As early as 2000 John Granger, author of several books about Harry Potter, floated the idea that the creator of the series, J. K. Rowling, was at least an Inklings wanna-be. In part he debunks the idea that Rowling’s rise to fame is a Cinderella story — the welfare single mom making good against all odds. Instead, because of her background in the Classics and her ability to draw on ancient and medieval philosophy, her work is to be taken seriously and studied with as much vigor as that of the Inklings before her.
The idea became one of debate apparently. A member of The Chamber of Secrets forum brought up the issue, first defining the Inklings in this way:
This is an explanation of what an Inkling writer was:
Neither antihistorical, nor ahistorical, the Inklings’ view of myth is that it evokes awe, wonder, passion, and, what is more, pursuit—a culture’s myth is the story that has the power to explain the origin and destiny of a people, the text that orients them in history, guides them in the present, and points them to a future in which they and their offspring will live and move and have their being. Hence the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia. Myth places them in the presence of their creator and benefactor, judge and advocate, and answers the questions when, how, who, and why. A “true myth” has the power to explain where we came from, shape our identity and purpose, instill hope, promote justice,sustain order. That is why Lewis can describe the Christian gospel in these terms: “as myth transcends thought, Incarnation transcends myth. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. . . . Christians also need to be reminded . . . that what became Fact was a Myth,that it carries with it into the world of Fact all the properties of a myth.”
So an Inkling writer wrote about Christian themes using ideas and characters that represented those Christian beliefs.
The member then posed the question: Are the Harry Potter books really about Christianity?
While much of the discussion centered on Rowlings’ similarities/influence from C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, Jason Fisher, editor of Tolkien and the Study of His Sources, broadened the conversation to include Charles Williams. Pointing to one specific likeness, he said
Of course, independent invention is entirely possible. I have never heard that Rowling was a fan of Williams (though she has admitted a liking for Tolkien and especially Lewis). But the resemblance is striking, isn’t it? It could just be possible that Rowling has read Williams and picked up this clever little motif from him. It is remarkably specific, and I can’t recall anything like it anywhere else in my reading history.
Before the final Harry Potter book came out, one blogger framed the question about Rowling this way:
The ultimate question does seem to be whether Potter will live or die and, if in dying, Rowling is taking her sub-creation (hello J.R.R. Tolkien) closer to the kind of truly tragic ending that is going to push millions of readers — secular and religious — to wrestle with big, even eternal, issues. Is she, in effect, a kind of postmodern, progressive Inkling?
The discussion continued years later in a Google group
Is there a common denominator for the Inklings in which tradition
Rowling follows? …
Is it correct that Rowling is ‘following in the tradition Inklings’?
And if so, in what way(s) is this correct?
The fact is, no one can be a part of a group after the group has been disbanded and all its members dead. The Inklings collaborated with one another, critiqued, encouraged, and challenged each other — none of which someone writing years later could enjoy.
But did Rowling write in the Inklings’ tradition? David Kopel, in his review of Granger’s book, said
The Inklings were originally a group of Oxford dons who wrote Christian fiction. The most famous of them are J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series never mention Christianity overtly, and in Tolkien’s books, religion itself is absent from the plot. Yet these mythopoeic books aim to “baptize the imagination” of the reader — to teach her the importance of fighting for the right, no matter how powerful the forces of evil may appear.
Using that definition, I’m not sure I see a great difference from what we think as traditional fantasy. So what do you think? Where does Rowling belong in connection to the Inklings?