The Harry Potter series is one of my most favourite things. I’ve read all the books and watched all the movies (multiple times, I might add), and it never gets old. I remember watching the very first Harry Potter movie when I was little, and I was just so fascinated by the wealth of imagination and creativity, wit and humour, all coming together to make up a show that millions of people all over the world would love. Personally, I think the works of art we love the most are those that we can readily relate to. When we hear our favourite song or watch our favourite movie, sure, we may enjoy the good story, but more often than not, it’s because in some ways, we’ve learnt to see a bit of ourselves in the lyrics of the song or in the movie’s characters. In short, human beings are biased creatures making decisions and judgements based mostly on sentiment and emotion. Today I’m going to try to explain my bias for Harry Potter, and why it will always have a special place in my heart.
The Harry Potter book I enjoyed the most is ‘Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone’. It’s the very first book in the series, so let’s start there shall we.
That one Opportunity
In case you’re not familiar with the story, Harry is a ten year old boy who grows up with his Aunt Petunia and his Uncle Vernon, who always mistreated him and made him feel worthless. They would give their own son the very best, and give Harry scraps. But Harry knew he had something special, though he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. There had been times in the past when he’d made stuff happen just by really wanting them to. This one time, he made a glass wall holding back a boa constrictor (it’s a snake) disappear, giving his cousin Dudley quite a fright. But on his eleventh birthday, things began to get really weird: He was getting letters from this place called Hogwarts, and his uncle really didn’t want him to go there until a half giant burst in and took Harry there himself. Long story short, It’s this one trip that marks the start of an incredibly beautiful adventure, the exploration of his true potential and the formation of lasting friendships. While we may not necessary relate to being mistreated by our relatives, a lot of us know what it’s like to have that one big opportunity come our way – A chance to learn new things, meet new people and be a better you. Sure, it might not be a letter inviting you to Hogwarts, but maybe it’s the university admission, or that scholarship, or that meeting with someone prominent; the point where you just know that things are going to be different from now on. I think Harry Potter captures that quite well.
The Significance of Choice
From the very start of the series, the author, JK Rowling, makes it abundantly clear that the hero’s choices will drive the entire story. Let me tell you about the sorting ceremony. You see, Hogwarts has four houses: Gryffindor (brave guys), Slytherin (Cunning guys), Ravenclaw (smart guys) and Hufflepuff (loyal guys). Almost all the evil wizards were in Slytherin, and Harry just decides that he doesn’t want Slytherin. The sorting hat is a magic hat used for… You guessed it! Sorting students into their various houses. Here’s what happens when the hat is put on Harry’s head:
The last thing harry saw before the hat dropped over his eyes was the hall full of people craning to get a good look at him. Next second he was looking at the black inside of the hat. He waited.
“Hmm,” said a small voice in his ear. “Difficult. Very Difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either. There’s talent, oh my goodness, yes – and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that’s interesting. … So where shall I put you?”
Harry gripped the edges of the stool and thought, Not Slytherin, not Slytherin.
“Not Slytherin, eh?” said the small voice. “Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it’s all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that – no? Well if you’re sure – better be GRYFFINDOR!”
When I first read this part, I didn’t think much of it until it was mentioned again in the second book. Harry could have easily been sent to slytherin, after all, his wand brother Voldemort (the bad guy) was in slytherin, and the two of them are more similar than they’d like to admit. So what made harry different? He chose to surround himself with the right people and be the better person. He knew the kind of person he wanted to be, and it was Not Slytherin. It all came down to choice.
Harry’s choice of friends is also worth talking about. He doesn’t have a lot of them. His two closest friends, Ron, Hermione (and maybe Neville and Luna) were the best people to have as companions throughout his journey. At the start of the series, he was approached by Draco Malfoy (The bad guy’s henchman’s son… Stay with me here) who wanted to befriend Harry, but harry could tell the wrong sort for himself. You see, it’s the seemingly little choices like this that make us unique in the long run: the people we associate ourselves with, the places we go and the company we keep all produce a ripple effect that influences the lives we lead.
Love Conquers All
This last thing I want to talk about is one of the things that stood out the most to me throughout all the books, and it comes in the last chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. For a little context, Harry had just come into contact with one of Voldemort’s forms. A shade of Voldemort had attached itself to a human host, so the host had two faces: one in front and Voldemort’s at the back…that’s freaky. At that point, Harry has the Philosopher’s Stone and Voldemort wants the stone so there’s a conflict coming. Voldemort (or his host rather) lunges towards Harry, grabbing him by the wrist. Anyone would think that Harry was done for, I thought so too. I mean, how was he going to defeat a dark wizard who’s objectively more powerful and knowledgeable. But suddenly Voldemort screams in pain. While he grasps Harry’s wrist, Voldemort’s hands begin to burn. And now Harry sees his chance. He puts his hands on Voldemort’s face and hands and body, destroying the host and ridding the dark wizard of an anchor to the physical world.
So where am I going with this? In the last chapter we finally understand why Voldemort couldn’t touch Harry without sustaining harm. It turn’s out that Harry’s mother, who had died protecting Harry from Voldemort, had left a powerful protective force over Harry: Love. As Dumbledore put it in his conversation with Harry:
“Your mother died to save you. If there’s one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign … to have been loved so deeply even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. Quirrell [the host], full of hatred, greed, and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.”
I know it’s fiction, but dialogue like this almost makes these characters real to me, and I find Dumbledore’s reasoning on love oddly comforting. maybe you do too.
So in conclusion…
The Harry Potter Universe is a pretty extensive one, and honestly I could talk and theorize about it all day. I just find it really fascinating that a fictional story meant for children could have so much depth and sophistication. I get so excited every time I discuss the franchise with my friends or compare the books to the movies… For me it’s just so much fun, and I thought I would share that fun with you today. If you enjoyed this piece, please leave a like, and let me know your thoughts on it. Do you like Harry Potter as much as me? Should I write more posts about the series? Let me know in the comment section. Till next time, bye.