“The boy who lived” entered my life as I turned six years old. He was imaginative, brave, and rose from humble beginnings; in short, everything you could want in a friend (or I suppose young protagonist). I struggled through Dudley, Uncle Vernon, and Aunt Petunia’s cruelty, celebrated Hagrid’s arrival and explored the mysteries of Hogwarts. I had never liked fantasy: Lord of the Rings was too lofty, Game of Thrones too confusing. But I liked Harry Potter, probably because Harry’s point of view, his internal dialogue, became my own. I liked it because when I lay down in bed and my mom opened up the book, I no longer cared that Rugrats was playing or the Mets game was on. I liked it because I felt accomplished when my mom handed me the big book, which my small hands could barely hold, and said “it’s your turn to read”.
The thing is that I don’t consider myself a Harry Potter fanatic, like many people of my generation do (aged 19 and above). Yet, over the course of my freshman and sophomore years in high school, I listened to Jim Dale’s incredible audiobooks; I’ve watched each of the Potter movies in theatres and then repeatedly on HBO (they’re just always on). It’s not like I’m ashamed, or even question my devotion. The thing is that I know the Potter books are formulaic. The orphan boy learns he is special, meets his evil rival and conquers him (with varying degrees of success) again and again. I could be describing Star Wars, or even Annie. The movies have been disappointing; it is hard to capture what is great about Harry in a movie. Daniel Radcliffe portrays him too often as an angsty, melodramatic teen. Still, I await each release (though I won’t be standing on-line for hours for an opening night ticket), and especially as “It All Ends” I’ve been hoping that the final movie brings a satisfying close to a shared phenomenon.
Every person who reads it owns Harry Potter. We each have our image of Hogwarts, Quidditch, Voldemort and mourn the death of Sirius and Dumbledore. And I’ve begun to understand that my Harry Potter “story” goes beyond plot points. I love the books because for 5 years before I was 11, I still had the audacious hope for magic. I love them most of all because they taught me that reading–even intimidating fat books–was a ticket to a world so much better than on any screen, because it’s your own. I can imagine one day opening up Harry’s world to my kids: their untainted childhood empathy, their hands struggling to hold the book as their eyes close. So though they say “It All Ends” today, I think it’s more of a pause as we watch what promises to be (at least) a thrilling movie. Who knows what spell Harry might conjure up in the future?