Sunday, September 28, 2014

No, THIS is the Saddest Harry Potter Ever

Back in 2002 a Chinese author came up with one of the most amazing ripoffs of all time. Amidst the media hype surrounding the Harry Potter books, the author decided to write his or her own - and by write I mean steal. The book consisted of the entire text of J. R. R. Tolkein's The Hobbit, with the character names changed to those of Harry and his friends. The author also added a short first chapter in which a spell changes Harry into a hobbit, and a concluding chapter in which he is changed back.

When I wrote about this amazing piece of work (pun intended) back in 2008 I described it as the saddest Harry Potter ever, but it seems that I spoke too soon. Jezebel has an article up about a Christian mom who decided to "fix" the Harry Potter series by rewriting the books from an extreme fundamentalist perspective. That is, she took out all the magical wizarding stuff and replaced it with "prayer and miracles."

A writer who claims to be an Evangelical stay-at-home mom named Grace Ann has taken it upon herself to remove all the witchcraft devil-worship from Harry Potter and replace it with a more Christian-friendly message. Looks like someone has finally thought of the children — by stripping a children's book of the very thing that makes it fun to read.

"I'm new to this whole fanfiction thing, but recently, I've encountered a problem that I believe this is the solution to," Grace Ann wrote on "My little ones have been asking to read the Harry Potter books and of course I'm happy for them to be reading, but I don't want them turning into witches! So I thought 'Why not make some slight changes so these books are family friendly?' And then I thought 'Why not share this with all the other mommies who are facing the same problem?' So-Ta da! Here it is! I am SO excited to share this with all of you!"

There's no way that Grace Ann is for real, right? This is an internet prank? In this Jimmy Kimmel world, it's hard to tell anymore, but so far, the only website calling her story (called Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles) "satire" is using the word for legal reasons. Never does it say whether or not the piece itself is a joke. Sure, it's pretty out there, but not so far gone that it couldn't possibly be written in earnest.

So joke or not? It certainly is funny, and if it's for real I think this Grace Ann has managed to outdo the Chinese knockoff in terms of sheer badness - and that's no small feat! But the thing is, at least the Chinese author mostly used a text by Tolkien, who could actually write. From the excerpts floating around the Internet, Grace Ann clearly has no such aptitude and her prose is simply terrible.

Whether or not this is for real, it highlights one of the only points on which fundamentalist atheists and fundamentalist Christians agree - that the scourge of imagination must be opposed in every possible way. Fundamentalist atheists oppose fictional stories with magical elements because said elements are unscientific, while fundamentalist Christians oppose them because said elements are evil. But to me the whole thing is just silly all around.

Fictional stories are just that - fiction. If Harry Potter really did program kids to practice magick I would up to my ears in book sales by now. The first Harry Potter book came out in 1997, 17 years ago, and the series has sold over 400 million copies. If even one percent of those who read the books went on to practice magick, that would be four million practitioners.

If that were the case, I expect that new occult books would sell more than a thousand or so copies. These days an occult book that sells a couple thousand copies is considered a success because the market is still so small. So it seems to me that children don't have nearly as much trouble separating fantasy from reality as the anti-imagination brigade wants everyone to believe.

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