Harry Potter – Everybody knows about him either through the books or through the movies. Though we can’t deny the fact that the movies made Harry so much more popular. But what makes it so big? Let’s see what people have to say about it.
Deepak Mehta says, Harry Potter, when it started out in 1997, was every kid’s fantasy. Their escape from the real world to a fictional one. From one filled with school, and responsibilities to one where they were wizards and witches and could do almost everything.
It grew with the readers
When it started, it was a story for young kids. The first book came out in 1997 when Harry was 10. The last book came out in 2007 when Harry was 17. Assuming that the reader was 10 years old too in 1997, he was 20 when the series reached its finale.
The reader grows alongside the major characters. While the characters age by 7 years, the reader by 10. But one point to be considered is that, throughout the series, the characters (Harry, Ron, Neville, Hermione) display an EQ far greater than their age. They are far more mature and have already faced more than their share of adversities. So from a mental age perspective, the readers and the main protagonists “age together”.
And it slowly increased its appeal to people of all ages
In a way, Harry Potter is just a children’s fantasy. The story of a boy who lived under the cupboard, growing up to be famous, and strong and a wonderful person, in that order. It is the story of just about any little boy/girl that was bullied in primary school but suddenly, during a summer break, discovers that he has a knack for playing football.
Each major character, in the beginning, is a nobody.
- Harry: A tiny, bespectacled guy maltreated by his adoptive uncle and aunt.
- Ron: The 2nd youngest of 7 brothers and sisters. No particular talent. Comes from a poor family.
- Hermione: The Outcast. Seen as a nerd. Never acknowledged as a girl.
- Neville: Fat, nervous, socially awkward. The ideal profile of someone constantly bullied throughout school.
But by the end of the series, each of them has evolved and matured at an astounding pace, overcoming insurmountable odds.
- Harry: One of the greatest wizards that ever lived. Defeated the greatest evil. Showed bravery even in the face of death.
- Ron: King Weasley! Grows out of the shadows of his elder brothers, overcomes jealousy and insecurity. The perfect sidekick.
- Hermione: The Queen! Stays loyal to her friends. Loyal, almost to a fault. Beautiful, intelligent and brave.
- Neville: Snakeslayer. Rebellion leader. Tells the Dark Lord to shove it up.
The wonderful dichotomy
On a superficial level, it is the story of an unremarkable boy who was destined to do great things, who makes some really great friends while in school, does some really brave and some really stupid things, loses many people close to him, finally understands what true bravery is, faces his greatest fear risking death, for the safety of his friends and ultimately fulfills his destiny.
But on a deeper level, it is a story of stories. It is a story of how power corrupts even the very best (Voldemort). It is a story of unrequited love – of a man for a woman (Snape and Lily), of a mother for her son (Lily and Harry), of friends for their friends, of twin brothers (Fred and George). It is a story of friendship (Harry, Ron, Hermione), of betrayal (Wormtail) and of courage (Snape, Neville). It is a coming of age story – almost every character. It is a huge life lesson from one of the wisest characters in literature (Dumbledore). It is a story of pain and loss (Fred, Remus, Tonks, Hedwig, Dobby, Sirius).
It is the story of the outcasts
From the orphan boy who finally finds true love in friendship, to the geeky girl who is finally accepted and loved by her peers. From the fat guy who is bullied in school, to the weird girl with her urban legends and her seemingly nonsensical methods. From the greasy haired guy who lost his love to the popular kid, to the second fiddle brother who finally finds his calling.
It had the perfect amalgamation of everything that is universally loved.
- Overcoming adversity
And even the side-stories are compelling
- How cool exactly were the Marauders?
- What actually happened with Tom Riddle and Merope Gaunt?
- How about the tale of the three brothers?
- What was the dynamic between Dumbledore and Grindelwald?
- What happened to Voldemort’s final form that Harry sees at King’s crossing in his dream?
- How was the time at Hogwarts for the kids of the trio?
- What about Sirius’ time at Azkaban?
Finally, there are a ton of miscellaneous reasons that cannot be bunched under a single head.
Rowling somehow struck the perfect balance in terms of detailing the nuances of her fictional world while at the same time managing to avoid over-loading the readers with thousands of facts and figures. Every character has a back-story that adds to their development. The magic is rooted in science with their precise wand movements, the way the curses and spells are uttered and the emotional state involved. All the spells have names that are creative and yet have a meaning, rooted in a language other than English which indicates the effect they have.
