same level as opium addiction.
“WAGNERIZATION” OF SOCIETY
Well before the appearance of Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, and Rowling’s “thousand year old” school of witchcraft, Richard Wagner, the 19th century German composer, had published his mythic musical drama The Ring. It too features sorcerers and spells, and centres on a gold ring that brings a curse, which is taken by a dwarf. For Wagner, restoring the ancient myths to German culture was seen as a solemn duty:
“Pagan myths, he felt, had acted as a thoroughly healthy influence on German history … Wagner draws upon Teutonic mythology for his great cycle of operas, The Ring … The world-order of The Ring is that of the Germanic gods, not of Christianity, a doom-laden universe moving inevitably towards … chaos”.17
Not surprisingly, Hitler called Wagner his favourite composer, and shared his desire to replace Christianity with the old pagan myths. “The old beliefs”, he boasted, “will be brought back to honour again … The peasant will be told what the Church has destroyed for him: the whole secret knowledge of nature, of the divine, the shapeless, the daemonic”.18 Hess, his deputy, was steeped in Teutonic mysticism, while SS chief Himmler actually required of his stormtroopers that they “study the mystic significance of the ancient runes”,19 or magic wand signs.
“Wagner”, it has been observed, “is musical Tolkien”20. So is this what we want for our children – the replacing of their Judaeo-Christian heritage by nature-worshipping, witchcraft-practising, God-denying myths?* Recalling that, in Germany’s case, it largely started with one man’s hellish mythology, under the cultural heist of “art” and “entertainment”. Even Hitler called his first hearing of Wagner, as a 17 year-old, “the hour when it all began”21. “The time will come”, says the inspired Paul, when people no longer tolerate sound doctrine, but will be “turned aside to fables” (Greek, muthoi, “myths”; 2 Timothy 4:3,4). No less than five times the apostles Peter and Paul solemnly warn us against wasting any time on such “myths” (1 Tim. 1:4; 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:4; Titus 1:14, 2 Peter 1:16). Yet are they not the very things which multitudes are feeding on today! “My 14-year-old nephew”, writes one journalist, “knows his trolls from his orcs, can recite pages of elfin poetry at the drop of a hobbit’s hood and has memorised the maps of Middle Earth”.
* Recent writers tend to “sanitize” Tolkien’s Rings of any possible links with Wagner’s earlier, similarly-titled work. Though Patrick Curry, in Defending Middle-Earth (1997), admits that “[Tolkien’s] work has been bracketed with Wagner’s”, he accepts the author’s protestations to the contrary, reporting the time when Tolkien “snapped, ‘both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases’” (p. 48). T.A. Shippey, commenting on the same Tolkien disclaimer in The Road to Middle-Earth (1982), is less convinced: “This is not entirely true. The motifs of the riddle contest, the cleansing fire, the broken weapon preserved for an heir, all occur in both works, as of course does the theme of ‘the lord of the Ring as the slave of the Ring’” (p. 220, emph. added). It is extraordinary that Tolkien could have been so dismissive of the parallels, when, added to this, we have the gold ring, the pagan spells, the enchanted sword, the dwarf figures, the dragon creatures, and the ascended mountains common to both. Could it be that “he protesteth too much”?
PAVING THE WAY
This is confirmed by the increasingly “dark” nature of the Harry Potter series, as Rowling herself admits, “I can tell you that the books are getting darker”.22 The grotesque images of torture and blood-letting in Goblet of Fire, for instance, go far beyond anything in the earlier Philosopher’s Stone, and lead Richard Abanes to ask, ”How much darker can Rowling’s books get?”23 Yet for all this, the clamour for more witchcraft and violence just increases from the public!
This does not mean, of course, that everyone who enjoys Harry Potter or Tolkien is on the road to destruction. Yet their popularity is as much a symptom of the age as the success of Hannibal Lector or Chopper. Like hand to glove, their God-less worldview fits perfectly into a generation that has effectively said, like Pharaoh of old, “Who is the Lord, that we should obey His voice?” (cf. Ex. 5:2). With their polished and high-tech promotions of witchcraft, they are thus, however unintentionally, paving the way for the coming Antichrist. This “Man of Sin”, as the Bible also calls him, will certainly come, “with all power, signs and lying wonders”, and all the world – save for the faithful followers of Jesus – will greet him with frenzied acclaim (2 Thess. 2:3-10; Rev. 13:4-8; 1 John 2:18-22). It is equally true that many believers, like the Laodiceans of old, will desert the ship of faith, as the Lord forewarns:
“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved”. Matthew 24:12, 13.
