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What do you think of the Harry Potter and Tolkien fantasy books?

Outline of the Answer
• The Harry Potter Books
• The Tolkien Books
• The Moral Failure
• Putting Away Childish Things

In our fundamental psychology, fantasy experiences constantly run through our minds, so it’s only natural that writers would consciously create fantasy stories for entertainment. For Christians, though, it is important to recognize the ways in which fantasy entertainment can surreptitiously undermine the Christian faith and lead us into unconscious sin.

The Harry Potter Books

It may seem on the surface that the Harry Potter books offer only “harmless” entertainment. But magic and sorcery have no place in Christianity. Far from being based in the true Mystery of Christ’s Body and Blood, occult mysteries are based on the premise that what you know will give you power to control affairs of the world; the occult rejects all faith in Jesus the Christ (Christ means “the Anointed,” that is, the Messiah) who will lead us to God the Father if we live our lives so as to reject sin and to bear fruit according to His commandments of love. In fact, the fantasy emphasis on self-serving power contradicts basic Christian values of humility and self-surrender to God. So how can anyone—especially children— learn to value sacrifice and prayer when their heads are filled with fantasies of using magic to get what they want?

Such books really have no legitimate place in a Catholic family—except, perhaps, to illustrate the extent to which our culture in general, which thrives on anti-Christian lore, is a breeding ground for lust, hatred, power, and revenge.


If you want to entertain yourself by playing with fantasy demons, go ahead; do what you want. To borrow from an old Beach Boys song, you’ll have fun, fun, fun until real demons take your soul away.


The Tolkien Books

J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings books, are, well, a different story, literally. Tolkien was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, and he attempted in his fantasy writings to convey some sense of underlying Christian values.

But, ultimately, he really wasn’t successful, because, if he were, then readers of his books would be flocking to the Church saying, “Well, we’ve seen the faint imitation, now we want the real thing.”

So why aren’t Tolkien’s readers flocking to the Church? Well, they never get past the allure of the fantasy structure itself. Tolkien’s fantasy world was ordered according to Tolkien’s own self-created mythology that had nothing to do with God the Father as Creator of heaven and earth. Therefore, most readers get stuck in the seduction of the Elves’ “natural” purity and magic, or they become fascinated with the grandeur and power of the sorcerers. Nowhere in the books is there any mention of God or religion or prayer. In the fantasy world Tolkien created, magic ruled everything because Tolkien had no place for God in his fantasy world.

For example, in the Lord of the Rings books, the noble journey of Frodo to Mount Doom, which is supported all along the way by the Elves’ magic and the sorcerers’ protection, is brought to completion not by love but by a final act of blundering, vengeful hatred. Frodo’s journey is more of a denouement in the context of a larger secular fascination with warfare than a gripping metaphor for Christ’s journey to the Cross.

The Moral Failure

So, in the end, fantasy literature such as Tolkien’s must encounter its own conceptual failure. It’s just not possible to use glamour and power to convey the deep meaning of humility and self-surrender to God. Furthermore, to be perfectly blunt, a devout religious life grounded in quiet faith and the patient endurance of adversity is, by entertainment standards, simply boring.

Putting Away Childish Things

Nevertheless, some fantasy literature does have some value. All children need toys and playful fantasy, such as traditional fairy tales, in order to develop a sense of social functioning; but eventually, as Saint Paul said, there comes a time to put away childish things and take up the cross.


Many of those who had become believers came forward and openly acknowledged their former practices. Moreover, a large number of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in public. They calculated their value and found it to be fifty thousand silver pieces. Thus did the word of the Lord continue to spread with influence and power.


—Acts 19:18-20


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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

2116  All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.


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