You are Harry Potter in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when out of the blue a letter arrives from Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, informing you you have a place in the fall term. You are required to accept or decline the invitation no later than 31 July. Do you confirm?
Your name is Lucy Pevensie in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and during a game of hide and seek you discover a mysterious wardrobe that opens into another world. Do you step into the land of Narnia?
You are Tom Joad in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, just released from prison, making your way home again only to find your family ready to set out on a perilous journey to what they hope is the promised land. Do you break parole and join them? As conditions deteriorate and injustices mount, do you fight back or give in to the despair that overwhelms many of the economic refugees?
You are Bilbo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and you hear most inconvenient taps at your door as dwarf after dwarf arrives and finally Gandalf himself. You would rather ignore them and remain in your known life. Do you join them as the burglar on the journey they propose even though your tranquil and pleasant life will be no more?
Your name is Asher Lev in My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok and it gradually becomes apparent you have a gift as an artist, something your tribe of Hasidic Jews frowns upon. If you follow where your gift leads, there will be a great personal cost for both you and your family. Do you choose pleasing family or following where your difficult gift leads?
You are the whisky priest in Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, on the run from the Mexican government that is trying to eliminate Catholicism. Up until this time you have been more comfortable in sitting rooms sipping tea than proclaiming your faith. You are asked to hear the confession of a dying man and you suspect it is a trap. Do you go?
You are C.S. Lewis in this frame of mind: “You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me.” Do you turn away or stick around and face what is before you? [from Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life]
The invitation awaits you. Will you board the bus?
“Don’t you think you’d better stay till morning?” Mrs. Murry asked.
“Oh, thank you, dearie, but there’s so much to do I just can’t waste time sitting around frivoling.”
“It’s much too wild a night to travel in.”
“Wild nights are my glory,” Mrs. Whatsit said. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course.”
Madeleine L’Engle in A Wrinkle in Time
Off the Beaten Path:
Harry Potter’s invitation to Hogwarts arrives: https://youtu.be/yQIFkMlDF4M
Lucy Pevensie discovers the door to Narnia: https://youtu.be/IO8v1yFoAwo
A.O. Scott reviews The Grapes of Wrath: https://youtu.be/wYFJmm0aK-8
The dwarfs and Gandalf come to Bilbo’s door: https://youtu.be/_LUPCclOULk
Asher Lev’s father confronts him about his drawings: https://youtu.be/wAyDsDFOh28
Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory
The Power and the Glory 1933 movie: https://youtu.be/pHLTUtFoIZg
IAMX’s song The Power and the Glory from the album Alive in New Light: https://youtu.be/WfV_WkyMM-Q
C.S. Lewis’s conversion story: https://youtu.be/ydyCqhzVZVE
J.K. Rowling started off her series of seven books with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. For a look into the controversy surrounding the series see Alissa Wilkinson’s “I didn’t read Harry Potter when I was growing up. And I wasn’t alone”: https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/8/31/17607988/harry-potter-boycott-evangelical-dobson-focus-peretti-satanic-panic
For a view on the controversy surrounding J.K. Rowling and transgender issues see Neil Steinberg’s “Beating up J.K. Rowling won’t help”: https://chicago.suntimes.com/columnists/2022/1/1/22857270/jk-rowling-transgender-comments-harry-potter-reunion-hbo-max-cross-dressing-steinberg
C.S. Lewis began The Chronicles of Narnia with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. For a discussion around objections to the series see Daniel Whyte IV’s “There Are No Cruel Narnians: What The Horse and His Boy Can Tell Us About Racism, Cultural Superiority, Beauty Standards, and Inclusiveness”: https://apilgriminnarnia.com/2021/09/15/narnia-and-race-whyte/
J.R.R. Tolkien opened his Lord of the Rings series with The Hobbit. For a conversation around Tolkien’s ideas of writing about myths and truths see Justin Brierley’s show Unbelievable? , and the episode “JRR Tolkien, Jesus and Lord of the Rings–Holly Ordway and Michael Jahosky”: https://youtu.be/v2XMQO8KWh0
Madeleine L’Engle’s journey with A Wrinkle in Time: https://youtu.be/XIFmuIsjGME