June 26th, 1997: 20 years Today...
Bloomsbury UK published a print run of 500 copies of the first edition of a series of unique books. A children's series about the life of a small teenage boy, who thought he was just ordinary- but in fact he was so much more than extraordinary. It brought the fantasy back into the limelight, leaguing up against lord of the rings and bringing with it children who found interest in reading. Joanne Rowling started a phenomenon that defined a generation.
For many of us, we grew up with Harry Potter. We queued up for midnight openings and stayed up all night reading the books desperate to avoid spoilers. We are the generation who wanted to be at Hogwarts learning magic, riding broomsticks and fighting for good.
We are now... old(er), but still avid fans. Some people have read the series countless times, embracing the franchise further with films, theme parks, studio tours and a new theatre show! The extended wizarding world continues to grow and it's been that growth that keeps this story going, feeling new every time you encounter it again.
To celebrate this milestone, I have asked some fellow deviants to answer a few questions about their experiences and love for the series.
Do you remember how, where and when your first discovered the Harry Potter series?
My aunt's mother-in-law got me a copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for me as a Christmas present when I was in fourth grade. I was a little apprehensive, having not been one for fantasy before that fateful holiday morning. But I picked up the book and read it after a few weeks and became hooked. So... yeah, fun fact. I read book two before book one, lol.
People were talking about it for some years before I read it, especially since the first movie was out (which tells you it must have been about 2001), so it was more a case of idle curiosity than discovery. It was actually my brother who decided to buy all four of the books that were out at the time, in a sweet little independent bookshop in a sweet little Norfolk village called Holt. When we back to this village a few years later, the bookshop was no longer open.
My fifth-grade teacher read Philosopher’s Stone aloud to our class, a few pages a day. That would’ve been in 1999 just after it came out in Canada.
I remember it very clear. I was with my father in the local book store and I noticed a pile of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" books, freshly published. As an (about) 11-year-old kid I thought, "what a cool cover!", I asked my dad if I can have the book and well - he bought it. Then, I got the "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets", then the "Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone", and then I was waiting for all the rest of the books!
I believe I was in the 5th grade when a couple of my friends started reading them, which would have been in 2000. A couple of books had already been released, and my friends really liked them so of course I had to try them. I think my grandmother saw a segment on the news about them and bought me my first hardcover copies that I still have today.
What were your early assumptions when reading?
It's honestly hard to remember since this was 17 years... nearly 18 years (EWWW) ago now. However, I think I remember assuming that the book would have a plot that was easy to predict and that I would move on to a different book when Chamber of Secrets was over. Oh how very wrong I was.
I was initially resistant to trying these books. They were very popular, and I was/am not, so my default setting is to reject popular things. But then, I was living in Helsinki in 2001, and decided to borrow the first 2 books from a friend. I believe my thinking was something like, “oh, hey, these are written in a language I read fluently!” and I was reading nearly anything I could get my hands on at the time. I ended up latching onto them, and spent a bit more time reading them that I should have instead spent studying for my Byzantine archaeology exam (which was still fine, for the record). I set Harry and company aside for several years after that, and didn’t really get hooked until hearing most of the audio book of The Prisoner of Azkaban read by Jim Dale. Jim Dale!! I was traveling by car with some colleagues to a conference on Andean archaeology at the Field Museum, and that was what the driver chose to pass the time. I remain glad that he did. Those audio books have gotten me through some tough times.
I expected to find a lot of similarities to Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch, which I did, but also something - or perhaps several somethings - to make it stand out far more than that and similar books/series, which I also did.
Did you immediately connect to any characters, places etc?
I loved Professor McGonagall from early on. It was the first time I felt like it’d be cool to be an older woman. I briefly used the screen name Minerva in 2000. Oliver Wood was one of my first crushes (and totally still is.)
