Thursday, 15 October 2009

Some Quotes from Interviews with J.K. Rowling

Continuing the discussion from previous post, I went in search of some quotes from interviews with J.K. Rowling that have touched on her personal beliefs and her own thoughts about her books.

A very good place to search for such interviews is a webpage called Accio Quote!

First a question and answer from a Comic Relief live transcript from March 2001.

(Comic Relief is one of several charity organisations for children that J.K. Rowling supports. Another one is Children's High Level Group. You can read a bit more about her support of that one in a blogpost of mine at my blog The Island of the Voices from January 2009 about The Tales of Beedle the Bard.)

-Did you read the Narnia books when you were a child?
-Yes I did and I liked them though all the Christian symbolism utterly escaped me, it was only when I re-read them later in life that it struck me forcibly.

Here is a quote from an interview in The Vancouver Sun (British Columbia), October 26, 2000

Harry, of course, is able to battle supernatural evil with supernatural forces of his own, and Rowling is quite clear that she doesn't personally believe in that kind of magic -- ''not at all.'' Is she a Christian?

''Yes, I am,'' she says. ''Which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I've been asked if I believe in God, I've said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what's coming in the books.''


So we talk about power, which seems to be at the basis of the tales: magic power, the power of parents over kids, the struggle between the power of good and the power of evil -- ''yes,'' she says excitedly, ''abuse of power, why people would seek power.''

And here is a summary by Accio Quote of some things she said on MTV (or after the publication of the last book in the series, in 2007.

'Harry Potter' Author J.K. Rowling Opens Up About Books' Christian Imagery."

• Jo thought explicit references to Christianity early on in the story would make the ending too obvious.
• JKR: "Hogwarts is a multifaith school."
• The Matthew 6:21 and 1Corintians 15:26 quotations on his parents' gravestones were meant to symbolize "living beyond death. Living after death." They "sum up" the whole series.
• Harry's struggle with questions about the afterlife begins when Sirius dies.
• The two epigrams at the beginning of Book 7 ("The Libation Bearers" by Aeschylus and William Penn's "More Fruits of Solitude") had been planned since book 2 was published: "I always knew [that] if I could use them at the beginning of book seven then I'd cued up the ending perfectly.... They just say it all to me...."
• Harry's struggle with his beliefs about the afterlife mirrors her own. *

* The quote from William Penn, More Fruits of Solitude
(at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent. In this divine glass they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure. This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.

I would also recommend reading in full the transcript of an interview with J.K. Rowling by Stephen Fry in BBC Radio4 in December 2005 -  "Living with Harry Potter"

JKR: I've taken horrible liberties with folklore and mythology, but I'm quite unashamed about that, because British folklore and British mythology is a totally bastard mythology. You know, we've been invaded by people, we've appropriated their gods, we've taken their mythical creatures, and we've soldered them all together to make, what I would say, is one of the richest folklores in the world, because it's so varied. So I feel no compunction about borrowing from that freely, but adding a few things of my own.

Monday, 12 October 2009

J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis, Myth and Christianity

I recently had a post on my Island of the Voices blog about C.S. Lewis and a quote from his book Mere Christianity. (The first link will take you to that post on my blog; the second to the Wikipedia article on Lewis.) I got a comment from a reader, who had noticed I'm both a C.S. Lewis fan and a J.K. Rowling fan. In this reader's opinion, their respecive writings come from "very different sources". In my opinion, they do not.  It has been some time since I posted anything here, because other things in life and blogworld have been taken priority for a while. But I thought I'd repost my reply about Lewis, Rowling and "myth" here. I hope to get back to the topic another time.

Because I agree with C.S. Lewis, I have no problem with J.K. Rowling. I don't think Lewis would have had either. Rowling too is a brilliant fantasy writer. Lewis in his works used lots of other mythology than Christianity. Think about it: witches, magicians, centaurs, fauns, dragons, giants, talking animals, magic spells, magic objects, enchantments, parallell worlds... Rowling draws from the same sources - Christianity included. The biblical stuff is just not as obvious in the Harry Potter books. People disagree about it. Some don't see it at all. I do. I have read and listened to these books more times than I can count by now. I also discussed them for 2½ years on an internet forum. In fact I would be as bold as to say the Potter world for me personally helped build up my Christian faith rather than tear it down, at a time when I was very tired of what Lewis calls "Christianity-and-water". (See the quotation in The Island of the Voices post.) It gave me a new set of imagery, and challenge for thought. Magic in the Potter books can be used for good or for bad. In much the same way, "spiritual power" can be used in the right way vs misused.

Here's another quote from Mere Christianity , which shows Lewis' views on other mythology:

"Secondly, He sent the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those queer stories scattered all through the heathen religions about a god who dies and comes to life again and, by his death, has somehow given new life to men." (Mere Christianity, Book 2, Chapter 3)

Lewis also somewhere, I don't remember the context, called Christianity "God's true myth". Lewis used old myth to create new myth to illustrate spiritual truth. Rowling does the same thing, in her own way, and for our time. Her myth in my opinion is not opposed to Christianity. It pretty much tells a similar story but in different pictures. She picks a lot from the whole anti-Christ idea in Revelations (Lord Voldemort). Rather brilliantly done in my opinion. And the end of the story is certainly not the victory of evil.


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