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The Fascination of Harry Potter
A. "Harry Potter" - a pop star of literature
"Once upon a time...", that is the way most fairy tales start, but shortly ago, an author not known by anyone so far experienced her own fairy tale. Its name was "Harry Potter".
When, in 1997, J. K. Rowling's first book "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" was published, nobody thought of such an enormous hype that this little boy named Harry might arouse, not even the author herself. Neither did the publishing house of Bloomsbury, the less so, after some other publishers refused to print the book.1 However, the story of Harry, the poor wizard whose parents had been killed, soon became famous, it was spread like wildfire all over England, over the USA and, a short time after that, over Europe as well.
Harry Potter meanwhile has a status comparable to a pop star, and like each of them (although he is not real) he is loved by many people. There are some fans of his who are not content only reading the book or watching the new film, they want to do more to be near their "star". Two of these people may be chosen as remarkable example: Saskia and Sarah Preissner from Germany, born 1985 and 1990 respectively, who founded the unofficial Harry Potter-Fan Club (www.hp-fc.de). This fan club counting more than 100,000 members from over 90 countries is probably the biggest one in the world, existing only in the Internet.
Their webpage contains a school. If you are member of the HP-FC, you have to do wizard courses and pass exams, of course. You can also gain or lose house points, as you do in Hogwarts, Harry Potter's school of wizardry.
But the Preissner sisters have done even more for "Harry Potter"-fans. On 30 July 2000 (one day before Harry's birthday) they lead a Harry Potter parade through Berlin which they had notificated as a political demonstation with hundreds of Harry-fans dressed up as wizards or witches, the motto being "Harry for President".2
Surely J. K. Rowling had no idea which effect her books might have on her readers, mostly children, but lots of adults read them, too. And they probably do not do it to make sure that "Harry Potter" is a good read for their children; they read the stories because they themselves love them!
And if you examine "Harry Potter" carefully you will see that these adults, who often feel embarassed while reading them in public and hide their books behind something else, are ashamed in vain, for "Harry Potter" is not only for children indeed.
B. The fascination of Harry Potter
Harry Potter is a British boy who lives with the Dursleys, his aunt and uncle. His parents have died in a car crash when he was a small child, that is what he is told by the Dursleys. His cousin Dudley is bullying him whenever possible and Harry has to live in a cupboard under the stairs. He does not have any friends because everyone is afraid of brutal Dudley. At Harry's eleventh birthday, when hundreds of letters have reached Harry and his unclehas kept on preventing Harry to read them, Harry is visited by Hagrid, Keeper of Keys at Hogwarts, a school for wizardry. Hagrid informs Harry about Harry's parents and himself being wizards and that his parents were not killed in a car crash but in a fight with Voldemort, a dark wizard. Harry survived that very fight as a baby being protected by his mother's love. Voldemort lost all his powers whereas Harry only got a scar on his forehead shaped like a flash of lightning. As the one who defeated Voldemort, from this time on Harry is a celebrity among wizards, who live in a kind of parallel world to ours.
Hagrid takes Harry to this world to buy some things for school, paying with wizard money from a bank account that Harry's parents opened for him at Gringotts, the wizard bank. Harry gets to know that he is very rich. Hagrid tells him how to get to Hogwarts (which consists of four Houses: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin). He makes friends there with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, but he also meets new enemies such as Draco Malfoy. Harry turns out to be a very good flyer on the broomstick and he joins the Quidditch team of his house, Gryffindor.
Harry, who is quite curious, has a lot of adventures with his friends, often nearly deadly ones because of Voldemort, trying to regain powers and trying to murder Harry. Harry gets some help and advice by his godfather Sirius Black who is wrongfully accused as the murderer of Harry's parents but managed to escape fron Azkaban, the wizard prison.
Surely the stories of the four "Harry Potter" books released so far are rather interesting, but this is only one of the reasons for the books' success. There is a lot more to the story.
I. The fascination as a result of the contents of the books
What most of the readers do not see or just do not know is the fact that the author did not only use her own fantasy to write the books but stuck to traditions, continued a traditional way of telling myths and she plays with the reader's imagination and his secret wishes and dreams.
