About the author, Harry,
movies & terminology
About the author:
Joanne Rowling (1966-) was raised in a middle-class family in western England.
"The urge to be a writer came to her early during what she describes as
a 'dreamy' internal childhood." 3 She started writing
at the age of six. "She had been a storyteller as a child...and
never really stopped." 9 Her series
of seven books was started after a divorce, when she was otherwise unemployed. "She was
writing a novel for adults when, during a 1990 train ride, [she said that]
'Harry Potter strolled into my head fully formed.' For the next five years Rowling worked on
Book One and plotted out the whole series, which will consist of seven novels,
one for each year Harry spends at Hogwarts [School]. 'Those five years really went into
creating a whole world. I know far more than the reader will ever need to know
about ridiculous details.' " She was living on welfare at the time in
Edinburgh. A rumor that she lived in an unheated apartment is not true.
She did much of her writing in local cafes. Ms. Rowling is now an unusually
successful and rich writer. She earned more than 20 million U.S. dollars in
1999.; Estimates of her eventual income from the
series ranges from 100 to 270 million. She still stores her
notes in a pile of cardboard boxes and writes longhand without benefit of
computer. She has developed the reputation of being reclusive. She claims
that she has been so busy that she cannot afford time for interviews with
Four or five publishing companies rejected her first book. One
advised her that any novel about a boarding school would never sell. Even
if it was produced, publishers predicted that it would never sell very
many copies. They all said that the book, at 309 pages, was much too long
for children to read; her fourth book tops 750 pages! She finally
found a publisher, who attempted to conceal her gender by listing the
author as J.K. Rowling. They were concerned that boys would be biased
against a book written by a woman. Sales of her original book in the
series built up quickly, due largely to word of mouth advertising among children;
there was essentially no advertising budget.
About Harry and his world:
Harry Potter has had an eventful life. He became an orphan at
the age of one when the evil "wizard" Lord Voldemort murdered his
parents. Voldemort (a.k.a. "He-who-must-not-be-named") tried to kill
Harry as well, but succeeded only in scarring Harry's forehead with a
thunderbolt symbol. The evil wizard lost much of his power at that time. Harry
went to live with his uncle in London, England. He was unhappy there. His
guardians, the Dursleys, were cruel; his spoiled cousin bullied him. Harry is
"a skinny kid with glasses, green eyes and an unruly shock of black
hair." 3 Shortly after his 11th birthday,
Harry found out that he "is a wizard of great fame, someone who once
conquered death and crippled a devilish foe." 11 He
was accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, headed by
headmaster Professor Dumbledore. This is a residential school located in a 1,000
year old castle somewhere in the north of England. The school teaches a
seven-year course in magic to a handpicked group of young people that they feel
have great magical potential. The dark Forbidden Forest surrounds the school. Nearby is Hogsmeade, an all-wizard
village where older students are allowed to visit. Potter lives in a world where
muggles (non-Witches) either don't believe in Witchcraft, or hate it as evil,
dangerous and demonic. Harry has two close student friends at Hogwarts: Ron and
Hermione. There is a lovable giant Hagrid with his baby dragon Norbert. There are
non-humans in Harry's life: Buckbeak, a bird-horse capable of flying;
Crookshanks, a feral cat; Dobby, a house elf; Hedwig, his owl and
messenger courier; Scabbers, a pet rat, etc. 12 The world of
wizards is very much low-tech. "Light is provided by torches and heat by
massive fireplaces...a squadron of trained owls flies messages to and from the
Some sources say that Harry Potter's name was inspired by a childhood friend of the author, Ian Potter, who lived just four doors away.
Ian, his sister Vikki, and Jo Rowling used to play together. Other sources say that there is no connection.
Harry's lightning-shaped scar:
Harry picked up a thunderbolt or lightning-shaped scar on his
forehead when he
was only one year of age. It resulted from a violent encounter with the evil
"wizard" Lord Voldemort. Some critics of the Harry Potter book series have
suggested that the scar was derived from the double lightning bolt symbol used by
Hitler's SS. This is extremely doubtful.
Hitler's SS adopted a double lightning symbol for their own use.
Harry's scar is a single lightning bolt. It is unlikely that they are related.
The single lightning symbol is derived from the Germanic Sigrune
-- one of an ancient alphabet of runes. It represents the sound of the letter
"S" in the English alphabet. It was associated with military power, battle and
warfare. None of these themes are seen in the book series.
The symbol is used by professional engineers to represent a heat
source. Enclosed in a box, it is used to refer to a heat or melting oven.
It is used in some military organizations as a symbol for radio
communication. Harry's scar seems unrelated to communication. It seems that the
technology in Harry Potter's wizard world was pre-scientific in nature. They
used owls, not radio transmitters, for communication.
Computer programmers use the symbol to indicate a communication
link -- e.g. a modem and a telephone connection. 14
My personal cell phone battery charger has a Sigrune symbol,
indicating a source of low voltage electrical power.
An almost identical symbol is a Sigrune with a small arrow at
the bottom. It has been used to refer to:
A lightning strike
A high voltage power source.
A general symbol for mythology in some dictionaries
A flashlight or flash bulb in photographic applications
When inverted, the symbol for a TV transmitter on some maps.
There are so many meanings associated with the Sigrune, that it
is unlikely that the author meant that Harry's scar be associated with Nazism.
