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Good fun.


Three series

From the Harry Potter link in the last post, you can see that the Vatican has done a comparative study of three popular fantasy fiction series: Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia. Well, I don't think it's necessary to say I don't really agree with their analysis, but here's my own reasoning of why I like the Harry Potter series better than the other two.

First off, let me start by clarifying that by no means do I think that the Harry Potter series is the best that could be. There is a much better series out there, which I think every fan of Harry Potter should read, The Bartimaeus Trilogy. J K Rowling has created an amazing world, which draws from the legends and myths that are well-known to us, but that same world is shown to also interact with our own. However, the last two books of the HP series seemed a bit off to me, but I only realized what the problem was when I was deep into my own NaNoWriMo novel last November. I kept trying to introduce plot twists to keep my story going, which is the feeling I had got from the books 6 and 7. And yes, I have read HP fanfiction that can beat the last two books hands down any day.

But I still like the HP series better than Narnia and LoTR. But please remember, that whatever I write here is about the books and not about the movies at all.

HP v/s Narnia:

I read the Narnia series when I was in Sixth grade. I had devoured the series in about a month's time, all 7(?) books or something, in the order in which they were published (hint, not in choronological order). What struck me about the books, even at that age was that they were very preachy. I had, of course, not read the views of any critics and was not really able to read into the subliminal message of Aslan as Christ and so on, but the preachiness still stuck out. And I guess, even when I was 12, I preferred books that would let the reader think for herself.

In contrast, the HP books are written from the point of view of Harry, and the reader grows with him through the books. There is no real narrating voice which gives commentary.

Another thing that had struck me at that time as not particularly believable, was the whole business with the rings and portals, and having a sort of "Dadar station" where you could switch between portals and worlds. It seemed quite contrived to me at that time, though I hadn't read too many other fantasy works, and now that I have, the whole thing seems very ridiculous.

I know, it's not as if J K Rowling explains the phenomena of apparation or floo travel with hardcore science, but it is still within the realm of imagination that they can be explained by some magical theory which is known to the wizards, if not to us.

The Narnia series is also very age-specific. Because of it's preachiness, it appears to be talking down to the reader, and so, it is not particularly enjoyable for adults (or young adults) to read.

HP v/s LoTR:

I was introduced to the Lord of the Rings series by two friends, one who had a list of 100 best novels to read, and the other who had most of those novels. I started with the Hobbit, which was quite enjoyable and light-hearted. I liked the three remaining books well enough, though I did feel that they were a bit long-winded.

The most important thing about the LoTR series which I didn't like is the extreme portrayal of creatures as black and white. Of course, the human characters traverse the entire spectrum of grays. But is there a single "good" orc? Or a single "fallen" elf? The HP books are a paragon of tolerance in this respect. You have Remus and Grawp to show that not all "dark" creatures are evil, even though the majority of their bretheren may be supporting Voldemort. You have Snape, and to some extent Draco Malfoy, to show that not all Slytherins are Voldemort. There are good and evil (or crazy) house elves, and even Gryffindor house (which is supposed to be full of brave and good people) produces one of the worst traitors.

Another thing which rankled me was that the king had somekind of birthright to rule the world. Just because he was "x son of y son of z son of w" or something. Sort of reminds me of Rahul Gandhi.

However, I would like to add that if you haven't read these three (four, actually; the Bartimaeus trilogy is is a must-read) series, please go out and read them. Each of them, despite the peeves mentioned above, has some great storytelling. Enjoy!


The Exorcist - Redux

More than a year after my post about Harry Potter and the Exorcist, here are two news stories reported on IBN Live, within the space of a month. In one, the Vatican says that Harry Potter is the wrong kind of hero, and in the other the Vatican's chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth (now I finally know the name of the guy I was speculating about in my last post), talks about how exorcism is more and more necessary in today's world.

Apparently, the story of Harry Potter glorifies the knowledge of the occult (read as knowledge, period) . Apparently, intellectuals feel that using knowledge, they can turn dark powers to good. How? By using nuclear power to power cities and factories rather than to blow up the earth, stuff like that maybe. The positive values that we come across in the book are apparently of no use, as the tale is set in the backdrop of witchcraft, which, instead of being shunned and reviled, is actually portrayed in a positive light.

In the previous post I had wondered why the church simply doesn't make DVDs of exorcisms to prove the truth and make a killing at the box-office at the same time. The news clip reveals that the catholic church forbids filming real exorcisms. Hmm... wonder why. Could it be because people will figure out that there is just some crazy mumbo-jumbo happening there, and that there are no levitating beds and priests being flung to the corner of the room by girls regurgitating green vomit?

According to the man in charge of exorcisms in the Vatican, the action of the devil is a lot more widespread now than in the past because the devil is being given more space. For three centuries now, the church has almost totally abandoned exorcisms, and so now there are hardly any priests equipped to handle the possessed. These priests, because of their ignorance, send people to psychiatrists and psychologists instead of exorcising them. "Thank god", the father said, "that there is a pope who wants to fight the devil head on."

I suppose the Vatican will keep issuing statements like these and I will keep writing blogposts to try and show how completely ridiculous they are. Here's to a long and healthy blogging career.