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CHL137: Wednesday, March 12


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Title: CHL137: Wednesday, March 12

CHL137Wednesday, March 12
  • Midterm review
  • Christian symbolism in HP
  • Legend of Vortigern and Merlin

1. Midterm Exam March 17
  • 75 blanks _at_ 2 points each
  • 150 points

Questions will be drawn from
  • Reading,
  • Lecture,
  • Group Presentations,
  • Group Work, and
  • Class Discussions.

Students will be expected to demonstrate
knowledge of
  • Literary terms
  • Concepts discussed in essays weve read
  • Characters, plot elements, and themes in the HP
  • Characters, plot elements, and themes in the
    myths, legends, and folktales weve read and
    learned about in class.
  • Allusions in the HP books

Literary Terms and Concepts
  • Anne Alton wrote an essay describing the ways
    that the books in the Harry Potter series are a
    combination of a variety of ______________________
  • A characteristic of this genre is that writers
    use techniques of realism (like characterization)
    to retell older stories (myths, legends,
    folktales) _____________________________.
  • In our class discussion about character, we
    focused on figuring out whether characters were
    1-dimensional or 3-dimensional and whether they
    were static or _______________________.

  • He did it, he did it! said ________________.
    He knows Im a squib. I dont even know what a
    squib is, said Harry. Rubbish! He saw my
    Kwikspell letter!
  • _________________________________, from British
    legend, pulled a sword from a stone.

  • Professor McGonagalls first name is a reference
    to _____________________, a Roman goddess.
  • Fluffy is a reference to _____________ from
    Greek mythology.

2. Christian Symbolism in HP
  • Weve discussed in class the specific allusions
    (direct and indirect) to Greek and Roman
    mythology, British and European legends, and
    European folk tales.
  • The HP books also contain direct and indirect
    allusions to The Bible.

Good vs. Evil?
  • Isnt that the case in just about EVERY belief
    system ?!
  • Allusions need to be more specific . . .

Some allusions weve already discussed . . .
  • Harry dies and then comes back to life to save
    mankind, like Christ.
  • Voldemorts pet is a serpent, he has sold his
    soul, and he has rejected death (and, therefore,
    an afterlife)
  • D/evil is conquered by love.
  • The Lily is often used as a symbol for the Virgin
    Mary in medieval literature.

But, arent the books satanic and anti-Christian?
  • In his article, Harry Potter and the Fire
    breathing fundamentalists, Christian commentator
    Jerry Bowyer says, "So much of the religious
    right failed to see the Christianity in the
    Potter novels because it knows so little
    Christianity itself . . . The gospel stories
    themselves, the various metaphors and figures of
    the Law and the Prophets, and their echoes down
    through the past two millennia of Christian
    literature and art are largely unknown to vast
    swaths of American Christendom."

He argues that
  • Many readers miss a lot of the allusions to
    Christianity, much in the same way that people
    miss the allusions to myth and legend if they
    dont know the original narratives.
  • Here are some examples . . .

Harrys parents tombstone
  • The last enemy that shall be defeated is
  • (I Corinthians 1526)

Dumbledore's family tomb
  • "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be
  • Matthew 621
  • Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,
    where moth and rust destroy and where thieves
    break in and steal but lay up for yourselves
    treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust
    destroys and where thieves do not break in and
    steal. For where your treasure is, there your
    heart will be also.

Jerry Bowyer also notes that
  • Harrys descent in the Chamber of Secrets and
    rescue by Fawkes is an example of descendit ad
    infernum, the descent into hell.
  • The Proto Evangelium, the first gospel in which
    God told Adam and Eve that He would send Someone
    who would rescue their descendents by crushing
    the head of the serpent.

  • In other words, the Phoenix (as we learned last
    class) is a symbol of Christ.

Jerry Bowyer also writes
  • The most powerful spell in Harrys world is the
    Patronus, in which the wizard forcefully says
    Expecto Patronum. Thats Christian Latin for I
    look for the Savior. . . . Harry uses the spell
    when ghastly evil spiritual beings called
    DEMENtors (caps mine) attack him and another
    innocent man near a lake.

Furthermore, he claims,
  • A stag (which just happens to function as a
    common Christ figure in medieval art) walks
    across the water dispelling the vile
    soul-destroying creatures.

3. Vortigern and Merlin
  • You read about King Vortigern in your course
    packets, which included some bits from Geoffrey
    of Monmouths The History of the Kings of Britain
    (written in 1136).
  • This text combines history with myth and legend,
    piecing together older narratives from various
  • It is one of the main texts that serves as a
    basis for later narratives about King Arthur,
    Merlin, etc.

  • (Possibly) A warlord in Britain during the 5th
    century, who has been elevated to the status of
    evil king through legend.
  • As I tell an abridged version of his story, make
    notes about connections to HP.

One version of the legend (with much detail left
  • Vortigern was King Constans trusted advisor, but
    he tricked Constans out of the crown.
  • He invited a horde drunken Picts (Scottish) to
    London and convinced them to kill the king.
  • When they delivered the head of the king to him,
    he pretended to be horrified and had the Picts
  • He then ordained himself as a Bishop, and crowned
    himself King.

Invites the Saxons
  • When the Picts found out what he had done, they
    started attacking Britain.
  • Vortigern invited the Pagan Saxons (German
    tribes) into Britain (something Geoffrey equates
    with inviting the devil into Britain) to help him
    fight off the Picts.

Rampaging Saxons!
  • After they defeat the Picts, he invites even more
    Saxons into Britain and marries a Pagan girl
    named Rowen (or Rowena, depending on the legend).
  • The Saxons engage in much pillaging and killing,
    so much so that Vortigern is afraid and goes into

Vortigern summons his magicians.
  • They tell him to build a big tower on Mount
  • The masons gathered and began to lay the
    foundations of their tower. However much they
    built one day the earth swallowed up the next, in
    such a way that they had no idea where their work
    had vanished to (course packs 150).

  • The magicians told him to look for a lad without
    a father, and that, when he found one, he should
    kill him, so that the mortar and the stones could
    be sprinkled with the lads blood. (coursepack
  • This boy, who had been teased his whole life for
    being a bastard, was Emrys. Emrys was troubled by
    dreams and often was able to foretell the future
    and predict the weather, gifts that frightened

  • Soldiers bound Emrys and brought him to King
    Vortigern so they could spill his blood to mix in
    with the mortar, but Emrys said, Better that you
    have my dream. Only my dream can guide you so
    that your tower will stand (from Merlin and the
    Dragons by Jane Yolen).

Emryss vision
  • I have dreamed that beneath your tower lies a
    pool of water that must be drained. In the mud
    you will find two hollow stones. In each stone is
    a sleeping dragon. It is the breath of each
    sleeping dragon that shakes the earth and makes
    the tower fall. Kill the dragons and your tower
    will stand (Yolen).

White and Red Dragons
  • The soldiers drained the pool and cracked open
    the stones.
  • Out of one flew a white dragon and out of the
    second a red dragon.
  • The dragons flew into the sky before the soldiers
    could kill them, and began to battle one another.

  • The white dragon killed the red dragon and flew
  • Just so the red dragon of Vortigern shall be
    defeated, Emrys said, but not so loud the High
    King could hear (Yolen).
  • The next day thousands of soldiers, under the
    flag of the white dragon, attacked and killed
    Vortigern, burning him up in his own tower.

  • The boy, Emrys, grew up to be the powerful
    wizard, Merlin.
  • Did you note any connections to the HP novels?