photo credit : jkrowling.com/writing/
For the past eight months I have been re-reading the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling. Growing up I only read the first four books. I was one of the few who actually did not finish reading the series but I did watch every single movie when they came out. I also collected wands, Harry Potter merchandise and related books (Fantastic Beasts and Quidditch Through the Ages).
Last fall I decided I wanted to read the entire series in order. Last month I finally finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, this week I finished Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.In celebration of finishing reading the entire series plus the playscript I watched the Harry Potter Movies ( I have seen the movies countless times over the years). I did not plan on my return to the Harry Potter world to align with the commemorative 20 year anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone but it conveniently worked out that way.
This post is a quick reflection on reading the series and watching the movies plus a brief overview of the playscript.
Also, a brief comment on if the Harry Potter books are a bad influence because of their fantasy/magic elements.
I became totally enthralled with the Harry Potter world after seeing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the theatre in 2001. I would keep the popcorn bag and movie tickets for years until I finally lost them when I was 18. Immediately afterwards I immersed myself in the Harry Potter world, collecting movie merch and the books. I remember reading the first two Harry Potter books when I was a kid and being completely sucked in (this was about the same time I became an avid reader).
When I read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban I was around ten and I remember thinking suddenly that I was nervous and scared to keep reading. The first two books were amazing but it wasn’t until Prisoner of Azkaban that I felt like I was reading a scary story. Prisoner of Azkaban became my favorite book and movie instantly for its dark content. When I read Goblet of Fire, the death of Cedric brought a new level to reading the books. First, they were getting bigger and bigger. Second, the death of Cedric brought gravity to the story. It felt like the threat of Voldemort reached beyond just the story and became a serious matter during my childhood.
Rereading the first four books, I was amazed at how much I actually remembered. I did read the third and fourth book multiple times growing up but because of the increasing size of the books I felt overwhelmed at the idea of reading them but enjoyed the movies nevertheless. Reading them this time, having a few more years of reading under my belt along with critical analysis skills and a soon to be complete BA in English, I found myself dissecting the books in the same way I would a piece of 20th Century Fiction (natural habit for me but for some yawn evoking). Key aspects that I noticed and took notes on included character development, details on the harry potter world/magic and the classic story line of good versus evil. These aspects sound simple enough but when time is given to pick them apart suddenly the genius of J.K. Rowling emerges.
Character Development: I felt at certain times especially as the books became darker and more serious, the character development was incredible and fascinating. The complexities within each character, the struggles, fights and relationships I felt reflected the characters ages accurately. Following a small child’s life from birth to the final face off with Voldemort at 17, the books contain the growing pains of a young kid but also the anguish of a child fighting for his life and trying to survive his ‘adventures’.
While reading the Order of the Phoenix, Harry and his friends begin to feel differently, their attitudes, actions and behavior appear to be maturing but also possess the complications of teenage years. Harry is constantly being pushed beyond his limits, fighting alone or fighting together with Ron and Hermione (who have their own issues). Barely surviving attacks and life threatening adventures the trio uses their talents, wits and strengths to keep going but underneath it all is the theme of friendship and love that keeps them alive.
Harry Potter World/Magic: It is the little inventions and unique approach to magic/fantasy that make me admire J.K. Rowling even more. The simple idea of Quidditch (wizarding sport that includes balls, hoops, and broomsticks) or the talking/moving/exploding candies to the larger more complex idea of Horcrux’s which weaves the entire story line together in a thrilling magical mystery. For an author to sit down and think out these particular elements of their own fictional world is a feat that should be respected and taken seriously. Making clever and complex ideas work within a piece of fiction require skill, there are many places where Rowling magical creations could have not worked but honestly every aspect is so thoroughly thought out and woven together perfectly in concept that there is almost nothing that I could think of that could have been improved.
Good versus Evil: I think we (the audience) understate the gravity of the ‘Good vs. Evil’ story line in Harry Potter. Rowling could have easily made the story simpler where it was only Harry Potter versus Draco Malfoy but instead she gave Harry depth and a mysterious past. The villain wasn’t soft around the edges or toned down, Voldemort killed, tortured and sought out Harry’s death plenty in the series. The ultimate bad guy that represented ignorance, hatred, and power-hungry selfishness. The political and social commentary that lives under this story is what really intrigued me. The whole idea of Voldemort wanting wizards to rule over muggles, that ‘pure bloods’ are the only true wizards and that ‘mudbloods’ are nothing, bring to mind horrible similarities with the Nazi’s in World War Two. As well as the whole concept of House Elfs, Goblin rights/wars and how wizards regard and treat magical creatures (think of the Centaurs and Giants). These details add social commentary to the Harry Potter story that can be reflected on and applied to real world scenarios.