I started out really liking Hermione – I see too much of myself in her bossy, know-it-all attitude (particularly in the first few books). And I always assumed that I would probably be Minerva McGonagall when I grew up (without the ability to morph into a cat, though). Quizzes claiming to tell one things like “which Hogwarts professor are you?” usually sort me as Lupin, though
Hardly any, although I was immediately grabbed by Hagrid. His first appearance is very striking and very comical. He's also Harry's first real ally, which inspires a connection, and then discovering that he was an animal lover cemented him as my favourite.
There were two characters that really stuck with me. First, Ron. I'm a little sister, and I spent my entire life in my sister's shadow. In elementary school, I was known as "Gina's sister" by teachers, friends of hers, family members. Sometimes it still happens. I remember reading the book, and Ron talking about how, no matter what he did, he'd still be in his siblings' shadow. I felt that a lot as a kid, as if I could never work up to being something other than "Gina's sister." And then Ron grew up to be one of the main people responsible for bringing down the Dark Lord. He grew up to become his own person, and I think that's awesome.
Another character that resonated well with me was Luna. I was a strange kid, and a lot of people around me didn't like that. I got picked on a lot for the way I was. What I love about Luna is that she doesn't change for anyone. She knows other people pick on her, and other people don't like her, and she speaks about it in a matter of fact way. Her uniqueness is what I love about her.
I immediately connected with Harry, of course. I wanted my own acceptance letter to Hogwarts and my own pet owl. It was a beautiful concept that I might have the chance to escape to some amazing place that like the wizarding community. I remember really being into the food described in the books as well, I was always enamored with the descriptions of the feasts. I also loved Hermione, she was "bossy," smart, focused on rules, and fiercely loved her friends; quite honestly I still feel as though we are kindred spirits.
Ginny Weasley and Sirius Black. The former is spunky, intelligent, and fun-loving. The latter is protective, loyal, and devilish. While I connected to Ginny because she was a character I could relate to, Sirius Black is probably my favorite character in the entire series and I shall continue to hope against all hope that Ms. Rowling decides to write some adventures of the Marauders someday!!
How did others around you react to reading HP?
My best friend was all about it. We share a mutual love of the series and have since we were children. Most of my other friends enjoyed the movies but couldn't be bothered reading the books. As IF the movies even come close to the books in terms of amazement and wonder.
My roommate and I frequently discussed the books. She was out of town attending a family wedding the weekend that The Half-Blood Prince was released, and so I devoured the book all alone (barely pausing to eat), and spent a day or so in agony with no one to talk to. Until I went back into the lab on Monday, and found my friend Bob.
“DC, did you finish it?”
And then Bob said just one word before bursting into tears: “Dumbledore!”
I mostly remember the negative reactions; I was a sixth former at the time (I am not ashamed to admit I was no longer a child), and had some rather pretentious young friends who disdained anything popular. Having said that, I don't think their opinions were based on actually reading the books.
I also remember that quite a few of our teachers enjoyed it, and mentioned it enough times in class and/or assembly to be labelled 'obsessed'. Then there was a local school governor I knew who was hugely indignant and hated the doings of Dolores Umbridge in Order of the Phoenix, and couldn't see that she was pandering to exactly the same kind of educational professionals in real life.
My brother, however, reacted in very much the same way I did i.e. liked it without becoming in any way obsessed.
I was thankfully in the point in time where everybody was reading them, it was a total craze and absolutely exhilarating to be caught up in. I remember there being articles in the newspaper about the sales of the books reaching records but also the silly ones about how it was teaching children witchcraft and should be banned. My grandmother always bought me a book on the day of the release and I'd quickly read through it usually within 24 hours.
Which book in the series became your favourite and why?
PS will always have a special place in my heart for being the first in the series. I’ve read it the most, and it has that sense of wonder at the wizarding world unfolding.
I have two favorites: Order of the Phoenix and Half Blood Prince. Order of the Phoenix is my favorite and my least favorite at the exact same time. I hate Umbridge, and I hate Harry's behavior throughout the book, but I love other things about it as well. Harry sticks with his story, and does his best to make sure everyone knows that the Dark Lord has come back, sticking with his story no matter what. He's persecuted by the magical community, and it would be so much easier for him to say "you know what, I'm done. I imagined. Whatever. I don't care." But he doesn't. He takes the crap from other students, he takes the crap from Umbridge and keeps on going.
