June 26, 1997, was just another ordinary day, but it brought something extraordinary that took the world by storm. On this historic day 23 years ago, the first book of the Harry Potter series was released. We were introduced to J. K Rowling’s character, Harry Potter, the wizard boy who wears a pair of glasses, and the rest is history. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was the first novel that Rowling wrote. It took the readers into a world they had never imagined existed.
During the time when the Internet was non-existent and the social media a distant dream, it was through word of mouth, print, and electronic media that Harry Potter’s adventures were disseminated across the seven continents. Potter became the favourite protagonist of children across the world, and in the same way Lord Voldemort became the most despised villain. And so, the legacy of Harry Potter began. This year, Harry Potter fans will celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the first book's release. We are taking this opportunity to look at some key facts of the series.
The seven books
Rowling published seven books from 1997 to 2007 in the Harry Potter Series. They were: Harry Potter (HP) and the Philosopher's Stone (1997), HP and the Chamber of Secrets (1998), HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), HP and the Goblet of Fire (2000), HP and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), HP and the Half-Blood Prince (2005) and HP and the Deathly Hallows (2007).
The first chapter of the first book
The first chapter of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” is perhaps one of the most memorable and talked about chapters in recent history. It is titled, The Boy Who Lived. The first paragraph reads as, “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.” I am sure you want to re-read the book again!
The final chapter of Deathly Hallows was written long ago
Readers were always curious to know how Rowling came up with such an emotional ending to the story. It was revealed in an interview that Rowling did think about the ending chapter years before she wrote the last book. She said, “I wrote a sketch for what I thought the final chapter would be. I always knew—and this was from really early on—that I was working toward the point where Hagrid carried Harry, alive but supposedly dead, out of the forest, always. I knew we were always working towards a final battle at Hogwarts, I knew that Harry would walk to his death, I planned the ghosts—for want of a better word—coming back, that they would walk with him into the forest, we would all believe he was walking to his death, and he would emerge in Hagrid’s arms.”
Rowling’s mother had passed away in 1990. Being a writer, Rowling translated the feeling of depression into the Dementors the being that sucked away happiness. According to Rowling, it is difficult to describe depression, because it is not sadness. She said that depression is the cold absence of feeling and hence we got the Dementors.
Mugwort and Toadflax
Do you remember the strange plants that the students study at Hogwarts? It seems they are not made up names after all. Rowling took these names from the book, The Complete Herbal. English botanist and herbalist Nicholas Culpeper wrote this book in which he mentioned information about several plants.
While the story of the Harry Potter series is captivating, the characters are the driving force of the story. Being a character-driven series, Rowling’s attention to detail when developing her characters is excellent. The Harry Potter series is filled with unusual names that Rowling has given to her characters. Ludo Bagman, Susan Bones, Alecto Carrow, Terry Boot, Elphias Doge, Neville Longbottom, just to name a few. In 2000 when talking to a group of children, Rowling revealed the secret of how she conceived such strange names. She said, “I invented the names of the Houses on the back of an airplane sick bag! This is true. I love inventing names, but I also collect unusual names, so that I can look through my notebook and choose one that suits a new character.”
Rowling’s characters have etched their presence in our memories. Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, the Weasley siblings, Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, Lord Voldemort, Neville Longbottom, Dobby, Hagrid, Sirius Black, Draco Malfoy and so many others will continue to enthrall readers throughout the world.
Rowling also created unique spells that the characters cast in the books and movies. Riddikulus, that transforms Boggarts, shape-shifting non-being creatures, into something funny; Obliviate, the spell which wipes the victim’s memory. Sectumsempra, a curse invented by Severus Snape to use against his enemies. Alohomora, the spell that is used to unlock doors. Lumos, which illuminates the tip of the wands. Expelliarmus, the spell to disarm enemies. Wingardium Leviosa makes things levitate. Expecto Patronum brings on a Patronus to fight against Dementors.
The last Harry Potter book of the series, HP and the Deathly Hallows, was released in 2007. During these thirteen odd years, the popularity of the series has only increased. The credit for this also goes to the movies that were all box office hits. They brought to life the setting, plot, story, and the characters that Rowling had envisioned.
Even after 23 years, we remain spellbound.