Thursday, August 18, 2005

Magic in the World of Harry Potter


I believe in Magic.

Not the stuff we see on television, and certainly not as it's depicted in movies and most fiction, but it's real, and terribly tricky stuff. There's a lot of Magic in the Bible (and yes, I believe the Bible tells the truth), and it shows up in both good and bad hands. Yet Magic has gone away, for the most part, to be replaced by Technology. I would guess, if I had to, that there is a balnce of some sort, with Magic on one end and Technology on the other. Note that there are always people who seem to be able to use the tools available, and those people who are unable to use what's there.

I've been picking a bit on J.K. Rowling this week, and today is no exception. This is because her work is very good at times, which makes the flaws stand out a bit more. I understand it's tricky, but in the stories, it becomes very difficult to understand how Magic ability is developed. From age 11, young Harry Potter seems able to do amazing, by luck in some places, but by a process undefined in many others, as in his ability to create a Patronus. I find some of this a bit hard to accept; on the one hand, we're always hearing how much study and practice goes into working Magic, whether it's conjuring, drawing up a potion, or recognizing the tools available for a process. The stories make clear that Herry Potter does not study much more than any ordinary student, which (among other things) makes him the object of scorn from Professor Snape. Yet every so often - poof! - Potter is able to get or do what he needs or really wants, whether it's mastering broom flying well enough to play on the Gryffindor Quidditch team his first year, or discovering secrets about the school unknown to students in their last year, and even some of the teachers. How ... convenient. I don't like convenient in a story, when it pops up too often, and it certainly shows up too often in the 'Potter' stories.

Just because I have thought about it some (having played my share of D&D in the old days), I divide Magic into three sorts:

Magic which is contained in an object - and therefore can be used up or worn out, and only does a very limited number of things, and only to a certain degree

Magic which resides in a person - this can be developed, but only with practice, and only up to the limit of a person's ability to control the force and direct it

Magic granted by a patron - This showed up a lot in the Bible, God granting powers when He so desired, to His prophets and seers and leaders.

The more I think about the 'Potter' world, and see the special exceptions made to make Harry Potter succeed with less effort than other people, the more I understand Severus Snape.

'Fifty points from Gryffindor, I think, for playing about with the order of things.'

Snape would have made a fair literary critic, I think.

1 comment:

Ebon said...

You could consider Harry as something akin to Luke Skywalker, talented but raw, heroic but impetuous. Just as Luke progresses at a surprising rate, Harry often pulls out stuff which he shouldn't be able to do (although Luke had far more intensive training, the beloved Yoda).

The interviews I've seen with Rowling make the quality of magic in the Potter-verse rather clearer and explain that it functions in much the same way as The Force (post-midichlorians): An affinity with magic (or The Force) is inborn but on it's own, that won't do much. The talent must be trained and refined before it becomes useful. And then of course, there's the occasional inborn talent that people can just *do*, like the broom flying.

Convienience: I'd actually agree with you on this and it irritates me as well, as does the fact that Harry is constantly at the centre of everything. The most I can say is that the Potter books are written primarily for children who tend not to noticce such things.