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Objections to Magic/Fantasy elements

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RyanBruner

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Something to keep in mind...the kind of magic portrayed in Harry Potter is NOTHING like what the Bible speaks against.  It is talking about Pagan religions, for one.  But also the word that is translated as "sorcerer" in scripture really means something closer to a false prophet.  The Bible isn't talking about someone who conjures up spells...but does "arts" associated with idolatry.  It also refers to someone who might be referred to as an alchemist, of sorts....using drugs, etc.

The problem, as I see it, with HP is that it kind of blurs the lines to Christian kids as to what scripture is talking about.  Sure, the kids know it is all fiction...but when they read scripture and it speaks against witchcraft and sorcery, you might lead them to a place of now saying it is okay to question and even ignore parts of the Bible. 

As such, I think it is important for your children to be old enough to understand the distinction...and then your job, as their parent, to  make sure they understand it.  If you, as a parent, can't explain why it is okay for HP but not in the Bible, then perhaps you should rethink allowing them to read it until you can explain it yourself. 

I think HP is great literature.  I love it. It is full of religious symbolism (something I blogged about some time ago, in fact).  But we haven't yet let our kids read it. There is plenty else out there that doesn't introduce such confusions.  When they are a bit older, yes.  But not yet.

A problem with the quote mswatkins gave from the friend?  When you read scripture, you aren't talking about Church approval...but God's word.  God speaks out against witchcraft, etc.  It isn't a matter of the church approving or not.  God set the standard.  This is different from cases where those within the church DO set rules, etc., outside the mandates of scripture. 

Where the gray line is, in the case of HP, is NOT whether the Bible is okay with witchcraft or not...that is 100%...it is if what the HP books portrays is, in fact, the kind of witchcraft that the Bible is talking about.  I contend it is not.

#121 - May 12, 2008, 05:24 AM

mswatkins

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Ryan - That's very true.  The Bible does say that, but it's when the Church gets involved that things get messy.  I have loads of problems with many Christians, and many Churches, but I have no problem with God.  There is a difference and you nailed with the Church rules comment. 

#122 - May 12, 2008, 02:04 PM

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Stepping in with my administrator hat on--

So far, so good, folks; but as always when we're talking religion, please make sure to play nice.

Anne Marie
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#123 - May 12, 2008, 05:09 PM
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Um, yah. I started to chime in, but thought better of it. Thanks for the affirmation I should probably stay out of this one! :)

Hugs,
Donna
#124 - May 12, 2008, 07:20 PM
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I have taught in Christian schools. The objection to magic comes from two passages in the Book of Revelation.

Revelation 21:6-8   He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars - their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

Revelation 22:14-16  "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."
#125 - May 12, 2008, 08:29 PM
« Last Edit: May 12, 2008, 08:32 PM by Nora »

I've heard the comment that violence in classic cartoons is okay for kids because it's of a variety that's impossible for a child to emulate--like dropping a safe on someone's head. As a Christian, I tend to follow this idea in my writing. The fantastical/magical elements that I use are those that aren't related to real-life magic/sorcery/witchcraft and aren't, IMO, dangerous to emulate. Seems like that's what a lot of people are saying in this thread.
#126 - June 08, 2008, 05:23 PM
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Theo

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First, I'll admit I haven't read this whole thread.  Still, I have a question that has always puzzled me about the attitudes of many rigid, fundamentalist Christian types.  I have heard many rant against the evils of magic.  Yet, they believe in grace.

Frankly, I can't see much difference between grace and magic ... both are evoked by incantations and ritualistic deeds.

Can anyone explain what makes one evil and one not -- other than the intentions of the practitioner?
#127 - June 08, 2008, 07:38 PM

First, I'll admit I haven't read this whole thread.  Still, I have a question that has always puzzled me about the attitudes of many rigid, fundamentalist Christian types.  I have heard many rant against the evils of magic.  Yet, they believe in grace.

Frankly, I can't see much difference between grace and magic ... both are evoked by incantations and ritualistic deeds.

Can anyone explain what makes one evil and one not -- other than the intentions of the practitioner?

The difference between grace and magic is in to whom you are appealing.  I respectfully disagree that prayer is an incantation or a ritualistic deed.
#128 - June 09, 2008, 05:33 AM
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 :cop2 Putting on my moderator hat for a moment...

I'd just like to stick my nose in at this point and remind everyone how sensitive this subject is... and to thank you all for keeping the discussion to the issues and for not letting personalities get into it. You are all wonderful!

