On a scale of one-to-ten, how serious am I about Harry Potter? Hmm, let’s see… About nine and three quarters… AHHHHHH!! 😉
Too corny? NAHHH! Everyone who knows me will undoubtedly know that I love Harry Potter. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released when I was ten years old, and now 20 years later, every time I read this series I am flooded with nostalgia. I can remember as a child; then a teenager; then a young adult – and every moment in between – waiting patiently for the publication of the next book. Over the course of 10 years, I was able to read seven amazing books that influenced me back then and continue to influence me now. Collectively, the Harry Potter series has sold over 500 million copies since the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1997. Harry Potter is the best selling book series in history. No wonder… It’s flipping amazing!
Recently, I decided to submerge myself in magic and go back to the world of Hogwarts, Quidditch, and butterbeer. Upon opening the first chapter, The Boy Who Lived, I found myself back in my bedroom as a 10-year-old boy, relating very much to Harry. I turned the pages and found myself not being able to put the book down. By the end of the day I had read it, and I could not wait to get started on The Chamber of Secrets.
I know that millions of people have read the books (or seen the films), but I am aware that there are still people out there (for whatever reason) that haven’t read the Harry Potter books. Don’t worry, I am not going to run a commentary on what happens in the book; instead, I’ll be sharing my ideas on what the book taught me. If you want to know how many stars I gave it, that’s simple: 5/5. Bloody brilliant.
The story written by British author J.K. Rowling hits the reader with a world full of magic. Fantastic beasts, witches, wizards, duels, spells, charms, wands and magical beauty surrounds us each page we turn. Harry Potter is a young boy who for the past decade has lived with his not-so-nice aunt and uncle, Mr & Mrs Dursley, and their son Dudley. Unbeknownst to Harry (at the start of the book), he is actually a wizard, his parents were killed by a very powerful dark wizard named Lord Voldemort, and Harry is the only wizard to ever survive the killing curse – the only evidence of this is a peculiar lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. This makes him very special. Once Harry finds out he is a wizard and gets an invite to study at England’s most famous wizarding school: Hogwarts. This is where his life changes forever. What follows is a beautiful story of friendship and growth, as well as the development of some major themes, such as good vs evil, love, family, death, and choice. What I find intriguing is how Rowling is able to incorporate some large themes into a relatively short book. The Philosopher’s Stone is one of seven novels in the series, which means the themes are developed all throughout the series and are not limited to the few I mentioned:
GOOD Vs EVIL
Ultimately, the Harry Potter series is a collection that tells a story of Good vs Evil. The world was once under threat and due to unforeseen circumstances and some very ancient magic, that threat had subsided, momentarily. The Philosopher’s Stone novel is the establishment of this idea. We don’t learn too much initially, but the foundation is laid in this first book.
“Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” -Professor Dumbledore
FAMILY, LOYALTY AND FRIENDSHIP
Family, loyalty and friendship (and the importance of) are two themes that are visible throughout the book. Harry, who is rather used to being a loner, is thrown into the world of fame once everyone discovers who he is. He doesn’t let this bother him and isn’t corrupted by the attention or the request to make friends with potential antagonists (i.e Malfoy). The story concentrates on the protagonist Harry Potter and his two best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. The friendship they develop is crucial to the events that they will face and the challenges set before them. There are constant reminders of the value of friendship all throughout the book. The family is always something that holds value to people. The fact that Harry can’t remember his parents and knows very little about them, becomes a driving factor in understanding Harry’s identity. His current family (Durselys) are horrible and Harry looks for guidance within the walls of Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry. This comes in the form of a grandfatherly figure, school headmaster Albus Dumbledore. Can I just say this? I flipping love Dumbledore. His wisdom, intelligence, wit, amiability, empathy, forgiveness and ability to show love is second to none, and his character takes this book to a whole new level.
LOVE AND DEATH
Another key theme is that of love. One might say that love is the most vital part of this book. It is essentially the only reason why Harry survived Voldemort’s initial attack. His mother’s love is responsible for saving Harry’s life, and it is what has kept him protected throughout his childhood. It is the very reason why Harry cannot be touched by Voldemort.
“Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign…to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection foever. It is in your very skin.” – Professor Dumbledore
Another interesting theme is that of death. Often in young adult literature, death can be a topic that is either sugar-coated or brushed over because we don’t want to ‘scar’ the child. The reality is death is a part of life. Every person will experience death in their life. It’s not easy, but it will happen. Rowling’s look at death is rather wise and I think it teaches young readers to be fearful, but to look at death as another reality of life. Another journey, so to speak.
Throughout the novel Harry is offered choices, that if selected wrongly, could spell disaster for Harry and his friends. When Harry arrives at Hogwarts he gets sorted into his house. He desperately wishes to not be in the same house that Voldermort was once in – Slytherin. Although the Sorting Hat recognises Harry has many qualities that would make him a great Slytherin member, it’s Harry’s decision to not be in Slytherin certainly altered his position not only in school, but in life. His choices, even at eleven years of age, prove to be vital. As the story continues Harry aces many scenarios where he is presented with a choice to make. There’s also hints of advice that all adults could learn from. One such quote is:
“As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all – the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.” – Professor Dumbledore
Magic is thriving in the world of Harry Potter. It’s not necessarily explained as a biological essence or a life-force, it’s just there. Even the wisest and most powerful of wizards don’t understand it fully (so how can us muggles?). What we do know is that it’s ancient and very powerful. Wizards are born and when they turn eleven they’re able to purchase their own wand (a tool that allows them to use magic). Even in the selection of a wand, magic is in use:
‘I remember every wand I’ve ever sold, Mr. Potter. Every single wand. It so happens that the phoenix whose tail feather is in your wand, gave another feather–just one other. It is very curious indeed that you should be destined for this wand when its brother–why, its brother gave you that scar…Curious indeed how these things happen. The wand chooses the wizard, remember…” -Mr. Ollivander, wand maker.
The Harry Potter series is an amazing collection of texts. Each book develops and becomes more intense, more adult. I love how The Philosopher’s Stone sets such a solid foundation for the series, yet keeps a rather large element of mystery. Secrets are hinted at and throughout the course of the novel questions are raised. By the time we get to the final novel, The Deathly Hallows, we have our answers.
It’s no secret that Harry Potter has a plethora of fans. It’s much loved by hundreds of millions of people. Now, I am not one to follow hype or get hysterical over things. I don’t jump up and down and scream with excitement, or cry out of happiness, or anything like that. However, the fact that this series has gripped me so much shows how powerful an idea can be. J.K. Rowling has created a brilliant story, and it’s no wonder at all why it has had so much success. Harry Potter is a household name and is a revelation of how light overcomes darkness. The Philosopher’s Stone marks the beginning of that struggle and sets the wheels in motion to what is a truly incredible journey.
Coming next, I will post a YouTube video sharing my thought’s on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and after that, I will share some thoughts on the second book, The Chamber of Secrets. In the meantime, feel free to write comments in the discussion below and tell me some of your thoughts on Harry Potter!