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The wait is over for Harry Potter fans

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All eyes on potter: A Harry Potter fan browses at a book shop beside a poster of a character from the series, in Kolkata on Friday.
All eyes on potter: A Harry Potter fan browses at a book shop beside a poster of a character from the series, in Kolkata on Friday.

Shonali Muthalaly

Chennai: Neither can live while the other survives. The question is, who survived?

Today, with the seventh and final book of the series, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, we find out.

One thing is clear. Harry Potter is no more a children’s book.

When the series began Harry Potter was a lonely 11-year-old, living in a cupboard under the care of the dreadful Dursleys. His life, and vicariously, that of millions of fans, changed when he was accepted into The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Those were sun-drenched days of charging through platform Nine And Three Quarter at Kings Cross, navigating cheerful flying cars and supercharged broomsticks.

But book by book, Potter grew up. And along with him, so did his readers.

Now, a decade later, all the 11-year-olds who started reading the series are now 21, and author J.K. Rowling evidently believes they are mature enough to understand the complex, mercurial, dangerous and often frightening world she began to conjure up.

Prejudice and xenophobia in The Chamber of Secrets. The horrors of Azkaban, torture and learning to deal with your worst fears. The politics in The Order of the Phoenix, talking of an underground subversive organisation, crafty manoeuvring and the importance of loyalty.

Rowling’s tone changes slowly, but with menacing force. She gets grimmer and begins to ruthlessly kill characters, as Voldemort and his Death Eaters rise.

The story by now has ceased to even pretend to be a frivolous romp through the worlds of magic and wizardry. It’s less about boarding school capers, and more about confronting darkness — both within and outside. Rowling really comes into her element as the end draws closer, displaying an astonishing knowledge of occult, Wicca and human nature.

Potter is by now so deeply rooted in the occult that Rowling has had to increasingly contend with anti-Potter morality campaigns, lobbying for the banning of her books. Writer Wohlberg (author of Exposing Harry Potter and Witchcraft: The Menace Beneath the Magic) says the books “are a unique blend of fantasy and reality,” referring to “real places, real occultist, real practices [astrology, palmistry, fortune-telling, divination], and real occult philosophy.”

In The Half Blood Prince, the young wizard battles these forces, even as Rowling keeps cranking up the pressure on him, while the forces of evil grow more powerful.

In the real world, competition for sales has been far fiercer than anything seen on the Quidditch field. The last book sold almost 2 million copies in its first 24 hours. The Guardian recently reported that “No major retailer can afford not to sell the book at a loss.” India has not escaped the price wars either, though some booksellers have decided to stay out of the general chaos.

Mr. V.N. Venkitakrishnan, Business Head, Landmark on the net, says they are offering only a 25 per cent discount on the net. (As opposed to India Plaza, which is offering a 150 per cent discount: 35 per cent on the book, a gift certificate, gaming DVD and further discounts on other books) because “it’s not worth trying to sell something at a loss.”

But this is clearly not just any book. In the hysteria surrounding ‘What Happens Next,’ the Internet has been alive with spoilers, ranging from believable to absolutely ridiculous. The last book has been called everything from ‘Harry Potter and the Mystic Kettle of Nackledirk’ to ‘Harry Potter and the Pyramids of Furmat.’ Rumours range from “we’re going to find the twelve uses of dragon blood — the twelfth is oven cleaner” to “Draco is going bald.”

The latest big leak didn’t come in the expected form of a word file, or even an e-book. Instead, the person painstakingly took pictures of each page and hosted it on a file sharing website for pirated movies. Not surprisingly, Potter fans are fighting back. “Muggles leak Deathly Hallows online, magical world resisting,” being a typical headline, urging people to report spoilers. A Bloomsbury spokesperson said they were getting calls from people in tears saying “I don’t want to know what happens.”

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