I like Half Blood Prince because of the background information you get about Voldemort. You learn how he became who he is. Maybe it's just me, but I had some pity for the child Tom Riddle, who grew up in an orphanage because of he's mother's actions. Not just that, but I also enjoyed reading a more vulnerable side to Draco. His father is in Azkaban. Voldemort is punishing him because of his father's actions during the skirmish at the Department of Mysteries. I think it's in this book that he begins to change his mind about the pro-pure blood lifestyle he'd been living his entire life.
Rarely do people agree with me on this, but my favorite is Goblet of Fire. I remember being astonished at how large the book was when it was released, but I quickly was caught up in so many of the exciting moments. I loved the challenges and all of the different and more advanced magic that comes into play! Plus, I loved the idea that there were different wizarding schools out there, but of course Hogwarts remained the best in my mind.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I think that book is practically falling apart because of how many times I have read it. The book introduces Sirius Black to us in a deeper way than the brief mention he gets in Philosopher's Stone. We meet the remainder of the Marauders as well and get a glimpse into Harry's past on a deeper level than in the earlier books. Things also begin to get darker with Peter Pettigrew escaping to join their master and Harry being given a glimpse--albeit a brief one--of freedom when Sirius offers him a new home.
I think the "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", and definitely not because it was the first one I read. The whole universe is so breathtaking, and going through in time on top of that was like a cherry on top of a cupcake
Although I must say I really love "Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince" almost as much as the "PoA".
Book 2: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I feel that the first three books are the best, and Chamber of Secrets is the one where Rowling really found her feet and got the most elements right (I'm afraid I don't think any Harry Potter book is perfect). The plot works well, some very interesting and enduring new ideas are introduced (the Pensieve and Polyjuice Potion particularly), and the pacing would never be quite as good again (in my opinion, of course).
From the later ones, I particularly enjoyed book 6, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I prefer to forget the romances, as this leaves me with a very compelling and revealing story with some fabulous characterisation.
What makes Harry Potter stand out for you?
The insanely detailed story and the development of an entire suite of characters over seven novels. I was truly able to grow up with these people, they became a part of my life and were so important to me. I think what really stands out is that even though the series takes place in a pretend land with pretend people, I was able to relate to the overarching themes of growing up, facing your fears, learning, and overcoming difficulties.
Harry Potter stands out for me because of it's depth. I can read it over and over again, and still find something new. I'm actually currently working on an essay about the religious allegory in Harry Potter. (I'm a religion nerd, it's what I do.) There's so much depth to the story, and each of the characters in it, and I love that. There's commentary on racism and the class system (muggle borns and house elves) as well as commentary on the way we have treated the mentally ill (Ariana Dumbledore).
HP stands out for a lot of reasons: the vastness of the world, the depth of its characters, Rowling’s imagination and sense of humour, and that the series evolved along with its readership. Most of all, that Hogwarts was a place I so desperately wanted to go.
The characters, the mythology, and of course my history with the series will always make HP stand out for me. I love that it's such a beloved series and it's incredible that there are so many people to talk about it with and so many different viewpoints. I feel as though I grew up with the trio as my friends and I wouldn't change that for anything.
I really enjoy all the peripheral characters, and how well developed they are. It really makes the world so complete. And I don’t mean supporting characters like Neville, Luna, etc. I mean, like, Dedalus Diggle.
When the films and franchise developed (and still is!), what did you think?
I was so excited about the films! It was incredible seeing a story come to life that way. So much came with it, like the iconic music and a slew of new fan art. It felt like the end of an era when the last movie came out. I love the rest of the franchise too though; I can play the Lego HP video game over and over. The HP theme park in Britain is the only theme park I’ve ever wanted to visit.