Not only is there true evil represented in Voldemort but also realities in child and adult relationships (not all adults are good, they are complicated and have their own problems as well). For instance, the short relationship between Harry and Sirius Black (his Godfather) who is constantly reminded of James when he sees Harry and on more than one occasion treats Harry as if he is James. Another example is the complicated relationship between Harry and Dumbledore (Headmaster at Hogwarts), in the last three books Dumbledore’s attention to Harry becomes more questionable, is Dumbledore using Harry to defeat Voldemort? Did Dumbledore really ever care about Harry? (All this is concluded and revealed in the Deathly Hollows) it is complicated and mysterious most of the time since naturally Dumbledore is presented as good and whole, a sort of father figure/ master protector of Harry but as Dumbledore’s past is revealed, his intentions are questioned by Harry and others.
A few other key characters that I think are worth mentioning that add to the ‘Good vs. Evil’ element of the story. Gilderoy Lockhart, an egotistical writer and fanatic that puts Harry and his friends in danger for fame and glory (he is briefly a teacher at Hogwarts). Dolores Umbridge (works for the Ministry of Magic) hides her beliefs and support for Voldemort in public but soon reveals how evil and treacherous she really is when she temporarily becomes Headmistress at Hogwarts. Peter Pettigrew (Scabbers) an animagus wizard who hides as a household pet in the Weasley family for years before discovery (finally redeems himself in the Deathly Hollows) his lies and devotion to Voldemort to save his own skin is repulsive. And of course, Severus Snape who is presented to readers and characters almost throughout the entire series as an evil man who torments Harry and is a double-spy (Order of the Phoenix and Voldemort follower). In the end Snape is revealed to have protected Harry and impeded Voldemort the entire time, an unknown ultimate hero of the story.
Movies (1-7.1 &7.2):
There were multiple directors that did the Harry Potter movies and because of this each movie has a particular feel and style that changes over time while reflecting the subject matter of each film (in my opinion, this is successful). The movies do leave out a lot of events, info and details from the books but keep the story line strong. I found that at certain points the movie almost paralleled the book precisely then diverted off, or changed this and that. (Example: the Battle at Hogwarts, Neville’s role or how Doby is buried/where.) Little details and little things but overall the movies are done well and even now hold up to the special effects used today (think of the Philospher’s Stone troll scene in the girls bathroom).
It has only been six years since the last Harry Potter film was released but it feels like it was forever ago. It is amazing to think that for almost my entire childhood I had this fantastic story growing up alongside me. An inspiring story that encourages people to treasure friendship and fight against evil and intolerance.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Playscript):
I am not a big fan of scripts/screenplays. I find them to be a story without meat, just the bones and hard to digest.
Admittedly I was fascinated by this story of Harry’s child, Albus, and Draco’s child Scorpius, as they try to fix the past but in the end fight against evil alongside their parents. I found the first part (the playscript is divided into two parts) a little lagging and without the cherished narrative of Rowling. It is simple and cut out, using the characters to tell another Harry Potter story, for the next generation. The second part I found more interesting since many elements from the first part were finally beginning to tie together and make sense. Reading the playscript feels more like a cartoon version of events than the life-like one of the books. Overall, any Harry Potter fans must read this playscript sequel if they want to quench their thirst for more from the Harry Potter world. Of course there is also Fantastic Beasts.
Are the Harry Potter books a bad influence?
I have heard countless times from people that the Harry Potter books promote witchcraft practices/satanism. I remember when there were articles and news stories about Christians and other religious groups banning and burning Harry Potter books in fear that they promote devil worship even now Harry Potter books are under attack in public libraries and other places because of their content but regardless of this there have been more than
“…450 million copies sold world wide…”
I believe the only reason for these responses is purely because most religions are taught that ‘magic’, ‘witches’ and ‘wizards’ are directly linked to the devil. This has been taught for a very very long time and it started centuries ago. The fear of the devil and magic (from a Christians point of view) stems from fear of unknown pagan religions that include their practices and beliefs. For more information on the history of pagan and christian religions, here’s a quick overview.
The story of Harry Potter should be treasured for what it teaches children and adults. That love, friendship and family should be valued above all else and that in the face of evil and intolerance we must come together and fight. The story of Harry Potter promotes acceptance, peace, and the triumph of good over evil.
If you are reading this Thank You for taking time out of your day to read my writing!
I hope that you will return in the future!