Today I finished a long journey. I’m sitting at home, listening to the new Tenth Avenue North CD on their website, reveling in the unexpected coolness that has finally graced St. Louis, and reminiscing about the thousands of pages I have lived in for the past few weeks. As the end drew near, I expected I would feel that I had lost something. With each word pushing me relentlessly toward the final scene, I wanted to slow down, go back, and relive all the moments–over and over and over again. I didn’t want to reach the finish line. If I read that last phrase, I’d have to admit it was over.
But just seconds ago, I reached that finish line. And I feel no loss. In truth, my journey with Harry Potter has not ended. I was laughing out of sheer joy as I read the ending of Harry’s story, perhaps because I knew the boy I met 3 weeks ago wasn’t finished. Though the books had ended, Harry’s story continues.
That has to sound strange. It makes the books appear to be as dangerous and eerie as so many have feared for so long. I’ll admit it–Harry Potter’s magic has changed me. But let me ease your fears if they still linger. The only real magic in the series is the magic of a well-told story. A story so well-told that the seeming mistakes make the tale that much richer. A story that spurred kids and teens to read and read and keep reading until they had mastered the thousands of pages that compose the Harry Potter series. A story that taught and teaches and deserves to be read and reread in hopes of someday understanding the complexity of all that can be learned.
Being a bit of a writer myself, I wonder if JK Rowling ever reads over her tales of the Boy Who Lived and learns something new from him. I imagine that there are days when she smiles fondly at nothing in particular, remembering the first time she met Harry in her mind. I hope she does. Harry’s such a remarkable person. We can all learn from him. We can all learn from those around him.
Just because Harry and his friends and mentors never actually walked on this planet, breathed this air, or cast a single spell into our reality doesn’t mean they aren’t real. How to explain this? It’s something you have to experience, I suppose. If you’ve never felt a kinship to a character in a book or maybe when watching a movie, I can’t describe this for you. To quote JK Rowling, “There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them” (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone). Well, I’ve gone through that and more with Harry Potter. I suppose I could have had a similar experience with Katniss Everdeen or Odysseus or the High King of Narnia. And in their turns, I have. But none of those experiences is burned into me like the adventures and mishaps of Harry Potter. So I must wonder why.
Well, I guess one reason would be that I am older than I was when I read The Chronicles of Narnia. Those stories might affect me as much as Harry did if I were to revisit them. In regards to the other stories, maybe if they were longer, I would have the feeling that Katniss is my friend or that Odysseus is my uncle. But I don’t. And to be honest, I don’t know that more adventures would actually increase my love for them. In fact, the more of The Hunger Games series I read, the less I liked Katniss.
Now I must conclude that JK Rowling has written a masterful series. She connected with thousands upon thousands of young people. She described their grief, their joy, their confusion. She didn’t make her characters perfect but insisted that they make mistakes and face the consequences. At times, Harry got away with more than he ought to have, but in the end, he had to deal with the turmoil of adolescence along with his unwanted fame. We get to live alongside Harry as he struggles through 7 strange, wonderful, and terrible years. And every moment, we grow closer to Harry. I got angry at him, I laughed with him, I grieved for him. And that is why Harry is more than just a character. He’s a friend, someone with whom I have lived and grown for 3 weeks of my life, 7 years of his. And during that time, he grew and so did I.
The magic of Harry Potter, the thrill of a good story, the beauty of reality beneath fiction. That is why Harry Potter and his adventures have changed me in 3 weeks’ time. But don’t stop here. Go, read the books for yourself, and meet Harry. You may be surprised by how much you learn. =)