I’m mostly ambivalent towards the films, in all honesty. I’ve enjoyed seeing the visuals, especially on a first or second viewing. They feel like pitiful stuff compared to the books to me, though (no room for Dedalus Diggle or Mr. Weasley’s co-worker in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office). I enjoy a lot of the music from the films. Especially GOF and OOP.
I do like the three leads, though. Other standout actors for me include Robbie Coltrain, Alan Rickman and particularly Richard Griffiths, who in my opinion provided a few seconds of saving grace for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I'm afraid I'm not very interested in anything after the planned original series. I don't believe in flogging dead horses, and the original magic in such things can never be recaptured.
I was thrilled that they were making movies for my beloved books and I still think the characters were all perfectly chosen. I can't read the books without picturing the actors and actresses now; they're inseparable for me. I am also really interested to see where the Fantastic Beasts franchise takes us; I loved Newt Scamander's character as a fellow Hufflepuff!
Have you ever dressed up or been to an event for Harry potter ?
When the seventh book came out, I dressed up as Moaning Myrtle haha. I can still do a pretty good Moaning Myrtle impersonation.
I never got to go to a midnight release which I'm still a bit sad about, but I definitely had my fair share of Harry Potter t-shirts over the years. I have gone to Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando though and my first experience led me to happy tears because it's absolutely magical. I truly couldn't believe how beautifully they had recreated it.
I picked up my copy of DH at a midnight release event. At the time, I was visiting a friend in Cleveland (while working at the museum there), and we decided: what the hell, let’s go! We didn’t really spend much time at the event, too eager to get home and start reading. I dressed as Tonks one Halloween (book version and nothing like the film): pink hair and a punk-rock sort of look with a Weird Sisters t-shirt I made.
What is your favourite moment(s) in the series?
Snape's death, and the subsequent jaunt into his memory, is the most memorable and effective moment for me (book 7). I also enjoy Harry's Dementor training with Lupin (book 3), and Hermione demonstrating the true meaning of friendship by risking Harry's resentment when she reports his new broomstick as suspicious (book 2). She's a much better friend than Ron, if you ask me!
There is so many moments I loved I can't really chose... although I always love reading the part when Hagrid takes Harry to Diagon Alley for the shopping, it's truly lovely part that always makes me happy to read. I also remember how much I enjoyed when I finally read that Harry kisses Ginny That was a big deal for a teenager you know, even though it may sound silly. I just waited for it since I read "Chamber of Secrets"!
Oh man, this is a hard one!!
Some of my favorite moments, in no particular order are: Harry seeing his family in the mirror of Erised, Professor Moody turning Draco into a ferret, Harry's fight with the basilisk, when Harry sees himself across the lake and thinks he's seeing his father cast the patronus against the dementors, when Harry and Voldemort's wands connect at the end of GoF and he sees all of Voldemort's victims including his parents, the whole lake scene challenge in GoF, DADA classes with Lupin, Hagrid and his multitude of crazy critters especially the hippogriffs, and so many of the moments when the trio uses the invisibility cloak and the Marauder's map. I can't even begin to list all of the moments, there are just too many good ones that I hold dearly.
My favourite moment is when Hermione punched Draco. SO MUCH CATHARSIS. Second to that, the time-turner reveal in Prisoner of Azkaban was mind-blowing.
I shall list them:
- When Dobby is presented with a sock.
- When Sirius Black and Remus Lupin team up in the Shrieking Shack to reveal Pettigrew for the lousy rat he is.
- The entire Time Turner adventure in Prisoner of Azkaban.
- The Quidditch World Cup celebrations following the game when destruction comes in the shape of Death Eaters... The imagery in the writing there was perfect.
- When Fred and George take over Hogwarts and make their grand exit.
- Basically all of Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix.
