Hey there, readers! This is the post for which you've all been waiting! The second part of my thoughts on LOTR and Narnia, and ultimately, the issue of magic. And I do sincerely apologize for taking so long to post this.
A quick warning: Be prepared to do a lot of reading. This is a really long post. :)
Many people I know have said (and I quote directly from an acquaintance not on blogger), “What's the difference between Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings? They both have the same kind of magic in them.” It's a question I've long wanted to answer, so, as you can guess, this post is mainly about contrasting the magic in LOTR/Narnia and Harry Potter.
|Theoden and Eowyn|
Then Petie posted her thoughts on LOTR and Narnia, and the question of magic was once again pushed into the front of my mind. “This is it, Kiri,” I told myself. “Stop making excuses. Just research it.”
So, I did.
And I am not sorry that I did.
You know what I found? Oh, yes. I found a lot. This topic is much bigger than most people think it to be, and there's so much that can be researched and found.
Please also know this: You cannot automatically say just because there's magic in something, you must have nothing to do with it. I am not promoting magic here, but please realize that if that (steadfastly avoiding anything remotely connected to magic) were the case, we should not be able to read the Bible, which has many stories in it concerning witchcraft (1 Samuel 28 and Acts 8 to name a few), but all are viewed in a bad light. Sorcery exists, I hate to admit it, but it's real. It is evil, and must be seen as such.
I add this warning as well: I shall be discussing things that are deeper than a G level. If you are squeamish, I would recommend you proceed or don't proceed with your own discretion.
So, are you ready? In a nutshell, these are the magic differences between LOTR/Narnia and Harry Potter:
As the main character of the Harry Potter stories, Harry Potter is a human boy practicing occult magick for his own benefit with copyable spells in a fictionalized part of our world. The Lord of the Rings and Narnia stories take place in a make believe world where magic is a power given by a higher being to certain nonhuman, secondary characters to be used for the good of others.
Now, let's break that down a bit into various points...
1. The Source of the Magic
The magic in LOTR and Narnia is very, very similar and thus I will be linking it together in many of the following points, first describing the situation in Harry Potter and then following up with a contrast in LOTR and Narnia. When studying the issue of magic, one of the first things you must look to is the source of that magic. Should I write that again in all caps? THE SOURCE!!! Where did the magic come from? This is one of the biggest and most important points.
The problem with the English language is that we use one word to mean so many different things. Consider the simple, little word ball. Usually, nowadays when we hear that word we think of a fun, bouncy plaything, right? Jane Austen wouldn't have thought of such a plaything, but rather a party in which dancing was a common occurrence. Look at two different definitions of the word train: to educate and to teach; also, a string of railroad cars powered by steam, diesel fuel, or electricity. The same thing happens with the word magic. However, we do have a small change to the spelling of the word at times to help us distinguish what exactly we're talking about. Add a “k” on the end and we now have the word magick, which is not the same as magic. Magick (with a “k”) is what is in Harry Potter (more on that later).
God clearly condemns witchcraft in many passages in the Bible, one of the most famous being Deuteronomy 18:10-12: “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee.” (more on this in a bit)
The magick in the stories of Harry Potter Wikipedia defines as “a natural force that can be used to override the usual laws of nature.” The spells and chants that Harry Potter indulges in has been directly linked with occult magick, witchcraft and sorcery that gets its power from the king of darkness himself, Satan. J. K. Rowling has claimed that the magick in her works is nothing more than a make believe magic, a magic that she believes doesn't exist, but the type of magick in Harry Potter is real. Occult magick IS real. So... how do I know it's occult magick? Well, let's do some definitions here: occult magick includes the practices of divination, astrology, witchcraft, charms, spells, wizardry, and necromancy (communicating with the dead). Harry goes to school to learn these things. Spells that Harry casts consist of the gesturing of a wand combined with a verbal or mental incantation; they are an every day occurrence, along with charms, used on both friends and enemies in and out of the school. Some of Harry's friends consist of dead spirits who have been summoned to the present, and one of his classes is distinctly labeled as a divination class.
In Narnia, Aslan's powers are from his father, the Great King; again, a higher being who is shown as the one true god and Creator of Narnia. Aslan mentions the Deep Magic in Narnia many times, but you must realize that what is meant by “the Deep Magic” is supernatural power, which does indeed exist! Christ used supernatural power to raise Lazarus from the dead. In the Companion to Narnia, we learn that the Deep Magic is twofold: the Deep Magic and the Deeper Magic. The Deep Magic is defined as "the effects of justice in a created word, existing from the dawn of time." The Deeper Magic is eternal, from before the dawn of time, connoting a self sacrifice.
