Friday, February 25, 2011

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling - A Detailed Review

The Review:

My Ranking: 7 out of 10
Ages: 13 & up

UPDATE 10/15/2011 -- After much discussion and debate between many different people involving myself, I have come to some different conclusions about these books. I hope to write another post someday and expound on my new ideals. Suffice to say, while I still don't read the books really, I have a different view on Harry Potter and no longer completely condemn it. 

While being written later than I'd hoped, I am still pleased to be able to present the first review of my review series on the best selling books by J.K. Rowling - the Harry Potter series. 

I have heard many different opinions on the Harry Potter series and have been told on more than one occasion that I can't argue against them if I haven't read them, which I actually found very reasonable. So I amended the situation. Being 16 and deeply rooted in my faith, I took a paper, a pen, numerous opinions of the books, and God's word into battle as I dove into the first book of the series - The Sorcerer's Stone. 
Many Christians would look at the title - The Sorcerer's Stone - and immediately have red flags pop up simply because of the word "sorcerer", which is completely reasonable to me as I would do, and do do,  the exact same thing. The back cover will only make one even more wary -

"Harry Potter has never played a sport while flying on a broomstick. He's never worn a Cloak of Invisibility, befriended a giant, or helped hatch a dragon. All Harry knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years.
But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to a wonderful place he never dreamed existed. There he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic around every corner, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him... if Harry can survive the encounter."
I found many ups and downs in this book and if it wasn't focused around witches and wizards than I would really enjoy the story - it's well written and interesting. I will be starting this review with the downs. 
First off, God distinctly points out that witchcraft is wrong. 
There shall not be found among you anyone ....that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. Deuteronomy 18:10
A few of these words when in Hebrew have specific meanings, forbidding fortune tellers, snake charmers, and sorcerer's who speak spells to harm people, among many others.(You can see the rest HERE)
Considering the book is called The Sorcerer's Stone, I think that it's a bit obvious that Sorcerers are involved. And yes, the wizards, witches, etc do cast spells on each other. While at least in the first book there was no summoning spirits or anything, they did cast spells...with intent to harm. Forbidden.
The fact that there is a verse in the Bible that clearly says that is wrong bans me from approving this book. It revolves around witches, wizards, spells, potions, flying broomsticks, etc. Something that people don't seem to completely realize is that witches, spells, etc are very real, and these books have led many children astray. 
Some may say that the kids in the book aren't performing actual real life witchcraft and aren't like today's witches. Well, then they shouldn't be called witches. I can't say that this is acceptable for children to read when it commends something that really exists and makes kids yearn to follow in Harry Potter's foot steps and become a witch/wizard. Though the type of magic Harry and his friends do is not real, other witchcraft is and when children go looking for magic and find out what real witchcraft is, they may find they like that just as much. 
Okay, aside from the fact that it is about witches and sorcery, I did find some good things in the book.
First off, the characteristics of a person outshine their outer appearance or abilities. There is a strong message that loyalty, love, joy, and friendship are more important than accomplishments. This is a very good message that many kids need to hear and I do commend Rowling for making this a strong aspect. Another thing is that love conquers death in the end. Because of someone's loving sacrifice, a character survives an ordeal. It was a good message that I appreciated.
I have read many reviews on these books and recently read that there are even some verses mentioned in the last book and there is a message. I found this on the subject - 
Not far away is the Potters' tomb, with a different inscription: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." The quotation is from 1 Corinthians 15: 26, part of a long passage about the resurrection. In Godric's Hollow, Rowling begins to reveal that, like Narnia, her world has a "deeper magic." Love, expressed as substitutionary sacrifice—choosing to lay down your life for your friends—has a power that Lord Voldemort, like the White Witch before him, is blind to. That blindness becomes his undoing—with the help of Harry and his friends. 
[After speaking about Lewis and how he didn't start out by writing his books with a Christian minset - it just weaved itself in] Something similar seems to have happened to J.K. Rowling. She began writing about wizards and quidditch and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, and somewhere along the way, Christ began to whisper into the story.
Read the whole article here.

