Topic: Sports & Entertainment Society

Thorin Brentmar
(July 2005)

Perhaps it should alarm us that such basic, garden-variety honesty is newsworthy.

Still, The Ethics Scoreboard hereby salutes Santa Cruz resident Thorin Brentmar, who received a copy of the new Harry Potter book (“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”) in the mail a full four days before its official release. As the contents of the next-to-last installment of cult children’s series have more closely (and effectively) guarded than the identities of C.I.A. agents, there were many book reviewers, parents, and other assorted Muggles who would have paid Brentmar a treasure for his prize, and there would have been nothing legally wrong with his collecting it. Taking possession of the book may have obligated him to pay the sender fair value for it, but it was still legally his to do with what he pleased.

Thorin Brentmar didn’t know why he got the book (our guess is that it’s because his name convinced someone that he was a character in it), but he is a big Harry Potter fan. Yet Thorin didn’t even read “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” intense as his curiosity must have been.

No, Thorin phoned the publishers, Scholastic Press, to tell them about the error, and when they asked for the book back, he sent it to them.

Simple. Obvious. Right.

Upon reflection, we should be grateful that the publishers decided to alert the press so this ethical man received some publicity for what for him appears to be as natural as breathing. Thorin Brentmar is an excellent role model for everyone whose daily ethical dilemmas don’t involve matters of national security, scientific incursions into the mysteries of life, or the allure of performance enhancing drugs, which is to say the vast majority of Americans. His conduct shows that when you have a strong concept of right and wrong, many of our daily ethical challenges aren’t really dilemmas at all. He just returned something of value, which he knew he knew had to have been sent to him in error, to its rightful owner. That’s all.

And in the America of the 21st Century, that makes him an Ethics Hero.

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