Last week the fabulous Rachel Hamilton wrote a blog about our AMAZING adventure to the Harry Potter Studios, and posted lots of lovely pics of us looking just a little unhinged with all the excitement… It was a totally BRILLIANT day and I would hugely recommend it for Potter fans, young and old.
For some readers, the Harry Potter books are simply enjoyable fantasy adventure stories, but for many of us they are much more than that; they are – pardon the pun – actually rather magical. It’s hard to put your finger on what makes this particular series of books so very, very special, but here are some of my personal thoughts along with a few pictures from our amazing day out…
1.Escapism – but combined with cosy familiarity. Harry and his friends frequently find themselves in situations of terrible peril – facing dragons and three-headed dogs and monstrous spiders… But this is all balanced with the safe cosiness of The Burrow or the Gryffindor Common Room… Rowling takes us all the way from the very recognisable streets of suburbia to the magical world of Hogwarts. The journey itself – from the real to the unreal – has been explored many times in children’s literature – from Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole to C. S. Lewis’s wardrobe – but Rowling combines it with the romance of a steam train and the excitement of unpredictable magical confectionary… (I ate a whole box of Peppermint Toads.)
2. WE are wizards too. Rowling makes us feel like we are part of this magical world and that we are being given access to its secrets: how to access Platform 9 ¾; how to find Diagon Alley… There is, if we’re all honest, a part of us that likes to believe these places really do exist, tucked away in the forgotten nooks of London. Part of the genius of the Harry Potter books is that we feel we too have been specially chosen to learn the arts of wizardry. We all want to be ‘fitted’ for our own unique wand at Ollivander’s. We all know which house we would want to be in, and many of us (ahem) have answered the questions of the Sorting Hat on pottermore.com (Hufflepuff. Hmph).
3. Not afraid of the big stuff. The world of Harry Potter isn’t all Butterbeer and skittles of course. Through the ruthless ambitions of the Death Eaters, Rowling explores serious themes such as fascism and oppression. We see how prejudices and bullying on a smaller scale (Draco and friends using terms such as ‘Mudblood’, for example) are actually part of this cruel and dangerous war that is being waged upon society.
4. Ordinary can be extraordinary. I think this is one of the most important messages of the Harry Potter series: that we all have greatness within us, no matter how ordinary we might think we are. It’s no coincidence that Harry Potter is such an unglamorous, unheroic name – and the same is true of my favourite character, Neville Longbottom – but Rowling shows us that we can all be heroes – we can all be courageous and strong when we need to be.
5. A secret code. In the same way that football fans are able to bond effortlessly with each other over a conversation about ‘last night’s match’, Harry Potter fans are a community all of their own, with their own references, vocabulary and private jokes – a bit like a secret code. About ten years ago, my husband and I went on our first date. We didn’t go out for a fancy meal or anything – we went to the park, read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and ate carrot cake. Two years later we got married. If a person loves the Harry Potter books, I reckon they’re usually going to be a pretty good egg (even if the Sorting Hat did decide to put my husband in Slytherin…).