It can’t be true can it? 20 years since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone came out? It’s not possible, I can’t be that old! But thinking about it now, it must be, Harry Potter shaped my childhood. We even analysed the first Harry Potter in a comprehension test in year 6 of primary school! The seven books of Harry Potter, released throughout my childhood and later my teenage years gave me my own world of magic. My life was echoed in these books, although I never got the Hogwarts letter, I felt a part of the school all the same.
Harry Potter opened my mind to a whole world of fantasy, but it also opened my eyes to other things, such as racism, class divides, slavery (house elves anyone?) and other topics that as a child, hadn’t either been explained to me previously or perhaps hadn’t been understood.
The wonderment of the world of Harry Potter took me away from school woes, friendship politics and fights with siblings and instead introduced me to the greatest form of escapism I have ever known. I learnt so much more than the secret to calming a three headed dog (music, in case you needed to know) or the spell for opening a door (alohamora). I learnt that kindness and love was more important than most other things, I learnt that words can be more hurtful than physical pain and I learnt that it wasn’t just me trying to navigate my way through the maze that was school.
The books are enchanting, full of possibility and most importantly magic, all things we could dream about whilst also being somehow based on reality. As the books progressed, the issues J K Rowling posed in her books were becoming more and more relevant. The class divides and racism throughout the book were applicable to everyone. Whether you were pure-blood, a muggle, a squib or a mudblood (eek sorry!), the terms, despite being utterly fictional, still resonated with many of us. Children were cruel even in fantasy and it was all part of the growing up. Harry Potter explained sensitivities of culture but that it didn’t matter if your parents were fully fledged wizards and witches or just muggles, you could be something spectacular (I’m looking at you Hermione Granger).
Harry Potter created a generation of readers with an appreciation of storytelling, something which communications is entirely based upon. If you don’t read and develop your knowledge how can you tell your own or your client’s story? A huge part of my job is reading and digesting information and then relaying it in an interesting way to somebody else, so much of what I do is based on skills I learnt through reading and genuinely discussing the seven Harry Potter books. I don’t think I realised that I learnt a life skill appropriate to my job now when I started reading Harry Potter but I fully appreciate it now.
Another thing the Harry Potter geniuses were great at as well was storytelling, was building a fanfare around the books. The wait for each book to be published was HARD and then the wait for the films was even harder. The publishers and J K Rowling herself kept the suspense going for every single book, and provided a masterclass on creating anticipation and communicating just the right amount of information to keep fans on tenterhooks. The wait meant I've read all of the books at least nine times each and I still dip in and out of my favourite chapters which just added to the excitement of finally getting my hands on a new copy.
The books have captured the hearts and minds of 20 years of readers with so many of its lessons even more applicable to life today. My biggest joy right now is discussing the various plots and theories with my eight-year-old niece who has just finished book four and is going to the platform 9 3/4 shop in kings cross for her birthday tomorrow. There’s no doubt these books are something special with a very long shelf life.
Here’s to 20 more years of magic.
Can you believe it's 20 years since the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone?