I remember hearing about Harry Potter, this new kid’s series that “promoted witchcraft”. I laughed and moved on, after all, crazy people love to blame books, movies, and video games for a whole host of things. My cousin later gave me a copy of Book 4, The Goblet of Fire, which had just come out. I was fairly happy, but didn’t have the first 3 books, so I tossed it on my shelf and didn’t think much more about it.
Fast forward about a year later and here I am, in a bookshop in Oxford, England, and my friend is buying a CD. I look down and there is a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The movie buzz had already begun so I was aware of the US/UK name switch, so I bought the copy of the book. It seemed like a neat thing to have and a good souvenir. A few days later, I had finished the book I had brought on the trip and was getting ready to fly home. So I pulled out Philosopher’s Stone and tucked it in my book bag.
By the time my plane landed in New Jersey, I had finished it. I was enraptured. It was *such* a good book. Walking through the NJ airport, I noticed a book store, with Chamber of Secrets prominently displayed. *yoink* I bought the book and then settled down to read. Over the next two hours every single flight was delay or canceled. Most of our group was sweating the idea of spending the night in NJ. I was wondering if I should run back to the book store and see if they had Prisoner of Azkaban.
Our flight was one of the only ones that left that evening, and I finished Chamber of Secrets before we landed in Memphis. On the ride home (remember, after being in England and Ireland for 11 days) I asked my mom if we could stop by Barnes and Noble to pick up Book 3. She pushed it off to the next day.
I blazed through Book 3 that next day and started Book 4 that night. In total it took my less than 16 hours total over 3 days to read the first four books. And Book 5, wasn’t out yet. It wasn’t even close. I convinced my mother to read the series and she was as hooked as I was.
Thus began the great bonding my mother and I had over midnight movie showings, midnight book releases, and discussing the finer points of Harry Potter philosophy.
One of the best instances was right before Book 5 came out. My mother worked at a religious school, and I had been hired to help with data entry tasks. A well meaning nut came into the office to hand out fliers and try to convince us to come and help her group picket the various bookstores in the area in protest of that “witchy” book being released.
I, in my usual, I don’t like idiots fashion, tossed the flyer into the recycle bin within seconds of it touching my hand. The woman noticed and immediately went on the offensive. Didn’t I know that that book teaches young impressional minds about magic and witchcraft? Didn’t I know that it claims that “there is no good or evil, only those with power and those too weak to seek it?” (To be fair, that is in the book, but it is said by Lord Voldemort, so I am pretty sure it kind of proves it’s own point by the end.)
I could not resist. Reaching down into the recycling bin, I snagged the offending flyer and stood up.
“You know what? You’re right. This is a terrible thing and we should do something.” I proclaimed as her eyes lit up. She looked thrilled. She just knew she had convinced someone to her cause.
“But why are you stopping at Harry Potter? There are plenty of other books that are just as bad, if not worse. We need to let these people know we don’t want their spell books in our stores.”
“Yes!” She agreed fervently.
“I mean, look at fairy tales! In Disney movies alone they have that fairy god mother. Beauty and the Beast is just as bad.” I started making notes on the back of the flyer as I proceeded to list every single Disney movie I could think of and why it’s magical events were obscene and should be removed, for the children. The woman’s face faded from excitement to a confused look.
“Well, I don’t know, I mean, those aren’t that bad…” She said in a low voice, clearly unsure of this new step.
“No no!” I insisted, “We have to be through. Like that Bible. It has to go too.”
Her shocked face very nearly made me laugh with glee, I didn’t though, it would have ruined the whole thing.
“Well, Jesus turns water into wine, that’s very clearly magic. As is walking on water. Oh, and he raises people from the DEAD. That’s Necromancy! One of the most vile branches of magic.” I finished with a flourish of the paper.
The woman opened and closed her mouth several times. She made some kind of squeaking sound. Then turned and stormed out without a word. My mother looked at me, a bit shocked, a bit proud, a bit disappointed.
“I can’t believe you did that.” She said.
“I can’t believe you didn’t expect me to do that.” I responded, as I returned to my work, once more toss the flyer into the recycling bin.
We spent the evening eating out, then sitting in a line at Walmart discussing the books with some other rather lovely people.
We got Book 5 at midnight, then drove home, with me reading the first chapter in the car out loud. I stayed up reading until at some point I fell asleep, the book flopping forward onto my chest. When I woke up a few hours later, I simply righted the book, and continued on.
Book 6 I got from Amazon, release day delivery, at 8 am, when I went down to my apartment complex’s office only to see the poor girl working the office that morning sorting through what looked like a hundred or so identical Amazon boxes. I helped her sort them, finding my own, and then went back to my house, and spent the whole day reading.
By the time we got to Book 7, I was working at Toys R Us. I was the SRS for the store, and was a part of the group that received the large pallet of books two days before release. It was wrapped in black plastic, and at some point, in transit, had been knocked, so the top half of it was shifted slightly and the plastic was torn. As my office was the only lockable space large enough, and still usable, I ended up with it there. And managed to shimmy a book out of one of the boxes. Three cheers for doing something completely illegal that would have gotten me fired, but I really didn’t care. I had to know how it ended.
Two days later I waited in line at Borders and bought my copy to go home and read it all the way through. I stayed up all night, and was quite exhausted the next day. But it was done. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole series, but there was a sense of loss. No more Harry Potter. No more Ron Weasley. No more Hermione Granger.
But wait! There were still movies! I clung to that thought like a drowning man clinging to a branch.
Now, here in the Summer of 2011, I have seen the last movie. I have felt the whirlwind ease. I have cheered over Voldemort’s fall. I am sure I will read the books again. I am sure I will have movie marathons. I can’t wait to have children and experience the stories again through them when they are old enough. Harry Potter is as much a part of my life as College or High School. The movie posters for 7 Part 2, said “It All Ends.” And it was, an ending, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone, or it’s never going to come up again. I still have a red and gold scarf. I still have my Dumbledore’s Army shirt.
There are many things I could talk about, why the books are superior to other book series (the philisophical ideals presented, the growth of the characters, the compelling prose); why the movies, despite being so variant in tone and direction are superb to other movie series (the tone reflecting the audience, the different viewpoints and small shifts in the story better detailing the world beyond the books, the actors themselves growing into their roles and doing bang up jobs); or simply say, this was truly a series, both book and movie, for our age and era. Harry may not be a classic yet, but I am sure he will be.
Thank you J.K. Rowling, and Harry Potter, for allowing me into your world. The movies may have ended and new books may have stopped being written, but the story lives on in all the hearts and lives it has touched.
I know I will always wish that I were 11 years old and see an owl carrying a small parchment envelop, with green ink, bearing my name.