Harry Potter books and the mirror they hold


Image Credits: Scholastic

Art is political. Ergo, books are also political.

I have seen a lot of argument online about how authors shouldn’t try to shove in their own political opinions into books. I don’t think that is possible, as writing bares one’s soul onto paper. An author is bound to throw in their political ideas.

Books are not weighed down by political ideologies, but when done correctly, are enhanced by them.

I have started enjoying books which deal with ideologies. It makes the story tangible, almost like a fabric that can be touched, like a discernible flavor. I cherish books possessing similarities with our world.

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter franchise ( 7 books, 8 movies and more ) are an example.

Why Harry Potter matters to me?

I first read Harry Potter about 7 years ago. At the time, I had just started reading novels. I owe a lot to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books because they paved the way for me to find my favorite genre: fantasy novels. I remember being in awe with the concept of magic in the books do. I didn’t pay attention to the minute details and webs that J.K. Rowling had spun in those 7 books.

7 years later, today, I have changed a lot. My views have changed. I know a few things on structuring a story. Movies & books have a more lasting effect on me as I pick subtleties easier.

I read the 7 Harry Potter books again to see if I still like them. My intention was to understand the framework with which Rowling had written the story, to learn how to create a world like she had.

I did not do that. I can’t tell you where are the plot points in the book or what exactly is the story arc of the characters. Because 10 pages into the first book, Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone, I was hooked on to the story of a 11 year old boy walking into Hogwarts.

I noticed the onset of PTSD in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I noticed the miracle by which Harry was different than his arch-nemesis Voldemort. I noticed how real the deaths in Harry Potter were: sudden & unexpected. A single line to describe a character’s death, a single incantation.

There are more important things that the story itself. I started noticing things relevant to our own world.

Always the innocent are the first victims, so it has been for ages past, so it is now.

– J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter And the Philosopher’s Stone

The Wizarding World:

I can speculate on how much of the world J.K. Rowling created with Harry Potter was directly influenced from the real world from the hundreds of interviews and articles written on it.

Since its inception, the world Harry Potter inhabits has became an entity of its own, with tons of fan-fiction, followers and content creators. Thus, differences between Rowling’s intended allegories and unintended real-life parallels are hard to pick for me.

To explain unintended real-life parallels: In Hot Fuzz, there is a scene in which the town Chief Inspector says ‘Make Sheffield Great Again’. At the time of movie’s release, this line was probably intended to be funny. Now, this line is no longer funny.

In the books, all 7 of them, three children have to consistently stand against a fascist regime which kills anyone who opposes them. The fight is mostly in the shadows, away from the majority of the population that it could affect, until one day a fascist regime is asking its denizens to present its proof of blood worth.

In book 5, Harry Potter and Order of Phoenix, Dumbledore’s Army decide to train themselves because the powers that be, Ministry of Magic, vehemently denied Voldemort is back because they were afraid of losing power. They discredited Harry Potter, launched political propoganda against him to slander & discredit him.

Over the last year in Auckland, I have seen school children marching down Queen Street to protest inadequate action on Climate Change by the people in power. Greta Thurnberg is a major voice in climate change.

It is not hard to find articles denouncing Climate change in general, but the amount of attempts to discredit Greta are bubbling just beneath the surface.

Again last year, survivors from Stoneman Dougman school shooting became such strong voices for gun control in America.

These kids were subjected to massive amounts of ridicule, death threats by not just people in power but also everyone who thought that their ‘rights’ were under attack.

Malala Yousafzai was shot in 2012 by Taliban because she raised her voice, protested.

I am not saying one thing inspired the other. I am just drawing parallels.

Then there is the entire Dumbledore subplot of book 7, in which a fascist government backed media continuously tries to throw dirt on a dead man just to distract the world from the very real threat of Voldemort.

If you read news these days, its hard not to see media being used/using to distract from the relevant news. The examples are endless, leaving us exhausted but ultimately forgetting the bigger issues in life. Lookup Amazon Rainforest fire ( how it is crucial in tackling climate change ) which was burning for at least 15 days before it broke the news.

The Racism within the world:

The books deal with vehement racism between ones who are born in a wizarding family and ones not. It also draws an line between wizards and non-wizards to the point where there is a term for non-wizards ( Muggle ).

This separation between sections of human beings who are & who are not wizards existed way before Voldemort came to be, it has always been a part of the world Harry Potter inhabits to the point where wizards getting close to non-wizards are looked down on.

Arthur Weasley is looked down by everyone, including at times his wife and children, because he wants to study human technology. It seems like the wizarding world is so proud that it refuses to even acknowledge the possibility that their methods are outdated.

I can’t and neither am I going to judge who was more advanced. ( They are fictional book after all ).

But this xenophobia, albeit benign in most cases, is echoed through the fabric of the entire Wizarding world.

This benign xenophobia served as the groundwork for people like Voldemort to garner followers.

After all, it is fairly obvious from the books, that Death Eaters were emboldened only because Voldemort was more powerful than anyone else in the wizarding world. Otherwise, they were law abiding citizens ( mostly ).

Do I need to talk about the real world examples of such a relationship between a fascist man in power and his supporters?

Furthermore. the lack of any social changes since the founding of Hogwarts ( Slytherin vs other houses ) made sure that every person sitting in the Slytherin table exposed to ideas of blood purity and impunity.

Why was nothing done to challenge ideas like that?

How many times have we heard, ‘this is just the way it is’ without actually asking why?

How many times have we looked down on another bunch of people without actually asking why?