Like his “opposite number” Christ, Antichrist will do miracles (“signs and lying wonders”), only in his case it will be by the power of Satan, ie. sorcery, not of God. To this end, he will naturally require a generation conditioned to accept sorcery as a legitimate exercise of supernatural power. Already nearly nineteen centuries ago, the early Christian writing, the Didache or Teaching, foresaw this:
“In the last days the world deceiver shall appear as a son of God, and shall work signs and wonders … And then shall … appear … [the] resurrection of the dead”.24
Only those grounded in God’s Word, and living it out through faith in Christ as a vital daily reality, will ever withstand such blandishments – now as then. Our attitude to the Word thus already shows what spirit we are of, as Jesus declares with unassailable logic: “Whoever is of God listens to God’s words; you, therefore, do not listen to them, because you are not of God” (cf. John 8:47).
As former world champion tennis player, Margaret Smith Court – winner of three Wimbledon and seven successive Australian Open singles crowns – has observed:
“It is no wonder Satan hates the Bible. God’s Word is the way He [God] has given us to overcome the forces of evil. We see this clearly in the ministry of Jesus, Who was able to defeat the devil time and again by saying , ‘It is written’. The devil could not stand against what God had decreed”.25
Compared with the blasphemy and gutter language of so much modern literature and movie making, neither Harry Potter nor Tolkien’s Rings could come under sustained censure on that score.
Yet for a “children’s” series, the Harry Potter books do contain a surprising incidence of bad language. “Hallowed be Thy Name”, says the Lord’s Prayer – yet both Aunt Petunia and the barman think nothing of using the expletive “Good Lord!”, as does Cornelius Fudge with “my God!”. To Professor McGonagall, “heaven knows” and “how in the name of heaven” are likewise fine, as are expletives like “damn” and “what the hell” on the lips of even “good” characters like the Weasleys and Cedric in Goblet of Fire.
Bearing in mind how the venerable Dumbledore is spoken of with reverence throughout, by his friends and charges, the contrast between Rowling’s treatment of a sorcerer’s name, and that of the Most High God, is surely illustrative of where she is coming from. As is her description of Harry’s worst enemy, the objectionable Malfoy, who is dressed to “look like a vicar”! (Goblet of Fire, p. 359, emphasis added). No prizes for guessing the spirit behind typecasting like this! (1 John 4:3).
And what of Tolkien’s and Rowling’s long-windedness. Great writing, like good preaching, is never verbose. Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea won a Pulitzer prize, yet it runs to just over a hundred pages. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is a jewel of Christian theology, yet it comes to less than twenty pages. Luther’s Reformation classics, The Freedom of the Christian, and Two Kinds of Righteousness, had all of educated Europe talking, yet they came to just 44 and 10 pages respectively.
Yet Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings runs to a whopping 1,112 pages26, while Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire comes to 636 pages27. Hardly an economy of style, particularly when not a word is even claimed by their respective authors to be objectively true. And to think that a gaggle of Christian preachers and writers, called to proclaim “the Word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), have rushed to praise such inflated nonsense!
