Since it is the twentieth anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone, depending on your country), I decided I wanted to write a little personal essay on why Harry Potter and JK Rowling mean so much to me and many others. Like many others, it is the foundation for my love of books and has inspired my writing in many ways. I felt it was a perfect time to give a little ode to The Boy Who Lived.
The first time I became interested in the series was when I was just about to turn six. The television was on in my living room and a preview caught my eye. It was a preview for the second movie, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I turned to my mom and told her I wanted to see that movie. I knew nothing about it but I was intrigued by the flying Ford Anglia. My mom told me I had to read the book first before I saw the movie. Happily, I obliged because I was a weird kid who loved the thought of being able to read a book on my own. At first, my mom would read me the book but I became increasingly frustrated because I felt I could do a better job with all of the pronunciations of the spells and names. I snatched The Sorcerer’s Stone from her hands and she let me continue on my own way.
Soon, the books and movies began to pick up traction in mainstream pop culture. My parents found themselves sucked into a series that they once disregarded as just another kid’s book. My sister was a little late to catch on but now we get into arguments over the content of the books and certain characters. I attended a Harry Potter-themed camp as my first Girl Scout camp. I got a Harry Potter doll and a toy obstacle course of sorts that allowed you to “levitate” a ball through a series of hoops. (It wasn’t a Quidditch toy but some of you out there might know what I’m talking about.) I went to midnight book releases and movie premiers. I dressed as Hermione for Halloween three years in a row, teasing my hair out to exaggerate my already frizzy curls. About two years ago, I went to the Harry Potter theme park in Universal. Since I was just a small child, the Harry Potter series has been my constant literary companion. Looking back at it now, it is easy to see why.
I distinctly remember my elementary school library consisting of series such as Goosebumps and The Babysitters’ Club. While I don’t mean to insult these books since they are a main part of many childhoods, I just remember not finding them interesting at all. Before JK Rowling came along, most children’s literature and YA books were written to be approved by adults. Magic was reserved for bedtime stories. Rowling, however, decided that magic should be for everyone. The series was not written to condescend to children about problems with growing up but to show sympathy and encouragement while struggling with life. It doesn’t pit children against adults, or use the “Listen to the Adults” trope, but shows how their is not simply good or evil but people with different motivations. This is how Rowling set herself apart from other children’s authors in a revolutionary kind of way.
JK Rowling herself is also a major part of why the series is still just as loved today. She stays in touch with fans on social media, isn’t afraid to expand her stories and answer questions, and she is honest about her life. To this very day, she is still hands on with her stories and is in control of the movies as well. The cast of the movies are still in touch and have mini reunions that make my heart flutter whenever I see them reference the movies. This unique network of writers and actors help to keep the hype alive. With the success of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, it doesn’t look the Harry Potter craze is going to fade out any time soon.
I can’t help but smile when I see new Harry Potter merchandise come out or hear it referenced in another show or movie. I still feel giddy whenever the first few notes of Hedwig’s Theme plays. I own several wands and have a Ravenclaw phone case. I cherish my well loved copies that have sat in the same spot on my bookshelf for as long as I can remember. I still play Harry Potter trivia. I can not properly express how I love the strange bond between “Potterheads,” as the fans have been dubbed.
It’s hard to imagine a life without Harry Potter. I hope it continues to inspire future generations in the same way it inspired my generation.