Interview with Greg Garrett
, author of One Fine Potion: The Literary Magic of Harry Potter
:FS: Near the end of the book you talk about organized religion and write, "Like [J. K.] Rowling, George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien all wrote fantasy epics in which the church seems absent as an institution, yet in each of their greatest stories, the Christian story lies submerged just below the surface and sometimes breaking though into the light." Where do you see that theme breaking through?Garrett
: The most obvious place it actually breaks through is in The Deathly Hallows
, when Harry discovers Bible verses inscribed on the tombstones of Dumbledore's sister Ariana [Matthew 6:21] and Harry's murdered parents [1st Corinthians 15:26]. Rowling told the media that these two verses represented the thematic core of the entire series, and the British newspaper The Telegraph
ran a headline about how Rowling's Christianity had shaped the novels. But she'd been telling interviewers for years that although she was a person of faith, she didn't want to say too much about her beliefs, for fear that people would figure out what direction her story was moving. Now that the series is complete, we know that the shape of the finished Potter narrative is the shape of the Christian story: A prophesied savior willingly lays down his life in order to defeat the power of death, fear, and hopelessness, and usher in a beautiful new world. The qualities of love, community, sacrifice, compassion, and courage that Rowling celebrates in the novels seem to me to be the qualities Christians most need to live an authentic and faithful life, so even though no one in the books preaches, the books preach.