Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Names matter

I've been rereading the Harry Potter books this week. A lot of the excitement over the books had died down, but they're still very popular. At my local libraries, there's always a waiting list of at least 4 to 5 people. The elementary school students at my school still love to read them. The books are not going away.

The controversy surrounding then largely has, so it seems. I've always been a little ambivalent about them. I've read all the books at least twice, and they're fun and exciting. But they definitely reflect a modernist and at times, neopagan, world view. Good children's literature should have positive morals; it doesn't. Hogwarts is unfair. Harry gets away with things he shouldn't. The people who do discipline home are horrible tyrants (eg Snape, the Dursleys).

Furthermore, Dumbledore is an awful headmaster who makes poor hiring decisions. He knows Trelawney isn't a seer (with the single exception), not to mention Quirrell and Lockhart.

One thing that stuck out to me this time is how Dumbledore tells Harry not to fear the name of Voldemort. Seemingly, names only have the power we let them have. Compare this to philosopher Peter Kreeft's commentary on The Lord of the Rings. When the name of Mordor is invoked, all the power of Mordor is present there. Gandalf somewhere says that it is rightly to be feared. Kreeft says that we must learn that we fear evil too little rather than too much. In Tolkien's Catholic world, the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are regularly invoked, causing demons to flee at the power in the name.

It is ironic that in a book where words literally have power that the importance and power of a name should be so explicitly diminished. In my opinion, this is a major flaw, both literarily and philosophically, of the Harry Potter novels.

posted from Bloggeroid

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