Saturday 10 December 2016

JK Rowling cast a spell that grows in potency with each passing year

Published 30/07/2016 | 02:30

Harry Potter
Harry Potter
JK Rowling
Midnight parties for the new book are to be held around the world, including at stores in Dublin and Cork
Alan Rickman, Tom Felton, Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Matthew Lewis attend the New York premiere of "Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2" at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center on July 11, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Almost a decade after the publication of the final Harry Potter novel, the world is once again in the grip of Pottermania.

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Critics are lining up to lavish superlatives on 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child', the theatrical addition to the Hogwarts saga, which had its West End premiere this week.

Meanwhile, Potter fans around the globe are counting down to the release at midnight tonight of a "new" Potter book.

And in November comes the ultimate prize of a new film drawing on Harry Potter author JK Rowling's world-building 'Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them'.

The fervour is incredible, even by the standards of Potter fandom.

The new Potter "novel" is, after all, nothing of the sort - rather, it merely gathers in one place the dialogue and stage direction of 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child'.

JK Rowling
JK Rowling

The play itself, though by every account an absolute hoot, is likewise said to suffer by comparison to the Potter books, with Harry and chums grown up and relegated to secondary roles.

Read More: Diehard 'Harry' fans set to queue and party overnight

Conjurer Harry Potter doesn't even feature in 'Fantastic Beasts', which is instead set in 1920s America and stars posh heartthrob Eddie Redmayne as a hapless conjurer who accidentally unleashes a plague of monsters upon New York. And yet, as the countdown to the midnight launch gets under way in earnest today, excitement is approaching fever pitch.

Midnight parties for the new book are to be held around the world, including at stores in Dublin and Cork.

Some 4.5 million copies have been printed in the United States alone; Waterstones has reported preorders of 100,000 across outlets in Ireland and the UK.

When Rowling called time on Potter with the publication of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' in 2007, it seemed questionable whether the series would hold a permanent place in our affections.

Alan Rickman, Tom Felton, Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Matthew Lewis attend the New York premiere of
Alan Rickman, Tom Felton, Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Matthew Lewis attend the New York premiere of "Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2" at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center on July 11, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

The books were hugely popular - but not every phenomenon lives past that initial period of infatuation.

Many of those who discovered Potter as kids are in their late 20s and 30s now - might Harry be one of the childhood infatuations they would set aside with age?

In fact, the exact opposite has happened. In adulthood, millennials are more attached to Harry Potter than ever.

Read More: Carla Bass on her lifelong love of wizardry

You don't have to look very far for reasons. Youth unemployment is at historic levels, the cost of education is soaring, and a steady career path taking you into middle age and beyond will strike many college leavers as no less fantastical than flying broomsticks or invisibility cloaks. With so much negativity, it's no surprise that young people would take refuge in a beloved keepsake from childhood. Just in time, along comes JK Rowling and a entirely new chapter in the Potter saga.

Moreover, as adults Potter readers have perhaps gained a deeper appreciation of what Rowling was attempting with the novels. The Harry Potter books are fundamentally about the loss of innocence and the things we must give up on the painful journey from childhood to the big bad world outside.

As they look back, grown-up Hogwarts heads will realise that, in addition to spinning tales of Quidditch tournaments and friendly giants, Rowling was forewarning them about the trials of adulthood - struggles that are now part of their everyday lives. She has woven a spell that grows in potency with each passing year.

Irish Independent

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