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A Charmed Life: The Spirituality of Potterworld

by Francis Bridger


A Charmed Life: The Spirituality of Potterworld

Review by Alison Williams

Francis Bridger introduces himself as the principal of an Anglican theological college, a teacher of ethics, and a grandfather, and then goes on to apply his knowledge and experience to the matter of the Harry Potter books and their appeal.

While he is cautious about whether there is any particular religious belief underpinning the books he identifies clear, if implicit, moral messages in them. He concludes that Rowling is a potential ally of those who would wish to promote moral standards and religious belief, even if she herself does not wish to say anything explicitly religious.

He points out how the media attention has concentrated on some points to the neglect of others. In particular the fact that the series is as much a moral as a physical coming-of-age story, in the which the characters learn "The importance of developing ... responsible moral independence, rather than mere rule following..."

There are two other brief quotes which I think effectively summarise key points in Bridger's analysis. The first deals with the use of magic in the books.

"...the criticisms thrown against magic in the Harry Potter books are a misreading of its dramatic and literary function, and are consequently misplaced."

The second pinpoints an unfortunate deficiency that some critics of the books suffer from.

"If we fail to recognise the essential playfulness of Potterworld and magic's playful role in it we shall have misread the series entirely. It can only be understood with a sense of humour."

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