I remember the first time I was introduced to the world of Harry Potter. I was in fourth grade and a dear friend of mine had bought a CD of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. With some initial hesitation, followed by a bit of skepticism, I decided to give it a try.
The movie started with a colossal Warner Bros. Logo followed by the title of the movie in lightning shaped letters. As a student who had won consecutive calligraphy contests in school, I was absolutely floored by the design. Little did I know that the opening sequence would come far below in the list of things which were about to leave me bewildered.
After the completion of the movie, the curious kid residing in me started asking a lot of questions. The incessant questioning rapidly turned into sleepless nights and I was becoming increasingly restless. All these questions had only a single solution; I had to delve into this magical universe without any further delay.
The next day, I borrowed my father’s library card and decided to give his college library a visit. In the fantasy section, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were five volumes of this series which were increasingly becoming humongous in size. After moments of bewilderment and disbelief, I borrowed Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone. The later weeks were marked with frequent visits to the library and hence earning the name ‘nerd’ which lasted for a long time in school.
After devouring each book with searing passion, the hunger didn’t really recede. It became stronger. My restlessness reached its zenith once I found out that the sixth installment was yet to release.
The later years, as you would have predicted by now were filled with anticipation, excitement, sleepless nights, regular debates and lots of crying. Yes, I cried like a baby when Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows was released on 21st July 2007. It seemed like a part of me extinguished with the end of the saga. Fortunately, I was proved wrong. With the onset of maturity and a little understanding, I realized that Harry Potter was imbibed in my soul. Like a tiny beacon of light which exists in the rusty corners of our hearts, reminding us that a scrawny little wizard who used to live in a cupboard under the stairs, managed to defeat The Dark Lord because he chose to believe in himself.
Joanne Rowling, as she was known then, dreamed up the story about this scrawny and bespectacled wizard on a train trip between London and Manchester. In a decade plagued with death, divorce, and poverty, this young woman decided to pen this saga which was rejected by numerous publishers at that time. After a series of unfortunate events, lady luck finally decided to appear in form of Bloomsbury. The first hardback print was surprisingly a meager 500 copies.
Then something magical happened. The first book along with the six installments that followed went on to sell more than 450 million copies worldwide. The spell was cast. The world was now spellbound with the magic of Joanne Rowling.
The surge in popularity became so rapid that it was almost unreal to believe. The third installment in the series, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban was released at 3:45 PM to prevent children from missing classes to buy the latest release.
The popularity of Harry Potter has been increasing magnanimously. The major part of this popularity surge can be attributed to Rowling’s outlandish world-building skills. Her ability to connect events, plant minuscule Easter eggs which would later act as catalysts for major events managed to hook children and adults to this saga.
Another reason behind the success of Harry Potter is the way it juggled fantasy and real world with dexterity. The ability to connect real world bureaucracy with a magical world requires skill which mere mortals like us could have never imagined. From The Ministry of Magic to Hogwarts, from demagogue politicians to principled teachers, the universe of Harry Potter tackles all the major issues with ease while still maintaining its status as a fantasy novel. As a personal opinion, I believe that Rowling’s ability to accept the dark reality and infusing it with her magical skills is the reason why Harry Potter has been able to persist while other fantasy genre heroes have dimmed with time.
Harry Potter is not just a simple character who happens to inspire us. He is a flawed character. Brash, headstrong and arrogant at times. That’s where Rowling’s skills appear to make the character lovable. Her numerous backstories provide the reader ample amount of time to realize that Harry lives through them. Like Harry, we have been angry, we have been misunderstood, we have been lonely. But that doesn’t stop Harry from becoming The Chosen One, does it? His ability to accept his flaws while still being true to himself is what sets him apart from other fictional characters.
It’s been twenty years since Rowling cast her spell to enchant the entire world. The old readers who were once kids have now become adults. Yet, at times when we retrospect, our seemingly disconnected lives are connected by a tiny, scrawny and green-eyed wizard, who once used to live in the cupboard under the stairs.