And just for the record, it's perfectly okay for a thread to wander off in directions other than where the first poster of the thread meant it to go. The person who starts a thread is not at all responsible for where it ends up and as long as it stays within the good taste and fair play guidelines of this message board, it doesn't matter where it goes. This has been an interesting discussion! :moose

Verla Kay (taking off my moderator hat, now)
#129 - June 09, 2008, 06:19 AM
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RyanBruner

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First, I'll admit I haven't read this whole thread.  Still, I have a question that has always puzzled me about the attitudes of many rigid, fundamentalist Christian types.  I have heard many rant against the evils of magic.  Yet, they believe in grace.

Frankly, I can't see much difference between grace and magic ... both are evoked by incantations and ritualistic deeds.

Can anyone explain what makes one evil and one not -- other than the intentions of the practitioner?

Grace isn't something someone invokes or requests, but is, instead, something given freely and undeserving.  Grace has absolutely nothing to do with anything I do or say or don't do or don't say.  If it did, it would cease to be grace.

If, by saying, it is evoked by incantation or deeds you are talking about prayer and words, that isn't correct either.  Prayer is seen as a means of communicating with God.  While some try to use prayer to "barter" with God, that isn't the purpose.  The purpose is to humble oneself and bring your fears, feelings, trials, triumphs, everything to God. In any case, prayer isn't, again, like magic. 

Fundamentally, the issue against magic is because, first and foremost, the Bible speaks against it.  Why?  It doesn't go into it fully.  But fundamentally, I think it has to do with calling upon powers beyond the natural in a way that is outside God's will. And from the perspective of Christianity, anything that is supernatural that is not from God must be of Satan, even if not explicitly called so by the person invoking that magic.  (In other words, a person may not even BELIEVE in Satan, but from the perspective of Christianity, anything done "magically" would have to haven granted by Satan and his spiritual forces in the world. 

I'm not sure if that was clear enough to explain the difference.
#130 - June 09, 2008, 01:01 PM

Lastel

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Something to keep in mind...the kind of magic portrayed in Harry Potter is NOTHING like what the Bible speaks against.  It is talking about Pagan religions, for one. 

Speaking as a Pagan I can say emphatically that no, it is not. Not in the least bit. :P However, I agree with a lot of what you said. Children, whether they are Christian or not, need to be old enough to understand before reading something like this. I personally love this series, but I will not allow my children to read the books (granted my oldest is 6 and couldn't read some of it anyway) or view any of the movies past number three because the series takes a darker turn after that. The war, the deaths, etc. i feel the movies are very harmless fun until Number 4.
#131 - July 09, 2008, 02:18 PM

Lastel

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Beyond the Harry Potter element, I am starting my first MG novel (hopefully to become a series, but we'll see how the first few drafts go.) and I actually intend to use elements of Wicca and Pagaism in my story. And yes, Wicca and Paganism are similar, but not the same thing. Think Catholics and Christians. Same, yet very differant. Also I will note that Paganism is in no way related to Satanism like so many are led to believe.

Rather than shy away from and avoid controversy I am just going to ignore it and put it out there. I personally do not care what people think about any elements of faith I put into a book. My story is a work of pure fiction. The people in it are not following some evil cult. They will not be depicted as doing religious devotions. They are just following a life style that teaches harmony with self, others, and the world around them. I do not see anything harmful in that at all.
#132 - July 09, 2008, 02:32 PM

ccory

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For what it's worth, my fundamentalist Christian brother (his family home schools because of objections to public school) is completely hooked and into The Lord of the Rings.  His children have read the books and watched the movies repeatedly. No big surprise there, I guess, given the stature in Christian circles of J.R.R. Tolkein.  My only observation is this: the very same elements that are found objectionable in the Harry Potter series are found acceptable in Tolkein's trilogy. . . .the difference, it seems, is the perceived Christian message in the latter.  Of course, the Chronicles of Narnia has plenty of magic, too.

Good luck with your work.

Carolyn
#133 - July 09, 2008, 04:53 PM

RyanBruner

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Carolyn:

Not to be argumentative, but the comparison to Lord of the Rings isn't quite right.  Lord of the Rings doesn't "glorify" (as some might say) magic.  It doesn't encourage it.  It doesn't celebrate it in any fashion, unlike Harry Potter.  Magic is, primarily, portrayed in a negative light.  The exception being Gandalf, who is portrayed in an almost angelic, even Messianic light.  In that regard, it isn't meant to symbolize magic, but the supernatural...that is, except Tolkien would deny Gandalf is a Messiah figure.  Still, the "magic" he uses is quite restrained.  So, the "only difference" isn't, as you say, the perceived Christian message.  Actually, there is more Christian message in Harry Potter than there is in Lord of the Rings, since Tolkien didn't set out to tell any kind of allegory. 
#134 - July 09, 2008, 08:05 PM

... since Tolkien didn't set out to tell any kind of allegory. 

