Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Heinous or Heroic?

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Alright, so I am going to reveal a secret to all you readers out there that may shock and repulse some of you, especially the ones that take pride in reading all the most popular of literary works. Deep breath. Ok, her goes: It has taken me twenty one years of my existence to start reading the Harry Potter books.

There! I said it! And while the feeling of pure unrivaled disgust may be welling up in some of you as you continue reading, before you decide you hate me and you never want to read my blog again, allow me first to explain myself:

For twelve years of my life I attended a Christian school. No, not the type of Christian convent school run by nuns (I’m not Delores van Cartier or Whoopi Goldberg and this is not Sister Act).  I went to a school that was founded and run by a church as an N.P.O. (Non Profit-making Organisation). Now the reason I’m telling you this is because at the school I went to Harry Potter was a rather touchy subject. For some of the teachers, Harry Potter was just a really popular book and if it helped kids improve their reading, so be it. For others, it was a gateway to evil and Satanism. A lot of the more outspoken teachers (usually the ones that considered Harry Potter evil) tried to convince us kids and our parents that Harry Potter was evil and the worst book ever written. It succeeded in some and failed in others while I was on the fence wondering whether Harry Potter was as bad as the teachers made it out to be.

So, in 2014, with school no longer an issue and a real interest in books, narratives and plots I found a second-hand copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone in some editions) and took the opportunity to discover the truth for myself.

 

This is the story of young Harry Potter, an eleven year old who lost his parents and is forced to live with his awful aunt, uncle and cousin who wish to be normal and don’t understand any of Harry’s differences. But, Harry gets the surprise of his life when he finds out that he is a wizard as were his  parents and when he is whisked away to a school in a world where being different like Harry is quite acceptable. As the secrets keep revealing themselves, with Harry survive his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?

 

Movie Magic

So, because of some warped coincidences, I saw the movie (and now own the movie YAY!) before I read the book. I must admit that while I loved the movie, it did set me up for a bit of confusion. I think that the directors and producers of this first film (and all the films) assume that viewers have already read the book so that they don’t have to explain everything. This became a problem and I sat wondering things about the first film until I read the book like what exactly The Black Cauldron was and how it fitted into the story. I learnt the answers to these questions by reading the book. I shan’t explain them here partly because I don’t want to give any spoilers but mostly because it’s a long and convoluted explanation that J.K. Rowling lays out throughout those sections of the book.

I loved the movie but somehow I could not help but like the book more. The story-line is just so much more clear in the book.

In My Humble Opinion:

So, now that I’ve read the book, those of you who have too are probably itching to hear whether I thought the book to be everything evil I was told at school. And those of you who haven’t read the book are probably wondering how good or evil it is. Alright. Drum-roll please……….

Personally, I found nothing but a delightful children’s story in the book. Harry Potter is just a great story about dealing with rotten relatives, new schools and other trials that any kid would have to deal with. Haven’t we all been in a situation where our relatives are mean to us? I know I have. Haven’t we all had to deal with coping at a new school where we don’t know what’s going on. We all have to deal with that at least once in our lives when we start school. Haven’t we all had to decide which friends were better for us to have and which were not? Which would cause bad peer pressure? Haven’t we all broken rules? Now, don’t lie. I know you have. Haven’t we all had to deal with people in authority (teacher, bosses etc) who seem to hate us? Yeah! These are all the things Harry has to go through which culminate in what every story ever written deals with in some way: the fight of good against evil.

The fact that Harry is a wizard may be the reason that a number of people are against children reading these books. I think some people think that by reading a book about sorcery somehow children are being prompted to use sorcery. This isn’t true, though. In order to understand the motives behind Harry Potter you’ve got to understand the mind of a writer – the mind of J.K. Rowling. Let me ask this question: if a story was written about an orphan boy who gets sent to a boarding school where he has many ordinary adventures, do you think anyone would be interested in reading that book? Probably not. I am a writer and I don’t even think I’d have the patience to write a book like that let alone read it. The fact is, the reason Harry Potter is so popular is because the story is not just about an ordinary boy living an ordinary life. J.K. Rowling has used the wizard concept to create a character who is extraordinary and a character that children (of all ages) can aspire to be. I mean if Harry Potter can escape his situation (his horrible aunt and uncle) and become a success (the hero of his story), so can anyone else.

I think the thing that concerned parents (and teachers) need to remember is that Harry Potter requires the same supervision as any other children’s book. Parents are quick to tell their children that animals don’t talk and allow their kids to read Beatrix Potter books or watch movies like Madagascar. The same hing applies to Harry Potter. Before allowing your child to read the book make sure to tell them that wizards and witches aren’t real. Now I know some of you are going to argue and say that sorcery and witches are real (and I’m guessing I’m not going to please everyone with my answer) but for my part, I don’t believe they are. There are people out there who believe they are witches but their are also people out there who think they are fairies. And how many of you out there are going to refuse to let your kids watch Tinkerbell just because some people believe they are fairies and your child might possibly get the same idea. You’re probably more likely to just tell your child that fairies aren’t real. So, why not do the same with Harry Potter

I have also heard some discussion about the use of spells in Harry Potter. I think someone wrote somewhere (I can’t remember who or where or when I read it) that the spells used in Harry Potter are real sorcerer’s spells. Whether this is true or not is unclear. For my part, I can’t help but feel that this is just someone’s paranoia getting the better of them. I took a beginner’s French class a few years ago and learnt that a number of English words come from the French which in turn come from the Latin root. J.K. Rowling most probably took Latin or French at school and these “spells” in her books are just Latin words given slight flairs to make them sound more interesting. Take the “spell” for making objects float, there is the presence of the word leviosa that sounds like levitate with a bit of flair. Levitate is just another word for float  with its origins in Latin. The spell sounds so impressive because of the Latin and the flair. It really wouldn’t sound at all interesting if Harry simply shouted “Float!” if he wanted something to float but wingardium leviosa sounds so much more impressive because of its flair and foreignness. (Of course please feel free to give your opinion on these controversial Harry Potter topics but please no hate speech will be tolerated.)

To sum up, I think Harry Potter is a triumph for J.K. Rowling and for an industry that’s seems to be slowly crumbling since people no longer seem to enjoy reading. Harry Potter has taken kids, (from 8 to 88) everywhere, through a journey that every one of us has to go through at some stage of our lives. Harry Potter is not heinous because of the wizardry references, it is heroic because of the absolutely amazing way Rowling has taken everyday experiences we all face and molded them into an adventure that everyone can enjoy.

Read it yourself if you haven’t yet. I promise you’ll be hooked.

 Happy Reading!

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