Would you believe…
it’s already been more than five years (July 21, 2007) since the last volume of Harry Potter (talking of the books) was published? Even worse: The first book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was out back in 1997. Fifteen years, guys! Unbelievable, isn’t it?
Being a last minute fan of the series myself, I was avoiding the entire HP hype for years and years until once I thought, at least I had to know WHY the books were stupid and borrowed the first one from my local library. I sat down, totally convinced that I’d put it down after ten minutes the most and came back from another world after turning the last page a few hours later.
Beside all the hype and the publicity, there is really something to these books which makes people read them. What’s even more, Harry Potter made people read at all who never ever liked books in the first place. I came by a website where the author explained that before there was Harry Potter, she never read one book voluntarily. For her and certainly many people more HP was a trigger which set free their interest in books and reading. I think for this achievement alone J.K. Rowling deserves all the praise she already got and much more. Once reading, it’s almost impossible to withstand the imaginative story equipped with a lot of suspense but also much humour not to forget these places in the books where you hardly can avoid to shed a tear or two… 😳
Because of all this and in celebration of the five and fifteen years anniversary, I decided to do an ad hoc re-reading of the entire series, simply to enjoy myself with these little gems of (not only) YA literature.
Starting with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which is HP & the Sorcerer’s Stone in the USA, I got curious why the book titles in two English speaking countries were different and did a little research. Thereby I found out that apparently the American and British uses of the word philosopher are slightly different in their nuances. Therefore Scholastic, the US publishing house, decided to choose a title name without an ambiguous meaning. This but even more the translated version which exhibits a sometimes different spelling and changed words and expressions led to criticism with the readers. The New York Times published an article „Harry Potter, Minus a Certain Flavour“ in July, 2000 which criticised in an ironical tone Scholastic’s decision to Americanise the US editions of Harry Potter.
The first book is clearly still more on the children’s literature side regarding the language and especially the action. In the end all mysteries are solved, no one but the really bad guy is seriously harmed and the good side seems to have overcome the bad one. I found that almost fairytale like spirit accordingly reflected in the film adaptation directed by Chris Columbus. When you look at the the first three movies including HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban they only use very warm shades of colours. The persons‘ faces are brightly illuminated where in the later movies the entire atmosphere created by the films‘ light is gloomy and desperate. I sensed the same mood in the first three books.
In HP & the Philosopher’s Stone, further fairytale aspects came to mind: The ill-treaten child who is pre-selected to become something special, ordeals which have to be gone through, the difference between the normal and the magical world with their representatives (the families Dursley and Weasley for example) or the elderly wise man (Dumbledore) functioning as an adviser and fatherly figure to the hero.
My favourite quotation from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a part of Dumbledore’s end of the year speech when he awards Harry, Ron and Hermione but also Neville Longbottom with some last minute points for the House Cup:
„There are all kinds of courage,“ said Dunbledore, smiling. „It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.“