Is it okay if I tangent for a moment?

I know LotR isn't supposed to be a straight allegory, but I've heard it said that Tolkien, instead of using only one of his characters to be a Christ figure, used all of his "good" characters to portray a different Christ-like characteristic--Aragorn is the rightful king, Gandalf is powerful/magical, Frodo is innocent, etc.
#135 - July 09, 2008, 10:08 PM
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I find the fundamentalist Christian dichotomy between LOTR and HP interesting (and inexplicable). Overt Christian elements abound in HP (um, forest scene, anyone?), much more so than in LOTR. Sure, Gandalf "comes back," but that's only one element of the story, and not the main element, either. And Frodo basically sacrifices himself to get rid of this ring, but in the end, he's not actually the one who does it (hope that doesn't spoil it for anyone, but if you don't know how it ends after it's been out 40 years, I can't help you!) I don't mind my kids reading either series, although I draw the line at watching the films at #4 for HP (my kids are young, and there are some dark/creepy elements at the end there!). The films of LOTR, IMO, are way too creepy and violent for kids. (Although I must say they are excellently done, and for the right audience, they are perfect.)

Anyway, I have always wondered why LOTR is so much more acceptable. I guess some people think magic is glorified in HP and not in LOTR (to which I don't agree--I find they both operate under their respective systems of magic within the story). Maybe because Tolkein was very open about his Christian beliefs, whereas Rowling tends to be more private about hers? Maybe because LOTR is 40+ years old, and HP is current? I don't know. But I find that whether you're going for just a wonderful reading experience or reading experience + deep Christian overtones, you kind of have to include the full British trio--Tolkein, Lewis, and yes, Rowling.
#136 - July 09, 2008, 10:38 PM

ecb

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Maybe b/c Harry Potter is about *kids?*  Add in all the defiance of authority there, and one can see why it starts to bother some parents.
#137 - July 10, 2008, 11:10 PM

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Hm, maybe so. (If so, I must be a weirdo--I'd rather my kids recognize what's right and wrong and have the courage to do what's right, even when so-called authority figures are the ones in the wrong, than blindly following someone like Umbridge, just because she's an adult/government person/teacher.) DH thinks maybe the good/evil dichotomy is more clear-cut in LOTR as well, whereas in HP, part of the point is that everyone's got a mix of good and bad in them, and you can't judge people (although the choices you make ultimately determine what kind of person you are/which side you end up on). A much more sophisticated way of approaching the whole thing, if you ask me.
#138 - July 10, 2008, 11:52 PM

RJ_Anderson

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Oh, but it's not, it's not (re the good-evil dichotomy being more obvious in LotR). The House of Denethor makes that quite clear, I think -- also Frodo's struggle against the overwhelming temptation of the Ring. Sure, Sauron and his henchmen are obvious baddies, but then so are Voldemort and his followers. And if Gollum isn't a mixed-up character with both horrible and wrenchingly human qualities, I don't know who is.
#139 - July 11, 2008, 05:39 AM

Christye

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Hi!  This is a good question.  I'm interested in reading the other replies.

I'm in an odd place.  I am , what most people would call "a conservative Christian" but I don't hold to the "no magic" in fiction side of the spectrum.  As a matter of fact, I mostly write fantasy. 

The people who I know who are opposed to magic in fantasy feel that things such as magic, dragons and the like are associated with "evil"  And hey, if they are uncomfortable with it, they don't have to read it.  To each his own.  It's their way of wanting to keep their minds and hearts pure and good.  That's something I can respct.

I also want to keep my heart and mind pure and filled with good, not evil, but for me, magic in fantasy literature doesn't do that for me.  It does the opposite.  It helps me contemplate allegorize and think through real life challenges in an abstract way.  It helps me work things out in my mind, especially in the spiritual sense. 

