All good stories are reflections of God’s greatest Story!
In a conversation between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, Tolkien once said,
“The story of Christ, is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened…The Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call ‘real things.’”
To be very clear at the outset, Harry Potter is not Jesus. But within Harry Potter’s story are reflections; glimpses if you will, of that true and greater story of Jesus’ life. J.K. Rowling admitted as much in 2007. She said, “To me, the religious parallels have always been obvious. But I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story, where we were going.”
In one scene in particular Harry Potter visits his parents’ graves and finds two Biblical passages inscribed on the tombstones in the graveyard. The first appears on the graves of Dumbledore’s mother and sister. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6) The second appears on the grave of Harry’s parents. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26). Rowling revealed that “…I think those two particular quotations he (Harry) finds on the tombstones …they sum up, they almost epitomize, the whole series.”
C.S. Lewis did something similar in the Chronicles of Narnia. In one of his last ever letters, C.S. Lewis describes his intentions behind his now famous story. He writes:
“What Aslan meant when he said he had died is, in one sense plain enough. Read the earlier book in this series called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and you will find the full story of how he was killed by the White Witch and came to life again. When you have read that, I think you will probably see that there is a deeper meaning behind it. The whole Narnian story is about Christ. That is to say, I asked myself ‘Supposing that there really was a world like Narnia and supposing it had (like our world) gone wrong and supposing Christ wanted to go into that world and save it (as He did ours), what might have happened?’ The stories are my answers. Since Narnia is a world of Talking Beasts, I thought He would become a Talking Beast there, as He became a man here. I pictured Him becoming a lion there because (a) the lion is supposed to be the king of beasts; (b) Christ is called ‘The Lion of Judah’ in the Bible; (c) I’d been having strange dreams about lions when I began writing the work. The whole series works out like this.
The Magician’s Nephew, tells the Creation and how evil entered Narnia.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, tells the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Prince Caspian, tells of restoration of the true religion after corruption.
The Horse and His Boy, tells of the calling and conversion of a heathen.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, tells of the spiritual life (especially in Reepicheep).
The Silver Chair, tells of the continuing war with the powers of darkness.
The Last Battle, tells of the coming of the Antichrist (the Ape), the end of the world and the Last Judgment.”
Sometimes these parallels are intentional, as is the case for the works by Rowling and Lewis, but other times we stumble upon echoes of the Gospel unexpectedly. That shouldn’t come as any great surprise. The God who created this world is still intimately involved in His creation, and through the work of the Holy Spirit, He continues to draw people to His Son, Jesus. Even through great works of fiction.
Below are a couple of other fun parallels between the story of Harry Potter and the history of Jesus…
- Jesus laid his life down for the whole world. He walked willingly to his death, carrying his cross. And his death conquered death. After three days in the tomb Jesus came back to life. Jesus’ willing sacrifice of himself brought about the forgiveness of the whole world. Harry Potter also willingly sacrificed himself. And after his death at the hands of Lord Voldemort he came back as well. And his death accomplished something great as well. It provided magical protection for all of those for whom he had died who were trapped in Hogwarts. Lord Voldemort’s spells couldn’t touch them any longer.
Jesus said, “This is my commandment. That you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
- When Harry is walking in the Forbidden Forest, on his way to meet Lord Voldemort, he takes the golden snitch from his pocket and says, “I’m ready to die.” The snitch opens and Harry takes out the Resurrection Stone. His loved ones who were dead surround him once more. He draws comfort and strength from them to face the trial ahead. As followers of Jesus we do the same thing. In this moment there is an echo of Hebrews 11-12.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Hebrews 12:1-3
There are many more parallels in the Harry Potter series than just those two, but the joy is in discovery. So sit down with a good book. And as you read, keep in your mind the grand arch of God’s interactions with His creation from the beginning of the world until now. It’s likely you’ll see echoes and reflections of the Gospel, the Good News in Jesus, waiting to be discovered.
***All of this presupposes a working knowledge of God’s Word. Without a thorough understanding of how God has worked in the world through the lives of people from creation until the coming of Jesus, most if not all of the parallels and symbolism that runs throughout new and older literature will be completely lost on the reader. So while you are reading your fiction don’t neglect the reading of the Scriptures as well!***