One of the first that springs to mind is the moment after the Battle at the Astronomy Tower when Bill is in the hospital wing. Molly assumes that because he's disfigured, Fleur won't want to marry him, and Fleur surprises her, proclaiming that she is "beautiful enough for the both of them." And Molly finally excepts that they're going to get married. Another favorite moment of mine is in the seventh book when Harry, Ron, and Hermione hear Kreacher's story, and Harry begins to understand the house elf that he's hated since Sirius died.
What impact do you think Harry Potter has made on you and your creativity? And what impact does it have for others and future readers?
I grew up along with Harry, so I think only kids of '90s can really know how amazing experience it was. Now when everyone can watch movies in one night or read all the books one after another it's not the same.. I can't really put my finger on how to explain it to someone else, I think the closes would be to say that it was like having a friend living with you for many, many years.
It's an incredible thing that I can connect with in my generation, I'm always shocked when somebody tells me that they haven't read any of the books. That's always kind of shocking! HP has gotten me through some tough times and it has always made a creative girl feel slightly less awkward and weird in the world.
Harry Potter has had a massive influence on my creativity. While I do not post my writing on DeviantArt regularly, the entire reason I write is due to this book series. I certainly hope that the series continues to thrive and younger generations read the books in their entirety because I'm confident it will help produce more great artists and unleash their creative energy
At the risk of angering fans, I think Rowling's writing is very hit and miss, so as a writer I've picked up some "don't"s from her as well as some "do"s. But let's focus on the "do"s. Snape's ambiguity is supremely well handled, so I look to this for inspiration when attempting to write about such things. She is also very good at flawed protagonists, and the relationships between young people and the adults in their lives. I don't think the series has influenced my day to day living much, although I do remember the differences between Lupin and Snape, Dumbledore and Umbridge, in my profession as a teacher of teenagers.
I honestly don't know how enduring the franchise will be for future generations, as interest seems to be dwindling. We'll just have to wait and see. I do know some people who were children when the books and movies were coming out, and who will carry it in their hearts throughout their lives.
Harry Potter is the series that lead me to discover my love for literature and creativity. I became an avid reader because I discovered a book that I couldn't put down. Books like Harry Potter can introduce young kids to reading, and help the them to fall in love with the world of literature as well.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I can't wait to see what they do with Fantastic Beasts. I have a theory that Ariana Dumbledore had an obscurus, and that's where Grindlewald got the idea. I always love talking Harry Potter, so any time anyone wants to know, you know where to find me!
Deathly Hallows released during the summer before my first year of college and unfortunately it HAD to release on the day I had my overnight orientation at the university. I ended up not being able to read all night like I wanted to, but instead ended up at breakfast in the cafeteria the next morning reading the heck out of it, basically ignoring everybody, and trying not to let anybody ruin the ending for me. It was intense. I also remember being in absolute tears when they killed off Sirus with, of all things, a curtain. I was devastated. There were a lot of moments in the books that made me cry or just be very emotional. Overall, I loved that non-traditional heroes were so strongly celebrated and loved throughout the books. None of the characters were perfect, but that's what made them so special.
I’m looking forward to reading the books aloud to my kids.
A little anecdote about feeling old: in my early 20s, I realized I’d grown up when I found Lucius Malfoy more attractive than Draco.
I have cried several times when reading the book as well, I can close my eyes and remember how shocked and almost paralyzed I was when reading about Fred's death. So many, so strong emotions.
I also recently found my diary which I was writing as a kid, it was so sweet to read how eager and how simple thoughts I had about this series. It was just "I love Harry Potter" all the time I also did a fake "The Quibbler" issue, with articles, images and advertisements of magical things! Such a treasure
If whoever is reading this has not already done so... You must read Harry Potter in 15 Minutes, which is an insanely old LiveJournal entry that will surely have you in tears, howling with laughter. IT'S AMAZING: m15m.livejournal.com/2237.html
Over to you...
Any of you who are fans will have fond memories, characters you connect to, ways in which you are celebrating this fantastic series. Whether you grew up with them, or just discovered them now, it doesn't matter. Please respond to this journal with your own answers to the questions, or share your own thoughts, art and quotes to celebrate!
“Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!”