So, I think it mostly comes from a perspective on how it effects a persons thinking.  Though I don't hold this view and I write fantasy, I respect their viewpoint.  I also think that perhaps most do not understand that fantasy literature can be a way of working out and thinking through tough issues in an abstract way.

hope that helps

Christy
http://ChristysCreativeSpace.blogspot.com
#140 - July 11, 2008, 06:30 AM

RJ_Anderson

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Beautifully said, Christy -- and that's coming from someone who is in that very same "odd place" you describe. I feel the same way: my father is a full-time preacher and we belong to a church that takes the Bible very seriously as the Word of God, yet I grew up hearing my father read Lewis and Tolkien out loud to our family, and reading fairy tales and mythology by the cartload for myself. So I was absolutely flummoxed when I first encountered the attitude that Christians shouldn't read fantasy and that fairy-tale magic was the same as the occult. I respect the consciences of those who feel that way and wouldn't try to force them to read things they are uncomfortable with; but at the same time, I totally disagree.
#141 - July 12, 2008, 08:50 AM

Donna Farley

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Re: Lord of the Rings, there is a great book called _SECRET FIRE_, which talks about the religious content of Tolkien's Middle Earth. I'm pasting in a blog post I did about this, but if you want the links you can get them at my blog here:
http://storyspell.blogspot.com/2007/02/light-in-darkness.html


In my first entry in this blog, I noted that stories that refresh the spirit are not always all sweetness and light. Some people think that darkness makes the light brighter-- but really, it is only that our perception is altered. Daylight we generally take for granted; just as we take food for granted until we fast to the point when we can actually feel our hunger again. As for darkness, however-- we can take it for eight hours or so in our own beds; but let an unexpected blackout fall and we become anxious until we can find the flashlight and turn its comforting beam on.

In pre-Edison times, the moon had a significance for people, especially travellers, that we postmoderns simply cannot fathom. When my elder daughter was about a year old, her father and I showed her a bright rising moon out the kitchen widow one night. She gasped and cried out "DA MOON!", instantly smitten, and we suddenly understood how the ancients fell into worshipping the lamp of the night. A light that shines in the darkness arrests our attention with its beauty and scatters the evil things of night.

Galadriel's phial plays this vital role in The Lord of the Rings. This book, perhaps the most influential fiction of the 20th Century, is a rich, deep lode of refreshment for the spirit, and this will surely not be the last time I blog about it. But it is, in many places, a very dark book indeed, and the darkness is at its deepest in Shelob's lair. And this is just where the light of Eärendil's star, caught in Galadriel's phial, shines out to wound the nightmare spider.

There is much more to the story of Eärendil, and I haven't room for more than a little here. The tale is to be found in the Silmarillion, Tolkien's pre-history/mythology of Middle Earth. A partial summary, from Stratford Caldecott's Secret Fire: The Spiritual Vision of J.R.R. Tolkien:

"....Eärendil is permitted to plead before the Valar on behalf of all the free peoples of Middle-earth. His plea is answered, and the Valar descend upon Middle-earth in a war of wrath that destroys the power of [the personification of evil in Middle-earth ] Morgoth. The Silmaril is set upon the brow of the immortal Eärendil as he sails the darkness of space in a silver ship fasioned for him by the Valar. "

Further exploration of Caldecott's excellent study reveals the seed of Eärendil in the work of Anglo-Saxon poet Cynewulf's "Crist":

Eala Earendel engla beorhtast
ofer middangeard monnum sended!
Hail Earendel, brightest of angels,
above the middle-earth sent unto men!

In the Book of Lost Tales, we find Tolkien's own song to the Morning Star:

"Earendel arose where the shadow flows
at Ocean's silent brim;
through mouth of night as a ray of light
where the shores are sheer and dim
he launched his bark like a silver spark from the last and lonely sand...."

"It is in this form," Caldecott concludes, "as a beam of light from the Morning and Evening Star, captured in a crystal phial, that the same light much later comes to Fodo as a gift from...Galadriel." This is the light that shines for our hobbit heroes as "A light when all other lights go out."

Light runs like a bright thread through the often-dark history of Middle-earth, as it does in so many of the great stories of our darkened universe.
Posted by matushkadonna at 9:29 AM 

[is this too long to post on a discussion thread? I've made the opposite mistake of just directing people to my blog before]
#142 - July 12, 2008, 12:56 PM

Quote
Since the thread has been bumped, I thought it might be interesting to share a review that CURSE recieved this week:

http://www.thelionscall.com/articles/reviews.cfm

Elizabeth, I couldn't respond to the review until I'd read the book, but I have to say I'm puzzled by some of the things the reviewer is saying. I had to wonder, did she READ the book, or just skim through parts of it willy nilly?

As for me, I got totally absorbed in your story and its world, and what would happen next and what would Charlotte DO? I had to stay up late to finish!

