With a leap into 2020, I crossed off a huge to-do on my bucket-list. I finished reading the entire Harry Potter series. Yup… all 7 books!
I blogged my thoughts last year on books 5, ‘Harry Potter and The Order Of The Phoenix’ and 6, ‘Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince’, because they were simply too exciting to hold in my head… brain went into overdrive and all that!
For those of you who read Harry Potter in real time as the books popped out, you might be thinking a storm of people kept up with the series and got to THE END. So what’s the big deal?
And rightly so.
However, when you’re working on your own series and juggling to balance meals, laundry, the never-ending cascade of housework and growing lists of to-dos, finding time to keep up with a series—no matter how addictive—can be hard! And that’s not all. I watched the corresponding Harry Potter movies after reading each book to relive the experiences and join Harry, Hermione and Ron in their journeys. That doesn’t even count Netflix episodes of DARK, THE CROWN and LOST IN SPACE that I’ve failed to keep up with! (That’s another story for another day).
So when I reached THE END of book 7 I marveled at how author, J K Rowling held my attention over the span of 7 books. Clearly, that’s no easy feat. Now, you could attribute the success of Rowling’s story where magic, sorcery, spells, charms, witches, wizards and flying brooms rule the roost to the fantasy world she created. But look closer and you’ll see that the world of story only sets the stage for the characters to ‘play on’. The characters, chief players, that hold together the fabric of a tale, change within and in turn change the course of the story.
As the characters grew and took on specific roles, the main plot diverged into many subplots and Rowling tied up each and every story thread from main plots to secondary and tertiary plots—including the backstories of key players—fabulously. But that’s not all. The locations, homes, residences and the roles of those worlds changed along the way.
Hogwarts, an educational institution turned into the final battle ground. Privet Drive began as a prison for Harry (who initially lived under the staircase) and as the series progressed Harry moved into a room of his own and gained more access to other rooms in the house and more freedom from the Dursleys. The Weasleys’ home, Harry’s abode of comfort, burned in a fire and left the Weasleys and Harry homeless for a while. Hogwarts, Harry’s boarding school, where he transitioned from boy to teenager and discovered his potential, transitioned from the place that protected Harry to the fort that Harry had to protect.
The backstories of characters that hadn’t been explored before—like Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape—came to light through the pensieve but only after their deaths. Rowling shone a light through another facet of the same prism so that Albus, a positive figure who can do-no-wrong and perpetually wore a halo, now swam in dark waters because of what he’d done to his younger sister, Ariana. Snape, who we loathed from book 1 because of his dark demeanor and apparent hatred towards Harry and who served Voldemort, turned out to be Harry’s guardian angel.
James Potter, Harry’s late father, who seemed like an angel-in-the-mist at the beginning, bullied Severus in the past—not so far off from how Draco Malfoy bullies Harry. James’ trusted gang of Lupin, Sirius and others reflect Crabbe and Goyle, Draco’s side-kicks, in present time. Neville Longbottom who suffers his own backstory of parents killed by Voldemort, yearns to emulate Harry, and almost reads like another version of Harry. In book 7, Neville takes on the mammoth task to kill Nagini the snake, Voldemort’s right hand, and takes center-stage, second to Harry.
Then we have Voldemort who like Harry was an orphan but chose to delve in the Dark Arts and trample over others in the race to glory.
Harry’s struggle to grapple charms and magic blossomed into a finale of spells but the spells faded in comparison to the fact that Voldemort had obliviously dug his own grave by having stolen a wand that he would never master. James and Lily, parents who sacrificed their lives for Harry, opened a door for Harry to sacrifice himself for others.
Harry’s scar not only beat like the heart of the story throughout every book but connected Harry to Voldemort. In the search for horcruxes, when Harry identified himself as a horcrux the inevitability of Harry’s death loomed and his self-sacrifice morphed to save mankind.
How utterly clever! I could go on about the centaurs, Buckbeak, Elves like Dobby and the Whomping Willow but I think I should stop here.
Rowling skillfully planted seeds that either blossomed and exploded by the end of the series or grew and reversed. The continued uncertainty of key players’ motives, sudden changes in behavior patterns and closure of domains within the story world and launch of new worlds led each book in the series to grow stronger than preceding ones.
My journey with book 1, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone rooted in sympathy for Harry. After book 7, The Deathly Hallows, my heart raced out to Severus Snape who lost everything in life: Lily’s unrequited love, possible friendships, was bullied by James Potter and his own life to protect Harry.
If all those contradictions, reversals, twists and turns don’t make for one helluva fabulous series and knock your socks off, then Dobby might just do the trick!