Author J. K. Rowling has struck a chord with readers around the globe with her Harry Potter series of novels, seven in all. Not only have each of the books topped bestseller lists, but they have inspired eight blockbuster movies. Reading is one again in vogue among school children.
Why is Harry Potter so popular? What is is the allure of this boy who holds popular culture spellbound?
From the opening line of the first book, you know you are in for a wild ride that will be anything but normal: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Harry is not normal, and he finds living with his muggle (non-magical) uncle and aunt stifling.
Honestly, who hasn’t felt surrounded by muggles, wishing that our lives were more exciting, that we were a little more special? I used to imagine whole realms where my thrilling life was far more epic than the humdrum reality of a schoolboy. In my fantasies, I was a hero with power and authority. As a child I had no power, but in my mind I could conjure up worlds where I was actually somebody important.
The world of Hogwarts is magical, creative and imaginative, an escape from reality. It is a fully developed realm of wonder and excitement. In Harry’s first term, his eyes are wide with amazement as he takes in every marvelous detail. Rowling has imagineered the entire boarding school experience complete with rival houses and intramural athletics.
Harry is no longer alone when he is at Hogwarts. The people he meets there are winsome and multifaceted. They are loyal and courageous, loving and self-sacrificing, funny and quirky. Each one possesses an engaging back story.
This is the classic coming of age tale. In every book, Harry is another year older, another year wiser, more mature, more experienced, more “grown up.” In the first book, girls were “Ewwww.” Before long, girls are “Ooooh!”
Then there’s the plot. Each book is self-contained, yet contributes to the overall movement of the series. And what a villain! “He Who Must Not Be Named” moves behind the scenes at first, lurking in the shadows, gathering strength, plotting his return and his revenge. By the time he declares himself, he dominates nearly the entire wizard world.
For Harry, the stakes are high, the struggle is epic, and evil must be faced heroically. But the books are fun, full of adventure and challenge and heart-pumping Quidditch matches – a lighthearted romp through a magical world.
Harry came of age as the internet did. The fandom boasts countless Harry Potter themed websites, and the recent social media phenomenon multiplies the impact exponentially. Readers around the world can share their enthusiasm for the series together.
So, why is Harry Potter so popular? The recipe for Harry’ success is a complicated potion, not easily replicated. His impact will be felt for years to come as the stories continue to inspire the imaginations of children the world over.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of reviews about the Harry Potter series from various perspectives. Other entries include:
Can a Christian be a Potterhead? (Fantasy and Your Family: a review)
Morality for Muggles (book review)
Should Christian parents expose their kids to Harry Potter?