With the recent release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the world has gone Harry Potter mad again, so I thought it a good time to revisit the magical memories of my childhood.
I was almost eleven when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in June 1997, so I’m one of the lucky ones that has literally grown up with Harry Potter. I, like Harry, was making the big leap from primary to secondary school when I first started reading the series.
A young muggle’s experiences at school aren’t really that different from a young wizard’s; Horrible teachers, too much homework, making friends and enemies, fighting mountain trolls (OK, maybe not that last one).
However, on top of all that, Harry has the extra pressure of being ‘the boy who lived’. The lightning scar on his forehead is a constant reminder of Lord Voldemort, the evil wizard that killed his parents and attempted to kill him when he was a baby. But before Harry learns all this history, he is living with the Dursleys – a ‘perfectly normal’ family (‘thank you very much’).
J.K. Rowling’s fantastic descriptions of these awful characters make the reader dislike them in an instant. From the bulky Mr Dursley with ‘hardly any neck’ to the nosy Mrs Dursley who has ‘twice the usual amount of neck’. Our worst suspicions are confirmed when we learn that Harry is forced to sleep in the cupboard under the stairs. His life is quite pitiful at the beginning of the book, but all that changes with a letter inviting him to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
It’s a magical journey from then on, for both Harry and the reader. As he enters the world of wizardry, the reader steps into it with him. Along with Harry, we explore Diagon Alley for the first time, we feel nervous as he lines up for the sorting hat, excitement at every game of quidditch. We meet wonderful (and rather bonkers) wizards such as Albus Dumbledore, develop a huge hatred for the school’s most disliked teacher and become firm friends with Ron and Hermione.
Friendship is a strong theme throughout all of the Harry Potter books. Rowling creates believable characters with individual voices and personality flaws. The reader gets to know Ron, Hermione and Hagrid so well that with a little bit of magic and imagination, they could almost really exist.
From extraordinary settings such as the enchanted ceiling in the great hall to everyday mundane moments of school life, the wizarding world is so rich in detail. It’s wonderful while it lasts and hard to let go of when it ends. As with many fantasy book worlds (His Dark Materials, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit) I look back on Harry Potter with nostalgia. These magical memories will always be treasured and will hopefully continue to be experienced by children for many generations to come.
Here are a couple of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone related links that I’ve come across recently, which fans may find interesting.
- Thomas Taylor illustrated the cover of the first UK edition (and my personal favourite). Here’s a blog post about his experiences. And here’s a post about the ‘mysterious wizard’ on the back cover of some of the earlier print runs before being changed for Dumbledore. Which copy do you have? Thomas Taylor is now the author of several children’s books.
- Jim Kay is the man behind the beautiful images in this post, which have been taken from the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Here’s a link to his website. And here’s a lovely video of Kay bringing Harry Potter’s world to life. He also illustrated A Monster Calls for Patrick Ness.
I would love to read about your Harry Potter memories, so feel free to link to your own blog posts or leave a comment below.
Will you be reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? I’m still not sure whether I want to mess with my childhood memories…
Click on the image below to buy the beautiful illustrated edition.