An entire generation spent 10 years growing up with Harry
Right now, there are children practising Patronus charms, disregarding all warnings about it being highly advanced magic, beyond Ordinary Wizarding Levels. Right now, grown muggles are slyly trying out Quidditch moves while sweeping their homes, in spite of not owning Nimbus Two Thousands. Right now, children across the world are painting jagged scars across their forehead, and settling down to read the conclusion of Harry Potter, the story that changed the way the world read.
Rowling managed to create a tale that soared above every imaginable divide — ranging from the merely geographical to the downright psychological. She drew children, hooked on play stations and U tube, back to reading. She got adults raiding children’s libraries. And created a world so irresistibly eccentric and vibrantly animated that her characters began to live and breathe in an unprecedented collective imagination, of people across the world.
The legendary characters of the classics — Heathcliff, Rhett Butler, even Lassi — did not inspire this kind of hysteria. Months before the final instalment of Potter was released, the ‘Save Harry International’ campaign was launched “to persuade JK Rowling to one day return to the world of Harry Potter” by getting one million signatories by the launch date for her final book — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ( www.saveharrypotter.co.uk).
Born out of boredom
And this is a character that was born in a bored moment on a crowded train. “The idea for Harry Potter simply fell into my head,” writes Rowling, in her website, adding, “To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a functioning pen with me, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one. I think, now, that this was probably a good thing, because I simply sat and thought, for four [delayed train] hours, and all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard became more and more real.”
The rest, of course, is probably familiar, thanks to the reams of newsprint on Potter. Rowling’s mother died, changing her world “and Harry Potter’s forever.” She fled to Portugal to deal with her feelings and became a teacher, married a Portuguese, had a daughter — Jessica — and returned to England, divorced, all the while carrying the steadily growing manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Rowling then moved to Edinburgh to be near her sister. This statuesque dramatic Scottish town, still alive with tales of witches, hauntings and magic, is credited with inspiring her story, along with London.
Broke and stressed, she ended up writing “in a kind of frenzy, determined to finish the book and at least try and get it published.” Between baby-sitting she managed to “write like mad” in various Edinburgh cafes. Then, she says, “I had to type the whole thing out myself. Sometimes I actually hated the book, even while I loved it.”
The manuscript, however, did boomerang for a while. The first time she sent it to an agent, she says it returned so fast, it must have been sent back the day it arrived. Then her next agent took one year and weathered 12 rejections before they found a publisher, Bloomsbury. (Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, the reason Bloomsbury agreed was because of Alice Newton, the chairman’s 8-year-old daughter: she was given the first chapter to review, and she immediately demanded the next.)
The Harry Potter sensation had begun.
More real characters
Since Rowling didn’t stick to children’s book tradition and keep her characters the same age, they managed to become far more real than Enid Blyton’s much loved, but clearly fictional, Famous Five, or Nancy Drew and Co (written by a syndicate under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene) for decades. There is, therefore, an entire generation that has spent the last 10 years growing up with Harry, Ron and Hermione. Facebook, the popular social networking site, for instance, even has an ‘After Harry Potter 7 My Childhood Will Officially Be Over,’ group amongst its more than 500 Potter communities. As a 20-year-old writes, “All of us have grown up reading Harry Potter and therefore WITH Harry Potter. Harry was going through the same stuff we were going through, and now the last book is being released and we’re all almost full-fledged adults.”
The story has just been concluded, in an extravaganza of mind-boggling security measures, groundswells of emotion and shrill levels of excitement and emotion.
It’s the end of an era.