The story appeals to the nostalgic part of the human nature. Everyone wants to run off to a school that is in a castle, play rugby on brooms, fight trolls, have lavish school dinners, be confronted with something astonishing every day, be part of a grand adventure Moving staircases, floating ghosts, talking portraits, are both enchanting and fun.
Rowling chose the right combination of words. The language, the constructs, the flow is optimal. It is not preachy and at the same time not supercilious in nature. Everything seems to have been done in just the right amount.
We will never be able to exactly decipher what exactly Harry Potter did right. We can speculate, but we will never know.
All I can say is was like one of those fleeting moments in life that are magical. It was like a breathtaking night at the symphony – the perfectly struck chord, sharp at the perfect moment in the evening, with precisely the right amount of silence in the room.
Khoa Pham says, There are several elements that I could think of
1) The first book was short.
J.K.Rowling put enough foundation in the first book to get the audience to hook up to the story about Hogwarts: from the magic world, the main character, mythical creatures.
With many kids who don’t normally like to read a lot, 300-pages seem reasonable enough to give the book a try. If book 1 was about 500 pages long, I wouldn’t be interested in the whole series.
2) The gap between the books.
The publishers gave J.K.Rowling enough time to do whatever she wants with the books. This helped the audience to soak in with the latest book with discussions, criticism and it also encourages them to wait anxiously for the next book to come.
3) The movies.
While films from books are often imagination killer. The Harry Potter series was pretty okay. They have good production as well as an awesome film set. The movies become fan’s rehab center every time when J.K Rowling took some break writing new books in the Harry Potter series.
4) Easily-related characters and story for kids.
Harry Potter has to go to school every year. Magic school!
The series just has so many characters that would eventually find someone to relate to.
The mean kid – Draco Malfoy
The naive kid- Neville Longbottom
The know it all kid- Hermione Granger
The cool kid- Ron Weasley
The cheeky kids – Fred and George Weasley
The weird kid- Luna Lovegood
The obnoxious bully kid- Dudley Dursley
The mean teacher – Severus Snape
The wise teacher – Albus Dumbledore
The cool teacher – Professor Lupin
5) Fantasy creatures
I can’t get enough of that….
6) The hype of Hogwarts four houses
Each house in Hogwarts has a unique awesome characteristic that you would want to belong to.
“You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart;
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil;
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you have a steady mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You’ll make your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means
To achieve their ends. ”
7) Parallel World
One thing that I like a lot of the books is that J.K.Rowling wrote them as if she was from the magic world. She made the idea of this “magic world” pretty realistic to the point that sometimes you have to remind yourself that it’s fiction but at the same, you got these stupid thoughts of “maybe that’s what the Ministry of Magic wants you to think”.
8) Wild imagination
Danielle Maurer says, The Harry Potter stories are popular for a variety of reasons; here are a few I can think of off the top of my head.
1. They’re well-written. By no means are they the greatest literature ever composed, but they are written well for a general audience. They are not difficult to read, despite their length, and they are humorous and engaging. They are also very well thought out and detailed.
2. The plot is appealing across different age groups. Because Rowling has used a plotline that has something for everyone, her books have much more appeal than something written strictly for children. If the Harry Potter novels were written on a more juvenile level with a younger and more basic plot, they would not be nearly as popular.
3. The books tap into basic archetypes. The story is a traditional good vs. evil tale and resonates with nearly everyone. The characters are people we know: the hero, the goof, the nerd, the mentor, etc.
Brandon Layne says, There are a bunch of reasons, but I think the most important are the following:
1. The timing of the films. This is the most important in my opinion. Every other famous book adaptation was turned into the big screen after the series was already finished. Books gain an immense popularity from films, and once people watch the films they want to read the books. A strong example is the Hunger Games. When the first movie came out, people immediately read all 3 books in 1 week. Unfortunately, that killed the hype in the long run because people already knew what to expect and spoiled everything over the internet. The first Harry Potter movie came out after the 3rd book. People liked the first movie so read the first 3 books, then they had to wait until the 4th book (which happened to be the book that turned the series on its head). This kept the Harry Potter books alive.
2. Marketability. This is the second biggest component. You can’t really market a series about children fighting to the death on live TV. And good luck marketing Twilight and 50 Shades. While you could market Lord of the Rings, it is very dense and the story has a lot of complicated words. Harry Potter has themes every age group can grasp and can have an element of fun in every single book. Even in the last book, it’s never so dark that the book appears hopeless and soul-crushing (in contrast to Mockingjay) and still has moments of good humor. This allows for everything from movies to plays, and even amusement parks.
