September 19, 2017
Throughout the first Harry Potter novel, many different references to modern day religion appear. Many of them are more subtle than others, such as how Gryffindor’s mascot is a lion, which is often associated with Jesus Christ, and Slytherin’s mascot is a serpent, which is associated with Satan. Self-sacrifice is also a major theme present in the novel, as can be seen early on when Harry’s mother sacrifices herself in order to save him, a parallel to how Jesus was sacrificed on the cross to take on the sins of humanity himself. Harry and Ron also take it upon themselves to save Hermione, a girl they barely knew at that point, from a troll in the bathroom. Later on in the series, self-sacrifice actually turns out to be one of the greatest powers, if not the greatest, even allowing the defeat of death, which can be seen as a metaphor for Christ overcoming death. Additionally, there are other less subtle allusions to Christianity, such as how the entire school celebrates Christmas, however Jesus Christ isn’t ever actually mentioned, and it seems that Christmas is simply celebrated from a holiday perspective rather than a religious perspective. In addition to Christianity, Greek and Roman mythology also has a number of references throughout the novel. Fluffy, the three-headed dog that guarded the door to the philosopher’s stone, is an allusion to Cerberus, the three-headed dog that resided at the entrance to the underworld in Greek mythology, and guarded the gates to permit the dead to enter, but bar them from exiting. Some of the characters names have ties to Greek mythology, such as professor McGonagall, whose first name, Minerva, refers to the Roman counterpart of Athena, a Greek goddess of wisdom and war, and Hermione was the name given to the daughter of Helen of Troy. In addition to religious innuendos, the novel also gives us a few examples of how the author defines good and evil.
In the very beginning of the novel, although more clearly seen in the movie adaptation, Harry begins the triumph of good over evil when his mother sacrifices herself in order to protect Harry from the evil that is Voldemort. Somehow her love was powerful enough that it defeated Voldemort, which was a shock to the wizarding world as no-one had ever been able to survive that curse. Later on in the novel, when Harry and Hagrid are collecting his school materials in Diagon Alley, Hagrid states “Better Hufflepuff than Slytherin," said Hagrid darkly. "There's not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn't in Slytherin. You-Know-Who was one.” (Chapter 5, Pg. 120). Hagrid makes it seem like your path in Slytherin can only be dark, although a wrench is thrown in this when the sorting hat states that Harry would be a perfect match for Slytherin, which doesn’t make sense when so many Slytherin students chose the dark side. The good side of the struggle is represented by Albus Dumbledore, who strives...