Monday marked 20 years since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published. I know for many people it is hard to comprehend why a children’s series could capture such a large audience for 20 straight years. How it could inspire multiple readings, tonnes of tattoos and so much merchandise. How people are still screaming with excitement every time JK Rowling releases any small bit of backstory about extra characters.
I’m not really sure how to explain it because I am right in that fandom. I’ve probably read the series about 6 times, the movies are on very high rotation at home, I have a house shirt from each house, a Ravenclaw scarf (even though I’m a Hufflepuff*…), Hermione’s wand and I use the stories as analogies for everyday life probably more often than acceptable. I spent most of my teenage years trying to convince any friends who didn’t read the series as kids to do so, and although I’ve gotten into many other book series, none has had a hold on my heart the way this one does.
I personally love the Harry Potter series because of the different world it allows me to explore. Not that there is anything wrong with my real world, but there is definitely something comforting about putting yourself in a world that’s already completely planned out. Our world changes all the time, but I already know what’s going to happen next in Harry’s world.
It’s not just another world though. Whilst learning magic, the characters also grew up from children into adults. They had their first loves and heartbreaks, they became moody and then learnt to control themselves again, they had to deal with bad peers and bad teachers, they had to do homework and exams and choose careers. They tried their best, and sometimes failed, but always eventually overcame these struggles. They weren’t just the heroes of the wizarding world, they were the heroes of kids, teens and adults everywhere.
The symbolism behind every aspect of the story also never fails to amaze. Names of characters, spells and potions, and the way things from our world are represented in metaphors, the symbolism is so extensive you could read the entire series ten times with a latin dictionary and never pick up on the full meaning of all the events.
I remember the first time Mum started reading the Philosopher’s Stone to me and my sister. I had no idea what it was about, but I do remember Snape getting mentioned, who I thought was called ‘Snake’. When I started reading the books myself, I read them aloud to Dad, and after we finished the Order of the Phoenix, we went to watch the movie in the cinema together. My sister wasn’t a huge reader when she was little, so Dad read all the books to her. My Grandma bought all the books and had the early films on VCR so we could always watch and read them when we were staying.
I was a super slow reader in primary school, so I spent my lunch times reading the Deathly Hallows, the only one I was up to date for the release of. On the day it came out, we lined up in Borders (yep, Borders still existed!) to get a copy of the book I would years later realise signalled the end of an era.
But it wasn’t the end. Even when the last Fantastic Beasts film is released, when no more theatres show The Cursed Child and when I can’t find a DVD player to watch my box set on, these stories will never be over.
20 years, although slightly older than me, is still relatively short in terms of book life. How can I say that this series will stand the test of time? Well I know that Harry Potter will be part of my life forever, and I will continue to make it part of the lives of everyone around me too. Harry Potter will be around forever because it’s not just a series about wand waving and a boy with a scar, it’s a story about finding joy in dark times, about choosing between what is right and what is easy, about overcoming feelings of guilt and grief and picking yourself up to keep moving.
The boy who lived will always be there for us in good times and bad.
After all this time?
*I am going to knit myself a Hufflepuff scarf like Newt Scamander’s, don’t worry fellow Hufflepuffs, my loyalty is not completely lost!