20 years of Harry Potter and the Influencing Effect

On 26 June 1997, a small novel by an unknown author hit the shelves. Published by Bloomsbury, J.K. Rowling’s first installment of the Harry Potter series began it’s adventure which would change the world in a way the author would never have imagined. After finishing the manuscript for what would be Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the United Kingdom, however changed to Sorcerer’s Stone in the United States when published there a few months later in the mid 1990s, the boy wizard would steadily become a best seller.

Twenty years on, the franchise which is Harry Potter has globally impacted so many including myself either via reading the seven novels, watching the eight movies or through other formats as the enterprise broke many records and started to have one of the biggest fandoms ever seen globally.

My first memories of reading the Philosopher’s Stone book was during my primary school days as an eight or nine year old during a period of quiet reading time and admittedly it did not seem to have a charming effect on me as a book I would enjoy. Previous to this the only books I purposely read were those encouraged to me to get my literacy skills to a level which were not lower than my fellow classmates along with those studied in my English literature classes.

During my childhood I never sat and properly read myself for leisure despite having various books narrated to me mostly by my father. As I got older these were later replaced by the accessibility to audio books starting on cassette then compact disc and most recently audio file on my iPod, albeit I do sometimes occasionally pick a book up and read it; I still like having an audio book to help me drift off and to absorb the knowledge subconsciously. The stories my father read to me included the following:

  • The Railway Series by Reverend Wilbert Awdry
  • The Famous Five / Secret Seven adventures by Enid Blyton
  • Several of the Roald Dahl stories
  • Tales of Winnie the Pooh and the poetry of A.A. Milne

It was not till the release of the movie adaption of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 2001 where my interest began and I actually could visualise the scenes in the book and it seemed to enchant me and encouraged me to come home and read the books in the series which had been published to the date of seeing the first film, which were Philosopher’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire.

The chronicles of the adolescence wizards of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger along with the other characters finally had hooked me and I began to read and enjoy other books a little more such as the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis and eventually Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and non-fictional accounts of individuals such as Roald Dahl whose antidotes of being at Repton School filled my head as I have personal recollections of being at the school myself for a couple of certain occasions. Now I tend to read a lot wider range of different genres however I still prefer non-fiction as a main category.

As I got further into my teenage years, the world of Harry Potter was growing larger, the movie franchise with Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as the young stars along with famous actors such as Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Richard Griffiths and many more had made the series escalate and pretty much everyone knew of the stories of Harry Potter written by J.K. Rowling and were whetting their lips ready for the final three books and further movies by the time Philosopher’s Stone hit the big screen.  I had attended a screening with my mother who I saw all of the Harry Potter movies in the decade up to 2011 usually a few weeks after the release as we knew that numbers hoping to see the latest adaption would be unlike any other which were shown at cinemas during that period and I remember feeling a buzz when the home release versions were available along with the releases of the books which I had ordered from Amazon on the day of launch and read by the end of the weekend at a generally quicken pace due to excitement but would re-read again slower.

J.K. Rowling’s imagination had certainly captured something different which had not been seen either on page or in film before for me and many in my generation, despite criticism from many religious groups for the acts of sorcery the series of books have been highly regarded as literature which explored far more than just youngsters casting spells.

The Harry Potter series has taught me a lot about the general humanity and how we respond to society as J.K. Rowling’s depth and underlying values of each and every character or reasoning she created within the books, has their own place which is fitting towards to demands of her audience and continually despite no longer officially writing the stories – now focusing on another element of the universe journeying the life and times of Newt Scamander in the Fantastic Beasts tales, she still lets the fanbase dive further.

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; J.K. Rowling’s title character shows traits of humility and modest definitions as he tries to get on with life despite being the most infamous wizard due to the events which took place before his memories really formulated. Despite being devalued by his only surviving blood relations, Harry is able to show great levels of humbleness and compassion rather than taking things bitterly or being presumptuous. Following Harry Potter through his teenage angst, we as readers see his character development and traits expand as the themes discuss more maturer concepts such as love and death.

