Sunday, December 7, 2008

There Is No Place Like Hogwarts for the Holidays

The holidays are the perfect time of year to delve into fantasy sagas because (at the risk of sounding cheesy) it is a magical time of year. So, I’ve been in Twilight/Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings/Narnia mode lately. I saw the Twilight movie on its opening night, which was the perfect start to the Thanksgiving/holiday season. The baseball scene was my favorite. In fact, it seems that I’ve rediscovered a lot of these series through the films lately.

Any Twilight fan understands how the Twilight movie naturally leads to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. But I haven’t exactly gotten to the fourth Harry Potter film yet because I’ve started from the beginning, with the first one, and have only now just made it to the point of the Triwizard Tournament. But exploring the whole series does make me realize one thing: some of my favorite moments in the Harry Potter series, especially as portrayed in the films, are the Christmas scenes. Who can forget the first time Harry put on the invisibility cloak or Harry’s first visit to Hogsmeade, the Yule Ball, or Christmas with the Weasleys at number 13 Grimmauld Place?

But recently I watched Return of the King on TV, and the whole time all I could think was how great Lord of the Rings had been when I was reading it. I should definitely read the series again. I haven’t gotten a chance to read it since the first time. As good as the movies are (and seeing them was an experience in and of itself), I still have a fondness for what it was like to sit for hours and discover the story through the book. That’s how I feel about all of it really. After my stint of movie-watching, I can’t help but come to the conclusion that it cannot replace reading. So . . . what to read?

You can’t forget about Narnia. I’ll admit that I haven’t read the whole series yet, but I have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe more than once. My favorite holiday moment is when Lucy first walks out of the wardrobe and meets Mr. Tumnus. Okay, so it’s not technically a “holiday” moment, but maybe the reason I like it so much is because it reminds me of Christmas. Of the whole series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the one to read during Christmas, not only because of the snow, or because Santa Claus makes an appearance, but also because its story, which is steeped in Christian allegory, successfully reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas.

And the fun doesn’t stop there. One fantasy author that should not be overlooked is Robin McKinley. I love Robin McKinley books. So far I’ve read Beauty, Spindle’s End, and the Hero and the Crown. I’ve also read most of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series--I’ve read every book except the first and the last. Go figure. Currently, I am in the middle of T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, and perhaps this is the perfect time for me to finish Christopher Paolini’s Eldest.

But if reading a whole book--or, as is often the case in the fantasy genre, a whole series--during the holiday season seems intimidating, I would recommend browsing a compilation of fairy tales. They’re short and sweet and chock full of the fantastical. Besides, J.K. Rowling’s Tales of Beedle the Bard has just come out in bookstores. Perhaps you should check it out :)