Editorial: Symbolism in The Deathly Hallows

You are either a Harry Potter fan or not, but either way here are some interesting things to look for in the book (and film) series that may prompt discussion.

There are two major Christian themes running through the series that are continually referenced: Love and Redemption. In the first book we learn that Harry was saved from a fatal death curse as an infant because his mother gave her life for his. Her sacrificial love caused the curse to rebound on his greatest enemy, Lord Voldemort.

Seven years later in the Deathly Hallows this comes full circle when Harry realizes in order to defeat his adversary, he must die. Even though he has control of the Deathly Hallows and could be the most powerful wizard in the world, he goes to his fate at the hands of his enemy, a temporary victory that causes much rejoicing among the followers of the Dark Lord. But what they do not know is that sacrificial love transcends death. Harry continues to live. He is dead merely for a short time before he returns and defeats Voldemort.

While the series is not an allegory no one can argue with the obvious symbolism of Christ and Satan, a theme building on an emphasis of love throughout the story. It is sacrificial love that permits Harry to live in the first place, sacrificial love from his friends that allows him to succeed, and sacrificial love that allows another character to experience true redemption. (If you have not read the books and are unaware of the twist in the final installment, stop reading here. But if you are curious, continue on.)

One of the most ambiguous and sinister figures in the mythology is Severus Snape, a professor at Hogwarts who seems to have a particular hatred for Harry Potter. From their first meeting on, the two hold discernable contempt for one another, a rivalry eventually shown to be the result of the way Snape was treated at the hands of Harry’s father during their adolescence. Readers were uncertain who to believe when it came to Snape… could Dumbledore be trusted in saying Snape was on their side, or was he an agent of the Dark Lord?

In The Deathly Hallows, we learn the surprising truth about Snape. Lily’s death not only saved Harry that night, but saved him, too, in a far different way. Her son’s life was preserved but Snape began to regain his soul. In his youth, when Voldemort was gaining influence, Snape joined his ranks and became one of his most loyal servants. It soon came to their attention that it had been prophesied a child would be born to defeat Voldemort. In an attempt to thwart fate, the Dark Lord went in search of this boy—Harry Potter, intending to kill him. (Sound familiar?) Out of love for Lily, Snape went to Dumbledore to protect them, but could not prevent them from being found. Her death led to his redemption, for he realized what Voldemort truly was and to protect her son, changed his allegiances. His death, and Harry learning the truth of his allegiances, is one of the most powerful and moving exchanges in the series, reminding us that love conquers all.

Debate continues to rage over whether or not these tales are appropriate for Christian readers, but one thing remains evident: its truths are profound, its messages of love, sacrifice, and redemption evident and its religious symbolism apparent, as we find inscribed on the headstone of the Potters, “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). ♥

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