The boy who lives on

It’s been 20 years since the first Harry Pot­ter book was re­leased, but the boy wizard is still pop­u­lar with Malaysian fans.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Reads - By TER­ENCE TOH star2@thes­

SEV­ERAL years ago, I vis­ited Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios in Osaka, Ja­pan. I re­mem­ber walk­ing into the park in ex­cite­ment, ticket in hand, my eyes peeled for one spe­cific at­trac­tion. Yes, there were many cool at­trac­tions there but I was look­ing for one thing, and one thing only: the Wizard­ing World of Harry Pot­ter.

I fi­nally found my way there, along a wind­ing path lined by large hedges that re­minded me of the maze in Harry Pot­ter And The Goblet Of Fire. And as I walked, the Harry Pot­ter movie mu­sic be­gan to play. Hed­wig’s Theme. You know the one.

And to my shock, I felt tears come to my eyes. Why would a sim­ple melody trig­ger so much emo­tion? Well, for me, it was more than a song. It was my child­hood, brought to life in the most mag­i­cal way pos­si­ble.

It might seem a bit silly, gush­ing about Harry Pot­ter like this. He is, af­ter all, com­pletely fic­tional, a char­ac­ter from a se­ries of nov­els pri­mar­ily aimed at chil­dren. But for many peo­ple, the ad­ven­tures of the boy wizard and his friends have im­pacted their lives in ways that no one could have imag­ined when the first book was pub­lished.

That was on June 26, 1997, so this year marks the 20th an­niver­sary of the pub­li­ca­tion in Bri­tain of J.K. Rowl­ing’s first novel, Harry Pot­ter And The Philoso­pher’s Stone. Even non-fans prob­a­bly re­alise this, what with the world­wide hype that be­gan two weeks ago; and read­ers of news­pa­pers of any sort (and in what­ever for­mat) prob­a­bly know how the rest of the story goes, about how the se­ries be­came a global phe­nom­e­non, re­sult­ing in Rowl­ing be­com­ing the first fic­tion writer to be­come a bil­lion­aire (a sta­tus she has since lost af­ter do­nat­ing so much money to char­ity!).

If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Mug­gle, or have had your mem­ory Oblivi­ated by Death Eaters, here’s a run-through of the se­ries: Harry Pot­ter is the tale of an or­phan boy who learns he has mag­i­cal pow­ers. He learns to be a wizard at a school called Hog­warts, and with the help of his friends (among them the plucky Ron Weasley, the in­tel­li­gent Hermione Granger, and the enig­matic Al­bus Dum­ble­dore), must de­feat the evil Lord Volde­mort, who was re­spon­si­ble for killing his par­ents.

There are seven books in the main se­ries – with the last, Harry Pot­ter And The Deathly Hal­lows, pub­lished in 2007 – as well as many sup­ple­men­tary Pot­ter books. As of May 2013, they’ve sold over 500 mil­lion copies, mak­ing them the high­est-sell­ing book se­ries in English lan­guage pub­lish­ing his­tory.

The books have also been adapted into a eight-part film se­ries (Deathly Hal­lows was split into two parts), which is cur­rently the sec­ond-high­est gross­ing in his­tory.

A se­ries of spin-off films about the world of Harry Pot­ter is cur­rently be­ing made with the first, Fan­tas­tic Beasts And Where To Find Them, re­leased last year; and there’s a play, Harry Pot­ter And The Cursed Child, co-writ­ten by Rowl­ing, Jack Thorne, and Jack Tif­fany, that is be­ing per­formed in Lon­don to sell-out au­di­ences.

But you don’t have to go that far to find fa­nat­i­cal Pot­ter fans. Here in Malaysia, many that I know say the world of Harry Pot­ter def­i­nitely changed them. For some, the words wo­ven by Rowl­ing in­spired them to cre­ate fan­tasy worlds of their own; for oth­ers, the books’ themes of brav­ery, friend­ship, love, and sac­ri­fice taught them to live their lives dif­fer­ently.

“The Harry Pot­ter books in­spired me to be a writer and sto­ry­teller. When I was study­ing Cre­ative Writ­ing in Aus­tralia, I wrote my hon­ours the­sis on the Harry Pot­ter and Lord Of The Rings se­ries. I also tried play­ing real life Quid­ditch, which was very unique. My first, and so far, only, cos­play is of Harry Pot­ter him­self,” says writer Charles Chiam, 28.

“To me, Harry Pot­ter wasn’t just a se­ries of books, it was a mag­i­cal world I lived and breathed. It was an ex­pe­ri­ence,” says stu­dent Michelle Teoh, 22.

“When I was younger, a mag­i­cal fan­tasy of a wizard­ing school, and spells and in­spir­ing main char­ac­ters got me hooked on the sto­ry­line and made me love the char­ac­ters. I think my gen­er­a­tion was ac­tu­ally pretty well suited for how the se­ries pro­gressed, be­cause to­wards the end of the se­ries, I was older and ma­ture enough to un­der­stand the darker themes in­ter­twined within the story, such as sac­ri­fices, choos­ing to fol­low evil, and of course plot twists that show that not every­thing is in­her­ently good or evil.”

