Tuesday, June 27, 2017
What Harry Potter Means to Me #HarryPotter20
It was 20 years ago that The Boy Who Lived was first introduced to readers worldwide. This was after eight other publishing houses had rejected the manuscript, not seeing its potential.
Little did Bloomsbury know the goldmine they were sitting on. Up to now, Harry Potter has been translated into 67 languages, been made into a successful film franchise, has theme parks erected in its honor and has racked up numerous awards and achievements, becoming one of the most recognized literary characters today.
While I can speculate on the reasons behind the enduring success of this series, I think it is going to be better to touch on what Harry means to me. There are plenty of other sources which delve into the thematic appeal of Harry Potter and it's universal success.
It was in June 2000 that I received the first three books for my 16th birthday. I had very little idea who Harry Potter was or had any clue of the rising popularity of the series. My local Exclusive Books had them on display at the counter and I picked the first one up out of interest while I was standing there with my mom, waiting to purchase the next installment in my favorite horsey series.
My first impression was that it looked pretty boring. And weirdly marketed. The cover was not great and, while it looked to be aimed at kids, the writing inside was small with no pictures at all.
The manager of the store saw me holding Philosopher's Stone with a confused expression and assured me that they were very good and extremely popular. My mom, passively taking note, must have remembered this because I unwrapped the first three books for my birthday along with the latest Hanson CD from my brother.
I was skeptical, but I gave the books a shot.
One of the things I am most thankful for was discovering the books on the brink of national popularity. I was able to enjoy them and form my own relationships with the characters without being tainted by media and other people's opinions. My Harry, Hermione, and Ron have remained pretty much as I first envisioned them back then.
I enjoyed the first three books, but the fan mania really hit me when the fourth was due to be released and the hype became real. I remember standing in the CNA, looking at a poster with the new artwork for book four, even though the book didn't have an official title yet, and feeling excited.
When I finally got book four (I originally had the US edition thanks to parental travels), all I remember was how big it was! Suddenly, Harry's world had exploded in rich detail and depth and it was glorious.
When Order of the Phoenix was released in June 2003, midnight release parties were suddenly a thing. I got my copy online because, in those days, we were not used to books being available om the day of release and Take2 (now defunct) has promised release-day delivery. This was also the first of many online purchases.
Looking back now, I can still remember the days I received book 6 and 7 with clarity. Hermiting myself up until the books were finished so I didn't get spoiled. I read each of those in a day. And then started them all over again.
Harry was a big factor in my love of fantasy. These books opened up whole new genres for me. It was also amazing to be part of the fandom with each new book, possibly the largest and most diverse of anything ever.
I loved Hogwarts. I loved that each character had a place and was not just filler, but a well-rounded person. I felt like each time I picked the books up again, I discovered something new or made connections I had not noticed before. For me, that is what makes these books special. They grow with the reader and offer new experiences, even years later.
JK Rowling was also not afraid to handle her characters honestly. Let's face it. Sometimes Harry was not the nicest person and made terrible choices. But, it for this reason that I love his character as he learns and grows throughout the series.
The movies were just a sideline thing, They paled to the richness of the novels and, while fairly accurate, I much prefer the Hogwarts in my head.
For the fans, Bloomsbury has released the first book in awesome house editions! I will be getting mine (Hufflepuff) even though I already have the book in both the normal and illustrated editions. Because it's what you have to do.
I hope everyone will be celebrating 20 years of Harry. Even if it is just admiring your collections and remembering your first time. If you have any memories that stand out for you, please let me know in the comments below.