Growing up in the world of conservative evangelicalism, it was common practice in my church and among the Christian community to denounce the Harry Potter series as a series of literature that promoted the work of the devil. Magic, spells, transformative powers, potions…all of these things hinted at real black magic and powers derived from forces of evil., I was told. I understand this point of view and think that it is even fairly reasonable.
But one must follow premises to their logical conclusions. If magic is bad because of what it hints at, then any stories that contain traces of magical powers must be off-limits. I wasn’t allowed to watch Disney movies because they had magic in them. I remember, as a middle-schooler, being drawn to fantasy novels, and feeling deep shame and confusion as I read them because I had been told that they were evil things, but I found them so beautiful and wondrous. Ironically, the magic found in the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings series were acceptable, because those stories promoted Christian themes.
In his lecture, “On Fairy-Stories,” J.R.R. Tolkien claims that stories of magic help listeners regain a sense of wonder in the world and recover the recognition of the beauty and luminosity that is lost because we inhabit such a world. The world does not lose its luster; rather, we forget to notice. In his literary criticism of Tolkien’s work, Devin Brown points out that “fairy-stories help us see the things of our world as we were meant to see them, with wonder instead of triteness – to see them afresh, not hidden behind dull familiarity. Through fairy-stories we get back a sense of the sacramental quality in the common, everyday things of creation that surround us” (Brown 178).
To see things through a lens of sparkle and wonder is crucial to living well, to appreciate what is there for the sheer magic of how it came to be. Everything about Christianity bursts with magic. Even the sacraments. To chant liturgy is to speak into belief. Is this so different from a spell, to speak into being? To take communion is to recognize the holy mystery: we become the body of Christ in the world. The sacrament of matrimony is for two to become one. How? How can words we say reach our hearts and change us? How can bread and wine transform us? How can the rite of matrimony combine us?
Mystery and magic. Wonder. Luminosity. We forget these things. I believe fairy tales and stories of magic help us regain a sense of wonder at the world that has been lost through modernity.
In conclusion, parents, teach magic to your children! Read them stories of the extraordinary! Let them wonder at the mysteries of the world, and let them imagine fairies and wizards and spells and the fantastic. It is a grave disgrace that we have so relegated stories of magic to the category of the demonic.