1 June 2017 Susannah

Harry Potter Turns 20

All seven books in the Harry Potter series in order without their dust jackets.
J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

On 26 June 1997, a novel for children was published without any great fanfare. It was the first in a planned series of books featuring a boy with wizarding powers called Harry Potter. Ten years later the 7th book in the series was published and by that time there cannot have been many people in the world who had not heard of the boy, the books and the author, J.K. Rowling. I came to Harry Potter after the third book had been published. My daughter was loving them and she pushed me to read the first one. I was also curious to see what all the fuss was about. From the first chapter I was hooked and became nearly as ardent a Potter devotee as she was (and still is). From that time, we bought the books on publication day, almost fought each other over who read them first, discussed the characters and watched the film versions together. I even read out a passage from Harry Potter at her wedding.

The success of the books was quite phenomenal. Translated into dozens of languages, filmed (the 2nd highest grossing film series of all time), parodied, turned into an incredible range of merchandise, the inspiration for theme parks and games, and winners of many literary awards, the books have been loved by children, but also by adults, around the world. J.K. Rowling was runner-up for Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 2007 – ludicrously, she lost out to Vladimir Putin!!!!! She achieved something remarkable in showing children the joy of reading and in making millions of boys realise that books could be cool and fun (boys had been turning away from fiction in worrying numbers).

However, the books have been controversial and many schools in the USA have banned them from their libraries (they are high up in the list of most frequently banned books in the country). This infuriates me!! They are banned because they have ‘witchcraft’ in them and many religious groups therefore disapprove. But do these same groups ban The Tale of Peter Rabbit, I ask? Is Harry flying on a broomstick any more magical or sinful than showing a talking / cooking / apron-wearing rabbit? Do they ban the Narnia novels – they are full of Christian symbolism, but they have chatty fauns who serve cakes to guests, lions who fight in battles, and a witch who tempts with Turkish delight. I am one of those who thinks that the Bible should be shelved in the fiction section of a library, and I firmly believe that unless you ban that book about a god, devil and angels, then you should not be banning one about wizards and flying broomsticks either. The Harry Potter books should be in every library!

I celebrated 20 years of Harry Potter by listening to the whole series on audio, superbly read by Stephen Fry. I feel grateful that J.K. Rowling, waiting at Kings Cross for a train that was late, dreamed up a fabulous series of books that brought a very real magic into the world.

Will you be revisiting Harry Potter as he turns 20 this month? Or perhaps you might take this opportunity to delve into his wizarding world for the first time. Tell me your thoughts in the comment area below.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, read by Stephen Fry
Susannah Fullerton: Robert Galbraith’s books
Susannah Fullerton: J.K. Rowling is born
Susannah Fullerton: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is first published

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Featured image credit- All seven books in the Harry Potter series in order without their dust jackets. Each hardcover book used a different two-color scheme. The books are the first American editions published by Scholastic. Author’s collection. By BrokenSphere – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9970846
Body image credit- J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at the White House. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55303498

Comments (2)

  1. Jami Leigh Acworth

    I often credit HP as one of the first books that allowed me to learn to love reading. When I was in grade 10 I did a speech on why Harry Potter isn’t evil which won me the Year 10 Oratory Award at my school. The talk was borne out of an on-going argument I had with a dear friend at the time. Together, we were going through the process of adult baptism through our church, my friend had initially loved HP but then decided to donate her books to the school library because she felt they were irreligious. I simply could not understand how someone could love Lord of the Rings and Nania but think that HP was immoral. Even at the tender age of 15 I recognised this as an entirely flawed argument. Notably, our pastor agreed that you couldn’t have different rules for different fantasy films and personally loved the HP films himself. I’m glad to say that her thoughts on the subject have since matured. If it is one thing that I cannot stand as a strong Christian woman is when the gifts of critical (and logical) thinking that God gave us are completely ignored in favour of antiquated ideology. Rant over.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I am glad your friend finally came to her senses and that the pastor was enlightened about the books. Harry Potter can be credited with giving so many thousands of kids a love of reading, which for me is far more of a miracle than anything in the bible. As you say, if you are going to apply religious scruples of HP, then the same should apply to Lord of the Rings and so much else.

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