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10 Reasons People Will Still Be Reading Harry Potter in 10 Years Time

29th Jul 2011

Harry_Potter
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).

4. Magic

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.

5. Timelessness

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.

7. Tragedy

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.

Comments

  • Jane Bradley says:

    I love this feature. JK may have her haters, but for me the combination of the traditional British boarding school story and the classic magic and fantasy plot devices is what makes HP so special. Those seem to be the elements that are so beloved by older readers too, perhaps because there’s an element of nostalgia for those boarding school books like Malory Towers, St. Clare’s and so on?

  • I disagree. I don’t believe Harry Potter will stand the test of time – except that the huge money spent won’t allow him to die gracefully with films and theme parks, etc. The stories are OK but done so many times before. JK had nothing original to say. The films are better (that’s not saying much). What I dislike so much about the books is the accepted elitism. And nobody seems to recognise it. Who would want to be Muggle (or whatever they are called) when you could be a Wizard? It’s typical public school attitude writ large. Thank God it’s all over and done with (I expect those long-suffering actors are too).

  • Ellen says:

    Great post. Unlike Anne, I think that elements of the Harry Potter stories have been done before are precisely why the series will last – it takes these elements of fantasy stories, boarding school stories, and turns them into something new. If I ever have kids I’m sure going to make them read the HP books…I grew up with the series, reading the last one just before my senior year of college (and I imagine people who were a few years younger than me when the series began feel even more of an attachment to them than I do). That’s what’s going to make these books last – that so many of us feel such a fondness for them, that they defined our childhoods, and that we’ll want them to define our children’s childhoods, too. As Anne says, the books have been commercialized with the movies, the theme parks, tie-in products, but that’s not going to kill Rowling’s stories.

  • Gemma says:

    I love this. So true- I loved reading these books as I grew up, and now that I am a grown up I can’t wait to read them to my future kiddos.

    I’m curious though- how would you say that Bellatrix is a positive female role model?

  • Sara says:

    Bellatrix is obviously a bit of an ‘evil’ character, but she’s also a woman who is independent, strong and commands respect. I think that’s more what the author was getting at, as opposed to suggesting that little girls want to be her when they grow up. If you think about it, there aren’t that many female ‘baddies’ out there, at least not that I can bring to mind. It was a bold choice by JKR.

    • Gemma says:

      That’s a fair point re: bellatrix. A female villian isn’t common. And I’d argue that she’s kind of scarier than voldemort.

  • Steven Watson says:

    After years of avoiding this series, I made a Birthday Promise to my wife and our best friend that I would read them. I finished the first two and I can’t get my hands on “Prisoner of Azkaban” fast enough! I am hooked, even though I saw the last two movies and already know how it will turn out.

    One repeated theme in YA fiction is the absence of adult authority. Harry’s parents are dead; the Weasley parents never set foot in Hogwarts. Dumbledore is a parental stand-in, but even he doesn’t do much to solve the mysteries of each book. The real work is up to Harry and the rest of the students.

    The Twilight books are the same way. S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders is considered the first modern YA book, and its parents are almost nonexistent.

    Anyway, I think that’s one of the many reasons these books are so popular. A lot of us nowadays come from broken, blended, or otherwise nontraditional families. We become independent too fast and take too long to grow up. I am grateful to be in the teaching field because it gives me an excuse to read YA books.

  • Abbie Fiddaman says:

    Cari that article was fantastic! Describing the longevity of Harry Potter is something I think all Harry fans will need right now! All the points that you covered are something that I have thought about over the years.

    Lets just hope that they last as long as some of the most famous books in the world.

    Thanks again,

    Abbie 🙂 xx

  • I completely disagree with number two. Harry as a character is as far away from a geek as possible. He’s rich, popular, a sports star, he dates the hottest girl in school, is pretty good at his classes and manages to also be the mysterious bad boy. In an American film he’d be played by Josh Hartnett. The Harry Potter books are unusual in that they ask a reader to sympathise with someone who, by and large, would nominally be a villain in a typical school-set book.

    • Jane Bradley says:

      Controversial, Dan! Although I always thought that readers empathasised with Harry because he has all those things, but they’re not the answer to who he is or his quest. He’s rich, but he can’t really spend it on anything, it can’t change his living situation with the Dursleys. He’s isolated from the other rich-kid cliques (like when Draco tries to befriend him on their first day at Hogwarts), but his wealth also causes tensions with his friends, like when Ron gets all embarrassed the first time they take him to The Burrow. He’s popular within Gryffindor, but he spends a lot of time being victimised by students in the other houses (like when everyone reckons he’s the one who opened the Chamber of Secrets, or when the Ravenclaws start their pro-Cedric, anti-Potter campaign). He never knows anything he’s supposed to, even the reasons for his own fame or his own history, and he constantly struggles with feelings of jealousy, isolation and resentment. Most villains are much more one-dimensional than that…

    • Cariad Martin says:

      Okay, I’ll give you ‘sports star’, I’d never really thought about him being Quarterback-esque, but in the books I wouldn’t really say he’s popular (famous, yes, but not popular) and he is rubbish with girls.

  • Sarah says:

    I love this feature, and I especially agree with point number 2- one of the reasons I adore Hermione so much is because she resonates so strongly with the timid, bookish 12-year-old who still resides within me. I would have loved, however, to see Neville Longbottom included as one of the geek heroes of the series- I imagine that there’s a bullied misfit like Neville in pretty much every school, and his development from awkward outcast to badass Horcrux-destroyer was one of my favourite parts of the Harry Potter series. Rowling’s ability to create relatable characters within a fantasy world is definitely one of the reasons that the Harry Potter books will endure!

    • Jane Bradley says:

      I’m completely with you on that one, Sarah, I love Neville’s story arc throughout the books and films – those little tentative steps towards being brave and defiant earlier on foreshadow his later actions, and I love the evolution of his character. And in the films he was looking quite the heroic heartthrob by Deathly Hallows 2!