Ten years and seven books after it started, it's all over. In that time J K Rowling has gone from being a single mom scribbling in a tearoom with her baby on her lap to being one of the best-selling authors in the world. But whatever fame and fortune may have come her way, none of it seems to have affected the person who was the reason for her success.
Through story after story, and adventure after adventure, Harry Potter has been a constant in a world of uncertainty. He and his friends have become the extended family and friends for millions if not billions of people all over the planet. They have provided "guest house" that has kept us all safe from the Voldemorts of our own lives.
When I first came across the Harry Potter books he was already a phenomenon in terms of sales and publicity. It pains me to admit that I almost let all that hoopla chase me away from the enjoyment that awaited me between the pages of those books. It's yet another debt of gratitude that I owe my older brother for insisting that they were worth reading in spite of the hype being starting to spew out of the Warner Bros. marketing department.
It was the summer of 2002 and I had just come out of extensive bowel surgery that had been an attempt to cure a chronic pain condition and I was spending a lot of time in my head with worries and concerns. The good thing about coming in at the halfway point in the series is that I was able to enjoy the first four books all in one fell swoop.
From the moment I opened page one of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (a note for American readers: that was the original title of the book and it refers to a magical object that alchemists of old tried desperately to create because it would turn lead to gold – there is no such thing as a sorcerer's stone in this context) I found a world where I was free to forget about my problems. How easy it was to become immersed in a world where magic actually existed.
But this world had its rules too and you couldn't just wave a magic wand and makes things perfect. Those who acted like there was were the ones who were most dangerous. When you look for short cuts in life no matter what the means, you always end up surrendering something that will have turned out to be important.
There are times that Harry of course wishes he could just wave his wand and all his problems would be solved, and in the latter books he definitely has the power to be sorely tempted by that very possibility. But by then he has already learned enough to know that for something to have real value, one has to experience each stage of its obtainment.
The lessons that the students were taught at Hogwarts occurred in and out of the classrooms. Magic is not something that can be leaned overnight, In fact, as Harry learns, it can take years to completely master some spells or for the wizard to be able to gain the power to perform some to full capacity. Part of the process is to grow as a person, and learn humility, compassion, and all the shapes and forms of responsibility.
For if nothing else Harry and his young friends have grown in ways that far outstrip what the passing of years can accomplish. While like their contemporaries they have their share of teenage angst, they quickly come to understand the value of introspection. Harry has to learn to overcome his temper and his desire to rush into action because of the potential this had for endangering the people he loves.
There are few books, let alone ones for young people, paying attention in such detail to character development. How many books allow us to see the inner workings of a character's brain as they deal with anger and resentment? They are not moments that show the hero in his best light, but they are honest. For young readers to see a character they identify with so much assailed by the same doubts, anxieties, and insecurities that plague them is to feel less alone in the world.
For me what made these books so special were the characters. J.K. Rowling created people who you wanted to know because of their flaws. In spite of the fact that they all had capabilities far beyond what any of us could ever dream of having, it was these imperfections that gave them the human elements that made them all so appealing.
Of course the magic was fun too; who among us hasn't out of desperation while looking for some lost object tried to use a summoning charm, or when we are depressed imagined what our patronous might look like. Rowling could also write action scenes as well as anyone on the market today, as the penultimate battle in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows proved. She also ensured that there was nothing glorious in battle and people died whom we cared about so you'd know that there's always a price to pay for fighting.
I know there are those who have spent the last few months showing that these books are in fact bad. They are sexist; they ennoble the British class system, and are elitist or other such nonsense. All that means to me is there are people who have too much time on their hands and are trying to make a name for themselves by finding ways to be critical of something that is immensely popular.
In my opinion they are the ones who are showing their jealousy and bigotry because some single mom from Scotland had been able to reach out to so many people with her story of the young boy who discovered he was a wizard at the age of eleven. Just because a book is so beloved and popular doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it. I never knew that sour grapes could smell so bad.
For ten years and seven books J.K. Rowling gave us all the wonderful gift of Harry Potter, his friends, and his enemies. I don't know about anyone else out there, but I for one would just like to say thank you for all the wonder and magic you brought into my life with those seven books, Ms. Rowling — thank you.