Yesterday was July 31st. While everyone knows it to be simply as the last day of July, for certain others, it also marks a different kind of occasion; one worth celebrating. July 31st is not only the birthday of one of the most influential authors of the modern era, but it’s also the birthday of her incredibly famous character as well: Harry Potter.
British author J.K. Rowling is celebrating 50 years on the planet, and while the actual day of birth was yesterday, I’m confident that such celebrations are extending out even into the weekend as well. I can imagine it to be quite a life for her so far, especially in regards to her crazy awesome success with her Harry Potter series. It’s through these magical books that she’s touched a lot of lives, and I’m definitely no exception to that.
I remember when I first got into the Harry Potter series. It was during the summer of 2001, a few months shy of the 9/11 attacks. The film adaption for the first book was already set to come out in the fall and hype was already being built up around it. With that in mind, my mom gave me a paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Initially I was hesitant at first, unsure as to whether or not I’d like it. However, my mom told me she’d read me the first chapter and if I still didn’t like it then, then she’ll stop reading it to me. We wound up read the first two books of the series that summer and later that fall, I was amongst many kids who went to see these characters come to life on the movie screen for the first time. The first chapter had me hooked and I haven’t looked back since.
How J.K. Rowling came up with the idea for the series as well as the journey it took to write them is one that I know like the back of my hand; for it is as equally of an interesting story as the series itself. She faced countless number of circumstances where the odds were not in her favor while writing the first novel; from the death of her mother before she even had a chance to tell her about Harry Potter, to the divorce from her first husband, to pretty much living in poverty at one point. It’s with these unfortunate circumstances that she went through that makes the struggles that Harry goes through feel eerily real.
That’s one of the things that I’ve always found really interesting about this world J.K. Rowling has created. While it serves as a form of escapism as we follow these characters into a word of magic, spells and what not, it still hones quite a bit of realism with the ongoing hardships and battles as well. That’s more than one can say about what’s desired of escapist fiction nowadays, where one- for the most part- simply wants escape and nothing more than that.
For many kids, the Harry Potter series was what really got them interested in reading books and actually enjoying it. However, I think that’s one thing that I can never full on relate to, for I was an avid reader even before I picked up the first book. What I can say that the series had opened up my eyes to- aside from this incredibly detailed world J.K. Rowling has created- is that when writing dialogue, it’s okay to make the characters sound like regular people. Normally when an author is writing for kids, there’s a certain expectation that comes with writing dialogue, and that is to make it clear to read and simple enough to understand. But with the Harry Potter series, just from the first book alone, I realized that that doesn’t always have to be the case. It’s clear right off the back that Hagrid’s diction isn’t that great, when Vernon Dursley interacts with Harry, it’s often in big letters, and that on occasion, some of the characters even curse (and not the kinds you cast with wands). It’s little details like that that brings about another level of depth- and realism- to the overall series.
This world that J.K. Rowling has devoted a good chunk of her life to is one that’s hard to pass up. Everything is incredibly detailed; from the food served at the Great Hall of Hogwarts, to the rules of Quidditch, to the varying spells one can learn (my favorite, in particular, being the Patronus Charm). The characters are very well developed, so much as to where you really care for them, completely hate their guts, or in the cases of characters like Professor Severus Snape, a little bit of both.
At the core of it all, these are the books that taught people- not just kids- to believe in magic again. Of course there were numerous fantasy tales that came before Harry Potter, just like how there will be more that will come after. But there’s something about the magic in these books that feel as if they could seep out into real life and be incredibly accessible. Again, I think it has a lot to do with the struggles these characters go through that makes it feel like that, and as a result, I think it has helped us all realize that’s there’s always something worth fighting for.
So with that I say: Happy Birthday to J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter! You’ve both brought magic back into our world and made the power of inner strength something real to hone.
“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”
–Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling