I dare say you’re probably thinking, “Oh, no! Not another one about this series?” or you could be thinking, “Cool! What has she got to say about HP?” Either way, it was these questions, or questions like these, that have triggered off this post. Every time, these last few days, I’ve logged on to Goodreads
, I’ve found so many ‘I HATE Harry Potter’ and I LOVE Harry Potter’ updates, that I finally decided a little bit of analysing was what was needed.
Setting the stage
I first heard about Harry Potter when I was in high school. A favourite teacher of mine recommended I read it. When I asked her what it was about, she gushed out enthusiastically, “It’s all about witches and wizards, elves and goblins, and so much magic!” I recall being rather horrified. I looked at her like she was crazy and said, “You’re joking, ma’am! No one but one person can write about such things and do a great job of it. Enid Blyton is the master of witches and wizards, elves and fairies, brownies and goblins. There’s NO WAY I’m giving Harry Potter a try! Nope.” She looked disappointed but it was the same reaction she received from my mother (who was her colleague) and my kid sister. We were adamant. There was no one like Enid Blyton.
Now, I am aware that many of you might not know who Enid Blyton is, unless you are from Britain or belong to one of Britain’s former colonies. She churned out childrens’ stories faster than any other author I’ve ever heard of. Here, in India, if children were introduced to reading English books, they were sure to begin with Enid Blyton. And you didn’t just read Blyton when you were two or three years old – you stuck with her right up to your teens. All of us, right from my mother’s generation (or a little before) grew up with the fairy world that we believed was exclusively Enid Blyton’s. Which is the main reason Harry Potter held no appeal for us.
About four or five years later, I saw my kid cousin sitting with one of these ‘imposter’s’ (that’s how we thought of J K Rowling) books. He was surprised when he heard I hadn’t read it, and he forced me to take the first book home, also driving a promise out of me that I would read it before I made any more remarks about it. I’ll have to admit, that book sat on my shelf for a long while before my mom had the courage to take it and read it. She was charmed. So my sister picked it up. She was charmed too. So I reluctantly began to flip through the first few pages. By the end of The Philosopher’s Stone I was hooked. Mom promptly went out and bought The Chamber of Secret and The Prisoner of Azkaban – only the first three books were out at the time. And each time the next book was due to be released my sister and I would pool in our pocket money and go early morning to the book store on the very first day to get ourselves the next book in the series.
Why we enjoyed it
It didn’t take us more than a chapter or two to realise that J K Rowling was no imposter. There was absolutely nothing of Enid Blyton in her works. Blyton created a world for little children to get lost in yet never failed to remind them of their manners and good values. Rowling, on the other hand, had written for sheer pleasure, and her imagination is vast. She opened up a world that was both recognisable and yet absolutely fantastical. I loved the magic that pervaded her books, the tiny little things like the subjects handled in Hogwarts and the magical things about the school, the game of quidditch and the many ‘monsters’. But above all, she was abviously a fantastic story teller. It constantly amazed me how she could tie up loose ends so well in the next book of the series. And while her books got darker and more adult, I realise, now, that had each upcoming book remained at the level of the first, she would have lost her readers. As it was, her readers have stuck to her for nearly a decade, growing up with Harry Potter, and while ‘magic’ does not belong to the ‘muggle’ world, at least the everyday lives of these boarding school teenagers, were easy to relate to.
No. Harry Potter isn’t deep. It isn’t philosophical. It isn’t meant to mean anything for its value is pure entertainment. Sure, it is a story spanning seven years that pits Good and Evil at each other with the former coming out on top, but then who would want to read a story where Evil triumphs! One needs to let go, sit back for a fun ride, and Harry Potter would be an enjoyable one.
The ‘nay’ sayers
It wasn’t very long before my mother, sister and I started to recommend Harry Potter to all those we knew loved reading. Many said, “What rubbish is this you want us to read?” and we’d say in turn, “Don;t call it rubbish unless and until you’ve tried it. Until then you’re just talking off the top of your heads!” In my personal experience, those who’ve finally given this series a try, have grown to love it. If we did here of any serious objection it was usually from a religious stand-point. I remember getting so annoyed every time I read so many negative reports of this series by people who had never even read one chapter from any of these books!! I respect people’s opinions as long as they don’t make them in absolute ignorance.
Lately, I have understood (and agree with) the objection to fantasy books in general. But as we are all people of different faiths, I shall just leave it at this.
Generating interest in reading
There is something positive that has come out in this obsessiveness where Harry Potter is concerned. And that is, it has encouraged so many children and young people to read. Guaranteed, there are many who would prefer their children to read something more ‘worthwhile’ instead of stuffing their heads with all this ‘nonsense’. But reading is activity that cannot be forced. It needs to inspire, to appeal to the imagination – and I think that latter is what Rowling’s work does in abundance. I personally know of so many children who hated reading before the Harry Potter series hit the market. But, once having read this series, they were eager to move on and explore – first books that belonged to the same genre, and then others.
I see no reason to trash this series if it has managed to do something this good – getting children to read.
I have yet to read an ‘I hate Harry Potter’ post that details why the person hates it. I’m afraid I don’t know why people dislike the series. I really would like to know in order to understand. I can understand prejudice, it was something I experienced before I finally gave this series a try. But why ‘hate’? ‘Hate’ is such a strong, powerful word. Why would anyone want to fling it at this rather harmless series?
I want to know – do you love Harry Potter? Why? Do you hate it? Why? Have you ever read it? If not, why not?
I am just curious.:)