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Harry Potter

About the author, Harry,
movies & terminology

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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 the media.

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.

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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 also many 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 school." 11

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.

About 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, Wicca, 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:

Title Movie release date DVD/Video release date Reviewers' average score Running Time Debut Gross revenue Total Gross revenue
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 2001-NOV-16 2002-MAY-28 3.6 / 5 153 min $90.3 $318
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 2002-NOV-15 2003-APR-11 3.2 / 5 161 min $88.4 $262
Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban 2004-JUN-04 2004-NOV-23 4.2 / 5 136 min $93.7 $249
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 2005-NOV-18 2006-MAR-07 A- 157 min $252.0 $892

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 ability.


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 family.


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.


  1. Daniel Zanoza, "The danger of Harry Potter," Chicago Tribune, 2000-JUL-13, at: http://chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/voiceofthepeople/
  2. Matthew Creamer & Thomas Hackett, "Kids, booksellers wild about Harry," Daily News, 2000-JUL-9.
  3. 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: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/articles/
  4. Audrey Woods, "At the heart of Harry," Associated Press, reprinted in Toronto Star, 2000-JUL-7, Page E14.
  5. "Harry Potter banned from school," 2001-JAN-26, Religion Today, at: http://news.crosswalk.com/religion/item/
  6. Paul Gray: "A primer on Harry's world," Time Magazine, 1999-DEP-20, at: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/articles/
  7. "Harry Potter," at: http://www.scholastic.com/harrypotter/books/ 
  8. Pamela Newby, "Harry Potter Controversy," CBN News, at: http://www.cbn.org/newsstand/stories/991020b.asp
  9. Audrey Woods, "At the heart of Harry," Associated Press, reprinted in Toronto Star, 2000-JUL-7, Page E14.
  10. Berit Kjos, "Bewitched by Harry Potter," at: http://www.crossroad.to/text/articles/Harry9-99.html
  11. Judy Blume, "Is Harry Potter evil?," New York Times, Op-Ed page, 1999-OCT-22. Reprinted at: http://www.judyblume.com/articles/harry_potter_oped.html 
  12. Article in USA Weekend for 1999-NOV-12, quoted in Ref. 13.
  13. Lindy Beam, "Exploring Harry Potter's world," Focus on the Family, at: http://www.family.org/pplace/pi/genl/A0008833.html 
  14. A description of the Sigrune is available at symbols.com at: http://www.symbols.com/encyclopedia/
  15. Michael Paulson, "Religious ratings: Christian conservatives prefer Frodo to Harry," Boston Globe, 2001-DEC-27, at: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/361/metro/
  16. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," Focus on the Family, at" http://www.family.org/pplace/pi/films/
  17. Ratings from Movies.com at: http://movies.go.com/

Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" religious topics > Harry Potter > here

Copyright ' 2000 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-JUL-3
Latest update: 2007-FEB-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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