So what makes magic in Lord of the Rings okay, but not in Harry Potter?


I’m uncertain of the general Catholic view of Harry Potter, but I’m pretty sure Lord of the Rings is universally acceptable; I was just wondering what in regards to the handling of magic makes it okay in LotR, as opposed to Harry Potter (which I’m a fan of as well).

tyia & peace

I’m pretty sure it has to do with context. In Harry Potter, the book has a lot more to do, specifically, with magic. The characters also seem to rely on magic a lot more than those from Lord of the Rings. There is a lot of Christian symbolism in LOTR. I’m not mistaken, there is a part from Lord of the Rings where Gandalf seems to call upon a higher entity than himself when facing off the Belrog. Harry Potter on the other hand, has many very anti-Catholic aspects about it I’ve heard (whether subtle or not). The only way I know about this is because I listened to a CD called “The Trouble With Harry” which talks about this subject. I’ve never actually read the Harry Potter books (and after listening to the CD, I will stay away from them).

Not to mention that J. R. R. Tolkien was a very devout Catholic who helped his friend C. S. Lewis to convert to Christianity.

I personally do not have an issue with Harry Potter. The magic is not centered around satan, and the spells said are not actual spells in witchcraft, but made up from latin words (though I think some are just completely made up). The stories do have interesting characters and character development. From what I can tell it does not favor Christian or anti-Christian beliefs with the exception of witchcraft which the story is based around. And the magic isn’t something that people “convert” into. It is as though there is a witch gene, and if you don’t have it, you cannot perform magic. It is really just your typical good vs. evil story, some of the plot some might think is cliche, but I think the actual storyline makes up for it along with character development. This is just my opinion however. I see no danger for those strong in their faith.

This is all about the same in my opinion. LOTR doesn’t delve into magic as far as Harry Potter, which in addition to its focus on magic as an element in the fictional universe, also has (according to what I’ve heard on both sides of the fence) a generally darker theme to it than LOTR.

I agree. In the Harry Potter fictional universe, Magic is portrayed as being a natural phenomenon rather than a supernatural one.

It’s because Dumbledore has the elder wand and people are jealous, or because Legolas isn’t as pretty of a girl as Hermione.

Possibly because Harry Potter is awful and LotR is a work of genius.:slight_smile:

J.R.R. Tolkien is a Catholic? I never hear his when there’s a mainstream show on LOTR or on Tolkien.

Actually, you really have to look at what type of magic in LOTR is “okay”–What comes out of the elves or the dwarves is more akin to their own God (Iluvatar) given natures than any forcing, bending, or breaking of natural laws. The Wizards are essentially incarnated Archangels–their “magic” is more in the lines of persuation and example (except in the case of Saruman, where he becomes corrupted by possesing a Palantir, which is corrupted by Sauron)

Sauron himself embodies the old idea of magic, which as CS Lewis said was very akin to the original spirit of science–it is knowledge for power above all, only the techniques deffer between the two endevours

nothing makes the concept of magic ok, its what is considered acceptable in the eyes of the catholic population. it just so happens that people liked J.R.R. tolkiens lord of the rings more than Harry Potter.

Read On Faery Stories and Leaf by Niggle in The Tolkien Reader for some fairly explicit Christian and Catholic content

“Christ is the “great myth” become historical fact”–JRR Tolkien

I’ve actually wondered the same thing, both with LOTR and with the Narnia series – in which the children and other characters often make references to magic.

This is just a guess, but I think some of the problems people have with Harry Potter is that the books were not written as a Christian allegory AND they deal with witches and wizards. For some people that means they must be evil.

When I read the first three Harry Potter books to my son at bedtime, we had some great conversations about what Harry and the others could have done differently, and how characters’ choices had positive or negative results. The stories were simple enough that he got a lot out of them on a moral and spiritual level. But remember, we read them together and talked about them. He didn’t read them on his own.

Now we’re reading LOTR together, and it is waaaaaaay harder for me to make any Christian connections for him. I’ve always heard that LOTR were a Christian allegory, but I’m just not seeing it :shrug: And that was especially true of The Hobbit.

So in my opinion, Harry Potter has been just a way better teaching tool (only the first three books) than the first one-and-a-half books of the LOTR – and magical content has nothing to do with it.

Well, just my two cents.


I think a major problem with HP was that the publisher produced plans for teachers to be able to use it in school, and those lesson plans were *awful. *I saw some of what they did: they had instructions for the children to look up Wiccan sites, etc.

I talked with my children about setting and science fiction and all that, and explained that this was just an “alternate universe” sort of thing like sci-fi, and while they played around with wands and capes and all that, what we really dug into the most was school issues, since they are homeschooled and this was all new for them.

We also discussed any Christian themes that came up.

I wasn’t too happy with the later books, but luckily by then it wasn’t such a big thing in my family. I really think 7 books is too many–trilogies seem to work better.

Tolkien flat out and several times denied the LOTR was “allegory”–ditto for Lewis with Narnia

Tolkien strove for “applicability”–that the same matterial was universal enough that it could be used by many different readers in many different places and times.

That said, Tolkien said that naturally enough, Catholic themes did come through–such as Galadrial showing considerable Marian influences (in re-watching Fellowship, Jackson seems to have picked up on that, to his credit)


It is sad that when there’s a mainstream T.V. show about Tolkien or LOTR, his Catholic faith is never mentioned.

Some people have written books about the difference. I found such arguments compelling before I actually read Harry Potter. I think such evaluations are incorrect when they assert that magic in Harry Potter shares things in common with real-world occult “magic”.

The only argument that kind of makes sense yo me is that magic is used sparingly by only certain characters in Narnia and Lord of the Rings whereas it is the principal driving force of the plot of Harry Potter. Sure, that’s true, but I don’t think it means what some think it means. The magic in Harry Potter is still an in-born thing. It’s not something anyone can just pick up and do.

Just had a look here

There’s a quote from Tolkien himself which says

“The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work,” he wrote, “unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like “religion”, to cults or practices, in the Imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism” (Letter 142).

I’m a big Potterphile and the whole series is rife with Christian teaching. There is a forum exclusively for HP - bigger than this one even :eek: - and we spent years discussing the Scriptural references.

I always thought that it was because of the ‘hidden world’ quality of Harry Potter- the idea that it is a secret world that co-exists with ours. In most kid’s imaginations, this becomes, “I might be a wizard!” nonsense that they actually believe. More common then you might think.

I read them all with my goddaughter as she was growing up and we found a lot that was good in them. We had some great discussions about the heroes and villains and the differing characteristics of each and she found spiritual virtues in the heroes and deadly sins in the villains quite easily. We analyzed the choices people made and examined their motives and wondered how they could have changed outcomesby choosing another way,

There is nothing more wonderful than reading with a child you love and having those discussions. If the idea of magic in HP concerns you, leave it aside, but do find something else to read together and enjoy that blessing.

My godchild is 26 now, and we still read books together and discuss them.

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