Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Goodbye to Harry Potter and friends.

harry_potter_death_hallows_part_2_poster_300x443For those of you who are planning to read the series for the first time or not aware how the last film ends, please be aware that here be spoilers.

Today is the day that Harry Potter comes to an end for me. The final film – The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 – is released and I’m off to see it. I’m going with a friend that has never read the books, a tradition that ends with us having dinner and me telling her that the books are so much better and she should read them. I say this every time. I have been known to tell perfect strangers about my love of the series and urge them to dive into it themselves. I envy anyone who is about to read them for the first time.

I’m excited to see what they do with the second half of the final book, I’m particularly excited to see the end of Neville Longbottom’s story arc – I’m a die-hard Neville fangirl. But I’m also a little sad. Here’s why.

I spotted Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Tesco when I was about 11 or 12. It had already won the Smarties Book Prize (so proclaimed a gold medal on its cover) but I had never heard of it. My Mum bought it for me and I stepped into a magical world. I remember sitting on my blue blow up chair (remember those?) and declaring that this was the best book I had EVER read. A girl in my form class, a girl I thought impossibly cool and super intelligent, spotted me reading it and gave me the thumbs up. I saw Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets a few months later in one of the magazines at school and I was thrilled that there was a sequel. It was only after that that I realised it was a worldwide phenomenon.

From The Prisoner of Azkaban onwards, I devoured the books in a few days, desperate to know what happened next. It wasn’t long before I returned to them and re-read them slowly, lovingly. To this day they are the most read books on my bookshelf. I still have that now tatty copy of Philosopher’s Stone. A lot of my teen memories are tangled up with Harry – conversations about the books with my American cousins as we sat in the backseat of the van on the way to LA; the clear A3 folder that I carried my coursework in was lovingly decorated with Harry Potter pictures; the nonplussed look on an interviewer’s face when I said that Neville Longbottom was my favourite character.

I think it was Harry Potter that gave me the love I have for big baggy novels. Works like Bleak House, White Teeth and Possesion are favourites because I love thick books, filled with people, teeming with life. I know some people will baulk at the comparison, but for me it’s a direct line from Harry Potter to Bleak House. Have you seen the size of The Goblet of Fire? If I could get through that in two days, I wasn’t about to be intimidated by the width of Bleak House.

The characters are what make the book for me. My favourites are actually outside the main trio – Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Remus Lupin, Dobby. In fact, I find Harry a pleasant enough chap, but a bit dull. As an awkward, bullied teenager who couldn’t get her head round Physics, is it any wonder that I took a clutch of outsiders to my heart? To this day I love Remus’s courage in the face of adversity, Luna’s total dedication to carving her own path, Neville’s ability to grow into – well, you’ll see. Some of the friends I made at university I made through Harry Potter. If you can’t think of anything to say, ask if they’ve read it!

I’m always astounded by the claims that Harry Potter is about Satanism. If anything, it’s a deeply Christian allegory, a traditional tale of good triumphing over evil, of love conquering all. And there are other lessons too – Remus Lupin shows us what happens when we turn on people for being different, the behaviour of the Death Eaters shows what happens when bigotry takes over. The books have real heart. You can tell Rowling loves her characters, that she felt the same tug we all felt when we closed The Deathly Hallows and realised that it was all over. I cried over the demise of my favourite characters, but I didn’t cry because it was finished – somehow I felt that those who survived would live on beyond the final pages (and that bum note of an epilogue. Sorry, Jo, I really didn’t like it!)

Yes, there are better writers than Rowling, but I think even the most hardened critic would have trouble making a case for her not being a great inventor. The world she has created is a living and breathing world, so real you can almost taste the butterbeer. The characters, over the years I have known them, have become friends. Harry_Potter_and_the_Deathly_Hallows

In October, Rowling will launch Pottermore. I can’t wait to see it. I hear that Dean Thomas has a backstory she could never work into the books and I want to read it. There are some that will claim that Pottermore is milking it, that with the final film we should lay it to rest. I understand that and after reading the new material, I probably won’t look into Pottermore again. But people are still discovering Harry Potter. In a few years time, much-loved books will be placed into the hands of children by one-time fans. Those children won’t get to experience midnight sales, spending months picking over evidence to figure out who R.A.B is. I hope that Pottermore will create that sense of community for a new generation.

But now it’s time to put some tissues in my bag and go to say goodbye to some old and very dear friends

7 comments on “Goodbye to Harry Potter and friends.