“I have al­ways been scared of death be­cause I didn’t un­der­stand it. Un­til I read Philoso­pher’s Stone, and what Dum­ble­dore said in one sen­tence changed my per­cep­tion of death: “To the well or­gan­ised mind, death is but the next great ad­ven­ture,” says com­mu­nity man­ager Eyu Shin Dhee ,30.

“Be­sides cos­play­ing in school and writ­ing fan­fic­tion, I think my fond­est mem­o­ries of Harry Pot­ter were see­ing my dad read­ing the books. Af­ter read­ing the books, we had dis­cus­sions about it as though we were lit­er­ary ex­perts ! That kinda bonded us and I can very well say, the books have made a mark into this par­tic­u­lar gen­er­a­tion,” said PR man­ager Char­maine Goh, 28.

Goh is a mem­ber of the Da­mansara De­men­tors, a lo­cal Quid­ditch team. While Quid­ditch is played on fly­ing brooms by witches and wiz­ards in the Pot­ter books, the once-fic­tional sport has since been adapted to be played on reg­u­lar brooms and en­joys much pop­u­lar­ity now.

The In­ter­na­tional Quid­ditch As­so­ci­a­tion (IQA) Cup – yes, there re­ally is one – takes place ev­ery two years, for ex­am­ple, with teams from all around the world com­pet­ing.

“Quid­ditch has come a long way from the books, and it is amaz­ing how a sport based on a fic­tional fan­tasy has spun off into a com­pet­i­tive sport! The game has def­i­nitely brought forth the books’ legacy of in­clu­siv­ity and fair play,” Goh says.

“Harry Pot­ter was ini­tially a won­der­ful es­cape for me from daily life; a world in which even the wildest ad­ven­tures were pos­si­ble. In the end, though, the se­ries taught me that our dreams of­ten con­tain more magic than we think they do – and that the courage to pur­sue them can come in many dif­fer­ent forms, in­clud­ing that of an adorable house elf!” says ac­tor and copy­writer Phraveen Arikiah, 27. “One of the most im­por­tant things that Harry Pot­ter taught me is that it’s not about a per­son’s age or what they’re born as that mat­ter, it’s the choices they make. Your choice be­longs to you, not your cir­cum­stances. To this day, that has an im­pact on me,” says jour­nal­ist Lid­i­ana Rosli ,30.

The magic of Harry Pot­ter has even con­nected gen­er­a­tions. Asia Ma­rina Teo Burka, 10, dis­cov­ered the se­ries fol­low­ing a friend’s rec­om­men­da­tion and in­tro­duced her mother, Chris­tine Teo Burka, to it. I met mother and daugh­ter at an event at Ki­noku­niya Book­stores in Suria KLCC last week­end.

“Last time, I didn’t like books that much. But when I read Harry Pot­ter, I thought, ‘this is a re­ally great book’. With­out Harry Pot­ter, I wouldn’t be get­ting good grades in read­ing. I like the story.

“I don’t have a favourite char­ac­ter, but I like Cho Chang be­cause she’s a Raven­claw and not afraid to fly on a broom and stuff,” says Asia, who has read the se­ries more than five times!

Mum Chris­tine is a big fan too now: “I think they’re fan­tas­tic, and that J.K Rowl­ing is bril­liant. To imag­ine such a won­der­ful wizard­ing world is re­ally some­thing. And the books can be en­joyed by adults and chil­dren as well. They’re very well-writ­ten, and I think they will be en­joyed for gen­er­a­tions to come,” she says.

I my­self can tes­tify to the magic of Harry Pot­ter. I’ve stood in a mas­sive queue out­side a book­store in the wee hours of the morn­ing to be among the first to re­ceive a copy of Deathly Hal­lows. I’ve put on robes and painted a light­ning scar on my fore­head at Hal­loween.

I’ve writ­ten fan­fic­tion, con­tem­plated nam­ing my fu­ture kids Sir­ius or Luna, and al­most lost friends over heated ar­gu­ments about whether Snape is good or bad.

Yes, it’s been years since I was first ex­posed to Harry Pot­ter, and I’ve changed a lot since then. But am I still a fan? Af­ter all this time?


Asia dressed in a Hog­warts uni­form with an owl. — CHRIS­TINE TEO BURKA

Malaysian fans in a cos­play com­pe­ti­tion dur­ing ‘ABRACADABRA! By Scholas­tic’, a Scholas­tic Asia event that took place at the re­cently con­cluded BookFest@Malaysia. — BookFest@Malaysia 2017

Yes, you can play Quid­ditch for real. Fans have come up with a Mug­gle ver­sion and there are even tour­na­ments. — Reuters

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