24/08/2005

Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone (by JK Rowling)

Yes, while the rest of the world (and indeed the rest of my family) has been enjoying the sixth book by JK Rowling, I decided to re-read the first. I've read it a couple of times before now: once shortly after it was published, before it was (in)famous, and I read 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' for the second time in 2003.

Yet again I am amazed that anyone could consider this book 'evil'. The lies that have been written about it show Christians in a very bad light, with misquotes and misunderstandings. Yes, the children are witches and wizards, but not in an evil way. Not from any kind of 'dark' source. As others have mentioned, the Hogwarts children's gifts are inborn, and they learn to train them.

But I'm leaping ahead of myself. This original story is a bit like Cinderella meets Mallory Towers, with a touch of the Wizard of Oz and a hint of The Hobbit. Harry, brought up by his ghastly relatives, gets the surprise of his life on his 11th birthday when he discovers that he was born a wizard, is due to go to Hogwarts school, and is even famous because he's the only one to survive an attempted murder by the dark and wicked Lord Voldemort.

Thus begins an exciting school story, with Harry and his new friends attempting to learn to harness and use their gifts, making plenty of choices, and thwarting evil. The school is presided over by wise old Dumbledore, most powerful of the good wizards (yes, not far from Tolkien's Gandalf, but he reminds me more of the old good wizard in CS Lewis's 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader') and its variety of staff which include one who is not so nice.

The end of the book, in classic adventure style, has an exciting race through puzzles and problems, ending with Harry facing his opponent alone. And, inevitably, surviving the ordeal since (a) it's a children's book and (b) we all know there are five other books already published about him, and one more to come.

The 'magic' is just playing - waving wands, learning Latin words that approximate to commands, mixing potions, and so on. It really isn't a big deal. The most important parts of the story are the focus on unconditional love (quoted as the most powerful force in the universe), and on the values of honesty, loyalty and courage.

All in all, highly recommended to anyone from the age of about six upwards. Including adults.

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