I. 1) The British tradition of boarding school-stories
Boarding school-stories like "Harry Potter" have often been bestsellers of youth literature because they usually give an exemplary depiction of that very period in which the peergroup becomes very important for young people and when, for the first time in their lives, they get the possibility of living without being influenced from or controlled by their parents.3
Not even the idea of a boarding school for wizards or witches is completely new. Jill Murphy wrote "The Worst Witch" in 1974, a book about a boarding school for witches.4
According to K. Spinner personal development in groups is quite easy to be demonstrated by situations of pupils living together in a boarding school. In the "Harry Potter" books two competing groups (Draco's group vs. Harry's group; see appendix) are described, the solidarity in a small group of persons (Harry, Hermione, Ron) is shown, too.
Quarrels and jealousy (Harry is jealous of Cedric dating with Cho) are also parts of everyday- life in a boarding school just as the problem Harry has got: he is someone special, he is different.
For many young people the boarding school-story is a projection of their desired way of life and shows them what living among other boys or girls of the same age is like. They learn how to keep safe in a group and they enjoy adventures without being looked after by their parents.5
The long tradition of English boarding school-stories probably started in 1857 when Thomas Hughes wrote "Tom Brown's Schooldays" in order to help his son lose the fear of leaving his home to attend a boarding school, the well-known public school of Rugby. With his book Hughes managed to establish a new genre which was most important and successful at the turn of the century and in the first half of the 20th century.
Its popularity was highly influenced by trivial forms, which were published as serials in youth magazines by authors like Enid Blyton. According to D. Petzold the boarding school-stories were not about the content of the teaching itself but about moral education, represented by two main aspects: sports and the system of prefects. Sports were not only used for physical education, the y also showed youngsters the way to courage, to teamwork and to fair play, which were important qualities especially in England during the period of British imperialism 1880 - 1914.
Later serials no longer had a pedagogical intention. Realism was replaced by standard characters and standard situations.
These standard characters usually are
- the young hero who has to fight against · the tyrannical bullies at school,
- the prefect who is a symbol for self-administration, · the weak pupil who needs help,
- the ambitious pupil, often a pushy person, · the caretaker of the school,
- the nasty teacher and
- the just headmaster who,enthroned, sits above everybody else. ·
J. K. Rowling took over a lot of these old-fashioned clichés and describes them in her "Harry Potter". Moreover, she shows problems between the sexes (eg Harry and a girl named Cho), in contrast to the ordinary boarding school-stories. In addition, Rowling uses the school-story standard theme of sport by inventing a completely new sport, "Quidditch", with all its detailed rules.6
Probably the school-story is interesting for young people because of the unity of the literary school-life being protected from all the problems beyond school so the pupils have the opportunity to concentrate on relations among themselves.
The school-story shows a clear situation based on simple rules, of course often broken by students, to the reader's amusement, but nevertheless the basic moral norms are always respected and defended: these are honesty, sense of responsibility, fairness etc. Around 1930 the school-story was linked to crime thrillers and detective novels, eg the girls' college in Oxford of "Gaudy Night" (1935) by Dorothy Sayers.
Harry Potter is the hero of a detective story, too, especially in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets", but doing the task of the detective, he is directly involved in the story whereas the classic detective can solve the case from the position of an outsider.7
Apart from the boarding school-story Rowling has probably been influenced by the following fantasy literature and children's books like "Lord of the Rings" by Tolkien, "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "The Hunting of the Snark" by Lewis Carrol, "The Secret of Platform 13" by Eva Ibbotson8, "The Little White Horse" by Elizabeth Goudge (which is known to be one of Rowling's favourite books and the only one Rowling admitted to have taken over from for "Harry Potter")9 and "The Worst Witch" by Jill Murphy4.
It is not proven that Row ling has been affected by so many books but since some are very similar in actions to "Harry Potter" it may be possible.
I. 2) Psychological reasons explaining the books' success
Harry Potter is a child other children can identify with: he is inconspicuous and unloved, he lives with a boring, petit bourgeois family, but in the "magic" world he is a celebrity (although he does not know about that). The reader and Harry himself are told only in small steps about Harry's real identity.
