29th Jul 2011
10 Reasons People Will Still Be Reading Harry Potter in 10 Years Time
As the eighth and final Harry Potter film premièred earlier this month, thousands of people took to the streets of London to celebrate and mark the end of an era. They were not just saying goodbye to a successful film franchise, but the books as well, and everything that comes as part of the Harry Potter package.
Many have credited the series as a big part of their childhood, and fans and actors and J.K. Rowling herself shed many tears at this parting of ways. But the most successful children’s book series of all-time is not fading into the history books just yet, and here’s ten reasons why I think the magic will live on for a good few generations yet:
1. The whole series is primarily set in Hogwarts
For a long time I’ve considered this to be the key to the success of Harry Potter, it’s certainly the reason that I love it so much. Whenever I cracked the spine of the next book, I’d be transported immediately to a setting I knew as well as my own home.
All other fantasy series, to my knowledge, are a journey. They cover vast landscapes and hostile terrains, but almost all of the Harry Potter series is set within the walls Hogwarts.
Granted, this is not the case for the final book, but the characters do return to fight the final battle in the rightful place, in the familiar hallways of a school that many of us spent our formative years wandering in awe.
2. Geek heroes
Skinny kid with glasses, ginger kid from poor family, nerd. Harry, Ron and Hermione are the kids that get picked last in P.E. They are the chess club, the kids that stay in at lunchtime to help the teacher lay out pots of paint for the afternoon. And they are the ones that save the world.
In the films they even grow up to become hot young things. Nothing is a better example of unlocking your hidden potential than when geeks become heroes.
3. Classic fantasy plot devices
My family are fantasy book fanatics, and they are constantly pointing out the similarities between Harry Potter and classics fantasies like Lord of the Rings and Magician.
From Dumbledore to the Deathly Hallows, there are countless things that can be traced back to the Norse legends that most of these fantasy plots originate from. But the formulaic construction of these stories are used repeatedly for a reason, because they are the ideal skeleton on which to hang the meat of your story, to morph in to your own unique quest.
There is familiarity there, but no reason why, like Rowling, you can’t turn it in to something almost unrecognisable, only noticed by a handful of hardcore fantasy geeks (my Dad).
Anyone who says they haven’t, at some point, wished Hogwarts was real is lying. If you have been reading them since childhood, you will know the slight disappointment you felt on your eleventh birthday when you didn’t get a wax-sealed envelope delivered by owl.
The idea of love potions, levitation and liquid luck being taught in a classroom like it’s the periodic table is quite, well…magical. And no matter how good video games and toys and television shows get, nothing will ever quite be as good as magic.
Although a couple of the films try to anchor the story in ‘now’, Rowling’s book are very much in an era-less world. The old-fashioned charm of the cobbled streets of Hogsmeade and the leather-bound books and ink-dipped quills of Hogwarts means that this book won’t seem dated in a generation’s time.
6. Strong female characters
I’ve already written a feature where I argue that Hermione is really the hero of the series, and that Harry and Ron would have fallen at the first hurdle without her logic, knowledge and general competence.
But many other women in this series – Ginny and Mrs Weasley, Luna Lovegood, McGonagall and even Bellatrix Lestrange – provide strong, positive role models for young girls.
They are not mere objects of desire, or weak victims that need to be saved, or even the perplexing, unattainable goddesses that appear in many fantasy novels. They are real characters, who fight and fall just as much as the boys.
Every great story needs the lows as well as the highs, and my Harry Potter books have got some pretty big tear-shaped smudges stained on the pages. The death of a mentor is essential in any coming-of-age tale; it is the only way that the protagonist can stand on their own two feet and prove themselves.
It doesn’t make it any less heart-wrenchingly sad, though, and the bloody chaos of the final book leaves behind many fallen comrades. I do have my concerns that some of the deaths in the Deathly Hallows were introduced with the foresight for an emotional on-screen battle, but in epic stories sacrifices have to be made, and victory is always a little bitter-sweet.
8. Satisfying back story
After investing in a set of characters for seven books, it is natural to feel like you know them, and I think this is why many have found it such an emotional experience, as the final film draws to a close, to end this chapter in their life. It’s like saying goodbye to childhood friends.
Throughout the series, and particularly in the sixth book, we are given a lot of information about why things have come to be. The back stories – of Voldemort, of Harry’s parents, of Dumbledore- are some of my favourite bits. I find it satisfying to know that Rowling seemed to have a plan for everything all along, and nothing happens ‘just because’.
9. Good vs. Evil
There is nothing quite like fighting the good fight, and Harry Potter is the story of a kid obsessed with triumphing over evil, whatever guise that comes in. The good characters never shoot to kill, always put the safety of others before their own, and are themselves protected by the power and strength of ‘love’.
This is not to say that they are not willing to bend a few rules for the greater good, or prone to a bit of revenge here and there, but primarily this is the story of the victory of the good guys over the bad guys; the Gryffindors over the Slytherins.
10. There’s still plenty left to imagine
There is so much material in the books that there was no way they were going to fit it in to a few films, even if they did stretch it to eight. It is common for film versions of books to replace your original imagined version, and I know that when I read the Harry Potter books, I am now picturing Emma Watson, Michael Gambon and Helena Bonham-Carter.
But there is still so much not featured on the silver screen, so much that is still mine. The Harry Potter series allows you to create your own whole world, full of magic and fantastical creatures (and yes, alright, a few Hollywood A-listers).
But mostly a personal, familiar, cosy world in your imagination that you can conjure up in a second’s notice, from the moment you turn over the first dog-eared page. And that is why I think that it will still be capturing the imaginations of kids not just ten years down the line, but for decades after that.