A preface: If you have not read the last Harry Potter novel, please step away from the computer. Bookmark this post and come back later. I promise, I can wait.
Alright. Spoilerphobes gone? Good.
Harry Potter is a worldwide phenomenon. I’m sure there are statistics as to how many copies of the books have been sold, how many languages they’ve been translated into, and how much money the films have grossed. Honestly, I’m not an entertainment writer, and I don’t really care about all that. This is what Harry Potter—both the books and the movies—have meant to me personally.
I’m a voracious reader. I always have been, I always will be, and anyone who has known me for longer than five minutes can testify to that. Right now, even, it’s a struggle to not pick up A Game of Thrones and start reading because I need to devote all my time and brainpower to my Independent Study paper.
August 8th. It’s going down.
Ahem. Sorry, where was I?
Yes. Voracious reader, that I am. Any books I could get my hands on, I devoured as fast as I could. Seriously, I love love love to read. My fourth and fifth grade teachers still like to remark that I was the only student they’d ever had who tried to read between questions on spelling tests.
I was eleven when I first discovered Harry Potter, which is a lovely bit of symmetry since Harry discovered his magical heritage at the age of eleven. Scholastic was holding a Book Fair at my school, and for reasons I can’t recall, I had a coupon from one of my teachers for a free book. This shouldn’t be surprising, but I loved when we had Book Fairs. They were one of my favorite events of the school year, and I used to beg my mom for a little bit of extra money to get a new book.
But at this Book Fair, nothing was jumping out at me. Nearly all the books there were either: a) uninteresting, b) too juvenile, or c) I’d already read them. Nothing looked like anything I would like—and considering I read just about every genre of book, that’s saying something.
Until I saw it.
It was an unassuming paperback, and there were only two or three copies sitting on a table. It wasn’t a skinny little book, but it wasn’t very large by my standards, either. I picked it up, intrigued by the cover art—a boy on a broomstick, a cape flying behind him as he reached out for a little round ball. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the title proclaimed.
I had never heard of it.
Nevertheless, the back blurb sounded interesting, so I redeemed my coupon for that book and headed off to study hall. Presumably, one was supposed to study during study hall, but I usually spent my time reading or drawing (funny, can I do that for a career?).
The first Harry Potter book was an easy, engaging read, and I quickly found myself engrossed in the world that JK Rowling had created. Despite the teasing from my classmates—I was odd enough, and reading a book about a boy wizard made me even weirder, in their eyes—I kept on and quickly finished the first three books of the series (as they were the only ones out at the time).
Flash forward one year, and two things happened simultaneously. One, our Reading teacher announced we were going to read the first two Harry Potter books in class. (My junior high self was thinking, ‘Yeah, who’s weird now? Huh? Huh?’)
And two, the first book was going to be made into a movie.
I don’t think anyone could have predicted what happened after. The mania that set in, the midnight book releases with costumes and role playing, or the way that the world of Harry Potter took our world—the Muggle world—by storm.
As I grew older, I remember begging my parents to drive me to the Sam’s Club in Knoxville the day each new book was released. (As a warehouse store, I knew that Sam’s would always have enough copies, and there would be no need to reserve one or stand in line). I specifically remember picking up the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, on the way home from a cattle show. It nearly killed me, but I resolved not to start reading until we’d arrived home, and I was able to get all the dirt and other unsavory barn things off my hands.
I remember where I was when Dumbledore died (4-H Roundup at UTK, summer of 2005). My poor roommate—who didn’t read the books—probably thought I was crazy, lying on the bed with tears streaming down my cheeks as I turned those last few pages.
I cried when Hedwig died.
Remus and Tonks.
I know it may sound ridiculous to some—meaning my mother, mostly—to cry over the death of fictional characters. But the beauty of JKR’s world was, they didn’t seem fictional at all. As I’d grown up, they’d grown up as well. While I know their world doesn’t exist, her words painted such a vivid picture in my mind that, while I read, it was easy to suspend disbelief and think that it all was real.
My best friends think I’m nuts. They don’t understand how I can be so devoted to a series of books, for crying out loud. And you know, all I can say is this: if you’ve never been swept away in something grander than yourself, never let your imagination run away with you because of the written word, then I pity you.
Harry Potter is more than just a series of books. It’s more than just a set of eight films. It’s a part of my childhood, something I’ve loved dearly since I was little, and something I’m sure that I will continue loving for the rest of my life. I know that what it means to me pales in comparison to what it means to others—the actors, for example, and JKR herself—but it is what it is. If by some stroke of luck, I ever have a piece of fiction published, I can only hope that it is a fraction as well-received as JRK’s illustrious work.
So for the next week, I’ll continue on much as I have for the past little while. I’ll work, and I’ll go home and write my Independent Study paper and work on my Capstone project. I’ll stress about my job search, and I’ll look forward to seeing my family again in August.
But next Thursday night, I’m going to suspend my stress and worries. I’m going to leave grad school at home. I’m going to pull down my green and silver scarf out of the attic—even though it’s about 98 degrees in D.C.—and I’m going to the midnight showing of the final Harry Potter film. I’ll probably sob like a small child, but it’s warranted. As the movie posters have proclaimed for the past year, “It all ends here.”
So thank you, Jo Rowling, for sharing with us your genius. Thank you for giving us Mr. H. Potter of Number 4, Privet Drive, Little Whinging. Thank you to all the actors for bringing this world to life on screen for all of us to see. And thank you to everyone else who had a hand in this rich and fantastic world.
And thank you, Mr. Potter. Thank you for being my friend.