As Spinner says is the search for an identity of their own one of the main problems of children in the psychological process of growing into an adult, teenagers are often going through a crisis during that time. In the character of Harry Potter young people have found someone who is in the same situation. The reader can take part in Harry's development and his search for an identity and he feels confirmed in his dreams of being somebody different than he is in reality, in his dream of being somebody who is popular and whose achievements are appreciated by others.
During their puberty many young persons undergo sudden changes between feeling inferior and magnificent, between feeling weak and invincible. Even some adults still experience these changes or remember them when reading youth literature, that is why this kind of books are often read by women and men who at first glance seem to be too old for them.10
Spinner further notices that Harry Potter unites two special personal traits: a naïve lack of concern and a clever way of thinking, very similar to Alice in Carrol's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland".
This relation between naïvety and rational thinking is a basic experience of children's developing when they learn about sometimes negative results of naïve behaviour and being educated by their parents to rational control of their intuitive actions inspired by wishes.11
From this aspect Harry is not a good example because of him breaking rules and most of the time not being punished for it but praised; this makes it possible for children to lose themselves in their wildest fantasies. Nevertheless it also demonstrates to children how to overcome a difficult situation by wits and unorthodox methods.
Another psychological reason for the reader to consider "Harry Potter" as interesting is his compassion for Harry because the boy is an orphan. Each child is afraid of losing its parents but at the same time it has a desire for splitting off. Still, Harry's situation is different. The loss of his (as far as he knows) perfect parents hurts and he wants to split off from the cruel Dursleys, a decision the reader can fully agree to without thinking twice.
As divorced marriages become more and more usual children search for a different community to live in. Harry Potter finds it in Hogwarts, his school, where he lives with his friends, and the reader wants to participate in this community and somewhat feels part of it.12 Furthermore, it is possible to overcome the fear of death in "Harry Potter" because "death" is equal to "evil" there, i.e. Voldemort and his followers, the Death Eaters. "Death" is embodied and not invincible anymore. Children see this as a relief of fear.
Scientific surveys proved that children living in western industrial countries, which is the main target group of "Harry Potter", are often afraid of the future. So it is easy to understand that children like to read about a boy who can do magic and is therefore capable of defending himself against nearly any possible menace. He can do what all children wish to be able to as well.13
According to J. K. Rowling the magic always has a main role in children's literature: Children get a power they do not have anywhere else. In every culture the most important element is magic followed by religion and science.
Usually fairy tales stress the black-and-white portrayal of its characters. Rowling did not continue this tradition and invented multilayered and complex persons. These characters underline the mostly realisticly shown world of "Harry Potter", in which every character can deve lop and so the reader's prejudices about them are often to be questioned and the reader is forced to reflect on the problem.14
Harry, who is the clever hero but acts sometimes in a silly way and Hermione, who is very ambitious and gifted but happens to be have a few times arrogantly and silly at times, are very good examples. Harry is a special person indeed, because he also shows "dark" traits (he has got the same wand as Voldemort and at first the Sorting Hat is not sure if to put Harry into Slytherin where a lot of dark wizards were pupils or into Gryffindor where the clever and brave pupils are).
This produces a strange and mysterious nearness of the extreme good and the extreme evil at the same time. It is to be notified only sometimes in the books, usually there are multilayered characters. The two exceptions are Hogwarts' headmaster Dumbledore who is described as a very humane personality who unites all the virtues and complete wisdom in one person and Voldemort who has to be seen as the personified evil.15
Harry grows with his given tasks and finally, in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire", he is even able to resist the "Imperius" curse which means that he does not give way to the temptation of not being responsible for anything anymore. It shows how Harry's psychological power develops and arouses the reader's admiration and his wish to have a strong psyche himself.16
Another aspect of "Harry's" success is the use of variations of well-known sceneries, characters and myths which children experience as an "adaptable material to play with".
According to G. Mattenklott one of these myths is the one of the divine child, comparable to Jesus Christ. An earlier example is Moses who had been abandoned on the river Nile.
Harry's arrival at the Dursley's under miraculous cirumstances (in fact, Hagrid brought Harry there) is similar to the Holy Night, Harry grows up as an orphan without knowing about his origin but experiencing several signs and wonders, eg the vanishing glass of the boa in "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone".
The first part of revealing Harry's origin happens at his eleventh birthday, Jesus went by the age of twelve to the temple where he astonished all the wise men.