“But didn’t C.S. Lewis resort to fables and myths in presenting Christian truths to children?”, someone may rejoin. Indeed he did, as in his well-known Narnia series. But two things need to be kept in mind. First, that there is a world of difference between “magic” as employed by C.S. Lewis for a specifically Christian end, and the sorcery-promoting magic of J.K. Rowling, or the spiritual limbo of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. As John Andrew Murray observes,
“Rowling’s work invites children to a world where witchcraft is ‘neutral’ and where authority is determined solely by one’s might or cleverness. Lewis invites them to a world where God’s authority is not only recognized, but celebrated”.28
Secondly – and we say this with sadness – that even C.S. Lewis was not without contamination by Wagner. One of his biographers records how he early fell “under the spell of [Wagner’s] stories of dwarves, dragons, magic rings and enchanted swords”.29 Throughout Lewis’ life, Wagner’s Ring, of all things, remained his “favourite story of all stories”30, beside which “all other composers seem but caricatures and ghosts”.31 Even in one of his final works, he could still betray this Wagnerian weakness, confessing concerning the composer: “He may, for all I know, have been a bad man … But as a mythopoeic poet he is incomparable”.32
This is an extraordinary piece of adulation from a Christian writer, for an avowedly pagan composer – all the more as it is specifically directed at Wagner’s “mythopoeic” writings! So let us be as cautious about invoking C.S. Lewis in support of the mythic genre, as we would be in citing him in support of theistic evolution. While he finally came to abandon the latter error (calling evolution “the central and radical lie in the whole web of falsehood that now governs our lives”, in a 1951 letter33), he never forsook the former.
PATRICK AND THE DRUIDS
By J.K. Rowling’s characterizations, “non-magic people” are “Muggles”, ie., mugs all. To Patrick of Ireland, by contrast, witchcraft and sorcery in all their forms were detestable, and something to be cast down by the Gospel of Christ. When the Druids – whose worldview and sorcery the Potter books, and Tolkien’s “Middle Earth”, partly evoke – tried to put spells on him, Patrick confounded them with the shield of faith. To this day, his celebrated hymn “Patrick’s Breastplate” is sung in churches around the world:
“I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One, and One in Three.”
The story has it that, asked by one of the Irish kings at Cashel to explain the Trinity, Patrick held up a sprig of shamrock, with its three leaves in one. Whether or not this is the source of Ireland’s present national symbol, the historical fact is that through faith this former slave turned Christian preacher “subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, [and] stopped the mouths of lions” (Hebrews 11:33). Not by some mythical “philosopher’s stone”, but by the “Living Stone” of Christ Himself (1 Peter 2:4).
WIZARD TO PASTOR
Unlike the fictitious Harry Potter and Tolkien Ring characters, Jesus is the “Word made flesh”. His were real miracles done in a real body, a real death and burial and rising again for us, a real ascension to His heavenly Father’s right hand – and all without a broomstick! Even J.R.R. Tolkien confessed, toward the end of his life:
“It takes a fantastic will to unbelief to suppose that Jesus never really ‘happened’, and more to suppose that he did not say the things recorded of him … such as ‘before Abraham came to be I am’ (John viii), ‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Father’ (John ix); or … in John v, ‘He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life’. We must therefore either believe in Him and in what he said and take the consequences; or reject him and take the consequences”.34
Jesus is the only person from the first century (indeed, He is from eternity) to whom we can actually speak today. He is alive and “ever lives”, inviting all to “come unto Me” and “call on the Name of the Lord”, in humble faith. “Blessed are those”, He says, “who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
To repeat Alcuin’s question from the eighth century: “What has Ingeld to do with Christ?” And, we might add, “what have Dumbledore and Gandalf, Harry and Frodo too!”. As the heavens are high above the earth, so is revelation above invention, truth above myth, and fact above fable. While wholesome fiction is one thing, fables whetted with witchcraft, spiked with sorcery, and addled with the occult are quite another – all the more when they take their cue from pagan myths.
“For this purpose”, says John, who actually saw Christ’s miracles, His pierced side, and His resurrection glory, “the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). There is no parley between God and Satan. Some Christians may choose to compromise, but Christ remains the implacable foe (“destroy”) of every lie, every error, and every neo-pagan myth. Ex-wizard and now Christian pastor David J. Meyer has no doubt that these “works of the devil” include “the Harry Potter books”, which in his view are “training manuals for the occult”.35
Even if all the warnings were only half true, would there not still be ample grounds for rejecting the sorcery school of Hogwarts, and the “Middle Earth” darkness of Tolkien. Rather than lining up at the world’s trough, where “wicked” is the highest expression of approval, let us, in Emmanuel’s Name, “cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God”. The world of Wagner – of spells, fantasy and myth – leads to doom. The Word of Jesus Christ – of grace, blessing and truth – leads to joy and life everlasting.
