Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." Part ONE

It's not often, or ever really, that I talk about religion on here. I have the belief that what you believe is between you and your higher power (or lack of one) and it is rare that someone can change your thought process when it comes to things such as that. However, I am going to share a rather interesting story with you and avoiding religion would be avoiding the topic itself.

For the most part, I gravitate towards the fantasy genre when reading (and generally writing). I like that I can imagine something absolutely untrue and even learn from it. In fantasy, I get to escape everything normal and crazy that could happen to myself or my friends and dive into the world of absolute impossibility where the only limit is your imagination.

I can sometimes find references to the books I've read, to events in my own life which make me smile and remember what it was I loved or learned in that particular book. This has happened a lot with the incredible Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan. There are tons of Greek things that surround us, food, quotes, architecture, etc. So that's no surprise. One book, or series rather, that this doesn't happen as often to me is Harry Potter. I don't know if I just unconsciously don't look for references or if it is because it is set in another country that I have never been to, all I know is zippo refreco. So, imagine for an instance my surprise when I finally have the "connection" moment with this series.

There I am sitting in church (of all places), fiddling with a string on my pants and (I am sorry to say) daydreaming a bit while the choir sings. The priest gets up and begins reading a passage from the bible. I've quoted it.
"Then cometh the end when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put down all enemies under his feet."
Okay, that's fine Father, please read on. (in fact this had me thinking about my book and death-y parts in it)
"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."

Holy priest say what??? REWIND

"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."

Yeah, that's what he said. If you knew me at all, you'd not be surprised that I can quote any Harry Potter book without batting an eye, but the last think I expect is to have it quoted at me, by the Bible no less. (FYI this quote is the quote in the tombstone of Harry's parents in case you didn't pick that up). Well, fine, really it was Harry Potter quoting the Bible, but still a fantasy book quoting the Bible....

Say what?? 

Of course this got me thinking, still in church, what possessed a fantasy writer, generally crucified (no pun intended) by churches for their use of magic ohhhh! in their work to quote the Bible? That I didn't figure out then, and still don't possess the mind power to puzzle out which finally brings me to the topic (and now you know why this is Part ONE of TWO) How does fantasy mix in with religion? Should it? What makes some writers, apparently J.K. Rowling included, include religion in their books and other avoid it?

That is what I'm leaving you to contemplate today. Let me know what you think in the comments and I'll let you know what I think in my next post. Oh, and enter my contest!


Aubrie said...

Wow, I didn't know Harry Potter quoted the bible. I guess we get our material from all types of sources.

Amalia T. said...

Well, I think part of playing with the fantasy world is incorporating a belief system for the characters who are struggling-- it adds another layer of depth, and offers another reason for why the characters are doing what they're doing. Are they defending people because they just think that's the RIGHT thing to do, and where does that knowledge of "RIGHT" come from? Because they're compelled by a higher power? Religion, belief in any god, changes a character and their motivations. Just like the Iliad is not the same story without the gods and goddesses mucking about in the middle of the Trojan War!

Lisa said...

I did the exact same thing when I came across this passage. I nearly jumped out of my skin! It’s interesting that the verse in Corinthians comes in the context of Paul’s discussion on what it means to rise from the dead (fitting for The Boy Who Lived).

If you notice, the quote on the grave of Dumbledore's mother and sister is also from the Bible: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21). This seems to be a Dumbledore’s reminder to himself that the treasures of earth (the accolades and achievements that he was striving for with Grindewald) turned out to be nothing compared to the treasures of the love of family and friends. Perhaps this is the lesson he learned from his sister’s death, to place love over his own ambition.

I could go on and on for days about the religious undertones in Harry Potter (the boy dies and then rises again for goodnessake!). I find it endless fascinating that people villainize J.K. Rowling for writing books about witchcraft, but that they fail to see the extremely moral, extremely Christian stream running through the whole story. Whether or not this is intentional, I don’t know, but I think those two quotes are a little bit of a wink and a nod to the readers. I’d love to hear her talk more about how her faith influenced the books.

Laurel said...

There's a long tradition of "mythmaking" (using story to communicate a complex value system) among Christian writers, and Rowling definitely situates herself among them. Those bible verses are, as Lisa says just clues--the degree to which Christian story is woven through her work would take volumes to describe.

Travis Prinzi at The Hog's Head blog has this podcast and others on the topic of faith in fantasy:
Search "religion" on his site, and you'll find a few other gems on this topic as well.

Bethany Mattingly said...

Aubrie, It would seem so. I didn't realize it either. *shrug*

Amalia, I would totally agree with you. Having some sort of belief system for characters is really important, I just tend to leave out the part of where it came from. I thought a lot of others did as well, but apparently not. Surprise! lol

Lisa, I didn't notice with the Dumbledore family's tombstones but thanks for pointing that out. :) I would love to hear how her faith influenced her as well! I'd love to read more about all the religious undertones you've found in the Harry Potter books, maybe you could do a post on it or something :)

Laurel, Thanks for the link! I can't wait to check it out. I knew a couple other writers who had woven their religious views throughout the story, but for some reason, I only saw a bit of Rowlings and I often wondered if I was just seeing things.

Jen said...

I have to say that I hadn't really thought about religion while reading Harry Potter, it never dawned on me all the religious undertones, it might be because when they first came out my church put a mark on them that they were everything evil. It was my parents who allowed us to read them, and for that we were shunned by the church. Funny how that works isn't it?

I'm a fantasy writer, and I do not make a point or make a point to add religion in my novel, if it happens it happens but completely unintentionally.