It is clear even from chapter one – The Boy Who Lived, that J.K. Rowling had been meticulous about what she wanted to include to set the scene, something that she kept going through the Harry Potter series. She paints the description of the muggle (non-magical) Dursley family in a way which gives us the reader a great impression of how they look and treat one another as well as those affecting their status and ego and despite the obstacles of their nephew’s adolescence, Rowling shows that these aspects run deep and are unchanged for the remainder of the series.

Once the reader is introduced to the first non-Muggle characters of Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall and Rubeus Hagrid; their personalities are also very distinct. This first chapter helps shine a few speckles of what the series will develop and engages the reader to pursue.

The use of locations is as important to the story as characters; throughout Philosopher’s Stone we see Harry evolve from his claustrophobic sanctuary of the cupboard under the stairs in the Dursley household of 4 Privet Drive to living during term time at the Hogwarts castle. The fact that he is looked down upon by his aunt, uncle and cousin helps set the tone of the fact the character of Harry Potter is developed from a low point and that discovering his magical heritage gives him encouragement to explore and desire to soak in more of the environment which feels homely to him.

Readers will see a number of key themes develop through the series, these include how family plays a part in one’s development. With the orphan Harry, envious of his friend Ron Weasley’s warm embracing family unit in comparison to the treatment he suffers at the hands of those who have put a roof over his head but largely been ungrateful towards him.

Developing friendships with Ron and also eventually Hermione is one of the fundamental aspects of the Harry Potter series, the closeness of the trio and their other friendships despite the usual arguments and disagreements is one of the core principles Rowling wants to make clear is important to the development of her characters, this promotes the loyalty that every character has to other elements, be it other characters or creatures or their own pride of purpose.

With the main three characters being placed in Gryffindor house at Hogwarts, J.K. Rowling clearly sets out that courage and bravery is far more significant than being able to get a feather to float. With this bravery, the author sees that being able to face fears and despite difficulties continue to fight on for the power of good is far more important than taking easier routes.

Death is also certainly a theme and by this Rowling is keen for her readers to be aware of the way it affects us achieving this without too much sugarcoating. In the first novel, Professor Quirrell loses his life in the battle with Harry after failing to obtain the Philosopher’s Stone for Lord Voldemort; Harry is no stranger to death despite minimal memory after the main character’s parents were killed in a prequel episode before the Philosopher’s Stone story begins leaving Harry in the fate of the Dursleys.

Rowling herself knows the difficulty of coping and coming to terms with lost family as only a few months prior to the publication, her mother passed away, which helped sell the points and opinions the author has on death. Harry Potter only starts to really understand and grieve for his parents when he is made aware of the magical aspects of his backstory. In Philosopher’s Stone, Harry finds the Mirror of Erised which comforts him showing him what he feels he is missing, the love from his deceased parents.

J.K. Rowling’s main villian Lord Voldemort’s sole aim is to cheat death despite coming close to it in the events which Harry unearths through the series and helps the hero accomplish greatness in his own style. She uses the abstract aims as a way of explaining that we all must accept the closure of death and not fear it as well as to accept our own mortality.

She also helped develop the website Pottermore which allows those like me who adore the series find their own sense of pride and place within her universe, creating a sorting hat feature allowing people to see what their own traits resemble based upon her expansive knowledge of the world she has created. This feature on the website, placed me in Ravenclaw house rather than joining Harry in Gryffindor, or being part of Hufflepuff and or Slytherin. The house of Ravenclaw has members which are take prize in their wit, learning and wisdom as well as having a creative mindset.

Also one can find out their Patronus or guarding charm usually when cast successfully take form in an animal which inhibits the traits of that character on the website. Mine is the otter, which I am thrilled about; this is the same Patronus as Hermione and generally displays signs of the witch or wizard of being bright, adventurous and fun. Always looking for something to do or something to think about (hence my blog posts), you want to learn and explore. They’re people orientated and become lonely and jealous easily and it’s likely that you also have good problem solving skills and a depth of knowledge across several subjects.

