The Eighth Story of Harry Potter is here! As one could expect with any fan base as large as Harry Potter, readers’ opinions are divided. Some embrace it along with the original series, while others despise it as a cheap money-grab from the publishers. So I’ll add my opinion to the mix straight away and say it was a fantastic read that kept me curious, brought out a range of emotions, and all together was a lot of fun.
The bulk of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child takes place 19 years after The Deathly Hallows. However it begins right where we left off:
Do you think–what if I am–what if I’m put in Slytherin? … Albus Severus, you were named after two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.
The protagonists of this story are Albus Severus Potter, Scorpius Malfoy, and of course Harry Potter.
Why This Book Is A Success
The draw to this book is obvious. Everyone wants to know what happens next! What is (insert favorite character) like as an adult? Who is there to fear if Voldemort is dead? Is Voldemort really dead? With all the possibilities and the itching questions that need to be answered, everyone is picking up this book.
There have been a plethora of critiques of TCC, but I would say they mostly boil down to two issues. The first is that this book is actually the script for a play and not a novel. This of course changes the writing, plot development, dialogue, and general feel of the story. But the difference should not be insurmountable. Anyone who actually read that inevitably required high school english class Shakespearean play will know that this is still children’s novel writing. The second issue is simply that the characters did not match the projections people imagined in their fantasy worlds. Well, in the original series I wanted Harry and Hermione to be together so we can’t all get what we want.
I personally thought the adult versions of our favorite characters were perfect. Ron is still a doofus. Harry is still overly introspective and a tad emotional. Hermione is still brilliant and yet takes everything too seriously. However, we do get to see the way they matured and in some cases, such as Draco Malfoy, they are even more interesting as adults than they were as children.
Without giving too many spoilers I should mention that time turners play a critical role in TCC. With this the reader gets to relive many of the best moments from the original HP series and even interact with some beloved characters who died in previous books. Is there any deceased characters you would like to see again? Is there any favorite period in the original series that you would like to see from another angle? With time-turners anything is possible.
The Cursed Child has some great worldview content including a fantastic quote from Dumbledore in support of the fallen nature of our world:
Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.
But if there was one major theme throughout the book it is that no one is better off alone. This is a major theme in most of the other HP stories, but TCC develops this idea more fully than the rest.
Like his father, Albus Potter has a bit of a martyr complex- he feels he needs to do most things on his own. Albus is not popular at school and only has Scorpius as a friend. It doesn’t help that Albus feels completely disconnected from Harry, the person who could probably understand him best. Despite Harry’s best attempts, Albus shrugs off his father’s efforts to relate because he can’t imagine Harry being anyone besides the most famous wizard in the world.
Throughout the book various characters (especially Harry and Albus) get themselves into trouble only because they try to do things on their own. As the characters grow they eventually learn that no one person, no matter how powerful or famous, can succeed by themselves. While getting his magical butt kicked by the villain Harry is asked “You think you’re stronger than me?” To which he promptly responds “No. I’m not… But we are.”
This is a theme that I can fully endorse as a Christian. God created mankind to be dependent on Him and each other. We live in a culture where autonomy is the highest virtue and those who believe they are self-made successful people are the biggest hypocrites of them all. Who fed them through their childhood and adolescence? Who gave them the proper education or training to flourish at their job? We are all markedly dependent on the work and knowledge of others. The so-called self-made are merely those who are severely unappreciative of those they have benefitted from.
I can see this desire for autonomy in my own soul as well. There’s a part of me that wishes I could become prosperous completely by my own means so that all would acknowledge my intellect and drive as I paraded through life in pride. But at the end of the day this is nothing more than vain folly. Any successes I’ve had so far have been impossible without the aid of others. My parents to this day are always there ready to sacrifice anything to be a blessing. My wife and I have received countless meals and hours of free babysitting from my in-laws (not to mention the bed we sleep on). In a time of financial distress so many from my extended family and church family reached out and offered a helping hand. And I couldn’t fail to mention my wife who has brought more stability and relational fulfillment to my life than anyone else ever has or can.
We would all be better off embracing those around us rather than running from each other. Not only is autonomy hypocritical, it is lonely. We all need someone to encourage us, challenge us, push us, and be there for us. And in turn, someone out there needs us to be there for them. This task called life is too great a challenge to face on our own. We need each other because together we are stronger.
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