I opened “Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone” on a large couch supporting French textbooks, my Bible, a coffee mug infused with orange juice, and several bags of snacks in the fall of 2005. The bay window behind me offered pale autumn light, so two parallel lamps were designated to assist. Professor C. had placed this small novel on our Children’s Literature syllabus during my (extended) senior year, and I toyed with the idea of disproving Christian fanatics who publicly lambasted the books. Ominous thickness in head, chest, and nasal passage completed my ideal concoction of uninterrupted reading: nearby food, outside cold, and creeping heavy illness.
What I uncovered in those pages were some of my “purple boxes”, a personalized metaphor for the flawless mental stimulation, emotional relevance, and inspired spirituality of certain works of literature. The intellectual delight is placed carefully in the container of psychological freedom, tied in a neat and beautiful ribbon of peace with one’s soul. There are more than a few in mind, as a bibliophile and one seeking to use words like paint. Yet what I’ll discuss here are the wonders of an awkward, self-deprecating little wizard who grows into one of the most lovable characters in all of children’s literature.
The smell of fall and new school assignments can be exciting, frightening, or both. J.K. Rowling takes us into this atmosphere with conflict already set up for Harry Potter. We are made to strongly dislike (perhaps hate?) the Dursleys, and their rancid treatment of that weird kid that everyone used to have as a friend or be in grade school. His first appearance in the book as an innocent, helpless infant at their doorstep helps equip us to care about him constantly in the series. But we also know that there is something rare that he possesses, which will one day change everything around him for the better. We go on to meet his companions, engage in the joy of his newfound magical powers, and await breathlessly as he fights He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. His story is timeless and filled with important, well-manufactured details. Memories of every sport try-out, horrible test, and first crush swirl around the room as I read. Still, there was enough newness in this idea of a magical world that really did make me feel the wonder of a child again. Did she plan for that on her crumpled napkins in the coffee shop? I sure hope so…
As I finished the book (one congested day later) and prepared to write my personal response to it, I realized something. This book made me love God more. THAT is the life goal that I have as a disciple of Christ, that informs all of the reading, writing, or critiquing in my path. I loved God’s gentle way of reminding me about the power and glory of his work through this simple, albeit complex tale of community, heroicism, and redemption. My heart for him increased, through a book about light and dark magic. I do not feel compelled to worship satan or perform a seance. I will always be thankful for the talent that is used to bring honor to the Creator of the universe. This ribbon means a lot to him and I.
In the scenes where Rowling moves back to the “normal” world of muggles, into crowded streets and office jobs, the reader can still detect the supernatural beauty of what is around them but they just can’t see it.
*Disclaimer: The infatuation with discovering these gems in Harry Potter concluded with a third re-reading of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, and a viewing of the final movie last Saturday. If you have an open mind, don’t begin the series without leaving room for some considerable free time and a visit to your childhood.