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Potter mania

Hero of childhood dreams

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Why Harry Potter should be compulsory reading at school.

Fantasy isn't everyone's cup of tea. It was the last thing on my mind when J K Rowling released Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in 1998. I was three years late on the Potter bandwagon. When I first met Harry in 2001, he was 11 and I was 14. Back then, my lit diet consisted almost exclusively of Wodehouse, Dickens and Enid Blyton, all of whom I still adore. I loved Sorcerer's Stone and hoped that J K Rowling would manage to sustain the momentum of what I thought had the potential to be a brilliant series for a school library to stock.

Ten years, seven novels and eight movies later, Harry Potter doesn't quite seem the same. In circles a 24-year-old frequents, confessing to liking the tales of a boy wizard is akin to saying you suck your thumb at night. Way too many people, most of whom consider themselves above such 'childish' literature, fail to recognise the beauty of a series that made a generation tear away from television and video games and run to their libraries to appreciate the beauty of the written word.

Critics say the books are no Lord of the Rings and the movies not quite Narnia. There again, I doubt they were ever meant to be so. Harry Potter grew with me, as he did with a few million others. At first, we were greeted with easy reads that talk about a 11-year-old going to a magic school. Later, to keep up with the reader's growing maturity and depleting attention span, the books get progressively darker and more complex, dealing with a variety of subjects such as alchemy, love, philosophy, and splitting of souls. Today, at 24, I can see and appreciate that. The fun part? Almost certainly, Harry Potter inadvertently opens the gates to C S Lewis's allegoric worlds, to Tolkien's misty mountains, to Pratchett, Steinbeck and the massive world of fantasy fiction beyond Hogwarts.

There's something about Harry Potter that's genius. J K Rowling is not the best writer you would encounter, but her storytelling and creation of magical worlds is second to none (perhaps the literary version of George Lucas?). They're not literary masterpieces;in fact, some would argue that they're not literature at all. However, right from their inception, the books struck a chord with readers everywhere. The series' epic finale, Deathly Hallows, proved that Rowling lost none of her touch and it's no accident that the Harry Potter movies are the most successful in film history.

That success is perhaps due to the way they handled the constant danger that accompanies all book-based movies - the fear that they might fall short. The Potter movies resolved that problem by casting brilliant albeit rather unknown British actors rather than famous American ones. Alan Rickman as Prof Snape, Dame Maggie Smith as Prof McGonagall and Gary Oldman as Sirius Black ensured the books were brought to life as thoroughly as they could possibly be, effectively mentoring and complementing the young trio of Radcliffe, Watson and Grint.

Why, then, is it that I will remain a lifelong Harry Potter fan? To me, the most ingenious bit was the confluence of the wizarding and muggle worlds, and that magic had to be studied.

To me, Harry Potter is a hero of childhood dreams. An ordinary boy who has potential for greatness, and who through dedication and able guidance, thwarts all plans to stop him and eventually emerges victorious. The storyline is creative, the supporting characters are built up beautifully, there's a dash of subtle feminism throughout the series, and magic is described as a technology or talent rather than a sword. Rowling has created a 'book of virtues', a story that prizes loyalty unto death, sacrifice, compassion, courage and friendship. The message is timeless. And if I had ever to recommend one series of books as compulsory reading across schools, this would be it.

Reader's opinion (15)

Nirmalya DuttaMar 11th, 2012 at 16:34 PM

I read the first book when i was 9 and i can actually say i grew up with these books. Rowling's genius lies in the fact that she made fantasy so believable.

Amit AgarwalMar 8th, 2012 at 00:51 AM

Potter series is something which I read only cause of the sheer pleasure of reading and live my own fantasies. When u are young, u dont care much about the morality or virtues taught but u tend to follow what has been depicted over there as the series is so involving. There is nothin like HARRY.

Shweta ShettySep 15th, 2011 at 21:05 PM

I totally agree. HP books must be used in schools to inculcate good values in children and also to develop their imagination. I was introduced to HP books when I was 19 & still love them. I can't understand why some people discount them as children's books. They don't know what they are missing.

Apurba KunduJul 29th, 2011 at 15:59 PM

I read my the first book when i was 12, in the year 2000. I read the first when i was 12 and i can’t agree more with ya that we are the lucky generation that grew up with Harry. I have lost counts how many times i read each one, read all possible fan fiction, pretended i study in Hogwarts and called paper parchment for the longest time i remember. I would read it when i would be very sad and it soothed me like nothing else.I think the set of seven books is going to be passed on from generation to generation.
My childhood was very ‘magical’ because of Harry Potter.

Ranjaboti SomJul 29th, 2011 at 11:42 AM

A really well written article. I think the beauty of the books also lies in the combination of magic and boarding school (reminiscent of Mallory Towers/St. Claire's) and the finer details (Butterbeer, Hogsmeade). Hopefully, future generations will appreciate it as much as I do.

Jonathan GouveiaJul 26th, 2011 at 20:22 PM

Also, the characters, each one of them, is flawed. With the exception of Voldemort, who is out-and-out evil, every single character is given a chance to develop along good or bad.
As Sirius says in book 5, The world is not divided into good people and death eaters.

Jonathan GouveiaJul 26th, 2011 at 20:15 PM

Why does Harry Potter work? In it's simplest explanation, it is the ever-old story of Good triumphing over Evil.
What I think makes it so irresistible to millions of people globally, is that the characters. Rowling created characters that one can empathize with, and importantly, relate to.

Rahul Jul 26th, 2011 at 17:25 PM

I joined the bandwagon in 2007 after release of 6th book. read 1-4 parts in one day. Read 5th in one night (had to do a night out). What fun!!!!!!

Nigel BrittoJul 28th, 2011 at 00:38 AM

Haha, I too read the fifth book in one night. Those were the days!

Taruna AggarwalJul 25th, 2011 at 23:47 PM

i am a big fan of harry porter series...all 7 parts are my favorite and i love to watch them again and again,i agree with completely

Nigel BrittoJul 28th, 2011 at 00:41 AM

You're not the only one who watches them again and again! :)

Ipshita GuhaJul 25th, 2011 at 09:37 AM

I appreciate this article. I never bothered reading Harry Potter till 2005. That winter my cousin introduced it to us. Since then I & my husband have seen all the movies & read the books. I still watch the movies and people fail to understand why ;)

Priyanka SahasrabudheJul 24th, 2011 at 11:10 AM

wonderfully written! I agree with this completely! I am glad to be a part of the HP generation... :)

Nigel BrittoJul 28th, 2011 at 00:41 AM

Indeed! Future generations will look at Potter as some classic from yesteryears. We'll then be able to say we grew with Harry.

Apurba KunduJul 29th, 2011 at 16:00 PM

I read the first when i was 12 and i can’t agree more with ya that we are the lucky generation that grew up with Harry. I have lost counts how many times i read each one, read all possible fan fiction, pretended i study in Hogwarts and called paper parchment for the longest time i remember. I would read it when i would be very sad and it soothed me like nothing else.I think the set of seven books is going to be passed on from generation to generation.
My childhood was very ‘magical’ because of Harry Potter.

 
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