Editor’s Note: Yesterday, was the premiere of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2”, the final film in the Harry Potter film series. This piece, by Rider senior Briana Walsh, was written shortly before she graduated in May.
I was sitting in my bedroom in the cupboard under the stairs when I heard my cousin Dudley jumping above me. Living with the Dursley’s at 4 Private Drive was terrible, but my parents had died before I even had the chance to truly meet them, so it was all I knew. My Aunt Petunia beckoned me from the kitchen, which most likely meant there was some sort of chore to be done. It was my spoiled cousin’s birthday so the room was swallowed with gifts. I watched him count the presents greedily and complain to my uncle that there weren’t enough. In this moment I knew there was somewhere else for me. This place, this life, it wasn’t where I belonged; I just wished I knew where I was meant to be.
A few days later my wish was granted and my life was forever changed. All it took was a small white parcel to slide through my mail slot out of the talons of an owl that read in a scribbled font:
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
As some of you may have realized unfortunately, this is not the life I led; only one I was envious of. This is the story of one of the most legendary wizards of our time, Mr. Harry James Potter.
Anyone who knows the tales of the heroic wizard can attest that his life is not always one to envy. I can only assume these inner feelings of this exceptional character, for alas isn’t that the point of a fairy-tale? Growing up with the fictional accounts of Harry Potter, it is nearly impossible for children not to inject themselves into the story.
From the day that Harry was welcomed to the Hogwarts School, it was as though I was learning every lesson and spell alongside him.
Harry Potter has been a household name ever since the Christmas I received my first book. Ironically, I was eleven years old, the same age as was Harry in the first story. Growing up alongside characters such as Harry, Ron, and Hermione has provided an entirely new aspect to a somewhat boring life. Harry Potter has not only shaped my life but inevitably my entire societal generation.
For any muggle (non-wizarding folk) who has been living under a rock for the past 10 years, the Harry Potter series was written by world-renowned British author J.K. Rowling. The first book of the series titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published on June 30, 1997 by Bloomsbury publishing in London. The book was later adapted for the American audience by the Scholastic Corporation in 1998.
According to LRS (The Library Research Service) within the first decade of the books being published, the series sold 325 million copies worldwide, 121.5 million were printed for the United States alone.
Also BCC News established that the seventh book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold nearly 11 million copies within 24 hours of its release. Ironically the release turned out to be more popular in the states selling only 2.7 million copies in the UK and over 8.3 million in the US.
Before Harry Potter it was virtually unheard of for children to wait in line for hours just for a book. Kids who previously had been glued to their TVs were asking their parents to turn down the volume so they could plow through the pages.
For those who are afraid to break into the Potterverse due to lack of knowledge about the characters and terms, no worries, there’s an app for that! Well actually, not quite yet but I’m sure one is soon to come.
Fortunately however, there are numerous sites dedicated to educating the world on Harry Potter jargon. What is Quidditch one might ask? Why only the most wonderful game ever created on a broomstick. How about veritaserum? This tricky potion is a powerful truth serum that is most commonly used in interrogation, and only one of the many concoctions you learn about in the book. These are only a few of the terms that any true Potter fans would know offhand.
For those concerned about character confusion, fear not, most online wizarding dictionaries also include full descriptions of characters and places. For example, did you know Dumbledore has a brother named Aberforth? His description on Shmoop.com lists him as Dumbledore’s “odd and prickly brother, who turns out not to be quite as strange as he’s rumored to be.” (Check out sites such as HarryPotterDictionary.com or MoRiver.net to for a complete list of characters and terminology.)
How does society handle these Potter fanatics? Well Potter-preparation can be quite stressful according to Steve Ocasio who works at UA 6 Movie Theater in Lynbrook, N.Y., located on Long Island.
“They prep us for those movies weeks in advance,” admits Ocasio. “People go really nuts trying to cut the line, pushing each other. It’s like they don’t realize they are all going to see the same movie.”
“We’re not nuts, we’re excited,” says Harry Potter enthusiast Allison Fiasconaro.
Fiasconaro, 20, prides herself on being one of the first in line to purchase every movie and book.
“I love Harry Potter so much because the stories are based on detail and connections,” said Fiasconaro.
She goes on to talk about how in the first book, one of the characters Hagrid (the grounds keeper at Hogwarts) delivers Harry on a flying motorcycle to his muggle aunt and uncle after the unfortunate death of his parents. It isn’t until the third book where the mention of notorious “killer” Sirius Black also brings to light that it was in fact his motorcycle that Hagrid had been riding. Even more coincidentally Black also turns out to be Harry’s godfather.
“It makes you as a reader want to look back and find those seemingly insignificant details all over again,” said Fiasconaro.
“Ultimately I feel the series never gets old. I’m rereading them now for the millionth time and I still find myself trying to spot the thing I had missed,” Fiasconaro concludes.
One Rider professor has her own opinion about the series.
“Unfortunately, I’ve only seen the first of the Harry Potter films and that was quite some time ago,” states Cynthia Lucia, Associate Professor of English.
“Both the books and the movies, though, have had an enormous impact on young readers. To be quite honest I would speculate that the books actually made readers out of some young people who might not otherwise have developed a love for books and literature,” said Lucia.
Lucia, who teaches classes ranging from Introduction to Film to Studies in Film Genre, claims that she enjoys anything that can get kids more interested in cinema. Although she did disclose that the overall genre wasn’t really her style, she referred to the movies as “quite clever and entertaining.”
Even those who aren’t necessarily intrigued by the books or movies, have the opportunity to join the craze. Universal Orlando Studios recently opened a new theme park called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light,” said the Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the third book of the series titled Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Not only will the Harry Potter phenomenon be reigning from coast to coast, it is a worldwide success. This magical series has captivated the hearts of kids and parents alike. After reading the first magical book, or walking out of the theater enchanted, kids around the world found themselves questioning “what if?”
“That’s why you’re famous, Harry, that’s why everybody knows your name. You’re the boy who lived,” said Hagrid in Harry Potter and The Sorcerers Stone.
Harry is, in fact, the boy who lived. He is the boy who lived through an entire generation of books, movies, stories, and tales and walked out one of the most famous names of the last decade.
As my college graduation draws closer, so does the end to Harry’s epic journey. Through the best and worst of times, it has been as though we have traveled together, side by side. He was locked in the Chamber of Secrets, as I felt trapped in my fifth grade history class. He was evading a dragon as I avoided my eighth grade crush. Together we fought off monsters, although his were in the form of Death Eaters and mine the terrifying bubbles of the SATs. As I walk to that diploma in May I will remember that come July when the final movie is released, I have my last chance to be a kid once more. It seems so bittersweet that both of our voyages must come to their conclusions. Which end do I fear most? Now that is an interesting question.