I love the Harry Potter stories. My first trip through them was an audio excursion guided by the talented Jim Dale. Enthusiasm for the books swept me right into reading them aloud to my children, and we’re almost finished with the series. I am thrilled that J. K. Rowling’s next book, The Casual Vacancy, is appearing any moment now. I can’t wait to read it. Sorry for my effusive delight over these books—what I’m trying to do is tell you about one of the characters in the Harry Potter stories, Remus Lupin.
There’s a play on his name, as lupus is the Latin word for “wolf,” and Lupin is a werewolf. Werewolves are not exactly pleasant, and the surprising thing is that Lupin is one of the good guys. This is one of the ways that Rowling has given us stories that are true to life.
In the Potter stories, if you get bitten by a werewolf, the bite infects you and can make you a werewolf. Remus Lupin’s father had offended an awful villain of a werewolf, and that werewolf sought revenge by biting Remus when he was a child.
Remus did not want to be a werewolf. Abused by an adult, he became a danger to himself and others. He was cut off from society. He suffered terribly, and he had no control over his affliction. At the full moon, whether he wanted to be transformed into a werewolf or not, he lost control of himself and became something dangerous.
Have you ever met anyone who has experienced something like this? Or has this been your own experience? Something tragic, awful, happened during childhood, and its painful repercussions seem all but inescapable?
J. K. Rowling tells a story in which there’s hope for people who have been abused as children, abused in ways that threaten to make them monsters as adults. Rowling’s story helps us to sympathize with people we might not otherwise understand, people we might otherwise fear. Lupin tells his personal history in book three, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I saw Rowling interviewed, and she commented on how much Lupin means to her.
Remus relates how it seemed impossible that he would get to study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, until a headmaster came to the school who believed in giving people second chances, believed in trusting people, believed in the power of love. Albus Dumbledore allowed Remus Lupin into Hogwarts, and he devised a way for Lupin to be protected—from himself and others—when his monthly transformation took place. Dumbledore thought carefully about the situation, about Lupin’s affliction and needs, and he took steps to make sure that Lupin would not destroy others or himself when he became a werewolf.
Lupin goes on to relate how as the years of his schooling passed, his “three great friends” did something for him that made his painful transformations “not only bearable, but the best times” of his life.
What could his friends have done for him?
First, when his friends learned his secret, they didn’t reject him. From there, his friends began to explore ways to care for him, ways to enter into his experience, ways to be in his life in his moment of need, to walk with him through the trial.