Last summer I read all seven Harry Potter books for the first time. It took me twenty years to finally see what all the fuss was about. But now I get it! And my only regret is not reading them sooner.
What took me so long?
Harry Potter first released in 1997. I was a senior in high school and nothing about it appealed to me. I was never into wizards and witches, and had zero interest exploring their world. So I put Harry Potter in the category of “popular things I don’t like” right along with N’Sync and Backstreet Boys.
1. My Love for Books
I won the avid reader award in elementary school, but by middle school and all throughout high school, I didn’t read more than the Cliff Notes version. For an entire decade I didn’t read one book for personal growth or pleasure. Looking back, I still get mad at myself for all I missed out on.
Between high school and college God got a hold of my life, and my newfound faith started changing my interests, habits, and beliefs. I stopped digging my heels in about ‘things I don’t do’, even if that meant cracking open a book. As I started reading, I discovered that books could answer my questions—questions I didn’t know how to ask. They gave me advice about life and taught me new things about God. They also gave me another perspective on the world other than the one I experienced. Now I find books fascinating.
Fiction is my weakness though. Since graduating college, I’ve read hundreds of books, but only a handful of fiction. I prefer watching shows like The Crown over Flash. History and reality are far more interesting to me than a super hero fantasy. But slowly I’ve found lessons in fiction so I do my best to keep them in the mix and learn from them too.
2. My Curiosity
Among some Christians, I heard rumblings of controversy over the subject matter in Harry Potter. My assumption- of course it would, it’s about witches. Had I still been an avid reader when the first Harry Potter came out, I probably would have been first in line just because of a little controversy. But I didn’t care about books, and since I couldn’t contribute to any conversation about the ‘controversy’ in Harry Potter, I tuned it out.
Now that I cared about books I wondered about the subject matter. I knew many Christian friends who were huge Harry Potter fans, and saw them make references that I was clueless about. I wondered what they like about it. Surely they weren’t promoting witchcraft.
3. My Kids
My two older boys watched some of the movies before they were part of our family, they just can’t explain it. They remember some climactic scenes, but they weren’t tracking with the story line.
About a year ago my daughter had a friend who had the series on her birthday wish list. When I bought one for her birthday party, I decided it was time for me to read them too. None of my kids were interested, but I wanted to read them first if and when they were. I didn’t want to say yes if there was something I didn’t approve/agree with, and I didn’t want to say no without a logical reason.
Why do I love Harry Potter?
I love the themes more than anything. The identity crisis Harry goes through and the good versus evil battle he faces is one that inspires and challenges me. To see Harry want to do what’s right but struggle with his own insecurity and doubt is something I can relate to often. Had I read Harry Potter in middle or high school it may have helped me through a world of confusion, doubt, and frustration.
J.K. Rowling reminded me once again the power of stories. Reading a good story makes my own imagination come alive. Inserting ourselves into another world can help us firmly grasp our own.
On a spiritual level nothing in these books made me uncomfortable or uneasy. The line between good and evil is very clear which is what I needed to see. Watching Harry fight Voldemort reminded me of our daily fight against evil making me want to strengthen my faith even more. As a Christian, what I would consider evil is what Harry and the rest of the wizarding world would consider evil.
I’m a much bigger fan of the Harry Potter books than the movies. I’ve only watched the first four and am not itching to watch the rest. What I pictured in my mind is far better than what I saw on the screen. The books give much more clarity and understanding to what Harry is dealing with in his heart and mind. That being said, I told my kids they can’t watch the movies until they read ALL the books. (I’m SO mean.)
“ALL of them?”, one of my boys asked.
“ALL of them!”
“EVER?” he asked.
“Yep,” I said, “Until you’re eighteen.”
“That’s not fair!”
“Maybe not. It will not bother me one bit if you never watch Harry Potter. But I would love for you to read the books.”
I want my kids to read and I would love my kids (my older boys especially) to read Harry Potter and get it. I won’t coerce or force them, but I won’t let them watch the movies without reading them. I want my kids to understand the internal struggle that Harry faced, his thought process and how hard it was for him. They don’t get that from the screen. They just get excited to see the giant spider, the snake, and the bad guy. They only care who wins or loses at the end. But sometimes it’s not about the end, it’s about the journey to get there.
To my surprise, one of my daughters started reading them. As I’m typing this, Lily is reading book five. She started about a month ago and can’t put them down. As she reads, I ask her what’s happening. We talk about the different issues in the book and how she feels about it. It’s nice to have someone else in my house to process it all with. It’s full of life lessons. Maybe one day I’ll take her to Universal. We may be the only two real Potter fans in the house.
Have you read Harry Potter? What lessons did you learn?