Another important part of being a witch or wizard is gaining their wand, as again the wand foresees the individualism based on the components which create the magical inventory. Mine according to the website, would be composed of English Oak wood, with an unicorn hair core, 10 inches in length and has a quite bendy flexibility. Which again is described by Rowling as the following:

English Oak wood – This is a wand for good times and bad, this is a friend as loyal as the wizard who deserves it. Wands of English oak demand partners of strength, courage and fidelity. Less well-known is the propensity for owners of English oak wands to have powerful intuition, and, often, an affinity with the magic of the natural world, with the creatures and plants that are necessary to wizardkind for both magic and pleasure.

Unicorn Hair core generally produces the most consistent magic, and is least subject to fluctuations and blockages. Wands with unicorn cores are generally the most difficult to turn to the Dark Arts. They are the most faithful of all wands, and usually remain strongly attached to their first owner, irrespective of whether he or she was an accomplished witch or wizard.

Most of the wands are between eight and fifteen inches in length however the shorter the wand, the more lacking in character depth rather than their actual physical height. Wand flexibility or rigidity denotes the degree of adaptability and willingness to change possessed by the wand-and-owner pair – although, again, this factor ought not to be considered separately from the wand wood, core and length, nor of the owner’s life experience and style of magic, all of which will combine to make the wand in question unique.

One of the main strengths of J.K. Rowling’s work is her way of being detailed about the choices she made for each character’s journey and their strengths and weaknesses within their own abilities to be human, bringing together a series of books which have far more than meets the eye by exploring myths, themes and knowledge of psychology and animal theory.

Admittedly, the series can be a challenge to see the tones when distracted by elements of witchcraft however the core ethics and notes which the author wished to establish are certainly present and for those who still criticise it for being a series too fictionised are trying to read too much into that aspect.

The fandom of the Harry Potter series is immense, with many different things to come from it, such as podcasts such as Alohomora, YouTube vloggers like The Bakeey and Harry Potter Folklore and a tonne of other artistic creations for showing off the phenomenal impact that these books have had on many in the last 20 years.

The Harry Potter series has helped shape who I am and given me confidence in my own abilities and made me make personal choices I’m grateful for as well as a hunger to learn more about the world around me along with how I treat everyone I come into contact with on a personal level. Over the years of re-reading the books, listening to the audio book versions narrated brilliantly by Stephen Fry, watching the movies on DVD/Blu-Ray, attending the Cursed Child play last year only weeks after it launched, going to the Movie Studio Tour as a birthday day out earlier this year (https://fjdg.me.uk/travels/day-trips/2017/05/magical-day-visiting-harry-potter-movie-studios-tour), both of which I would happily do again, among other things, I cling onto this element of my life as a place I feel I can escape to when I feel I’m struggling as the nature of J.K.Rowling’s writing has offered more than just a book for children.

Harry Potter for me, is a valuable fandom and one I could happily share more about with anyone who wishes to discuss it with me at any time and I feel there are many who feel that feeling too. Also to celebrate this 20th anniversary since the first publication date of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I have written a review of the book which you can read here.

A magical day visiting the Harry Potter Movie Studios Tour

The stories we love best do live in us forever, so whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home ~ J.K. Rowling

In the late 1990s, English film producer David Heyman decided to look into children’s literature for the next big movie project. Staff at his production company Heyday Films pushed the recently published J.K. Rowling book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone under his nose. He pitched the concept of creating the adaptation to Warner Bros and with acceptance from the writer, work could begin on making one of the most talked about movie series of all time. The eight films have captured the hearts of fans of the books over the teenage years of the young stars of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson et al. Due to the buzz and excitement of the fantasy stories brought to the cinema, it was decided to allow the props and costumes along with parts of the film set to remain in Leavesden, Hertfordshire. The movie studios are now the former aircraft factory and airfield and cover eighty hectares in size.
Being a massive Harry Potter fan since my time watching the first film in the cinema with my mum back in the winter of 2001. I had put this experience on my to visit list for some time. Admittedly it took until watching the adaption of Philosopher’s Stone that I really fell in love with the world J.K. Rowling had created and I returned home to read through the book version of what I had viewed. I will always be a purist for the books over the eight movies of the seven books but I have watched all of the films both at the cinema and on home release and still find them very enjoyable and feel that a lot of the cast choices were great and the attention paid to detail in the sets, props and costumes were stunning and really helped bring the story alive.

