Christianity in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Article excerpt

Christianity lies right beneath the surface of this seventh and final Harry Potter novel, but it requires careful eyes and ears to detect it. Most obviously, the Cloak of Invisibility, the Resurrection Stone, and the Elder Wand are author J. K. Rowling's Deathly Hallows, which have miraculous powers enabling the bearer to move unseen, to contact the dead, and to perform heroic feats.

However, Rowling also alludes to hallows and death by revealing the epitaphs on the tombstones of Harry's parents, James and Lily Potter; both died on October 31,1981. Traditionally, Halloween is the night when evil runs rampant in the world. Ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and, alas, Lord Voldemort himself, hold sway. However, the following two days in the Christian calendar are All Saints Day and All Souls Day where those faithful people who have died are acknowledged for their steadfast lives here on earth. Harry may wear the lightning-shaped scar Voldemort has inflicted on his forehead, but he is destined to honor his parents by confronting the snake-eyed slayer of his parents. The name Voldemort, one might add, is anything but a hallowed one. In fact, he sets up pronouncement of his name as a tracking device for rooting out innocent human beings and murdering all who oppose him. He is the archetypal Herod trying to slaughter the innocents to preserve his rise to power.

Finally, there is a deeper significance to the Deathly Hallows because the very words echo, respectively, the beginning of one famous Christian ritualistic prayer and the end of another. The final words of the Hail Mary end with" "Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death" [italics mine]. One prays to Mary as the Virgin Mother of Christ and one invokes help at what Harry Potter himself so unaffectedly expects to encounter in the Forbidden Forest: death. The opening of the Lord's Prayer begins with a salutation to God in heaven and then follows with the words, "hallowed be thy name" [italics mine]. Thus, in addition to the legend of the Deathly Hallows, are the novel's echoes of birth, death, and potential resurrection promised in the two aforementioned ritual prayers.

When Harry enters the Forbidden Forest alone he thinks he is about to be "cruciated" just as Christ was. Harry is just as willing to die for others as Jesus was. Even though Rowling does not overlay her novels with any direct Christian theology, it is undeniable that Harry is a Christ figure, just as Voldemort and his serpent are symbolic emblems of Satan. To try to make the novel an allegory of the New Testament is, however, a big mistake. There is no detailed one-to-one correspondence between the characters in Rowling's books and the apostles and disciples who followed Christ. Rather, many of the principle characters in the Rowling novels are, in their actions, suggestive "types" of New Testament people. For example, Dumbledore appears to Harry, not in a cloud like God the Father, but on a railway platform proclaiming how well pleased he is with Harry's actions. Dumbledore confesses his own youthful arrogance in words that echo the ending of the Lord's Prayer of "lead us not into temptation" and heavily admits his own sin: "I had proven, as a very young man, that power was my weakness and temptation" (718).

Still, Dumbledore, who has occupied the tower room at Hogwarts along with his faithful phoenx, Fawkes, are archetypes of the Trinity which is complete when Harry is in their presence. …