Monday, 26 June 2017

What Harry Potter means to me

I couldn't let the 20th (!) anniversary of my favourite ever story pass by without a blog post, could I?  On this day in 1997, J.K. Rowling introduced us to Harry Potter, the boy wizard, and I know that I'm not alone in being so grateful that she did.

The impact that Harry Potter has had on my life is undeniable.  Anyone who knows me should be able to tell you that I kind of have to really love something to want to display it around my house, so the fact that immediately on walking into my flat you are greeted by 4 wands on the wall and a case containing the Marauder's Map says it all.  But whilst the merchandise is cool to have, my love for these stories goes much deeper.

Unlike many, I don't credit the Harry Potter series with introducing me to reading - I was already a well established bookworm when The Philosopher's Stone came out when I was 6, but it did provide me with a lot of other milestones in my life as a reader.  This was the first series I can remember being aware of as a series, actively looking for sequels and making sure to read them in order, eagerly waiting for those not yet released and being so excited to get my hands on them.  It was for Deathly Hallows that I went to my first ever midnight book release, something which was relatively unheard of before and I was so happy when my dad said he would take me! We queued outside WHSmith in Leeds (I remember feeling really smug that we were quite near the front!).

It's the first time I can remember feeling part of a reading community too.  As a young reader, I can't say I was aware of this as something missing from my reading experience - I just knew that I loved books, and would read as much as I could.  But now people were talking about Harry Potter at school, racing to be the first one to read up to a certain chapter, playing wizards in the playground.  When we were older, we would pass time by quizzing each other on our knowledge of the wizarding world.  So whilst I don't say that Harry Potter started me reading in the first place, I do credit it with nurturing my enjoyment of sharing books and stories with other people.

I love Harry Potter for a lot of the same reasons as everybody else - the writing is so clever, and Hogwarts is home to my favourite characters and all the magic and adventure that I still look for in novels as an adult, but the reason these stories hold such a special place in my heart is the lessons I have taken away from them.  Harry Potter taught me that nobody is perfect and to look for the good in everybody - even the Slytherins.  Hermione taught me to stand up for what is important to me, Dumbledore taught me to look for the light in dark times, Neville taught me to dust myself down and try again next time, and Ron taught me not to let the muggles get me down.  And there are so many other valuable messages to take away that will always be relevant to society - love, kindness, peace, the value of family and friendship, and tolerance and respect for others.

"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light."

Even at the age of 26, I still turn to Harry Potter for comfort and apply its messages to my life, and I believe I will for as long as I live.  I always tell myself to 'be more Gryffindor' and put on my red and gold stripes when I have to be brave, and I always make sure to cast my Patronus charm and eat a bit of chocolate when I'm feeling down.  I really have to say a big thank you to J.K. Rowling for that, because those are two things in particular that have got me through some tough times over the past few years.

It's testament to how special these books are that they are still so popular 20 years on, and finding new readers all the time - because they are so relevant, and I think even in another 20 years, young readers will still be able to find something to take away from these characters.  And we're so lucky that we're still being treated to parts of the story we haven't heard before!  That's something really unique to the Harry Potter universe, and I really appreciate the amount of effort J.K. Rowling puts in to keep the magic alive.

"Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic."

Happy anniversary, Harry!