Spoiler Alert on "A Curse as Dark as Gold"
The reviewer was obviously very offended by occult elements used in the story, but she totally MISSED the whole point that the main character, Charlotte, was trying to GET RID of superstitions and occult objects. For example, she tried to paint over the hex sign repeatedly. She was very reluctant to get involved with Jack Spinner at all, but did so because her sister, Rosie, was desperate to give him a try. Having a moral problem with Rosie's use of magic is one thing, but lumping Rosie and Charlotte together was not fair. Also, the way she resolves the situation at the end is done with a finality so that she will never NEED to use any "magic" again.

The reviewer also "judged" Charlotte for lying to her husband. Charlotte was trying NOT to lie, but she wasn't ready to tell him the truth. Her lies mainly consisted of trying to have him think things were okay and under control, which is how their relationship started to begin with. Lots and lots of women try to paint a rosier picture of life to their lovers than what actually exists. Anyways, the good news is that she learns the value of trusting him at the end. Isn't that partly why we read stories? A character has a flaw that she's blind to and finally learns to change and grow?

The reviewer then "judged" Charlotte's husband for leaving them. Excuse me? His job was in another town, and given the frustrations he was feeling at home, he decided to stay away at his job longer (indefinitely). He did NOT truly leave his wife and child; he still remained husband and father and came back immediately the next time he was sent for (near the end of the story). His faithful love for his wife and child is powerfully shown at that time.

And finally, a REAL reader would know that when Charlotte asked Jack Spinner for more time, she was certainly not wrestling over what choice to make: shall I give him the mill or give him my child? Are you kidding me? Of course, Charlotte would not choose the mill over her child. She asked for the extra time to see if she could figure out a way to save BOTH. And she finally took a first step in getting to the root of problem, the curse itself, by asking Biddy Tom about how to get rid of a curse. And then she set about doing it. She wasn't just committed to saving her son and the mill; she was committed to saving any other sons that she or her sister would bear ... and their daughters' sons ... for all time. Isn't that the greatest values of Christianity: sacrifice and redemption? And in addition, trust and mercy and forgiveness, beautifully demonstrated at the end, not just by the main character, but by Randall and others!

The reviewer DID say the romance in the story was sweet and it was. At least she got something of the story, but she missed an awful lot.
#143 - July 19, 2008, 10:06 AM
« Last Edit: July 21, 2008, 04:35 PM by hazelnut »

ecb

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Wow.  Hazelnut, you are my hero. :werd
#144 - July 20, 2008, 01:29 PM

ECB, you're welcome. Every book deserves book reviews that portray it accurately and non-superficially, and your book really deserved MUCH better in that review. And just for the record, I'd have given it five stars. * * * * *
#145 - July 21, 2008, 06:13 AM

Nice, Hazelnut!

(You might want to add a spoiler alert to your post for the folks who haven't read CURSE yet.)   :D
#146 - July 21, 2008, 12:28 PM

Quote
(You might want to add a spoiler alert to your post for the folks who haven't read CURSE yet.)   

Done!
#147 - July 21, 2008, 04:36 PM

Oh, dear. My extreme nerdy-ness is about to show.

Humans did not use magic in TLOTR. The wizards Sauron, Gandalf and (my favorite) Radagast, were Maiar—of the same order as the Valar, but with less power. (Mailar and Valar are angelic powers that went into the world to complete its development after it was sung into being.)

From Tolkein's Notes on W.H. Auden's reveuw of The Return of the King (pages 238-244 of 'The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien') speaking of Sauron: "But he went further than human tyrants in pride and lust for domination, being in origin an immortal (angelic) spirit.  In the Lord of the Rings the conflict is not basically about 'freedom', though that is naturally involved. It is about God, His sole right to divine honour."

TLOTR was, in Tolkien's words, ""a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision."

Without a good understanding of the Catholic faith, you will miss so much cool stuff  in TLOTR.

But it will still be a good story.  :moose

eab
#148 - January 08, 2010, 02:15 PM

sary

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Wow.  I just read this whole thread, and obviously I'm quite late to it, but I found it very relevant.

The reason it's relevant to me is because the novel I'm just finishing up is from the point of view of a child whose family is Pagan. There is nothing fantasy/magical in this novel -- at least not in the Harry Potter sense.  The child does spells and uses divination tools, but in the same way a Christian child might use prayer. It's part of her religion.

Given that the magic in my novel is "real" witchcraft, how much of an uphill battle is it likely to be getting this book out there?
#149 - January 08, 2010, 06:15 PM

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Auntybooks, you are totally speaking my language! After LOTR itself, my next favorite book is Tolkien's letters--LOTR nerds unite! (Of course, if you haven't studied Old English and Old Norse, you're missing out on a whole different set of cool stuff.)
#150 - January 08, 2010, 07:14 PM

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