Newsbites: The spin-offs and re-hashes edition!

Remember when there was talk of turning The Tales of Beedle the Bard into a movie? Well, it turns out the inevitable Harry Potter spin-off movie will actually be based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, one of two Hogwarts “textbooks” that J.K. Rowling released in 2001. The book was credited to Newt Scamander, a wizard born in 1897 who worked on his book between 1918 and 1927 — and it sounds like the film will take place during this period.

It’s worth noting that Rowling herself will write the screenplay for this film; all of the previous movies were based on her books but were adapted by other writers. Also, the first film in this new series will be set in New York; it is tempting to suggest that Rowling has finally given in to studio pressure to Americanize her very-British series, but Scamander supposedly traveled “across five continents” to research his book, so this could very easily turn out to be a globe-trotting series like the James Bond or Indiana Jones films.

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Review: Harry Potter more “Christian” than other current children’s best-sellers

harrypotter7-aYOU EXPECT many things when you read a new Harry Potter novel: magic, humour, a set of mysteries, a looming battle between good and evil, even some clunky exposition. But you don’t necessarily expect to see quotes from Christian scripture.

And yet, there they are, on pages 266 and 268 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — the seventh and final installment of J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally popular series about a boy who goes to a school for people born with magical powers.

The book, which runs to 607 pages, is not quite half finished when Harry and his friend Hermione Granger visit a cemetery and see a pair of tombstones. One marks the grave of two relatives of Albus Dumbledore, the wise Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry headmaster who died at the end of the previous book. The other marks the final resting place of Harry’s parents, James and Lily Potter.

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Harry Potter touches on current events, deeper themes

harrypotter6J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Raincoast, 2005.

THIS IS way too eerie. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — in which the war between the evil Lord Voldemort and the forces loyal to Dumbledore really heats up — was released July 16, almost exactly one week after the first terrorist attacks in London. And the first chapter concerns an anonymous British prime minister who wonders why his country has been hit by inexplicable acts of violence during the previous week — also in mid-July.

If it seems like a stretch to look for real-world parallels in the Harry Potter books, well, author J.K. Rowling practically invites them. Not only does the book’s very first paragraph allude to the “wretched” president of “a far-distant country” — no doubt a nod to the attitude some Brits harbour towards the Bush administration — but the story also makes frequent references to the increased security measures at the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, and to the unwarranted imprisonment of innocent civilians.

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Harry Potter’s Christian fans come to his defense

John Killinger: God, the Devil & Harry Potter, St. Martin’s, 2002.
Connie Neal: The Gospel According to Harry Potter, Westminster John Knox, 2002.
John Granger: The Hidden Key to Harry Potter, Zossima, 2002.

CHRISTIAN Harry Potter fans, unite!

It has been over two years since Richard Abanes wrote Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace behind the Magick, a scathing critique of just about everything to do with J.K. Rowling’s bestselling series about an orphaned English boy who goes to a boarding school for witches and wizards.

Since then, no one has really added to Abanes’s criticisms, but quite a few Christians have lined up to defend Rowling and her books against the accusation that they are simply trying to warm children up to the sort of real-life occultic practices that are forbidden in the Bible.

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What Christians Think About Harry Potter

harrypotterIn some Christian circles many people still wonder what to make of the young wizard Harry Potter, whose supernatural adventures have sold more than 100 million novels in 46 languages and set opening-attendance records at the movie theatres. What is the spiritual impact on children?

Harry is an orphan whose parents, a witch named Lily and a wizard named James, died defending him from the evil Lord Voldemort. Harry grows up with hostile relatives who scorn magic and hide the truth about his parents from him. But the week before Harry’s 11th birthday, a flock of owls brings him letters inviting him to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There, Harry and other children who were born with magical abilities study the history of goblins, the mixing of potions, and the taming of fantastical beasts. Harry and his friends also investigate a series of mysteries that tie back to Voldemort.

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Fantasies and fairy tales speak to our spiritual needs

MAGIC is everywhere you look these days. From bookstores to movie theatres, stories about wizards, witches and mythological beasts are all the rage; and for a person like me, who grew up with hobbits, aliens, flying horses and Jedi Knights, the current fantasy craze — and the various Christian responses to it — bring back a lot of memories.

How popular is fantasy right now? The most successful movie of the year (so far) is Shrek, a cheeky parody of the fairy tale genre that turns conventional wisdom about ogres, dragons and beautiful princesses on its head. That film’s box office performance could be surpassed in a few weeks by Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first film based on J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally popular novels about a young orphan and his classmates at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

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