Harry Potter as a closet Catholic
A reader writes:
I was driving around today listening to the John Williams soundtrack for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (excellent stuff, BTW) and realized something pretty…well, strange.
Potter authoress Jo Rowling has always been a bit cagey when it comes to discussing religion or her own religious affliation (if any). She once admitted in an interview that she considers herself a Christian, but that’s been about it. Yet take a moment to mull over the following set of facts with me, if you will…
Guy Fawkes, as you probably already know, is the 17th century Roman Catholic who still gets burned in effigy all over England each and every autumn. The real Guy was allegedly responsible for the famous Gunpowder Plot, but the “straw man” who goes up in flames every November 5th is really a symbol for England’s long-lost Catholic past.
The mythological Phoenix is another legendary figure known mainly for going up in smoke. The Greeks believed he was a real bird and that, like Guy Fawkes, he ended his lifespan in a blaze of glory. But unlike Guy Fawkes, the Phoenix was thought to have the power of rebirth. It was believed that he could rise from his own ashes, renewed in youth and vigor, and take to the skies once more. And since then, the Phoenix has been a common symbol for resurrection (notably, in the writings of the Church Fathers) and especially for an unlikely resurrection, hope against hope.
Well, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets our heroic young wizard gets rescued from the forces of darkness at the very last moment, when all hope seems gone by…
a resurrected Phoenix…
…whose name happens to be Fawkes.
Has J.K. Rowling read Cardinal Newman’s famous sermon on The Second Spring, perchance?
Hmmm… I know Rowling has a ton of background in this sort of arcana, but I’m still rather skeptical that she’s really making an appeal for the return of England to the bosom of Holy Church. Still, a fun and imaginative bit of exegesis.