The movie studios were opened to the public in early 2012 and is continuously expanding, with new exhibits opening and different themed occasions possible. The visit detailed in this post was two and half weeks before they unveiled a new section detailing the Forbidden Forest creatures such as Buckbeak the Hippogriff and Aragog a blind Acromantula (Giant Spider).

Despite never read or watched anything related to Harry Potter before, my dad purchased a couple of tour tickets for me and him from the website (https://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk) for a belated birthday treat, so instead of attending on my actual birthday, we postponed celebrations till middle of March which we drove down from Derby to Hertfordshire in just over two and half hours. Once there we picked up the tickets outside the studios and entered the main lobby which displays mugshot photos of many of the actors and actresses who starred in the movies along with a model of the Weasley family’s Ford Anglia hanging from the ceiling.

After picking up the audio guides (which in the end we hardly used, but provide extra information on the different sets and things to see) we were advised we could queue up ahead of getting into the main section however we had a quick browse through the shop, which we would return to after walking through after making our way around the studio. Next the queue is the infamous stairs and room underneath in which the Dursley family (portrayed the late Richard Griffiths, the talented Fiona Shaw along with Harry Melling) had offered the young Harry Potter after the title character had been left there after his parents murder, as a place to sleep until he was given his own room during the summer ahead of the Chamber of Secrets story.

Once snaked round, visitors are taken into the only part of the tour which is watching things on big screens before invited into the Great Hall which minus the enchanted ceiling is preserved as it does in the movies along with costumes on mannequins resembling the notable professors and the caretaker Argus Filch. After the ticket holders have explored, they are invited to enter the main part of the old aircraft hanger and are allowed to self tour themselves through the different sections be it the Gryffindor dormitory and common room to the headmaster’s study or even the potions dungeon.

Around the area where the tour shows off artifacts based on the wizarding sport of Quidditch, people are invited to get paid for images of them sitting on a broomstick in front of a green screen showing different backgrounds used in the movies, I did not do this on this visit however should I return, I will explore this option.  Continuing through various different sections one can see within the Weasley’s home (The Burrow)’s kitchen and dining room along with a measuring gauge where they stand against the heights of Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe from the first film and against the perception of Rubeus Hagrid (played by Robbie Coltrane and for height proportionality by former Rugby Union player Martin Bayfield who stands at six foot 10 inches).

At the halfway point, it is possible to imagine what it was like to board the Great Western Railway 4900 Class steam locomotive which became the Hogwarts Express train in the movies. Also on the Platform 9 and 3/4s exhibit are a halfway through the barrier photographic point and a shop with a lot of memorabilia relating to the popular mode of transport. Visitors can step inside the railway carriages and look at the different compartments which each show how it was redecorated for the different journeys for students travelling from Kings Cross to Hogsmeade (the fictional village where students disembark prior going up to the Hogwarts castle). Similar to the Quidditch green screen, you can get a photo opportunity of what it is like to be aboard the locomotive on your way up to the Highlands of Scotland, again I bypassed this but if visiting again, I will certainly look into it more.

The tour then allows people to take a breath of fresh air and perhaps a small bite to eat, with a small cafe which for those who wish to try the fictional beverage of Butterbeer (from what I’m told it’s a butterscotch flavoured soda drink) they may do, this is before going briefly outside where sits the Knight Bus, a bridge which was purely there for the movies and not featured in the books depiction of the Hogwarts castle, the house in Godric’s Hollow (another fictional hamlet) where Harry’s parents met their end, models of both the Ford Anglia and motorbike and sidecar. Also visitors can walk through a rebuilt away from the real version of the house which was used as the exterior for Number 4 Privet Drive.

After the being outside, visitors are guided back inside where they can look at a lot of the models and prosthetic articles which created a lot of the magical elements in the films. A lot of features were done via computer graphics but there are many which were models and animatronics of which one can look around and see close up.

