Let’s make it clear that I’m a BIG Harry Potter fan. I started reading the books when I was about ten or eleven, and as my birthday is the day before Harry’s (30th July) I could really relate to him, being almost the same age. I can remember reading it to my little sister and doing all the voices, dressing up as Dumbledore for her birthday party, going to see the first film and being so excited that the world I imagined was coming to life.
I remember camping with my friends at high school on the night that The Order of The Phoenix was released and contemplating sneaking into town to go and get it. I remember writing fanfiction, staying up all night reading and finally, at eighteen years old, queuing up outside Waterstones at midnight to get my hands on the final book.
I have grown up with the characters from Harry Potter, and they are so real to me that they almost feel like part of the family! J.K Rowling’s magical series has become not just a national institution, but a worldwide phenomenon, loved by children, parents and grandparents alike. But the question is, exactly why are the books so magical? I had a little think about it and came up with a list of reasons why Harry Potter is so magical for me.
1) Everyone can relate to Harry.
Wait a minute, most of us are not orphaned teenage wizards, right? True, but we can all relate to him in other ways. It’s in the moments of internal focalisation on Harry where we get to literally ‘hear’ his thoughts, and we see that he shares hopes and fears that nearly all of us have in common.
He’s not your stereotypical hero and has flaws just like the rest of us. His instincts are often wrong (SNAPE!), he has angry outbursts (especially in the later books) and he doesn’t always want to accept his destiny. Sometimes he is bitter about having to sacrifice himself for others, and doesn’t want all the responsibility, just as you or I probably would be if we found out we were ‘The Chosen One’. He gets jealous of others, is awkward around girls and has petty arguments with his friends, just like any other teenager and like most people he is plagued by self-doubt.
In short, Harry is human. He’s a well-rounded character with as many flaws as strengths, and that makes him believable and likeable.
2) We already feel like we know Harry’s world.
J.K Rowling makes the world of Harry Potter feel so familiar by populating it with things we will recognise. Many of the characters are classical archetypes found all over literature (Dumbledore can be compared to Gandalf and other wise mentors), and the plot is basically your familiar good versus evil story. The magical creatures in the books are all based on mythology and she even uses some characters from the real world, such as Nicholas Flammel.
The wizarding world seems to parallel ours in so many ways, for example, the war against Grindelwald has been compared to World War II. Where we have football they have Quidditch, where we have Girls Aloud, they have The Weird Sisters. The magical world still has racial prejudices, nasty journalists, incompetent politicians and not-so-talented celebrities. It is a reflection of our own reality and makes the world seem so much more believable. There really could be a whole other magical world that us muggles don’t know about.
3) The magic is in the detail.
Boy did J.K Rowling do her research. Instead of just making up a load of nonsense words for the spells and picking random names for characters, she gave a meaning to everything. All of the spells can be traced back to Latin words, the creatures are all based on real myth and legend and many of the characters names have hidden meanings. For example, Albus Dumbledore comes from the word alba, meaning white (which we associate with good), and his surname is Old English for bumblebee because apparently, she could imagine him absent-mindedly humming to himself.
Some characters (like Cedric) get their names from the knights of the round table, others (like Argus Filch and Minerva Mcgonagall) from Greek or Roman mythology. Seriously, you should check out all the name meanings here– they are pure genius! How did she think of names that not only sounded great and believable but actually had an appropriate meaning? Incredible. Not only that, there are hidden anagrams throughout the books (Hogwarts=ghost war), hidden clues as to which characters will die next and so many details that fit into the plot that only die-hard fans can spot them. She has researched every tiny, little piece that she wrote about so that every thread of the plot can be tied up together into one thick bundle.
4) It’s not predictable.
All the crazy fan theories have proved that and every book has a major plot twist. It is so clever the way that she weaves so many seemingly insignificant sub-plots into the main narrative, but at the end, they all come together and you realise that nothing was insignificant-it was all included for a reason. The books always keep you guessing, right up to the end.
5) It’s a roller coaster ride.
Who would have thought that a story about an orphaned boy whose parents were murdered by a dark wizard intent on destroying him, and who loses so many friends and family on the way, could be so hilarious? At times the books have you laughing out loud, especially genius comic characters like Hagrid, Ron, Neville, Fred and George. But they also have you crying when great characters die and they get you angry on Harry’s behalf when he is treated unfairly. The books have everything: adventure, romance, violence, poignancy, humour. Not a single human emotion remains untouched.
6) Harry has friends that we love to love and enemies we love to hate.
Hermione, Ron, the whole Weasley family, Luna, Lupin, Hagrid, Sirius…all of Harry’s friends are just so realistically portrayed, multi-dimensional, funny and loveable.
But the villains are not clear-cut either. Snape is not the person that Harry thought he was. Malfoy, although he ‘talked the talk’, could not ‘walk the walk’ in the end and although he isn’t a very likeable character, he is vulnerable and we can still feel sorry for him. The same can be said for Wormtail, however pathetic he is. Narcissa Malfoy, although on the side of evil, shows that her love for her son is stronger than this alliance in the final book. And even Voldemort, the very essence of evil, didn’t start off that way. We can see how being raised in an orphanage affected him, and how he chose the wrong path that led him on the way to becoming evil.
Conversely, most of the good characters have a dark side. Even Dumbledore had a past he wasn’t proud of.
7) The books bring out the big kid in all of us.
Harry Potter just has that fairytale quality. Who wouldn’t dream of having a liquid luck potion, a marauders map, an invisibility cloak and a pet owl? In the magical world, anything is possible, and all our childhood fantasies come to life.
There are so many reasons why Harry Potter is such a big success, and I’ve only explored why I enjoy it so much, maybe you have different ideas.
So I’d like to know: what makes Harry Potter magical for you? Feel free to post your ideas in the comments below or do a post about it and link back!