The Real World Inside Your Head: Revisiting the Magic of Childhood through Harry Potter

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” – Albus Dumbledore Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


So my hiatus lasted longer than I intended. We’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming next week with my weekly reviews and some more flash fiction. I wish I could say that I managed to get a lot done in the last month and a half but it still isn’t as much as I would have liked to accomplish. I did manage to re-read all seven Harry Potter books before seeing the final film last weekend and plan to continue my summer of re-reading. There are a few realizations that came to me while re-reading, most of which made me laugh though they’re probably common enough.


I was surprised by both how much I’d managed to remember and how much I’d forgotten. The things I remembered best were the bits of the books I had most been looking forward to seeing on the big screen as was disappointed with, either because they were left out or because they had been changed in a way I didn’t appreciate. It was only with the benefit of hindsight that I was able to appreciate the way Rowling dropped little pieces of information through the novels that weren’t relevant until the later books. Characters mentioned in passing in one book that grew in importance with each subsequent novel. Of course, with months or years between being able to read each book the first time, many of these tidbits slipped from memory having little perceived importance. I could have re-read the previous book just before the release of the next but I’m not sure reading all seven in succession would have been quite so spectacular if I had.


For the most part my favorites remained my favorites (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was, is and I believe will always be my favorite, both with the books and the films). But it did amaze me that I had a harder time getting through what was one of my favorites the first time around. After waiting so long, I flew through Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with my first reading. But now I see how much of that came from the simple desire to uncover what came next. It appeared to cloud my perception of certain characters. At least, I want that to be the reason I didn’t register how whiney Harry was in that novel. It could also have been that during those days a few weeks before I turned sixteen Harry’s I was more sympathetic to Harry’s frustration and angst.


On a parallel note, one of the books I’d found a little tedious the first time through was more enjoyable the second time through. With so much going on, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire feels like the odd-man-out in many ways but now I’m able to appreciate that it is because it stands as the turning point of the series. As the middle book, it divides the series into two halves. The more lighthearted and innocent antics of the first three books have a cushiony barrier between them and the darker, dire circumstances of the later three. It is also the novel where Rowling first proves that she is not afraid of killing characters off, though she does a wonderful job of easing her young readers into the ideas that those who are evil aren’t the only ones to die in battle, the way a person acts doesn’t always show you what they’re feeling, and that people don’t always get what they deserve.


I would have thought that I’d fly through my re-reading since I already knew what happened, but instead I found myself lingering over phrases and passages that I’d skimmed in rapid succession last time. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published the year I turned ten. The first film came out just months after I turned fourteen and helped to inject magic into a generation whose innocence ended with 9/11. With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows published just before I turned twenty and this final film installment coming just a year after college graduation, I must face the reality that I am now an adult who will forever find it easy to be young at heart as long as there is someone around willing to discuss Harry Potter.


As I move onto re-reading The Hunger Games Trilogy in August, I hope they hold up as well the second time through as the Harry Potter series did.





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