  1. rosyb
    July 16, 2011

    This post made me sorry that I was that bit too old to really experience the HP thing as a childhood phenomenon. I can imagine it was a great binder of a generation. People get very protective and defensive about “their” generations’ books or films or cultural landmarks. For many it was StarWars. Not sure what it was for me – maybe Dirty Dancing was the closest – being in the US as a child I managed to see it before all of my peers which made me instantly cool. For about a day.

    I wonder how much these huge global things last into the next generation though. I know there are plenty of geeky guys trying to foist Starwars on their kids, who don’t think that much of it at all as they are now onto the new and the more technically flamboyant. I’m talking about proper StarWars, of course. Not the terrible recent “prequels”.

  2. annebrooke
    July 16, 2011

    Marvellous article, Nikki – and I say that as a woman utterly indifferent to the HP phenomenon in all its guises. 🙂 I found this really moving, so thank you! I fear I still won’t read the books or watch the films though, but it will make me tackle more thick non-HP books in future, which can only be a good thing.

    Anne
    xxx

  3. Jackie
    July 16, 2011

    Nikki, this was a really heartfelt post. I like how you showed not only that HP carried on a long literary tradition, but also how the books provided common ground & a springboard to other things & people as well. It’s a very mature & open-minded way of looking at something you love so much & showing how it goes beyond the covers of the books or the edge of the movie screen. I hope most Potter fans have such good memories & insights.
    I trust you enjoyed the last film this weekend. The commercials made it look quite exciting. And I really like that first poster you have at the beginning of this post, really atmospheric.

  4. rosyb
    July 17, 2011

    Are you going to tell us how the film went, Nikki?

  5. SamRuddock
    July 17, 2011

    This is a great article, Nikki. As I confessed Harry Potter fan I recognise a lot of what you say you say here. I didn’t come to them until a little bit later (I was actually 18 or 19 when I first read them) but you’ve managed to convey coherently why I too fell in love with them. The midnight launches were without doubt the funnest nights of my bookselling career, the sense of expectation that came with puzzling over the mysteries with friends took them to another level. But when it comes down to it, it was the books that inspired me. I read the first 4 back to back in only 6 days and those six days are highlights of my reading life. In my opinion they subsequently trailed off and could have been better edited but remained entertaining and enjoyable to the last (I’m wiping that epilogue from my mind – walked out of the cinema before it came on so as to save the trauma of seeing it on film).

    Thanks for this post, it makes really enjoyable nostalgic reading.

  6. Nikki
    July 17, 2011

    Stars Wars was one of my things too, rosyb. I remember they did lots of spin-offs when I was very young about Wicket the Ewok. I loved it! But I was too young for it really; I think they were all out by time I was born. It was the following of HP that was special, waiting for the next one, desperately wishing it was out NOW.

    Sam, yes they needed editing towards the end, I agree. But if you had to ask me what details I’d be willing to give up, I’m not sure I could tell you! My greatest regret is never going to a midnight launch.

    I thought the film was really good. There were only two elements that I wished had stayed more true to the book – Neville’s final hero moment and the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort. I won’t say anymore for fear of spoiling. But I do feel these were stronger in the book and I’m curious to know why they changed. I left the cinema feeling strange, slightly bereft. Though I’ve questioned the abilities of several of the young actors, I’ve grown genuinely fond of them; they seem like a lovely bunch of people. I’m sad I’ll never see them all together again.

    What did you all think of the film? I hope I’ve convinced doubters to give it a go. Hint, hint, Anne!

  7. hrileena
    July 18, 2011

    I’m one of those people who stumbled onto Harry Potter by accident rather early on (with regard to the books themselves). They did fall off, especially with regard to editing, towards the end — though I would say that editing in general hit its nadir in the fifth book, and not just because of the length of the thing. But, as you said in your review, Rowling is a great inventor — though I think that, properly edited, she can also be a great writer. She has an unerring instinct for writing action, though I don’t think she’s a natural when it comes to romance. At all events, ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ shows great narrative control of a sort fairly difficult to pull off. I have reason to be grateful for that book: not only was it a truly enjoyable read, but also for making my life much easier now: I teach literature, and it is far easier to explain a narrative technique when your students have actually read something written in that vein!

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This entry was posted on July 16, 2011 by in Entries by Nikki and tagged , , .

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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