Conclusion:

Nobody is perfect. These books exemplify that. Not even Harry Potter. He, who of all people should know what it feels like being detested in his own house, has very little empathy for elves.

The Harry Potter books themselves are not perfect. After all, J.K. Rowling keeps appending changes to the story years after the books have been released.

Regardless, the Harry Pottrer books, its characters and the ways with J.K Rowling talks about the wrongness of our world by illustrating an unjust world is mind blowing.

I hope that the next time I read these books again, I get to pick up something more.

Bring Down Heaven trilogy by Sam Sykes


Note: This is in no way or form a book review. I am writing a high fantasy book series that I enjoyed.

Sam Sykes is an author who I follow on Twitter and have grown to appreciate his online humour. I kept seeing his book ‘City Stained Red’ on his feed and I ordered it from the library and subsequently read all three of the books in ‘Bring Down Heaven’ series: City Stained Red, The Mortal Tally & God’s Last Breath.

The books follow 5 adventurers/mercenaries and their stories: Lenk the default leader, Kataria a Shict ( species resembling elves ), Denous one with the past, Asper the priestess of Healing God, Dreadeleon a wizard and Gareth the Rhoga ( a lizard-humanoid species ). Apologies if I didn’t get their names right. In addition, the book introduces a ton of characters of which the most important of which are Mocca a man in white Lenk meets in the beginning.

I enjoy books which have multiple characters like these. It is an impressive feat to juggle so many different characters and to do them satisfactorily. This is a massive story, each book in the series spanning about 600 pages with the last book having a length of exactly 666 pages.

This book also deals heavily with the questions about faith, Gods who never answer and humanity’s need to have a being up in the sky. It also features heaps of exciting battles sequences and the city which despite being destroyed to the fullest always seem to have someone selling curry.

Pretty much everything I could ever like all together.

NOTE 2: Significant spoilers follow.

Each of the character has a different story.

  1. Gareath starts by being disgusted by humanity and his only tolerance is because of Lenk and others. Once the band disbands ( like the beetles ), Gareath has no checks on his anger.
    His story continues by raging against the city and ends with him realizing that he may have won the battle but there are just too many humans to actually defeat. Humans have created a system where every species has no choice but to follow their footsteps and eventually end up under their boot.
  2. Kataria already knew what Gareath knows. Her story revolves around where does she belong and what does she want. It is a pretty succinct description I would say.
    Also, she tries for two books to prevent shicts from starting a war with humans but she fails.
  3. Dreadealeon is a boy and his story deals with him fighting against everyone who thinks he is a boy. He uses his power haphazardly endangering and killing without any second thought. Only does when he have too much power right at the cusp of death he grows mature.
  4. Denous is someone who regrets his past, pretty much haunted by his actions. He wants to redeem himself but as the violence increases he is drawn back to his old habits and eventually makes the same action again hoping that just like last time, his actions will create enough chaos for his side to prevail. It doesn’t and the last thing he sees is his own past haunting him again.
    Until he is jerked back to haunt the living.
  5. Asper is someone who just doesn’t give up. Ever. Every time she fails, she picks herself up again. And again. And again. She does whatever she can, she hoodwinks and beguiles to save people because she actually believes in her life’s purpose as a priest.

The best story in this series is between Lenk and Mocca. Of course, at end of book 1 it is revealed that Mocca is a manifestation of the God-King Khoth-Kapira from Hell.

This is why the story is so interesting.

An atheist continuously converses with a entity prayed to by thousands of followers. A God-King/Demon & a mortal.

Throughout the series, individuals are seen to be praying to a God that never answers but they keep doing it anyway. Lenk, a sellsword, doesn’t pray to anyone.

He doesn’t pray even when he finds out that his blood contains blood of a long-dead God. Mocca/Koth-Kapira could talk to anyone but he chooses to engage with Lenk.

Their discussions revolve around Lenk’s inability to stop fighting. Lenk has been fighting for as long as he can remember & his only desire is to stop fighting in the start of the series. The series begins with him sneaking into the city to get paid and retire. And it is at the gates where he meets Mocca.

  1. Lenk lands in the middle of a gang-war.
  2. Then he inevitably started a civil war between two armies in the city.
  3. Then he was part of a ambush in outside the city.

As far as Lenk sees, fighting follows him everywhere. He can’t stop. Lenk desperately wants someone else to take control of his life.

Mocca convinces Lenk the only way Lenk & everyone in this world might stop fighting would be if someone Godly ( Mocca ) can guide them all.

Of course, none of this is really possible. Lenk didn’t start the gang-war, he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. It is revealed that the civil war would have started anyway, the armies were already skirmishing in the city. The ambush outside the city had nothing to do with him, he was again at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Lenk believes Mocca can stop everything. He was desperate for a life without any need to pick up the sword.

‘In their desperation, they turned to a man they don’t fully understand.’

Alfred, Dark Knight 2008

Mocca can stop the wars, the enmity among all species. Mocca can take control. By literally controlling everyone.

EVERY SINGLE SPECIES.

There is more to this story that I am not getting into for example, Mocca could have easily killed Lenk whenever he wanted.

My best guess is Mocca desperately wanted someone to understand him. Mocca was as desperate as Lenk to win someone’s support.

Looking back, it was obvious that the series would end right where it began: a conversation between Lenk and now the dying Mocca.


The end is pretty great. Everyone gets what they always wanted. It is not what they thought it might be but they get it anyway. They all go their separate ways.

As I was writing this post, I realized that the series have a precursor trilogy that I may read someday too.