Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Harry Potter Project #1

So, I’ve started the Harry Potter project. It just means that I will read the seven novels, and maybe watch the films afterwards, all for the first time. Why now? you might ask. Well, no special reason, I’ve always wanted to read them, just to find out whether they’re any good. I mean, how’s the saying? One billion Harry Potter fans can’t be wrong. I’ve read five chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone so far, and reading them was fun but also felt kind of strange, mainly for the fact that I was somewhat familiar with many things that were happening and with parts of the plot, which is another thing that makes the Harry Potter franchise special. Even the people who haven’t read the novels or watched the movies know a lot about Harry. There are the names: Dumbledore, Voldemort, Hogwarts, the sport Quidditch. I’ve stumbled across them in the past, so it was nice to finally learn more about these characters and things. And everbody knows the story about the genesis of the novel: It all started in a cafĂ©, right? But of course J. K. Rowling couldn’t have started without giving serious thoughts as to how the novel would develop. That’s quite clear from the very beginning.

The novel starts off with a nice bit of exposition. One of the reasons why it must have been so popular is that the reader and Harry are on the same page as to most of the topics which means that the main protagonist has no advantage over the reader and is even more clueless at times. Then there’s the battle of good (Dumbledore) vs. evil (Voldemort) which has been popular since the world was young and makes clear that Rowling knows her Lord of the Rings, among other things. And the Dursleys are as horrible as can be imagined, which reminded me of Grimm’s fairy tales (Aunt Petunia surely is a version of Cinderella’s step mother). The talk about magic is also pretty common to most fantasy readers. Unicorns, wands, books of spells. So, why did it become popular in the first place if it doesn’t offer anything new? Well, it does. Rowling invents a whole new kind of sport (Quidditch is “like football in the Muggle world”), which is very clever, and she basically conjures up a whole new universe for readers, which already worked for J.R.R. Tolkien. The first novel serves as an opening door to that universe, which feels fascinating. I mean, almost every reader wants to know how Quidditch and the magic potions work, and there are other mysterious objects, like the package from vault 713, the wand which is a relative of Voldemort’s, which add suspense to the story. I do not wish to say that she just copied elements from older books, that would be unfair. She created something very original here, despite all the familiar fantasy elements. I certainly want to go on that train from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters which will depart soon.