Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Prophecy - part 2

A few months ago I wrote about the theme of prophecy in my two favourite series of books, Harry Potter and The Belgariad.
The summary is here:

“In The Belgariad the prophecy is a conscious personality, one of two destinies, trying to set things up to its own advantage.  One of the two prophecies will be fulfilled, and one will not.  If Garion’s prophecy is fulfilled, things will look very different from what will happen if it is not fulfilled.
In Harry Potter, the prophecy is a prediction that may or may not be fulfilled.  The fulfilment or otherwise determines the fate of many characters.  In a way, the only difference is the consciousness of the prophecies.  In both stories, characters can choose to follow the prophecy or not, but the fact that The Belgariad’s prophecy is conscious means that it has much more of a direct say in what happens.  This is paralleled in Harry Potter by the character of Dumbledore, who knows the prophecy and helps Harry deal with it, giving him advice and instructions.  The combination of the spoken prophecy and the character of Dumbledore combine to have a similar role to that of the conscious prophecy in The Belgariad.”

A friend read the post and suggested a follow-up post comparing prophecy in these two series and Christian prophecy.  So here are a few thoughts.

In the Belgariad, the Prophecy is conscious, rather than just a message given by someone to someone else.  It guides its own fulfilment, though another prophecy is working against it for the opposite outcome.
In Harry Potter, the prophecy is a message rather than a character.  Like the Belgariad prophecy, it was given at a certain time through a certain person (Trelawney), but, being non-sentient, it cannot work towards its own fulfilment.  Dumbledore takes the role of guiding characters towards the fulfilment of the prophecy, acting like a chess grandmaster, much like the consciousness of the prophecy in the Belgariad.
In Christianity, prophecy is a message from God, given through a person.  Like the Harry Potter prophecies, is it not conscious and can take no action.  While Harry Potter prophecies seem to be predictions of the future, Christian prophecy is not necessarily.  In Christianity, prophecy is a message from the all-powerful character (God), rather than being the all-powerful character itself (as in the Belgariad), or having the all-powerful character act on its behalf (Dumbledore in Harry Potter).
This can be summarised in the following table:

Harry Potter
Consciousness of prophecy
Given by
Given through
Given to
Group of humans
Everyone, via the Hall of Prophecy
Enacted by
Very powerful human

Christian prophecy is more similar to the Belgariad, because the Prophecy in the Belgariad is basically a god, who speaks to humans.  In Christianity, God speaks to humans, but the prophecy is the message, rather than God himself.  But the difference is only one of terminology.  In Harry Potter, there is no god, and the prophecy is the message.  Dumbledore plays part of the role of God in Christianity and the Prophecy in the Belgariad in terms of guiding humans to fulfil prophecy.

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