Loving Harry

There I was wearing my cape, with a packet of tissues, anticipating the start of the last movie installment of Harry Potter. I ooohed, aaaahed, clapped, teared-up, anticipated and yahoo-ed throughout the movie. I dreaded the end of the movie anticipating a hollow in my heart after the credits rolled, but it did not come. Instead, I felt satisfied. I felt closure.

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Harry Potter and I knew each other for 11 years, when I was introduced to him in 2000 by a friend who has the same penchant for books on fantasy, magic and children. It was when Hagrid brought Harry to Diagon Alley to buy things for school that I knew I would be with this boy until the end of the series. It was when Ollivander and Harry had their conversation at the wand shop that I felt the magic. It was when Harry and Ron shared their first chocolate frogs that the wizarding world became real for me.

What is it with Harry Potter that it took the world by storm? Many fantasy geeks would argue that "The Lord of the Rings" is better-written and has a more complex mythology. I wouldn't argue against that. One could say that Tolkien was a pioneer in creating fantastic worlds and characters and peoples beyond Aesop's fables and Grimm's fairy tales. The same could be said of his friend CS Lewis and his "Narnia Chronicles." Yet for both writers, the world took a while to realize the genius of their work. But when people finally did, they paved the way for the likes of Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, Lemony Snicket and JK Rowling.

Rowling was lucky in the sense that the world has gotten used to magic and fantasy (though she had her share of "HP is the work of the devil" haters). It took a few years for the her wizarding world to fly, but when it did, it was like riding a Firebolt to fame. Every other attempt to follow suit was a ride on a sad Cleansweep 7.

What kind of magic did Rowling cast? It has been pretty much established that it had to do a lot about love. But I also think beyond the typical battle between good-evil, it was her care in details that made the world not just like Harry and his gang, they wanted to be like them! It did not matter if you were 12 or 21 (my age when I began) when you started reading the book. I remember discussing with Pia how butterbeer would taste like, and closely approximated it to Zagu's brazo de mercedes brew. Pia was also our generous donor of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans from the US, of which I knowingly chose weird flavors like grass and pepper (vomit and booger were still in production) which tasted the way it was advertised. I had to finish off with buttered popcorn so as not to have the same aversion to the treats as Dumbledore. Crissy brought home Chocolate Frogs from Australia, which included a limited edition card. I was half-expecting the frog to move about once I opened, but to no avail. Rowling presented broomsticks like they were the latest car models, that one is better on the other, taking into consideration the maker, the model, the drag and what have you. The spells were delightful (Riddikulus, Expecto Patronum, Petrificus Totalus, Avada Kedavra, Crucio, etc. etc) and the magical items awesome (floo powder, portkey, sneakoscopes, remembralls, howlers, etc. etc.) and the mytichal creatures mystical (grindylows, cornish pixies, centuars, giants, house elves, ghosts, etc. etc.). I could go on and on and on. For me, it was all about the intricate details that Rowling put together to make the wizarding world more magical, more fantastical and more real to its readers.

The details also went into the people. The characters in the book were quite complex. With the teen-agers, you can imagine the insecurities they had to deal with and realize you were once or are like that. Hogwarts students had to deal with bullying and pranks and falling in love. They had to face the dreaded exams or deal with terror teachers. And in the end, they had to deal between the choice of good and evil, right and wrong. They had to grow up in a world at war.

As for the adults, many had complex histories (it is now I realize that we know little of McGonagall. Hmmm.). You had an truly evil Voldemort who never experienced love and therefore could not understand it. You had an unfathomable Snape, whose enduring love for Lily Potter kept him from going to the dark side before or during Harry Potter (thank you, Star Wars!). You have Horace Slughorn, who along with Snape, showed that being Slytherin does not necessarily make you evil but emphasizes on slyness and cunning. You have Remus Lupin, whose kindness of heart is shadowed by the stigma against werewolves. The list goes on and on and on. Bottomline is you get to know the characters in the book as persons and not just names.

Rita Skeeter wrote sensationally. Rowling wrote lovingly.

And so in the last 11 years, I, along with millions of Potter fans, saw many characters grow up, some grow old and a few pass away. The younger fans grew up with Harry while I felt like the three's bigger sister, proud with their achievements, sad with their pains.

We alternately waited for the next book or the next movie to come out. The anticipation is sometimes more exciting than reading the actual book or seeing the actual movie. What made the anticipation delightful was it was shared with many people. The funny thing is, Harry Potter is one of those things you don't mind the world likes/loves along with you. I mean, I know friends who lose interest in music or books because other people caught on. But Harry... you want to share him. You want others to experience the magic as you have.

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The anticipation for Harry Potter truly has ended when the last movie installment has shown. Waiting for this last unkown Harry Potter franchise rooted itself in nostalgia, led me and a lot others into tears thinking it was THE end. It was like knowing family will be going away.

And yet, when I saw the final movie, I did not feel the sadness that I expected. What I felt was closure... even peace and contentment. It is AN end, but not THE end. Rowling and Dan Radcliffe were right when they said, "The stories we love best lives in us forever."

Harry Potter will live on in the pages of the seven books, in the cel of eight films and especially in the hearts of its fans.

So along with the thousands of fans camped out waiting to watch the UK premiere of HP as Jo Rowling was making her speech, I shout "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" to her. It was a wonderful ride of which I would be sure to take over and over and over.

Thank you for the wonderful wizarding world of Harry Potter. He is truly "The Boy who Lived."


eric santillan said...

Beautiful, beautiful piece that I resonate with at many levels.

Thank you Anj!