Saturday, April 02, 2005

What's missing from Harry's world?

Since I first entered the world of Hogwarts and Muggles, I have been fascinated with the tales of Harry Potter. For those of you who haven't had a chance to enter this fantastic world fiction, my suggestion is not to dismiss the books as simple infantile fantasy. Something much deeper occurs in these books as Harry faces the consequences of decisions and events that far preceded his birth; even more, he has to grapple with the battle of good and evil within himself. Rowling is truly a gifted storyteller. And while the movies have generally been disappointing, the latest film directed by the gifted Alfonso Cuaron reflects the depth of imagination and thought Rowling has poured into her work.

Nevertheless, I wish I could sit down with Rowling one day just try to understand one missing aspect of Harry's world: religion. While myth and history are intertwined in the stories, the only oblique reference to religion is in the annual celebration of a strictly secular Christmas event; it functions much more as a winter break than a holiday in the strictest sense of the word. So how would a wizard perceive a religious claim? There is certainly a sense of mystery and a clear tension between good and evil in the books but nothing explicitly religious. Could a witch be a Christian, a Muslim, or an atheist? Do wizards on account of their power lack the need to take a position on theology?

I would guess that Rowling would answer that religion simply is unneeded in her telling of the story, and I might agree. Nevertheless, my curiosity would be unsatiated, and I would wonder if the story would reverberate even more in my mind if theology or something like theology were a part of this fantastic world. Or perhaps, the presence of Christians among the wizarding world would only bolster the phobic positions of some who see these books as enticing intoxicants which draw the reader closer to the dark world.

For another perspective on what may be lacking in Harry's world, see this fascinating article on the dearth of the fine arts in the storyline. It comes from the FilmChat blog, one of my new favorites over the last few weeks.