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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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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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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Is Harry Potter a menace to our children’s souls?

Richard Abanes: Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace Behind the Magick, Horizon, 2001.
Connie Neal: What’s a Christian to Do With Harry Potter?, WaterBrook, 2001.

YEARS AGO, as a teen, I heard a man at a church speak on the evils of popular culture. I expected him to rail against the usual suspects — rock and roll, Star Wars, Disney cartoons with grey-bearded magicians in pointed hats — but I was entirely unprepared for when he turned his attention to My Little Pony. Some of these seemingly innocuous toys, he noted, had wings or horns, like the unicorns and flying steeds of Greek myth, and this, he said, was not good. “There’s nothing wrong with ponies,” he said with utter conviction. “God made ponies. But God didn’t make little unicorns.”

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Rowling quickies are reasonable fix for Potter junkies

Quidditch Through the Ages / Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them
J.K. Rowling
Raincoast Books

To the great disappointment of her many young fans, J.K. Rowling has admitted that there will be no new Harry Potter novels this year. Between consulting on the movie version of her first book, due later this year, and promoting her last book, the massive Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, she just hasn’t had time to finish the next installment.

But to keep her readers happy, Rowling has turned out two quickies, a pair of tiny books that are, supposedly, replicas of texts used by the students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And while Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them obviously aren’t as exciting as a new story would be, these books do exhibit the same black humour and cheerful absurdism that make the original novels so much fun to read. They also provide an intriguing glimpse into the history and politics of the wizarding world.

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