Under Rowling’s Spell – Why We Hare Out for Harry

Posted Jun 17 2011, 5:45 pm in , , , , , , ,

My youngest son and I have a date for the midnight showing of the last Harry Potter movie. Of my two sons, Chris inherited my passion for books while Rob’s interests lean toward his father’s. I brought home The Philosopher’s Stone from the library and read him a chapter each night starting when he was just six.

As the movies came out, we saw each and a tradition was born – the Mommy & Chris Date. We spent hours dissecting and reconstructing plots, symbolism, and motives as each story ended, challenging each other to predict where Rowling would take the story in the next book.

He’s sixteen now and can, of course, read books by himself. He’s interested in girls, learning to drive, and playing in a band. I treasure the moments we spend, each stretched out on a sofa, absorbed in a book. But even though he’s almost all grown up, he still adores Harry Potter. I love that.

It got me thinking… what is this near-universal appeal Harry Potter has for kids and adults alike? It’s as magical as the stories themselves. Aside from their commercial success, the books are truly – well… good. Rowling built a world inside a world that is so believable, Universal Studios was able to re-create it.

I’m someone who re-reads favorite stories over and over again. For me, it’s a way to hang out with friends. I’m embarrassed to tell you that I did NOT notice The Mirror of Erised was ‘desire’ spelled backwards until my second or third read. I think Rowling’s genius is in this subtlety.

The stories are classic Good vs. Evil. That’s instantly appealing to children, a concept they can grasp, no matter how young. When I was little, I used to fantasize all the ways I might be able to save my family from all manner of imagined enemies. Harry is the manifestation of that fantasy for kids.  Each book is also entirely age-appropriate with potty and booger humor, first kiss angst, adolescent mortification, and of course, grudges.

But adults need more and Rowling gave us that in Snape who wasn’t truly bad, but someone suffering through a lifetime of unrequited love, in Dumbledore, who wasn’t truly good, but someone whose own hubris caused a great deal of tragedy, and in Harry, who wasn’t always good, wasn’t always perfect but was always – always – heroic. And then, there’s Voldermort. Even he is not merely evil because the story needed a foil. He’s the product of a magic spell between a witch and a mudblood and as such, doomed to a life just on the edges of either existence – wanted by neither – raised on the very hatred he would later represent.

It’s all about choices – a conclusion Rowling never clobbers us with, but lets us reach in our own sweet time.

As I write this, the twitterverse is buzzing with speculation over Rowling’s launch of Pottermore, a website where an announcement will be posted… a few days from now. The site spawned a Twitter account that collected about 40,000 followers in minutes. As Chris and I plan our movie date  – I am bringing an entire box of tissues – we wonder about this new site. We’re hoping for an online multiplayer role-playing game.

You’re probably asking yourselves – Why not a simple announcement? A press release?

Ah, where’s the magic in that?


What do you think Pottermore is? What are your plans for the last HP movie? What’s your favorite HP book or character? What do you think makes Rowling’s stories so compelling?




10 responses to “Under Rowling’s Spell – Why We Hare Out for Harry”

  1. abby says:

    i am so grateful to Rowling. for her imagination. for her words. for her characters. for allowing me to publicly embrace my love of YA.

    the simple answer is that her success is directly related to the fact that she tells a good story, but, like her books, there are many other layers to it. timing. promotion. personality. and of course, magic.

    • Patty Blount says:

      Yes, layers! Perfect way to describe her genius. And you’re right; I was never embarrassed to be caught reading HP.

  2. My family is equally obsessed with Harry Potter, and we have a similar tradition in out home with each new movie release. We already have tickets for the final movie on opening night.

    What I love about the Potter series is that although Rowling has created a magical universe, the characters are real. They have human problems and emotions. Even Voldemort isn’t simply a bad guy. We understand why he is the way he is. In some ways we sympathize with him.

    I am BURSTING to find out what Pottermore is. When I showed my son the countdown he literally did a fist pump. I really hope it’s a new book. It doesn’t have to be a Harry book. Any book would do. How about a book that revolves around Snape? Or James and Lily? But I think it’s probably not going to be a book. Rumor has it that it might be an online Potter encyclopedia.
    There is some speculation that this is a Harry Potter MMO. In fact some have speculated that the More of Pottermore stands for Multiplayer Online Role-playing Experience.

    For now – I’m dreaming this is a new book.

    • Patty Blount says:

      Sadly, I haven’t yet been able to buy advance tickets. Not sure why my local theater has no listing yet. I think a book focusing on another character would be excellent but rumor has it, it’s not a book.

  3. I wanted it to be a prequel but my hopes were dashed when they said it wasn’t a book. I hadn’t considered an MMO, that would be amazing!

  4. Trisha Leigh says:

    You hit the nail on the head with this post, and I already lost a couple of tears during the HP7p2 preview. It’s so bittersweet, the end.

    I think Pottermore is some kind of online website/world for Potter fans. Maybe games and the like.

    • Patty Blount says:

      I did, too, which I why I’m bringing the tissues. My son won’t admit it, but he’ll need them, too.

  5. Hi Patty!

    My daughter, 20, and I have read and followed the HP stories from their inception. The characters grew along with her, and they gave us an additional way to bond. We also have a “date” for that midnight showing. I was honored when she chose me, saying I was the one who gave her that first book and nurtured her love of literature, the one who took her to the first movie and to HP Wizarding World last summer when it opened.

    She could have shared this experience with any number of friends, but she chose me, little old mom. Maybe I’ve done something right. :)

    Enjoy the movie together!

    • Patty Blount says:

      Aw, Jolyse, that’s wonderful! I treasure those moments with my sons and that’s why I agreed to the midnight showing of the movie. It’s the last one, the last chance to bond!

      Enjoy the movie with your daughter, as well!