Life Lessons From Harry Potter
The books can help kids navigate relationships, disappointments, and loss.
BY: Laura Sheahen
Over the years, various religious groups have struggled to pigeonhole the megapopular Harry Potter books. Some conservative Christians will tell you the series is of the devil, its author using a likeable boy hero to promote magick and paganism. Wiccans will laugh off the idea that what happens at Harry's school, Hogwarts, has even a passing resemblance to their practice. And other Christians will claim there are Christian ideas and even symbols in the series, as new books with titles like "The Gospel According to Harry Potter" show.
None of these characterizations is really accurate; the truth is that the books aren't Christian, Wiccan, or any identifiable spiritual stripe whatsoever. But they do reflect a consistent moral framework. Like most children's books, the series teaches lessons many religions would agree on-don't kill, don't lie, and so on. But beyond that are more subtle life lessons that can help kids-and adults-navigate relationships, disappointments, and loss. The Harry Potter books teach us to:
1. Beware of pompous people.
No one would deny that the series' obvious villains--Voldemort, Draco Malfoy, and arguably Snape--are dangerous. But it's the conceited secondary characters-like Gilderoy Lockhart, Percy Weasley, and Cornelius Fudge-who often do just as much damage as the true bad guys. Their self-satisfied bumbling leaves Harry and his friends exposed to the basilisk, an impostor Mad-Eye Moody, and Voldemort himself. In the latest book, Harry was wise to steer clear of the status-seeking Professor Slughorn, who wants to draw Harry into his clique. In Harry's world as in real life, serious evildoers are always a threat, but stuck-up people wreak plenty of havoc.
2. Stay true to your nerdy or unpopular friends.
From the moment Harry first met hapless, round-faced Neville Longbottom (who was searching for his lost toad), he's been kind to the timid Gryffindor. Harry has been loyal to daffy Luna Lovegood and to Dobby, the often irritating and unconventional elf. And Harry defended his best friend Ron Weasley when everyone else was furious with him for his poor Quidditch skills.
All these characters have stuck by Harry in his hour of need, in some cases saving his life. The lesson: No matter how tiresomely they rave about Crumpled-Horned Snorkacks or make you examine plants that squirt Stinksap, don't disown your true friends.
3. Realize that your parents (and the rest of your family) are more important than you think.
Ron Weasley's brothers overshadow him, and his parents often embarrass him. Neville Longbottom's grandmother is starchy and dictatorial, and his parents have been driven insane by Voldemort's followers. Harry's aunt, uncle, and cousin actively oppress him-and his parents are dead. Yet for all three boys, family holds the key to mysteries. Ron's parents and brothers are in the Order of the Phoenix, protecting Ron and Harry in ways they learn only late in book five. Neville's parents were also in the Order, and his strange connection to Harry-he was born in the same month-may be developed in book seven. Harry's parents died to save him, yet live on in important ways (see Lesson 6). And his horsey, nasty Aunt Petunia is grudgingly part of a secret blood spell protecting him from Voldemort. In other words, even when we feel distant from our families, they may be helping us in ways we don't know.