How Harry Cast His Spell

How Harry Cast His Spell: The Meaning Behind the Mania for J.K. Rowling’s Bestselling Books
By John Granger
Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2008
Review by Carl McColman

Finally, a book about Harry Potter, written from a Christian perspective, that doesn’t just get into hysterical anti-witchcraft paranoia! This is a revision of Granger’s earlier book, Looking for God in Harry Potter, which was published before the final Potter book was released last year. So this new edition reviews all seven of Rowling’s books, and situates the Harry Potter story in the context of the Christian (yes, Christian) English literary tradition. Granger makes the case that Christians need to regard all the oogie-boogie elements of Potter-world (the witchcraft, magic, etc.) as simply a literary device — that the real point behind these books is the struggle of good versus evil, the meaning of sacrifice, and the postmodern condition of trying to find faith in a world that does not support it. Granger deftly points out how Rowling uses not only Christian allegorical symbolism, but alchemical symbolism throughout the series, and makes the case that the “alchemy” of Harry Potter is a grand metaphor for the Christian spiritual life. It’s engaging and easy to read, and shows once and for all that Rowling deserves to be classified alongside Tolkien and C.S. Lewis as Britain’s leading authors of Christian-friendly fantasy literature.

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About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • zoecarnate

    Well, once I actually read the Potter series (I know, I know!), this sounds like the one Christian interpretive companion to have.

  • Carl McColman

    Very much so. I learned a lot from it, and really felt that the author does a good job at honoring the riches of orthodox Christianity while also appreciating the artistry in Rowling’s literary vision. Granger’s is an orthodox Christianity, but not a narrow one.

  • Matthew Smith

    “Granger makes the case that Christians need to regard all the oogie-boogie elements of Potter-world (the witchcraft, magic, etc.) as simply a literary device” – I think there’s a danger here of encouraging a certain kind of shallow thinking that happens a lot with Christians: the idea that something – an object – is either Christian or non-Christian. This divide is unhelpful and while I love Harry Potter, I don’t like to try and reduce them to being Christian allegories. They are stories about Harry Potter which happen to have a lot of Christian symbolism and meaning that aligns well with Christianity. Why do we have to somehow bring the books into this dualist framework of things that are “safe for Christians to consume” and those which are not?

  • Carl McColman

    Great questions, Matthew. I certainly enjoyed the Potter books long before I knew of John Granger and his declaration that they are “safe” for Christians to read. I personally think that Christianity is not so much about protecting ourselves from the dark places of the world, but rather about exploring those very dark places within us, bringing the light of grace and love into the darkness for the purpose of healing and transformation. With that perspective, this false dualism of “safe” and “not safe” pretty quickly loses its punch.
    That said, there are alas plenty of Christians who remain scared of the dark and who have been led to believe that Harry Potter is dark indeed. So hurray for John Granger who is gently coaxing those folks into a place where they can lay down their fear and discover that there’s plenty of light in these books.
    Incidentally, Granger himself would, I think, object to the idea that the Potter books are Christian allegories, just as Tolkien and Lewis made the same objections regarding their fantasies. Rather, Rowling makes deft use of Christian symbolism as she tells her story. I suppose my use of the word “allegorical” in the review conveys a false impression.

  • phoenixweasley

    I am a long-time fan of John Granger’s works and have even been to a couple of his lectures at Harry Potter fan conventions. This is a very good book, as are all of the books by Granger that I have read.

    You might be interested in the book that I’ve written called “The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter” which is available at and at In this book I have made a lot of comparisons between the fiction of both Lewis and Tolkien and that of J. K. Rowling. Like Mr. Granger, I have given several lectures on this topic at various conventions, which you can read about on my blog at