“Ye that have power in prayer, go forth and pray; ye that can handle the pen, go forth and write down iniquity – every man to his post, everyone … in this day of battle; now for God and for His truth; for God and for the right”. Spurgeon
“We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding”. 1 John 5:19, 20a
Copyright 2002 Shepherd Publications,
ABN 30 234 304 313
PO Box 41
Cannon Hill Qld, 4170
Referenced Scripture verses generally follow The New King James Version (NKJV), Copyright 1985, Thomas Nelson Inc.
For more information, or to order the hard copy of the book ($US5 including postage and handling outside Australia or $AU4.00 including postage and handling within Australia) contact Shepherd Publications . Or mail your order to Shepherd Publications, PO Box 41, Cannon Hill 4170, Queensland, Australia.
1. Andrew O’Hehir, “Morder, he wrote”, The Australian, 19th December, 2001, p. 22.
2. Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged (video), Jeremiah Films, 2001.
3. Cited in Joseph Pearce, Tolkien: Man and Myth (Harper Collins, 1998), p. 55.
4. Daniel Grotta-Kurska, J.R.R. Tolkien: Architect of Middle-Earth (Running Press, 1976), p. 157.
5. T.A. Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth (London, George Allen and Unwin, 1982), p. 150.
6. Richard Abanes, Harry Potter and the Bible (Horizon Books, Pennsylvania, 2001), p. 188.
7. Pearce, op. cit., p. 91, emphasis added.
8. Television interview, Robert S. McGee and Caryl Matrisciana, “Harry Potter and Witchcraft”, John Hagee Ministries, 2001. www.jhm.org
9. Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware, Finding God in the Lord of the Rings (Wheaton, Tyndale House, 2001), pp. 110, 111.
10. Ann Lamont, 21 Great Scientists Who Believed the Bible (Brisbane, Answers in Genesis, 1995), p. 44.
11. Peter Firstbrook, Lost on Everest: the Search for Mallory and Irvine (London, BBC Worldwide, 1999), p. 51.
12. Edgar Leoni, Nostradamus and His Prophecies (New York, Bell Publishing, 1982), pp. 353, 697; pp. 441, 753; preface xxvi, pp. 129, 569; pp. 341, 690.
13. World Book Encyclopedia Millennium 2000, vol. 21, entry “witchcraft”.
14. Television interview, see ref. 8.
15. Bruner and Ware, op. cit..
16. John Houghton, A Closer Look at Harry Potter (Eastbourne, Kingsway, 2001), p. 42.
17. Richard Cavendish (ed.), Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (London, Orbis, 1980),
p. 189, emphasis added.
18. Ibid., p. 190.
19. Ibid., p. 191.
20. Jonathan Miller, cited in Robert Giddings, J.R.R. Tolkien: This Far Land (London, Vision and Barnes & Noble, 1983), p. 124, emph. added.
21. Oswald Georg Bauer, Richard Wagner (New York, Rizzoli, 1983), p. 37.
22. Abanes, op. cit., p. 140.
23. Ibid., p. 141.
24. Didache, or The Teaching, ch. 16. J.B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1978), p. 129, emph. added.
25. Margaret Court, Winning Words (Strand Publishing, 1999), p. 42.
26. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (Harper Collins, 2001).
27. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (London, Bloomsbury, 2000).
28. Houghton, op. cit., p. 56.
29. Brian Sibley, The Land of Narnia (Collins Lion, 1989), p. 16.
30. Walter Hooper, C.S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide (Harper Collins, 1996), p. 222.
31. A.N. Wilson, C.S. Lewis: A Biography (London, W.W. Norton, 1990), p. 30.
32. C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections (Fount Paperback, 1998), p. 107.
33. Henry Morris, “Games Some People Play”, Creation, vol. 23, no. 4, (September – November 2001), p. 35. www.AnswersInGenesis.org
34. Pearce, op. cit., p. 193, emph. added.
35. Harry Potter (by an ex witch), Pastor David J. Meyer, Last Trumpet Ministries International. Internet: John Mark Ministries, 2001.