After walking through a gallery of architectural designed drawings and scaled models of the Hogwarts castle and other architectural buildings, one is led up through the street which displays the shop fronts of those witches and wizards can buy various things on Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Making your way up the cobbled street you can find the amazing detail that has gone into making it as realistic and tangible before being presented with a large scale model of the castle which visitors can see the very detailed finer areas of the fictional school. It really is a stunning piece of artwork and still closely monitored to make sure that it continues to look it’s part by staff.

The tour concludes with a walk into what is meant to resemble the back end of Ollivanders’ wand shop in Diagon Alley with many boxes upon the walls all with every member of the cast and crew who worked on the movies having their name able for all to see, it is a staggering amount of people who have helped make the stories leap from page to the big screen. Once you have finished in there you come out back in the retail outlet previously discussed.

I had taken some of my birthday money plus got a bit out of the ATM cash machine the previous day, so I decided to buy a Ravenclaw themed t-shirt (as according to the official resource website and sorting hat developed by J.K. Rowling herself, Pottermore; I fit into that particular house most, and in a future post I shall explain why I feel that judgement may have it’s merits however illustrate why I feel I’ve got traits from the other three houses also but probably in a more minor aspect of my personality), an illustrated version of the first book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (you can also at the time of typing this post purchase an illustrated version of the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and I’m sure the others are in production), some small notepads each bearing the crest of the school houses and a pull back model of the Hogwarts Express locomotive. Included in our tickets was a copy of the guide to the whole studio and advice on what artifacts you saw and may have missed as there are so many!

Before leaving me and my dad went to the canteen / restaurant where we both enjoyed a meat pie, mashed potatoes and peas meal, other hot meals and sandwiches are available but it was what we fancied to eat, while eating we discussed what we had seen over the course of the afternoon before making our way back up to Derby as I had to return back to work in the morning albeit I certainly felt I wanted to look around the studios again.

As previously discussed my dad has never really embraced the Harry Potter universe, however I feel he certainly had an enjoyable occasion seeing the level of detail and hard work gone on to making things possible translating J.K. Rowling’s work into a series of movies which have brought it to life for many more people. As for me, being someone who is now very much in love with the wizarding world, it truly was a very positive day and I would more than happily return in the future with other people and look more at some sets and props I may have only scanned with my eyes due to trying to soak it all in and also share my thoughts with my dad.

The tour is worth attending for those who may have never really felt an affinity with the series and the level of devotion and love which has gone on to make the project believable and enchanting is mind blowing. It may not be a cheap day out for many but I do feel you get your value for money and you’ll certainly have a magical beaming smile come the end of your time exploring.

I would like to hope I can visit the studios once again and take it in with an individual or group of people who are a little more aware of the stories so I can have conversation about what is being shown rather than perhaps explain things but I still thank my dad for taking the time to enjoy the day with me. As mentioned earlier since my visit a further section has been opened to the public, so I wish to take that in as well.

Since this day trip and at the time of typing, I have re-watched the first two movies with my dad on evenings when we are both free and not feeling too exhausted from our working days, so he has a better idea of what he witnessed, hopefully soon we shall build time to watch the other six however there is no rush to achieve this by a certain date or time.

The Harry Potter universe is often revisited by me by the form of the audiobooks more than actually reading the books myself along with the movies and each time I still start my journey of embracing the work of J.K. Rowling I do feel a warm tingle of emotions as the story twists and turns and teaches some important messages and it is ridiculous to think that there have been those put off by the stories purely by the magical content.

However to me her work in this series is certainly worth it’s value among other authors as it educates the reader how to find one’s place in a world which can be unforgiving but surround yourself with the right people and show compassion along with love and that can defeat the many struggles we face.

Some of my favourite Quotes from the series:

“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are” ~ Sirius Black

“No good sittin’ worryin’ abou’ it. What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.” ~ Rubeus Hagrid

Albus Dumbledore Quotes:

“It is our choices, [Harry,] that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”  (note this quote only appears in the movie adaption of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

“The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed”

“There are all kinds of courage…It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

“Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”

“The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”