Just as Freud said "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar," it would seem
likely that Harry's scar is just a harmless lightning bolt symbol. To know the
truth, you would have to ask J.K. Rowling
About the movies:
The first movie, of ''Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's
Stone,'' was released in America on 2001-NOV-16. It had been
released earlier in the UK. It was reported on NOV-11 that its gross income
reached a new record for movie releases in England. By DEC-24, it had grossed
$260 million in the U.S. 15
The movie follows the book very closely. This was probably
necessary, to prevent a revolt on the part of loyal Harry Potter fans. One item
missing was a statement by Professor Dumbledore who said in the
book: "To the well-organized mind, death is just the next great adventure."
The quotation tells nothing of the professor's belief about life after death --
whether he believes that when we die, we go to a heaven and hell, or are
reincarnated, or go to live in an alternative universe, or to reach nirvana, etc.
But some conservative Christians assume that it refers to reincarnation; the
next great adventure is simply to return to earth after death in the body of a
baby and to live another life. Such beliefs, common in Eastern Religions,
other Neopagan beliefs and even early Christianity have been abandoned by
modern-day Christianity in favor of
heaven, hell and perhaps purgatory as the
only possible destinations after death.
Focus on the Family, a Fundamentalist Christian ministry,
takes a generally negative view of the movies and books. Reviewer Lindy Beam states that
the players did not
"subscribe to a consistent [conservative] Christian
worldview. ... we live in a culture that glorifies
and promotes witchcraft and the occult. No matter what the essence of Harry's
magic, the effect of it is undoubtedly to raise curiosity about magic and
wizardry. And any curiosity raised on this front presents a danger that the
world will satisfy it with falsehood before the church or the family can satisfy
it with truth. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone definitely raises those
curiosities. That, accompanied by violent and scary scenes, a few mild
profanities, and hints at moral relativism should be enough to keep
[conservative Christian] families from shouting hurrah for Harry." 16
A summary of Harry Potter
movies to date:
||Movie release date
||DVD/Video release date
||Reviewers' average score
||Debut Gross revenue
||Total Gross revenue
|Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
||3.6 / 5
|Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
||3.2 / 5
|Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban
||4.2 / 5
|Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Revenues are in millions of U.S. dollars.
Reviewers' average score is computed by Movies.com 17
Some of the terms used in the books are:
Bertie Bott's Every flavor beans: a candy with
multiple tastes, from chocolate to tripe; earwax to peppermint.
Dementors: horrible hooded apparitions; they
are referred to as "soul suckers;" they can suck the
joy out of life. They can be defeated by concentrating on a happy
event in one's life, and by casting a wand spell.
Magic: the use of spells, incantations, rituals,
tools, etc. to change the environment, heal people, etc. It has no connection
to sleight of hand tricks, stage magic, etc.
Magical Quill: a writing instrument which detects
the birth of each magical child and writes their name down in a book.
Muggle: a non-wizard; a person with no magical
Nimbus Two Thousand, Firebolt: Brand names of
high-quality flying brooms.
Parselmouth: a wizard that can talk to a snake.
Quidditch': a popular sport in which two seven-member
teams of wizards fly on their brooms at elevations of 50 feet or more, and
try to push four balls between six pairs of goal posts. The name of the game
might possibly have been derived by the author (consciously or
unconsciously) from "Qaddish," a Hebrew prayer recited by
mourners after the death of a loved one or family member.
Seeker: the fastest player on a Quidditch team.
Sorcerer: A person who uses magic to change
the environment; a synonym for wizard. It is a neutral term when used
in the Potter books: Voldemort is an evil sorcerer; Harry is a
sorcerer who symbolizes good.
Squib: a child without magical abilities who is born into a magic
Thunderbolt: a jagged symbol representing a bolt of
lightning; a symbol used by wizards. By 1999-SEP, 650,000 thunderbolt tattoos
had been shipped to U.S. bookstores. 4
Wizard: a person with magical powers. They typically
have a longer life expectancy than muggles.
Daniel Zanoza, "The danger of Harry Potter,"
Chicago Tribune, 2000-JUL-13, at:
- Matthew Creamer & Thomas Hackett, "Kids,
booksellers wild about Harry," Daily News, 2000-JUL-9.
- Paul Gray: "Wild about Harry: The exploits of a young wizard have
enchanted kids and adults alike and brought a new kind of magic to
children's literature," Time Magazine, 1999-SEP-20. See:
- Audrey Woods, "At the heart of Harry,"
Associated Press, reprinted in Toronto Star, 2000-JUL-7, Page E14.
- "Harry Potter banned from school," 2001-JAN-26, Religion
- Paul Gray: "A primer on Harry's world," Time Magazine,
- "Harry Potter," at:
- Pamela Newby, "Harry Potter Controversy," CBN News, at:
- Audrey Woods, "At the heart of Harry,"
Associated Press, reprinted in Toronto Star, 2000-JUL-7, Page E14.
- Berit Kjos, "Bewitched by Harry Potter," at:
- Judy Blume, "Is Harry Potter evil?," New York Times, Op-Ed page,
1999-OCT-22. Reprinted at:
- Article in USA Weekend for 1999-NOV-12, quoted in Ref. 13.
- Lindy Beam, "Exploring Harry Potter's world," Focus on the
- A description of the Sigrune is available at symbols.com
- Michael Paulson, "Religious ratings: Christian conservatives
prefer Frodo to Harry," Boston Globe, 2001-DEC-27, at:
- "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," Focus on the Family,
- Ratings from Movies.com at:
Copyright ' 2000 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2000-JUL-3
Latest update: 2007-FEB-02
Author: B.A. Robinson