I love seeing people read Harry Potter in public. When that person is an adult, proudly clutching a well-thumbed, old-school (‘kids’) paperback copy – I find it pretty difficult to resist high fiving them.
You see, I’ve always been a fan of the magical world of Potter. In fact my love has continued to grow even as my own height has long since halted. Whenever people dismiss it as a ‘childrens book’ or worse, a mere movie franchise – it boils my blood faster than an erumpent potion. (Imagine the wrath I felt whilst reading this Buzzfeed.) Pfft.
There are plenty of things to enjoy about Potter. Sure, it’s filled with excitement and adventure, vast gothic and fantasy elements – not to mention a glorious sense of Britishness. But it is the larger themes I appreciate the most; the life lessons that are weaved through each part of the story. Alongside subjects of love, friendship and death, JK Rowling has stated that – broadly speaking – the Potter books are “a prolonged argument for tolerance, a prolonged plea for an end to bigotry.”
Just a kids book, you say? Well I reckon we could all learn a thing or two…
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“There are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
After Neville Longbottom boldly tries to prevent Gryffindor from losing precious points, Professor Dumbledore recognises how sometimes the smallest acts can take the most courage. As somebody who often wonders why he was chosen for Gryffindor in the first place – a house famous for its gutsy and fearless members – this moment of spontaneous bravery cements young Nev as an unsung hero (and Dumbledore as basically the wisest man in the world).
Dolores Umbridge: “Please, tell them I mean no harm.”
Harry Potter: “Sorry, Professor, but I must not tell lies…”
Power is a complex concept in the Potter books. Like the smiling assassin herself Professor Umbridge, those who have it often use it for the purpose of evil. Rowling touches on this theme throughout to suggest that not all authority figures are to be trusted. It is those, like Dumbledore, who demonstrate the most supremacy by choosing to use it as a catalyst for good.
“Humans have a knack to choosing precisely the things that are worst for them.”
Characters tend to be rather one dimensional in children’s fiction. There are the goodies and then there are the baddies. But Rowling’s characters are far more complex, even flawed. As Dumbledore describes the dangers of the Philsopher’s Stone and its promise of gold and immortality, he is of course referring to the evil of Voldemort and his unyielding quest to regain his former strength. Taken more generally however, he also articulates how temptation can sway even the truest of hearts. With Harry, Malfoy and Ron going on to struggle with traits of arrogance, greed and jealousy, imperfections are found in everyone, showing that to be flawed is also to be human.
“Wit beyond measure is a man’s greatest treasure”
Despite there being a fair bit of glory-hunting when it comes to choosing your favourite house (hands up for Gryffindor), there is certainly no shame in being a Ravenclaw supporter! Shrewd and ever-so-swotty, their house motto highlights the importance of knowledge. Although Harry is the visible hero, most of his victories are down to a team effort – let’s not forget if it wasn’t for the brain-power of Hermione, he’d have been strangled by that Devil’s Snare long ago…
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”
You tell ’em, Dumbledore. Words really do matter. Whether an unexpected compliment or an off-the-cuff jibe, the words you choose are important. Despite the flippancy with which they might be used, they have the power to change how someone thinks or feels; they can twist the knife and rub salt in the wound – or, they can provide comfort and shine a light on something you might have failed to see for yourself.
Top words, Rowling.