Pretty much every single person in the world old enough to comprehend, has heard of Harry Potter. They have read the books, watched the movies, fallen in love with the characters and cried as they have struggled. I am very much included in this group of people, however I have a huge confession to make.
Up until the age of 23, I hadn’t seen any of the movies, and I hadn’t read a single word out of the books until 27. Let’s just let that sink in for a little bit…..
I was watching an interview with Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and he admitted that when they started shooting he had never read a word of Harry Potter. It apparently took him a few years to get into it. Since we are the same age, I’m going to let that make me feel a little better about all the lost years.
Ok, so here’s the story of my failure to jump into the Harry Potter franchise.
When I was in grade 7, the Harry Potter books were just becoming famous in my group of friends. Growing up in rural Ontario, it sometimes took a little bit for the popular culture things to catch up with us. So this was back in…. 1999? Yeah, probably 1999. (it’s funny when trying to figure out years I go by important life events and either subtract or add….so in 2001 I was in grade 9 when t9/11 happened. Two years before would be grade 7 and 1999)
SO back to our little story: grade 7, all my friends were reading whatever book had just come out. Being a little bit of a loner and an avid reader, I was more than a little excited to get my hands on the first book and join my friends on the love affair they had already started. Well, my parents had other plans. I was raised in a baptist church, and my parents were very much in favour of listening to the pastor’s message (what else is the point right?) and it had pretty much been decided in our church that Harry Potter was evil because it had magic in it. So I was forbidden to read the books! FORBIDDEN. I was heart broken. This had never happened to me before! Thinking back on it now, I can see the need to protect children from material that is too old for them, but I am almost 100% sure that no one had actually ever read a book to see what type of “magic” was in it. We were all allowed to the read the Narnia series, but that was written by a Christian author so of course the magic in that was ok…..
Jump forward to Christmas of 2000. That Christmas, grade 8 for me, the first HP movie and the first Lord of the Rings movies were in theatres. Having just moved to the city a few months earlier, my parents decided it would be a nice treat that on boxing day we all go to the movies. My dad and brother were to see LOTR since my brother loved the books, and mom and I were to see HP. I distinctly remember the conversation in line at the theatre, I think it was the first time I had ever shown my parents any sort of “teenage attitude” – I flat out refused to go see HP. My mom didn’t understand, all I wanted to do a year ago was read the books, now the movie was out and I didn’t want to see it? “I wanted to READ the story, I don’t want to see that stupid movie” (parent’s take note: I wanted to READ! Yeah, my momma raised me right!) So we all ended up going to see LOTR as a family…which was good because I had no idea what the movie was about and at the end, when Sam and Frodo are standing on top of the mountain, I looked at the screen and said, rather loudly, “What a dumb way to end a movie!” Let’s just say, the people around us in the theatre were not impressed.
So that was pretty much the end of it from there on through my teens. Some of my friends read the books, others didn’t. I was more focused on expanding my mind into things I didn’t understand. The moment my church had its condemning sermon on “The DaVinci Code”, I borrowed my friend’s picture infused copy and read it in a matter of days. But I lived a happy teenage life without the joy of HP in it. What a shame!
Fast forward to 2011. I am in Korea, and receiving essays from my students to mark. They had to write them in class and at home. So almost every single one was on HP. OF COURSE THEY WERE! I was reading one, and I had no idea what was happening at all, so I asked the class to explain the movies to me. They were shocked! And I think they enjoyed it just a little too much, educating the teacher…. And then the unthinkable happened! They gave ME homework. We were just breaking for holidays, it was the Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year for most folks) and I was to watch the HP movies. So, I set up in my little one room apartment with a horrible internet connection and dedicated myself to watching the movies. After the first 2 I was hooked! Oh my goodness! It would take a few hours for a movie to download, so I would have other things to do but once it did, I was thrilled to watch it. Where had this been all my life?!
I was lucky enough to watch the last HP movie in theatres, in Korea actually. I went by myself and just let the movie wash over me in a format I had been missing. There were Korean subtitles along the bottom for the non-English speakers to follow along, but it was a magical experience.
Alright, now lets go to 2015. It’s tax season and I have a very nice return coming my way! As a teacher I am always spending too much money on books, so I am always looking for a deal. The box set for HP had just gone on sale and it was a great sale. Plus I was getting free shipping and a brand new cover design. All hardcovers in a beautiful red engraved box. I think we all know it’s sitting in my room right now – let’s not kid our selves into thinking I have any self restraint when it comes to literature. It arrived a week before March break. It only took me about 3 weeks but I got through all 7 books. The first one I finished in two days. Thankfully, I was sick and wasn’t teaching so I was able to just zoom straight through them.
I am really glad that I didn’t get introduced to Harry until I was an adult. It brought out the child in me that, quite frankly, is slowly dying. I’m not sure when it happens, but somewhere along the rails of life, the child in us is told to shut up and sit down. I’m grown up now and I don’t need you. What an utter shame! Harry Potter brought that child to life again in me. I’ve already admitted I’m immature for my age, but it’s not just that. I love being a child. I love looking at the world with the wonder that all children have, in discovering new things. I was loosing that in the middle of a very trying time in my life. Harry Potter helped bring that out in me again.
It’s been almost 6 months now since I first started reading the books, and most days I think I should start them again. There is never a bad time to have a little bit of magic in life.