I guess I should say J.K. Rowling, you are creating another reader, but in truth, it’s Harry.
My twelve year old son likes to read one day, and hates it the next. Typical boy I guess, so on a recent trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, I bought him a copy of /Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone/. He’s seen the movies but only paid half attention to them. He liked Harry, but he was not the HP fan that my daughter is despite my best efforts, because he had not read the books to himself. By buying him his own copy in Hogsmeade, I figured he’d read it because it was a souvenir, and because he is the perfect age. Boy was I right.
I saw the final Harry Potter film today with my fifteen year old daughter. I started reading the books to her when she was three or four, so they and their characters have been part of her life, for practically ALL of her life. While I was watching today, I had some thoughts about the stories and characters that I decided I wanted to share.
When the books first came out, I bought /Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone/ for myself. I thought it looked good, but I couldn’t tell if it was for adults or kids. That should have been my first clue as to the universality of the stories. I read it, then I read it again and then I thought about it for a long time before I decided to share it with my daughter and husband. I decided that there were some valuable lessons for my daughter in it, so we sat night after night on the “biggie bed” and read Harry. My husband loved it, my daughter loved it, I loved it, and none of us could wait for the next one to come out.
After we fell completely in love with Harry and his friends, I started hearing about adults who would not let their kids read the books because they thought that they would influence their children to go toward Satan. I even had one mom that I knew well and who I respected, tell me that her church had told it’s congregation to boycott the books because of the themes of witchcraft and wizardry. I asked the mom if she had read any of the books and she said no, that her entire decision was based on what her pastor told her to do. I begged her to read the first one. I explained to her that good always triumphs over evil and that there were a lot of valuable social lessons for kids. She read the first book, then went out and bought all the books and gave them to her daughter. Harry Potter gave one mom the strength to think for herself and not rely on the opinions of others.
As the series evolved, Harry behaved like a brat in one book, a hero in another and just a boy, just Harry, in all of them. His friends loved him and were loyal. His enemies were evil of course, but they were also like every mean girl in school. He handled it all with the help of his friends. He didn’t have much of a family, but he made his OWN family from his circle of friends and they were just as important to him as any blood family could’ve been. Harry’s friend family made another mom I know very well, feel that her lack of a big family is ok because she has made another, just as real family for herself , of people who love her.
The stories teach forgiveness, and nowhere is that more obvious than when Harry chooses to save Draco Malfoy’s (his own-age arch-enemy) life. They teach that you never really know what is going on in someone else’s life or heart to make them the way they are, Severus Snape anyone? Love lasts beyond death, evil will come for you where you least expect it, people die and it’s hard to get over the bad things that happen to you in life. You WILL have your feelings hurt, you WILL be the hero at some point and and you may hang your head in defeat or shame the next day.
All of these things are found in Harry’s story. You also see that when that evil comes for you, you have to fight it and that although the struggle may be long and hard and you may lose some things along the way, in the end, good will win, light will overcome the darkness. You can and will find your place in the world and sometimes the most timid, awkward person you know (Neville Longbottom) becomes a hero. The Harry Potter stories are universal because they offer us hope. No matter how outnumbered we are, no matter how bad things seem to be, if we screw up our courage and walk in the light, we will win.
I love you Harry Potter and all your friends too. You’ve helped countless people see themselves and their trials in you, and you’ve helped those same people realize that life can be good again. It is with a great deal of wistfulness that I say goodbye to Harry. I hope that JK Rowling writes some more books about him, but if she doesn’t, these fictional characters who have become so real to so many, will continue to keep us company every time we crack open the books or watch one of the films. Thank you Harry for reminding us that hope, love and courage are the three most important things in the world.