December 27, 2016

Guest Essay: Lord of the Rings vs. Harry Potter

Harry potter books
LOTR book

Recently my brilliant friend, Rowyn Peel, posted on Facebook: “To my friends who haven’t read Harry Potter (which is still shocking to me), THESE BOOKS ARE SO IMPORTANT. Read them. Cherish them. Pass them on to little children. Harry Potter is life, y’all. (Also, JK Rowling is the sass master on twitter, she is the queen omg).” I Commented in response: “I haven’t read them. I learned about friendship and bravery and love overcoming evil from ‘Lord of the Rings.’ Does HP do that better, or differently enough to warrant the expense of buying them?”

Rowyn’s response was so thoughtful, well-crafted, and helpful that I asked her permission to share it on my blog. Permission granted, here is her reply:

I grew up reading both series, and for probably a variety of reasons, I connected to Harry Potter much easier. It’s third person, but limited omniscient into Harry’s mind, so it’s easy to connect to the individual character. It’s placed in modern times, with normal people and things, to make it that much more relatable. It probably has a lower lexile score, so it was definitely easier to read as a kid. I don’t know what other reasons there may be (nostalgia on my part, but I’ve heard people love it even if they don’t read it until they’re adults), but Harry Potter is kind of my life.

I like LoTR well enough, but the world and the writing style are very different and I enjoy it in a more fictional way, if that makes sense. Harry Potter feels so much more real, and the messages are much more subtle and in some ways more complex. It’s not just good vs. evil as in LoTR, it’s we-try-our-best-to-do-what-is-right-and-good-instead-of-what-is-easy vs. they-have-different-priorities-and-a-warped-sense-of-mind-try-to-pity-instead-of-hate-them. Also the overarching theme of Harry Potter is that love is the strongest magic of them all.

Harry Potter: kids trying figure life out, they happen to be witches and wizards: relatability score 8/10
LoTR: epic quest in a fantasy land, oversimplified good vs. evil: relatability score 1/10

Now I may have to go out and buy all the Harry Potter books. After all, given my love of food, I’m pretty sure I’m more hobbit than ranger, but how else am I going to figure out whether I’m wizard or muggle?

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