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July 7th, 2011
10:16 PM ET

Harry Potter and the Decade-long Obsession

Before I have even written a word, there it is, laid out for all to see, in that picture: I am a huge Harry Potter geek.

I am one of those fans who pre-ordered the books and stayed up all night to finish them so no-one could spoil the ending for me. I have seen all of the films on their opening weekends, even taken days off work to see them on opening night, and I have seen most of the movies more than once in the cinema. But there is more. I have hung out in the crowd of not one, but two of the London premieres, snapping pictures of the stars. I own all the DVDs (including double copies of some) and yes, this weekend I am hosting a Potter viewing party.

So, as you may well imagine, this month's release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" is both a source of great excitement and gloom for me.

Why? Well, because to quote the tagline of that film for all you Muggles out there, "It all ends here." The final instalment of a film franchise that has clocked up more than a thousand minutes of screen time and over $6.3 billion at the box-office to date premieres on July 7th, and is released worldwide on July 15th. Four years have already passed since the last in JK Rowling's best-selling series of books was published, and with the author swearing she has no more books in the pipeline, this is the end of an era for fans of Harry, Ron, Hermione and Hogwarts.

But before regaling you with how the wizarding world has become nothing short of an obsession, I have a confession to make.

My first encounter with Harry Potter came not with the publication of "The Philosopher's Stone" book (or "The Sorcerer's Stone", for all you Americans out there) in 1997. No, I am ashamed to say my story starts in the depths of December 2001, when my best friend suggested a trip to the cinema. A lot of criticism is thrown at that first Chris Columbus flick, and I will admit that it was most definitely made with a young audience in mind, but I was hooked. I loved the idea of secret world hidden just out of sight, full of magic wands, broomsticks and super-cool sweets. I loved the idea of a young boy with a tragic past catapulted into extraordinary circumstances, and his discovery that the fate of that new world rests on his puny teenage shoulders.

Over my Christmas break I read the first four Harry Potter books in a week. The seeds had been planted for an addiction that will probably last a lifetime.

As of June 2011, 450 million Harry Potter books had been sold, and the series has been translated into 67 languages. So clearly I am not alone in my love of the Potterverse. After all, who wouldn't want to live in a world full of magic and marvelous words like "expelliarmus"?

For me, as an English Literature graduate and perhaps more importantly a geek, Harry Potter books are the ultimate escapism, you can immerse yourself in them. Every character, no matter how small, has a fully developed back-story and a reason for being there. Neville Longbottom's rise from bashfulness to fortitude is just one example of this. Who would have thought that the stuttering kid in "The Philosopher's Stone" would later wield the Sword of Gryffindor in such dramatic fashion? Ramping up the geek levels, it is also possible to read a seemingly insignificant sentence in one book, only to find that two books down the line, it was a clue to something important. How did I know who the Half-blood Prince was before the end of that novel? His handwriting. (Here's a clue Potter-fans: Harry sees the "Prince" completing his O.W.L. exams in the pensieve.) For fans of more classical literature there are numerous clues to a character's development. Remus Lupin, former Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher and member of the Order of the Phoenix is a werewolf - well, what else could he be? His name both plays on the Latin word for "wolf", and references one of the founders of Rome who, legend has it, was brought up by a wolf. In Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale" the character of Hermione is petrified, much as Harry's friend Hermione Granger is in Rowling's "The Chamber of Secrets".

By now, you have probably guessed that I am one of those readers with a dorky desire to know anything and everything about the literature I am reading (perhaps that is why I identify with Hermione so much). It means that no matter how many times I read Harry Potter it just keeps getting better. When I read the books or watch the films I cannot think about anything else. I am engrossed, and that has had its advantages. The books and movies have seen me through good times and bad; through illness, separation and bereavement. Hogwarts is a place I can go where nothing hurtful in the real world can reach me. My obsession may seem insane, but at times I think it may have helped me keep my sanity.

So, now it has come to an end, what is next for a geek like me? Luckily, JK Rowling is having similar problems letting go of the world she created. "I've never cried for a man as I cried for Harry Potter," she told reporters last month. Hence the launch of Pottermore, a "unique and free-to-use website which builds an exciting online experience around the reading" of the Harry Potter books. While many fans were hoping for an online video game, and I was hoping for a prequel to the books detailing the young lives of the Marauders (James Potter, Sirius Black and chums), Pottermore is exciting in the sense that it is going to allow me to delve into the series in yet more detail. "Back in 1998 I generated a lot more material than would ever be put in the books," said Rowling at the Pottermore news conference. "It was simply ridiculous that anyone - to me at the time, I thought, who would ever want to know the significance of these types of wand woods?" Well, I would...

Pottermore launches officially in October, so I only have a few months to wait. In the meantime, I have my ticket to watch "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" at the IMAX, I am digging out my Gryffindor tie and my replica wand again and buying up a big supply of jelly beans. The battle of Hogwarts is about to begin on the silver screen, and a decade after I caught my first glimpse of the wizarding world, I am still spellbound.

