Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Symbolism of Beasts in Harry Potter

Which is your favorite Harry Potter beast? They all have a symbolic meaning says John Granger in Christianity Today. He spells it out for each in the article.
For most of us, the connection between an animal and its symbolic quality is pretty clear. A dog embodies and radiates the virtue of loyalty; a cat, feminine beauty and grace; a lion, power and majesty; an eagle, freedom; and a horse, nobility.

But the animals in Harry Potter are not your conventional domestic pets or zoo beasts. Rowling has a rich imagination and a special fascination for fantastic beasts; she has even written a Hogwarts "schoolbook," Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, cataloging her favorites, A to Z. Are these products of her imagination symbols in the way eagles and lions are symbols? ...

Many of the animals in Harry Potter are Rowling's own inventions (although the Acromantula reminds Tolkien fans of the giant spider Shelob and of the den of spiders in The Hobbit). However, let's focus on traditional symbols from European literature because of the wealth of references that support the interpretation of their supernatural qualities. If there is a single giveaway of the Christian meaning in Harry Potter, it is in the uniform meaning of the symbols. The magical creatures and figures we will look at more closely are the griffin, the unicorn, the phoenix, the stag, the centaur, the hippogriff, and the red lion. Each is a traditional symbol of arts and letters used to point to the qualities and person of Christ.

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