But how is it that I believe the magic in Narnia and LOTR to be good, while in Harry Potter it is bad? Let's go back to the verses in Deuteronomy and define each of the things that God condemns. The practice of having children pass through the fire (also known as febration) was common in the pagan nations around Israel back in Bible times. The parents who sent their sons and daughters through the flames did so to obtain an oracle or to avert national disaster. The fire was a purification process, namely to purify something by sacrifice, and bluntly, it was a human sacrifice by fire. Ugh! Is anyone else repressing disgusted shudders at this? Now, I'm not aware that Harry has to pass through any fire at any time in the series to purify himself, but as God had Moses mention febration in the verse, I thought I should mention it as well.
Divination Noah Webster gives this definition: the act of divining; a foretelling future events, or discovering things secret or obscure, by the aid of superior beings, or by other than human means. But wait! Superior beings? Can't that be the same as Aslan's father and Tolkien's Iluvatar? Let's keep reading. The ancient heathen philosophers divided divination into two kinds, natural and artificial. Natural divination was supposed to be effected by a kind of inspiration or divine afflatus; artificial divination was effected by certain rites, experiments or observations, as by sacrifices, cakes, flour, wine, observation of entrails, flight of birds, lots, verses, omens, position of the stars, etc. Occult magick is this artificial divination. I'm certain that Harry Potter wouldn't have been studying divination and learning by the aid of the One who we see as the Superior Being in our world, the Lord God. And if it is not of God, it is of the devil.
The next couple of ones listed in Deuteronomy are grouped together with the times observer: an enchanter, a witch, and a charmer. These are also respectively translated as “one who interprets omens, a sorcerer, and a one who casts a spell.” I don't think it's necessary for me to give more than just the definitions. Enchanter: one who enchants; one who has spirits and demons at his command; one who practices enchantment, or pretends to perform surprising things by the agency of demons. Witch: a woman who, by compact with the devil, practices sorcery or enchantment. Charmer: one that charms, or has power to charm; one that uses or has the power of enchantment. Sorcerer: a conjurer; an enchanter; a magician.
But we're not quite done yet with Deuteronomy. Moses also lists “a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.” Again, translated also as: “a medium, or a spiritist, or who calls up the dead.” A wizard is described as an enchanter and a sorcerer. Necromancer: one who pretends to foretell future events by holding converse with departed spirits; a conjurer. Please notice that Deuteronomy 18: 11 specifically says “familiar spirits.” Those who take part in this magick are not doing so by accident. The spirits, to them, are familiar, and they know exactly what they're doing. I realize I'm posting a lot of definitions, but I want you to understand what I'm talking about. This is what God is condemning. It's basically performing by the power of the devil. That's magick. And that's exactly what's in Harry Potter.
Okay, are you still with me? I realize that was a tremendously long point, but the source of the magic really is the key difference between Harry Potter and LOTR/Narnia.
Although I really could just stop here as this issue of the source of the magic is the biggest and most imporant issue overall, let's keep going... there was some more stuff that I dug up, so I'm not done yet.
2. The Characters Who Use Magic
Look at Lord of the Rings next. No peers are using magick or magic, but rather it is the mentor figures who have power. Gandalf and Saruman are called wizards. GASP! They're called wizards! Does that automatically make them bad? Before you judge, look at the context in which the word “wizard” is used. Tolkien describes Gandalf as one of the Istari, meaning messenger. The Istari were given power from the Creator (Iluvatar) to help and use for the benefit of others (look at purpose of magic), and these messengers do not call themselves “wizards.” When they appeared in Middle Earth, men were confused by their existence, as their power was something they could not understand. It was men who, in their ignorance, gave the Istari the name of wizards. The magic of these “wizards” is nothing like the occult magick of Harry Potter. Instead, it is like the power that Christ gave to his disciples, allowing them the ability to heal the sick and injured, cast out demons, and perform other miracles in His name.
Moving on to Narnia. Like LOTR, magic is used by secondary, non-human characters. Aslan is the Great Lion, the Son of the Emperor over the Sea, the Real King of Narnia. As I have said before, Aslan is a god figure (please read the section on god figures in my earlier post), and I think all of this qualifies him as not a human.
So, what other Narnian characters use magic? Coriakin (from Voyage of the Dawn Treader) uses magic, is called a magician (and the Oppressor by the Dufflepods), and is a star. Yes, I said “star.” Coriakin may be wizard-like in appearance, but Lewis made him that way to separate him from the normal, human characters in his stories. The white beard and long robes are typical elements in a wizard's appearance, so that's how Lewis made Coriakin. Ramandu, in the same Narnia book (Dawn Treader), is also a star and the same things apply to him.