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Filed under: General • Personal musings
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. sourav

    And I still believe, she will write another book...she will have to...on the Marauders and the last time You-Know-Who was everywhere.

    July 8, 2011 at 12:49 am | Reply
  2. chaz Romano (not real name. take that CNN)

    wow, CNN lets you take off work for that? Thats nice.

    July 8, 2011 at 6:33 am | Reply
  3. Cooler

    Don't mean to sound harsh, but:

    Get a life.

    It's time to grow up and live in the real world for a change. How old are you? It's time to stop dwelling in a world of make-belief and focus on real concerns. The potter books were alright but those aren't exactly of Shakespeare quality. People like you have wasted far too much time with such trivial matters.

    July 8, 2011 at 7:05 am | Reply
  4. Paul Shepherd

    Hey!
    I really like your story, its so ture. Every word.

    @Cooler, look, if you don't like escaping real life to get a break, fine. Your probably a very unhappy person, and criticizing how others find happiness isn't nice. Don't post comments that are offensive, keep it to yourself buster!

    Anyways, Ally, I really hope you enjoy the last movie. Know that other Potter-Fans are in the potter verse during the exact same time enjoying the escape! I can't wait, one last movie. It makes me cry now, this book series, is my life line, it would heal me from cancer, jkjk..lol

    Thanks for your post, i totally recommended it on FB!!
    Paul S. ~PotterFan4Life!

    July 8, 2011 at 8:12 am | Reply
  5. Michael

    Wow Cooler, that is pretty harsh.

    Some people work on cars in their spare time, or when they are angry, etc. Some people work out obsessively, others do more illegal forms of escape, and some people watch movies or read books like Harry Potter.

    Who exactly are you to say he needs to grow up? He could be doing much much worse in his spare time and guess what? He's got a job working for CNN. Not bad I would say, so it's not like he's sitting around his apartment unemployed.

    I would argue with anyone as I have argued with my father in the past that what you do in your spare time is entirely up to you. You should never judge whether someone's passion, or hobby are worthwhile endeavors. What a person does in their spare time is up to them. It's their time.

    For instance if I wanted to sit and really watch paint dry after a long day at work I could do it. Yes, maybe it isn't exactly productive, but it's my spare time to do with it as I please.

    Anyway, trust me, Shakespeare wasn't exactly lauded in life for his plays. Took a while for that to happen. The same goes for Henry Mellville. Do you know "Moby Dick"? Out of print shortly after publication and was so for years and years. Now it's a literary classic. I think Harry Potter's popularity, and legacy will be just fine thanks.

    July 8, 2011 at 8:31 am | Reply
  6. Bellaswan

    I feel you so bad,we're all gonna miss it. . . Can't wait for the last one,plus its in 3D.
    I have also read all the books,it was truly amazing how everything was connected.

    July 8, 2011 at 9:12 am | Reply
  7. Stephanie

    @ cooler.. SERIOUSLY??? "you don't mean to sound harsh?" how judgemental could one person possibly BE!!! wow! it just goes to show just how sad we can be when we become too 'educated' and 'sophisticated' in life that we leave NO room for magic. there was even a bit of humor and magic in Shakespeare's writing, so don't get it twisted. if you had half the imagination of jk or ally, you wouldn't be the shrewd, horrid, mean, judgemental prick that you are! there, i said it! who are YOU to tell someone to grow up? apparently ally DOES live in the real world. she has a real job at CNN AND gets to partake in a magical world and i think that's BRILLIANT!!! hopefully we ALL take what she says to heart, especially us grown-up Potter fans, who people seem to find us humorous at best, and worse, frown upon us.. but ally, it's all good. don't let a party pooper like that get you down... cooler simply needs to cool down a bit and learn how to have some real fun.

    July 8, 2011 at 9:30 am | Reply
  8. Mark

    And now, the end is here; and so I face the final curtain...I've loved, I've laughed and cried; I've had my fill, my share of losing...
    Yes Harry Potter did it his way, and we all came along for the ride. So as we face the final curtain call on the final film of the final(?) book of a saga that has captivated millions of people from all walks of life, of all ages, and all backgrounds we can reflect on a phenomenon that has left its mark on our generation.

    Ok, I hear you say, but really it's just a few make believe books about and for kids, right? We shouldn't imbue it with more depth and significance than any other mass produced fantastical children's books? It was just the lucky one to be bought up by a film studio in need of a new franchise? Well I'm sure there are enough people out there who think that. However most of them probably haven't read the books, or seen the films, or examined the storyline, and haven't even considered the import of such storylines upon its readers and viewers over the last 14years.

