Yes I know I’m a bit late. I was completely convinced that the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was July 17th. As a devoted Potter fan, I knew I had to commemorate the anniversary in some way so I sat down to write only to realize that June 26th was the anniversary date. Totally missed it! I think July 17th was the release of Deathly Hallows; definitely a memorable occasion for me, so I see where that came from but still annoyed at myself for missing it. Twenty years! I can’t believe it’s been twenty years. Where did that go? Anyway, better late than never I guess.
Every Harry Potter fan has their “I remember when” story I’m sure. You know, “I remember how/why/when I discovered the series”? And sorry, but I don’t count the films. I’m a purist. The films are a whole other world and a whole different set of stories. Really, the film Prisoner of Azkaban completely glosses over the Marauders, which is definitely what made that book so great. What I find sad now is that it’s not easy for Harry Potter newbies to discover the books without being influenced by the merchandising juggernaut that is Warner Brothers.
While I would like to say that I picked up Philosopher’s Stone in 1997 and waited in anticipation for the next installment, it wasn’t until 2000 that I actually discovered Harry and the magical world. Still it was before the first movie came out, so I had my own visions of the characters and Hogwarts rather than those Warner Brothers created for us.
It was my boss who introduced me to the series, however unintentionally. He sent me in search of the Goblet of Fire for his son who was demanding to read it. My boss, never one to deny his son, set me on the hunt for the sold out book, which had only been released a week ago. Keep in mind now, that this was the infancy of the internet and a time when “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” carried some credence. I hadn’t heard of the boy wizard at that point, but a bit of research piqued my curiosity as I was having a devil of a time finding a copy. Once I tracked it to an independent bookseller in Toronto, I found myself reserving two copies and hoofing it down there to pick them up. Of course I also had to get the first three books as I couldn’t read the fourth one first. So, successful in my search, I presented boss’ son with his copy of Goblet of Fire and said “we can read it together”. Ha, fat chance. I was finished all four books inside of five days. He was still only half way through Goblet. Yep, I was hooked.
I believe the true success of the Harry Potter series is a result of a combination of things. Yes, it’s a great story which I thoroughly enjoy (over and over and over again) but it also benefited from the “right place right time” phenomenon. The internet was in its infancy. Smart phones and iPads did not exist; even the iPod hadn’t been released yet. There were no social media sites and people were just discovering a whole new world of others with the same interest. The fandom was born and grew on a young internet. People could come together for the first time (anonymously for the most part) and immerse themselves in a whole new world. People from all over the world could talk about the books and play in the magical world while they waited for Order of the Phoenix to be released (three years it took!!). Somewhere in there the films came out but they were a blip in the already rabid book fandom.
The Harry Potter phenomenon as it’s been called won’t happen again as our world has changed far too much in the past 17 years. Everything so frantic and fragmented now as we are bombarded daily by tweets here and notifications there. Really it’s a talent just to keep up!
I still amazes me that it’s been ten years since the release of Deathly Hallows. Ten years. I miss Harry, and I miss the anticipation of the next installment in his story. We know how it all turns out now. His story is over and ten years later it’s still hard to accept that we have said goodbye to these characters.
Yes, twenty years have passed since the boy wizard began to take the world by storm and J.K. Rowling went from welfare mum to a woman richer than the queen. An incredible story for both of them.
Happy Anniversary. You’ve both definitely made your mark in history.