Monday, January 22, 2007

Harry who?

Can someone clue me in as to why Harry Potter is taboo in some frum circles? I know, I know, magic is forbidden, denies G-d, etc. But do these people censor Cinderella? Purge Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle? Ban Bedknobs and Broomsticks? Poppins--yes, but Potter-- no? What's up with that?

IMHO, as long as the kids know it's fantasy/fiction, it's pretty good as far as modern juvenile literature goes. A ten-year-old is much better equipped to deal with HP than a five-year-old is for Jack and the Beanstalk, yet the people who are wary of Potter have no issue reading fairy tales to kids who are too young to differentiate between fantasy and reality.

The themes are basically in keeping with our hashkafos (perspectives). I find them to be fairly deep and rich, especially when viewed relative to the other liesure reading material usually chosen by kids. OK, recently things have gotten a little less acceptable for our BY knaidlach, but whatever ban is in place definitely came about before those volumes were released.

There are non-magical books with much more objectionable content and less literary value that haven't raised objections.


Pragmatician said...

Stories involving magic made me dream when I was young, without prompting me to make any follies or contemplate leaving Judaism.
In fact Tanach talks about witchcraft as well.
But the most sensible point you made was that it's fiction and it's ok to teach kids to differentiate between fact and fiction.

Krulwich said...

You may like my new book Harry Potter and Torah, or the corresponding blog here.

I've seen a lot of families in Jerusalem and elsewhere that do in fact keep kids away from all fiction, movies, and fantasy in general. The problem is that kids need an outlet for imagination, and if it's surpressed, it often comes out in worse ways.

anonym00kie said...

i dont really have an opinion about harry potter and frum kids.. ive never read it and ive never raised any.. but..
i dont agree with the bit about stunting their imagination. kids have fantastic imaginations, spoon feeding it doesnt help, it prevents them from using it. im not saying fantasy and stories and magic isnt good, but it isnt necessary. kids hundreds (or even 50) years ago managed perfectly fine without all the props kids today have..
i dont think we need to worry that kids wont have an outlet for their imagination if we take away harry potter..

knaidel maidel said...

Interestingly enough, right after I published this post, I got the Aish update featuring two HP-related articles this week! That's where I found Krulwich's links.

Anyway, I have to agree with m00kie-- I'm not so worried that this will stifle kids' imagination. Most of the most creative kids I know are the ones raised simply.

If parents are going to keep their kids away from all secular media, kol hakavod. (This is not as common in the US) I don't recommend HP to them. But for your average American family, HP is a major improvement over a lot of the rubbish that people don't go crazy to avoid. I don't think it does anything special for the imagination; rather, as an educator, I have my eyes on literacy.

Bas~Melech said...

Mel said:
Harry Potter has a girl interest which is "past nisht." (not befitting)

Bas~Melech said...

To the deleted poster:
Nothing got lost in translation. I heard exactly what you said.
However, I felt that the wording was disrespectful to other viewpoints, and therefore I removed it from my blog.

As for your second comment:
I liked 1-3. 4 had redeeming value, but after that don't bother.
Besides, until 4 there was nothing any less tsniusdik than your average permitted book. The problem is that #1, and maybe also 2, are the only ones that really stand alone. The others leave you in serious suspense for more. So if I was concerned about the content of later books, I'd let my child read the first for its literary value and stop there.

Mel said...

If you are gonna censor me, censor me completely, don't misquote me, or take it out of context.

My comment about Pas Nisht was intended to be sarcastic, and that was apparent from the tone of the full post.

"I felt that the wording was disrespectful to other viewpoints,"

I wasn't aware of any obligation to be respectful to a viewpoint.
Especially one which is misguided and causes a tremendous amount of damage in this world.

This is the real problem with the Chinuch system, people who try to control things which should be left alone. If your kid wants to read, you should let them read anything short of something blatantly damaging or assur.

Sure, you have the right to censor your blog no matter the case, and I respect that. I will try to keep my comments respectful, but please don't quote me If you censor me, unless you are capturing the context.