While I myself can see how some may come to this conclusion , I don't think Christ being revealed through a series about witches is right. Obviously God is not okay with witches. I do find the lesson in love conquering a good one, but to say it revolves around Christ is a little far fetched, in my opinion. There was no source of ultimate power - in fact, in at least in the first book there is no known source of power. We are left wondering where magic comes from, and I assume the reader is supposed to believe that it comes from within one's self...or something. I don't really know.

So, now that I've gotten through the ups and downs, let me answer a few arguments I've heard from both sides of the HP debate. I'll be doing this for each review I write on these books.

"Harry Potter is too realistic and will make kids believe they can be like Harry Potter" 

My Opinion: As a sixteen year old, I did not find this book realistic at all, besides some of the minor things the witches do. Trolls, dragons, ghosts, talking pictures, magical trains, flying broomsticks, and many other aspects made it completely obvious that it is a total fiction. But, considering this book is for younger children between the ages of 8 and 13, I wouldn't be all too surprised if a child didn't come to the same conclusion. I would not recommend this book to children who are young and not rooted deeply in their faith or don't know the truth about witches.

"You can't say Harry Potter is bad and accept C.S. Lewis' and J.R. Tolkien's books."

My Opinion: Well, I actually love Lewis' and Tolkien's works. They are amazing stories and they do have a big difference - the source of their power. Yes, a wizard is involved in Lord Of The Rings, but he is not a wizard on his own accord. He was given his power by a higher source. The same thing goes for the Narnia books - the powers come from a higher source: Aslan. Both of these higher source's can represent God. Harry Potter on the other hand, at least in the first book, has an unknown source of power. We are left to assume it(magic) just chooses people or that it's in one's self. There is no greater source of power.

That all being said, I did enjoy the book and found many of the lessons in it noble, I just wish just a few things could change. While I would deter young children from reading this book, older teenagers who are grounded in their faith may find this book interesting; though I don't necessarily recommend it. Of course, this is just my opinion and convictions. I simply wrote this review to answer questions that anyone may be having when choosing to read this book or give it to their child. If you have any questions or arguments regarding my review, feel free to leave a comment - I love hearing my reader's opinions and am open to discuss them. :-)


Charity U said...

Interesting. I'd wondered about these books, but never read any. And I don't have any inclination to either. However, I read and enjoyed the whole review! It was enlightening. :) Thank you!

TheGirlOnFire said...

I grew up in the church and I feel that if I child is raised right they will know the difference between make believe and realty. And I think that people of faith like Lewis and Tolkien's writing more because they are christian writers. But if your child has solid beliefs I dont think there is any way this book could corrupt them. I am a big potter fan and think the whole fantasy of these books is enthralling.

Julie said...

hmm... well, I like how you gave both sides of the book: good and bad. However, I'm not sure that I would even allow "teens who are grounded in their faith" to read it. I say that because there is PLENTY of Christian literature, or at least better literature, that is more "edifying" or helpful to a teen. Also, is it safe to read these books thinking that we are grounded enough, but read them and it lead to our interests being sparked in witchcraft? I'm not sure that I would want to take that risk. Just my opinion. But like I said, I am very glad to see what a fellow Christian thinks about the books. luv ya reesie :)

Renee Ann said...

I appreciate your thoughtful, measured review. I love how you hold the books you read up to the Biblical standard and then judge whether or not they meet it. If you continue to do this all through life, you won't go wrong!

Nonners said...

Julie: I very much love hearing what others have to say on the subject of Harry Potter. Your views are quite interesting. Would you please (if its not too much of a chore) send me a list of the good christian lit you are talking about?

Jane said...

Charity - I'm glad my review was of interest. Thanks for commenting!

The Girl On Fire - I agree with your point. I would give these books to my younger brothers and would have no worries of them thinking it was real. If I didn't have a problem with the witchcraft in the book, which I believe God firmly detests, I would enjoy them and give them to my brothers to read. I, personally though, find the witchcraft in it inexcusable which is why I have chosen not to recommend them. Thanks for the comment! :-)

Renee Ann - Thanks so much!

Nonners - I will contact Julie(who is a close friend of mine) and see if I can have her contact you. Thanks for commenting!

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