In 1999 my classmate lost her copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and sent the whole class on a hunt to find it. It was her favourite book, her most treasured story. Finally we found it and her tears of sadness turned into tears of joy. It got me thinking, what was so special about this story? Could it really be so special. Coincidentally, someone gifted me a copy the same year. Engrossed in the hype, I began reading it immediately, and completely understood why people loved this book, this series, and this entire franchise. Harry Potter had a new fan.
20 years ago, on June 26th, J.K Rowling gave us Harry Potter. While it began as a series for children, it has since captured many adults as well. Harry Potter has a world of it’s own, a fan base that ranges far and wide. The clubs, the websites, the fan fiction have taken over everything. A Harry Potter reference can be understood by anyone, irrespective of whether they’ve read the books, watched the movie or both. I have yet to come across a person who isn’t mesmerised by at least one of the aspects of the movie.
Apart from being incredibly entertaining, Harry Potter is also enlightening. While we fumble with Harry through the pages trying to decide what to do, what would be right, and understand the heavy burden that he has to carry, we let out a sigh of relief when Dumbledore steps in with his words of wisdom. “We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy” he says to Harry, and it resounds with all of us. These pearls of wisdom are scattered throughout the series, giving us a little bit more hope, and a little more clarity.
Harry and his friends are also outcastes for most of the series, and they embrace people who do not necessarily fit in with the crowd. According to a study, the constant embracing of different people, has influenced children to be more tolerant towards minorities. Harry stands up for the people who are discriminated against, he stands up for what is right and he understand people for who they are.
J.K Rowling has managed to include many metaphors beautifully in these books. My favourite, is the metaphor of depression and happiness. Dementors suck your soul out. They make you feel dark and depressed, like you can never feel happy again, a perfect metaphor for depression. It’s an easy way of explaining the feeling of depression to a child (of course, depression is more complex than this, but this comes close to the definition). And what’s the antidote to it? To think of the happiest moment of your life. A simple, but beautiful answer. Even here, the complex problem isn’t simplified. We see Harry struggle to find a happy thought, a happy moment, we see him try and try and try, and finally achieve it. Much like real life. We try and try and try and finally achieve it.
Harry’s fight against Voldermort isn’t just a story about good and evil but a story about growing up, internal struggles, choices, kindness, compassion and most of all, love. “Do not pity the dead,” says Dumbledore “pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love.” Harry’s entire relationship with Voldermort is to show us that love, above all, wins. It is ultimately people who love and who are loved who are more at peace than the ones who spread hate and fear. A valuable lesson, especially in current times.
20 years have passed since the release of the first book, showing us that these books are timeless and beautiful. J.K Rowling hasn’t simplified the problems, she hasn’t made the journey look easy and black and white. For most part of the story we’re wading through muddy waters with Harry trying to find the answers, much like our own lives. It is the complexity of the thoughts, the metaphors for life, and the very real struggles that make Harry Potter more than the a children’s story. It is this aspect of the series that makes it relatable to everyone.