3. Relatibility. This is something that Harry Potter has over every other major book-to-movie franchise. Hogwarts is treated just like a normal boarding school and the kids have normal problems such as homework, awkward dates, and even more mature issues like their careers, gaining acceptance from their family, or trying to live up to a notion that people place on you. As an extension of this, the HP world takes place alongside our world, making for some good humor similar to those found in Percy Jackson (such as wizards constantly getting their Muggle clothes mixed up).
4. Characters. We all have a seen the following in real life:
loyal friend = Ron
a bookworm = Hermione
an arrogant bully= Draco Malfoy
the scary-looking sensitive man = Hagrid
an eccentric weirdo = Luna Lovegood
a mean teacher = Snape
a strict female teacher = McGonagall
the easy teacher = Flitwick
a popular jock = James Potter
a handsome bad-boy = Sirius Black
a corrupt, racist politician = Dolores Umbridge
the youthful adult = Tonks
the paranoid old guy = Moody
All of these characters and more have distinctive traits that we recognize. As the series progress, the characters become more layered. The good characters have surprisingly nasty traits and the bad characters bring you to tears at times. Then there is Snape, who to this day is shifted between good and bad. That’s how people are in life are, and it makes for good conversation. If we’re honest, none of the characters in Hunger Games, Twilight, or Lord of the Rings are interesting or complex. We like them for being badass or the world-building, but they don’t have the quirks and recognizable habits of HP characters.
4. Chekhov’s gun. This is the literary style when something is mentioned or shown and foreshadowed early on as if in passing with no emphasis, and then later turns out to have significance. Harry Potter has this in SPADES and it would take me dozens of pages to list them. An example is in the 1st chapter when Hagrid tells Dumbledore he borrowed the bike from young Sirius Black. Both the bike and Black become central later. This caused many fans to build websites and forums to collect and look for every single small detail that could possibly be foreshadowing. It shows how much thought JK put into the books, unlike the later Twilight books or Mockingjay where the author clearly stopped planning.
5. The Houses. It serves for great deep conversations about the personalities associated with each House. Are all Slytherin’s bad? Should Hufflepuffs have more drive? Should Gryffindors learn restraint? Everyone likes groups in stories. It’s like being a part of a fraternity or a club. Camp Half-Blood, Team Edward vs Team Jacob, Dautless, etc. When you choose one, you can choose merchandise and dress the part, not to mention the “friendly” competition.
Aashay Nandoskar says The reason I feel Harry Potter series was so successful are as follows-
- The Author: We have to admit that the author was a sheer genius. Not only she was good at literature, but the wide array of study she had done for the series was noteworthy.
- The Plot: The plot was made in such a way that it intrigued not only young teens but also adults and elders of all age. The story had something for each and everyone alike.
- Humour: The book was full of humor and emotions which kept the readers attached to the book until the very end. Even in the final moments, Rowling ensured that the level of humor doesn’t fall down.
- The Dreamworld: The author created a beautiful Dreamworld where everything was beautiful and interesting. The world in which every child and every adult craves to live in.
- Friendship and Trust: The book portrayed a very strong example of unadulterated love, care, friendship, and Trust. The love of Severus for Lily, the Trust of Dumbledore on Harry, Ron and Hermione, the unbreakable friendship of the three leads as well as other characters. These were the things we truly respect in our lives which drew us nearer to their lives.
- Characters: The characters created in the book were very unique yet very familiar. No character in the book was perfect. Each had its own share of excellence and faults. Be it Hermione’s calm and composed intellect or Ron’s hot-headed humour, Sirius’s care and pride or Peter’s betrayal. The characters were created relating to human nature.
- Enemies: The enemies of the book were equally unique. From the unstoppable Voldemort to the cold demeanoured Snape, each and every one had its own unique story, which somehow resulted in creating a spot soft for them.
And last but not the least
- Starcast: Although personally I felt that the movie was not as good as compared to the book. But the starcast of the movie did set a benchmark. From taking new faces for the leads of the movie and setting them as the benchmark for their respective characters, to taking senior actors like Gary Oldman for Sirius’s role, Rowling ensured that the audience feel connected to the movie.
- After movie: Rowling ensured that the Potterhead audience stays connected with the franchise by setting up different websites and constantly updating posts about the future of Harry’s world. It seriously affects the marketing of the series.
Now, what do you have to say about it? Why do you love Harry Potter so much? What makes it so special for you and everyone else you know? Tell us all about it in the comments below. (The best ones will be featured on this article too).