    For a start rarely in history has technology and literature been in such harmony. Bringing to life storylines that called for spectacular and realistic special effects, immersive surround-sound, and truly big screens could not have been achieved to such believable levels even a single decade earlier. Had the books been written at an earlier time in history and then films made of them many years later it's unlikely that they would have had anywhere near as significant an impact on our popular culture as they have had.
    Timing, as they say, is everything!

    In addition these were the right type of stories at the right time.
    Stories about overcoming adversity, and defeating evil, yes. But also about exceeding expectations, of rising above your station and fulfilling dreams, about making friends and building trust, of forgiveness and love, of dealing with loss, and building bridges across nations.
    At a time when technology is bringing the furthest of us ever closer to each other there is still real evil in the world around us, real heartache and loss, real poverty and abuse.
    Who among us hasn't dreamed of overcoming all of that and making the world a better place?
    These stories remind us once again of a reality that in modern times has been either forgotten or often derided: One man (or woman) can actually make a difference. You can fight for a cause you believe in, and win, all against the greatest of odds. And that when it comes right down to it if you stand up to be counted, oftentimes you'll find you are not as alone as others may wish you to believe – something that this year's African Revolution has so dramatically proven!

    So as the curtain finally falls, and we look to the future, anyone who's so enjoyed spending time in Potterverse can be content that there are far worse things in the world than being a Harry Potter fan!

    July 8, 2011 at 11:20 am | Reply
  9. RUKEAL

    Down with Harry Potter!!

    July 8, 2011 at 11:44 am | Reply
  10. Gomer

    Ally – I'm right there with you old friend. The books are a great escape. They meant the world to me and my kids. As you know, I probably enjoyed them a bit too much.

    July 8, 2011 at 11:56 am | Reply
    • Regina

      my fondest HP moremies:- Back in college, I sooo loved the series that I would impose on unsuspecting dorm mates that “this is the best book of the millenium.. read it!” They did, and enjoyed it too! – I joined an intercollegiate Harry Potter quizbee and won first prize. I got a miniature Firebolt, which unfortunately broke into pieces after a week as I was fond of showing it off to everyone! (tee-hee).- My first four books were given to me as gifts by my ex-boyfriend who also shared my passion for Harry Potter. However, we broke up after college. About that time, I was into the fifth installment, it was very difficult going through the chapters because of the shock of Sirius’ death and, although I can commiserate with Harry and his teeneage angst, I knew the tears were owing to the bad break up (sob!).- Afterwhich, I met a very wonderful man (who also loved Harry Potter and eventually became my hubby!) and our first date was at this place, sort of like an artists’ nook with lots of artwork and good food, which was slightly dingy and dark (candles and old, musty books — you get the idea). Until now, we refer to it as our “Leaky Cauldron.”- I had a brief stint in law school, and I succeeded in convincing my friends to read HP to cleanse the palate in between boring reads of constitutional and commercial law! Now you know why law school didn’t end up too well, I figured there are far better books out there! LoL!– I actually lined up for the final book in July 2007. I was very pregnant by then and expecting to burst at any time. The people lining up were so generous, they asked me to get the first copy! Yey!- When we learned that I was going to have a girl, my hubby and I wanted to name her Erin, Eriana or Ariana. Then we read the Deathly Hallows and found out Dumbledore’s sister was named Ariana! Bingo! (My firstborn, Ariana Ysabelle, was born a month or so after we read Book 7).– Severus Snape is my favorite character! I originally thought he was a shady and despicable character. J.K. Rowling had me going for most of Book 7 because Snape really seemed to be your typical villain until the very end. But there was redemption for him in the last chapters, everyone ultimately sees the good in him.All in all, my Harry Potter experience has so dramatically affected my life that my hobbies, my close friends, my husband and children have come into my life as a direct result of my obsession with HP. And eventually, when my children will have their own tots, I would want the series to touch their lives the same special way it affected mine.

      March 5, 2012 at 6:19 am | Reply
  11. Bubba

    Now move up to better stuff: Zelazny, Gene Wolfe, GRR Martin, Robin Hobb, Steve Donaldson.

    July 11, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Reply
  12. Gracious

    Fell in love with Harry Potter when i was 12 years old.
    I am now 20 years old and im still in love with him.
    Watching Harry grow up and overcome all the adversities in his way made me realise that anything is possible and all it takes is a little courage...daring nerve and chivalry....so to quote the Sorting Hat.

    Best believe there will never be anything like Harry Potter again and id like to thank JK Rowling for bringing HP to the world, for the laughter, the joy, the sadness, the growing pains, the suspense, the tears, the love, she brought into my life each time id be turning pages in a book.

    Long live HP.......

    Fanatic101

    July 14, 2011 at 8:20 am | Reply
  13. amateurlivesex1

    Your views are certainly interesting and they give me much to think about.
    Amateur Telefonsex

    November 16, 2011 at 8:00 am | Reply
  14. Amateur Telefonsex

    The observations you've made are right on, so keep it up!

    November 16, 2011 at 8:02 am | Reply

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