Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #1

Re: Harry Potter vs. Gandalf

We recently read your article “Harry Potter vs. Gandalf.” You displayed careful thinking and research. Your article, therefore, was appreciated. It helped clear the confusion we were all feeling concerning works of fantasy. The comparisons between Rowling’s writings and those of Tolkien and Lewis helped us to differentiate the magic and fantasy in Tolkien and Lewis from that of Rowlings.

It appears that your article was written in response to Rowlings earlier books. If this is true, we are hoping that you have written more in response to her recent books. Some of these later writings, from what we are understand, are darker, pushing the boundaries and hedges you discussed in the article.

We are researching this issue and would appreciate your input. May God bless you with wisdom and insight.

I’m gratified that you’ve found my Harry Potter piece in any way helpful. It is quite true that my article was written early in the series, just before the first film was released. In reviewing the films, I’ve tried to keep up with the books, but with Goblet of Fire I just bogged down completely in the book and wasn’t able to finish.

I have not read any of the subsequent books, though as the movies come out I will make an effort to persevere.

My sense is that you are right to say that the books have gotten darker over time; as to how or whether they are pushing the hedges, that’s a bit of a mixed bag.

Some minor entanglements with divination (Professor Trelawny’s class) blur what had been a fairly clear demarcation between the books’ fantasy magic and real-world occultism. On the other hand, in the most recent film, Goblet of Fire, occult-like ritual magic is unambiguously evil: the Unforgivable Curses, the secret Death-Eater cult, the quasi-sacrificial ritual that restores Voldemort.

There is nothing like any of this on the “good” side; suggesting, perhaps, that magic which resembles real-world occult magic is “bad” magic, while “good” magic is of the fantasy variety, not the real-world sort.

I’m afraid that’s all I have for now; hope that’s not entirely unhelpful.

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