‘He’ll be famous – a legend – I wouldn’t be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter Day in future – there will be books written about Harry – every child in our world will know his name!’
—Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
It’s been 25 years since the release of the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (also known as Sorcerer’s Stone in some countries). Professor McGonagall’s prophecy at his birth in the first chapter of Philosopher’s Stone has proved right. The boy, who J K Rowling conjured on a train ride, has become a global phenomenon.
The humongous success of the book made Warner Bros buy the rights to create successful franchise. The boy who lived in the pages came alive on screen in 2001. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were the perfect Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley. Soon, the world was divided — not into muggles and death eaters — but Potter fans and non-Potter fans.
Over the years, the success of the series gave birth to several spin-offs in print and screen including the recently released series, The Fantastic Beasts.
A new generation of die-hard Harry Potter fans is born and sorted into their favourite houses. To celebrate the silver jubilee of the series, we spoke to a cross-section of readers deciphering what makes the series relevant today.
Talking about his first encounter with Harry Potter, author K. Hari Kumar, 33, said, “It was only when suddenly my friends in school started calling me ‘Harry Potter’ that I checked out the Sorcerer’s Stone during the summer holidays. I was 11, exactly as old as Harry in the first book. It took me to a world where anything was possible. The effect was magical! Then my cousin pushed me into watching the first movie. At that age, Hogwarts and its mystical corridors attracted me.”
Echoing similar sentiments is actor Sharad Malhotra, who, while talking about the series said, “I was in school when I was introduced to Harry Potter courtesy of our English teacher. During library hours, I would read Harry Potter. I was hooked on to it.” The actor revisited the series during the lockdown, which led to him binge-watching the movies as well.
For homemaker Subhashree Raghvan, 45, her full-fledged initiation into the Potterverse happened due to a 14-year-old. “I first read about the book circa 1998 when there was a hullabaloo about Chamber of Secrets being released at witching hour in the town (Woodridge, Illinois) where we lived then. It made page one of the local newspaper. Then in 2001, my husband’s 14-year-old nephew forced me to read the other books. The fifth one was yet to come. And, thus, was my immersion into Potterverse. I revisited them on tape as I went about my kitchen chores. I loved Jim Dale’s reading of The Order of the Phoenix,” she shared.
The timelessness of the series is obvious when today’s youngsters get addicted. The credit, however, goes to adults in their lives who ‘enrolled’ them in Hogwarts.
Take the case of seven-year-old Addvika A Singh, who became a fan of the series after receiving the first three books as gifts. “I was six when I first read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, followed by Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban. My sister, Araddhya, and I received these books as gifts from my mom’s friend, author and screenwriter Manish Gaekwad, last year. Since then I’ve read the series umpteen times because these books are magically addictive,” said an excited Addvika.
Relevance and lessons learnt
It’s been 25 years since the boy entered our bookshelves and living rooms and continues to remain an integral part of many readers’ lives. The books were not just about spells and magic, it was about relationships and emotions.
For 18-year-old Arav Shrivastava, what makes the series relevant even today is the bravery and courage the characters display in the book. “It proved to be a valuable lesson for children, who get inspired to be like their favourite character,” Arav said.
Twenty-two-year-old Elizabeth Sunny has a similar take. “From Harry Potter, we can learn the nuances of friendship, guardianship, brotherhood and also the problems of the underprivileged and the marginalised, which is shown through the lives of the elves. If you look carefully, you will notice that Rowling paints a parallel world, which is way similar to ours,” she said.
Sharing the life lessons he learnt from the books, Neil Prakash, 19, a student of History at the University of Edinburgh, UK, shared, “From Fred and George Weasley, I learnt to take life a little less seriously; from Dumbledore, I learnt that the smartest person in the room doesn’t have to be the loudest.”
Little Addvika’s response will resonate with adults when she talks about her takeaways from Harry Potter. “To be humble even when you are vulnerable. Never become unkind even when the times are trying. Don’t trade off your goodness and have faith in the universe,” she opined.
Actor Vijayendra Kumeria, who read the series when he was 11, plans to introduce his young daughter to the series soon. Ask him why and pat comes the reply, “Because it teaches you about the importance of self-discovery.”
Adults who have grown up reading the series and watching the movies over the years, have kept the magical world alive. “The series opened up readers' lives to a fantastical, yet relatable world. Harry gives us hope that like him we too can fight our own battles and conquer our problems,” said Harshil Shah, Marketing Head, Crossword Bookstores.
All in all — Harry Potter is the boy who will never die!