Lewis was careful to include a cautionary note with the magic in his stories. Some of the characters (Lucy, Digory, and others) use magic objects in the stories. For instance, Digory uses the magic rings in The Magician's Nephew to go to the wood between the worlds and get Polly after Uncle Andrew sent her there. However, this is where the cautionary note comes in. Later, as Digory and Polly explore the desolate world of Charn, Digory rings the golden bell and wakes the evil queen, Jadis. The same thing happens with Lucy: she reads a spell out of Coriakin's book to free the Dufflepods from their invisibleness but falls to temptation in the same book and eavesdrops wrongly on her friends. Magic can bring about both good and bad results and is not something that should be taken lightly.
3. The Realm of Magic
The realm of magic is closely linked with the characters who use magic. And with the knowledge of magic's existence. Actually, these points are all pretty much linked together. Harry Potter takes place in a fictionalized part of our own, real world. The school Hogwarts that Harry attends is found in Scotland and is only accessible to wizards and other “magical” creatures. Humans, or “Muggles” in Harry's vocabulary, cannot get to this wizard world, but rather, they see only ruins of an old castle and several warnings of danger.
|The Pevensies discovering Narnia|
Narnia and LOTR both take place in make believe worlds, worlds that C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien respectively made up. As much as some of us would like it, we cannot go to Middle Earth or Narnia. There is a thick, definite line between reality and fantasy here, people. The magic here is, again, shown in a light where it cannot be copied.
4. The Knowledge of Magic's Existence
In the world of Hogwarts, the knowledge of magic is kept as a secret. Wizards and witches are encouraged not to show their powers to those who are not involved in magic, or muggles (humans). This corresponds directly with the occult idea, as the word “occult” literally means “hidden.” Magic is the main theme throughout the story and has been described as Harry's salvation, his means of getting through hard times and winning in the end.
The existence of magic is common knowledge in Narnia and Middle Earth. It is limited as to who can use it, but the knowledge that it exists and is real is openly acknowledged. However, though magic is common knowledge, it is used sparingly, and the characters do not depend on the magic to help them through their difficulties. The trials and battles they fight on their own, without any assistance from magic.
This point isn't necessarily as important as the source of the magic, but as it is a difference in the issue of magic between Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings/Narnia, I deemed it important based on a passage in 2 Corinthians 4. God wants our actions to be out in the light, as things often done in hiding are of a darker nature. True, I realize that some actions we do are meant to be secret (I'm talking about giving without thought of reparation or glory), but be careful about something that is so solidly secreted under lock and key. What is it and what's the purpose of its being secret? There's where you have to look.
5. The Purpose in Using Magic
This links right up with the two points flanking this one: the knowledge of magic and the acquisition of magic. Harry Potter learns magick to accomplish his own goals. It's his salvation, his means of getting things done. Magic is his whole life, in a sense. Whatever he does with magick is done with the intent of bringing benefit to himself. Sure, he may save his world once or twice during the course of the novels, but he does so by the use of magick and by the power of the devil, the master of chaos and destruction. Now, I'm not sure about you, but that seems a little backwards to me.
In contrast, Gandalf from LOTR is given power for the express purpose of helping and aiding others. The power given to the wizards by the Creator Illuvatar is meant to benefit those with whom the wizards come in contact. The same goes for Aslan in Narnia: his powers as the Son of the Emperor over the sea are used for the good of others. Those in LOTR and Narnia who use power for their own benefit, such as Saruman and the White Witch, do so at their own peril and are destroyed in the end.
To wrap up this point, even if you don't look at the all-important issue of the source of the magic, I view Harry's powers as bad because he uses them for selfish reasons. How can anything be good when it's used in selfishness? Granted, this point isn't very big in the overall issue of magic and magick, but it is a big difference between the power used in LOTR/Narnia and Harry Potter.
6. The Acquisition of Magic
Harry Potter learns how to perform magick throughout the entire series. Indeed, the main idea of the books and films is his education in the world of magick. He goes to a boarding school, Hogwarts, and is instructed in the ways of magick. Thus, by following Harry's adventures in that boarding school, the reader learns right along with him about the magick, what it's used for, and, the most dangerous aspect, how to use it themselves. At the risk of sounding redundant, the magick in Harry Potter is real! That fact cannot be ignored. It's dangerous and evil, and must be seen as such.
Whereas, the magical characters in Narnia and LOTR already have their magic when the stories take place, and the reader is not given details on how they acquired that magic nor are they encouraged to dwell on the actual process of getting magic. No character within any of the stories goes through the learning process of how to use magic.
Again, not a huge point, but one that definitely is worth mentioning.
If you're still reading this, I applaud you for getting this far. I realize that this was a rather lengthy post, so I'll hurry up and end this before I turn this into a novel. Please remember, I am not trying to challenge anyone's beliefs or convictions. I am simply presenting my research. Questions, comments... post as many as you would like, and I will do my best to respond accordingly.
|The Fellowship of the Ring|
The following are links I used as part of my research for this post (other sources are listed in this post):
Thanks for reading!