Hog­warts, hor­cruxes, and hip­pogriffs

Mug­gle read­ers in gowns and glasses, from Indonesia to Uruguay, cel­e­brated the 1997 birth of a global pub­lish­ing phe­nom­e­non on Mon­day.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Reads -

HARRY Pot­ter And The Philoso­pher’s Stone in­tro­duced a boy wizard bear­ing a light­ning-shaped scar and a mag­i­cal cast of sup­port­ing char­ac­ters.

Pen­ni­less sin­gle mother J.K. Rowl­ing fi­nally suc­ceeded af­ter a se­ries of re­buffs from pub­lish­ers, and the book be­came the first in­stal­ment of a seven-novel se­ries that has sold 450 mil­lion copies world­wide and spawned eight block­buster films.

The Pot­ter uni­verse now en­com­passes theme parks in the United States and Ja­pan, and a per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tion at Lon­don’s Warner Bros Stu­dios, help­ing to turn Rowl­ing into a bil­lion­aire.

No other chil­dren’s book has achieved quite as much in terms of both com­mer­cial and cul­tural im­pact, turn­ing an en­tire gen­er­a­tion of boys and girls into en­thu­si­as­tic read­ers who would hap­pily join mid­night queues at book­shops as each novel came out.

If some of the early re­views took is­sue with Rowl­ing’s pedes­trian writ­ing and bald char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion, ev­ery­one agreed about the nar­ra­tive verve on show in The Philoso­pher’s Stone, start­ing with the de­liv­ery of a let­ter that will, like alchemy, trans­form the 11-year-old hero’s life for­ever.

“Once you start read­ing it, you en­ter a mag­i­cal world, a world where you could be spe­cial, a world with clever things, with the idea that it all just might ex­ist,” Durham Univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion pro­fes­sor Martin Richard­son says, adding that “the char­ac­ters be­come part of the fam­ily. It starts to en­ter the na­tion’s DNA.

“I think peo­ple will be read­ing Pot­ter in 20, 30, 40, 60 years’ time, even if it’s only for the story.”

Far be­yond Bri­tain and English­language mar­kets, the saga wove it­self into the world’s lit­er­ary DNA.

The seven vol­umes have been trans­lated into 79 lan­guages in 200 coun­tries, and last Mon­day’s 20th an­niver­sary fea­tured fancy-dress read­ing par­ties around the world start­ing in Aus­tralia and end­ing in Canada and the US West Coast, at li­braries, book­shops, and Bri­tish em­bassies.

Marie Lal­louet, edi­tor-in-chief of a chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture di­gest at the Na­tional Li­brary of France, un­der­lines the scale of the books’ ap­peal be­yond Bri­tain, which al­ready had a rich stock of lit­er­a­ture conjuring tales out of the worlds of board­ing schools and magic.

“Harry Pot­ter re-val­i­dated chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture in the eyes of adults, and en­cour­aged an en­tire gen­er­a­tion (of French chil­dren) to learn English so that they could read the books as soon as they came out in English,” she says.

Rowl­ing man­aged to magic “some­thing very pow­er­ful” into ex­is­tence, Lal­louet says, by por­tray­ing one boy’s strug­gle to come to terms with his tragic be­gin­nings against the back­drop of an ex­is­ten­tial strug­gle of good against evil.

The scope

The first print run of The Philoso­pher’s Stone pro­duced 1,000 copies – all now highly sought af­ter by col­lec­tors – and earned Rowl­ing a £1,500 con­tract from Blooms­bury af­ter nu­mer­ous re­buffs from other pub­lish­ers.

Since then, the seven vol­umes of the saga have sold more than 450 mil­lion copies world­wide. The books were adapted into eight movies, with the last vol­ume, Harry Pot­ter And The Deathly Hal­lows di­vided into two fea­ture films. The first two films were directed by Chris Colum­bus, the third by Mex­i­can Al­fonso Cuaron, the fourth by Mike Newell and the last four by David Yates.

The movies have net­ted US$7.2bil (RM31­bil) world­wide, the books US$7.7bil (RM33­bil), and mer­chan­dise US$7.3bil (RM31.3bil), ac­cord­ing to data from statis­ticbrain.com dat­ing from Septem­ber 2016.

Harry Pot­ter And The Cursed Child, a two-and-a-half-hour play staged in Lon­don since July 2016, fol­lows the hero as an adult and fa­ther of three.

In the pro­duc­tion, Pot­ter strug­gles to cope with his past while his fam­ily legacy proves to be a burden on youngest son Al­bus Severus Pot­ter, “the cursed child” of the ti­tle.

The Harry Pot­ter stu­dios in Leaves­den, north of Lon­don, in­vites fans to im­merse them­selves in the Pot­ter-world at a per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tion, wel­com­ing 6,000 visi­tors a day.

There are also theme parks cre­ated by Uni­ver­sal Stu­dio in Or­lando, Florida, and Hol­ly­wood in the United States, and Osaka, Ja­pan.

VisitS­cot­land, the Scot­land Tourist Board, has set up a four-day guided tour from Ed­in­burgh to the High­lands via the Glen­finnan or Ed­in­burgh Viaduct, which fea­ture in the saga.

The au­thor

Joanne Rowl­ing was born into a mod­est fam­ily in Chip­ping Sod­bury, western Eng­land, on July 31, 1965. (Rowl­ing doesn’t ac­tu­ally have a mid­dle name; the “K” is for her grand­mother, Kath­leen, and was added be­cause the pub­lisher felt a book by a fe­male au­thor would have less ap­peal for Harry Pot­ter’s ini­tial tar­get au­di­ence of young boys.)

She stud­ied French and Clas­sics at the Univer­sity of Ex­eter be­fore go­ing to teach English in Por­tu­gal, where she be­gan to chron­i­cle the ad­ven­tures of Harry Pot­ter.

Rowl­ing mar­ried Por­tuguese tele­vi­sion jour­nal­ist Jorge Aran­tesa in 1992, giv­ing birth to their daugh­ter Jes­sica in 1993. The cou­ple di­vorced in 1995 and the au­thor moved to Ed­in­burgh.

Af­ter fin­ish­ing the novel, she joined forces with pub­lisher Blooms­bury in Au­gust 1996.

Named Bri­tain’s best liv­ing writer in 2006, she has ac­crued a for­tune of £650mil (RM3.6bil), ac­cord­ing to the Sun­day Times rich list pub­lished in May.

She re­mar­ried in 2001, to Scot­tish doc­tor Neil Mur­ray, and the cou­ple have a boy and a girl. – AFP

Harry Pot­ter fans pos­ing with their au­then­tic wands (well, they prob­a­bly can’t re­ally cast a spell!) at an an­niver­sary pre­sen­ta­tion at Water­stones book­shop in Lon­don on Mon­day. — Reuters

A young fan at ‘Plat­form Nine-and-Three-Quar­ters’, the magic por­tal that Harry and friends en­ter in Lon­don’s King Cross Sta­tion to get to Hog­warts School of Witchcraft and Wiz­ardry. — Reuters

Rowl­ing ar­riv­ing at an event in Lon­don in Fe­bru­ary. The formerly pen­ni­less au­thor is a mil­lion­aire now thanks to her books. — AFP

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