Both Harry and Jesus had phases in life of seclusion, of suffering and sorrow (Harry suffers when his best friend Ron leaves him after Harry being chosen as school champion in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire") and finally the time of an everlasting triumph that will free the world of all evil. Actually this last part of life has not occurred yet in the history of Harry Potter because there will be seven books atogether about Harry and only four of them have been published so far. But one may be sure that it will happen.
The reader unconsciously finds these over a long time "injected" Christian traditions in "Harry Potter" and feels attracted.17 Mattenklott's opinion does not have to be shared, of course.
I. 3) Two parallel worlds ("real" world - "magic" world) existing in the "Harry Potter" books
For the pupils of Hogwarts the entrance to the magic world is the railway station King's Cross in London on platform 9 ¾ . In Ibottson's "The Secret of Platform 13" King's Cross is the entry to the wizards' world, too, and so it is most probable that Rowling was "inspired" by Ibottson.18
The station is not the only possibility to enter the magic world, there arePortkeyswhich are able to "beam" you out of the real world, and some wizards canapparateby doing magic which is also kind of "beaming". There are no other possibilities mentioned in the books yet.19
The basic pattern of phantastic literature is a young hero who crosses the borderline between real and phantastic world. This other world is not too different from ours, many things like eating, school, relationships and Harry's quite easily comprehensible behaviour are very similar to the real world which we live in. In the text much seems familiar to the reader and at the same time a phantastic scenery is being built up.
Especially children are interested in this double-perspective of the outer situation and the person of Harry in detail: actually he is a normal boy but at the same time he is a famous wizard.20
The fact that as he is disconcerted by the magic worlds seems funny to the reader, as the real world seems strange to the wizards in the book, eg Mr Weasley who often spells "muggle" words (muggles are the non-magic people) in a wrong way like "ecklectic" instead of "electric" (see 5), p. 43).
The books are based on each other and describe one year in Harry's life each, the reader explores the magic world together with Harry and learns to understand it.
As the author did when or before writing, the reader can build a phantastic world of his own which is not much alike the cruel reality which is quite complicated.21
There are some things about "Harry Potter" that are very similar to the classic fairy tale. A lot of wizards and witches appear, and transfiguration is even a subject at school. The hero comes from a supposed lower background, but he is chosen and he has to fulfill some duties with a little help of magical creatures like Dobby, a house-elf.
The main difference between a fairy tale and "Harry Potter" is the fusion of real and magic world in the fairy tale whereas in "Harry Potter" in spite of some overlaps these two worlds remain strangers to each other, though not so exactly separated as in Michael Ende's "Die unendliche Geschichte" where stories of the reality are printed in red and the stories from the phantastic world of Fantasien is printed in green.
That is also why Rowling's books have to be distinguished from usual science fiction, eg "Lord of the Rings", which takes place in a world completely different from ours. Better parallels can be found in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland": the hero "slides" out of the boring real world into a phantastic one where he or she meets many adventures. In "Alice" her adventures are supposed to be dreams afterwards, but for Harry his adventures remain reality.
Some psychologically attractive features of "Harry Potter" are
- two co-existing worlds with a magic world that is hidden to normal people and is comparable to an invisible subculture with secret society-like qualities.
- liberation by the magic world of the hero Harry "caught" in the cruel real world which effects an enormous increase in the value of his personality.
At the same time the reader's sense of belonging to Harry increases because he shares his
perspectives and does not want to be a muggle himself because of the Dursleys representing the muggles.
- the menace and the scary things that do not vanish but appear now in a different kind in the person of Voldemort in the magic world.
- the magic equivalents of "muggle" items:
- moving pictures: television
- interactive diary and map: computer science
- Dementors: according to Rowling: depressions
- the magic world as a place of action of fundamental conflicts and the moral is linked with it. The fate of the real world is not affected by the magic world (up to book 1 - 4) and vice versa.22
II. The fascination as a result of the author's writing
Another very important aspect of "Harry Potter's" success is Rowling's very interesting
writing. She is able to make the reader feel somehow involved in the actions and emotions of the book's characters.
II. 1) J. K. Rowling's narrative technique
The narrator tells the story from the hero's point of view so that everything Harry sees, does and feels the reader directly experiences himself which leads to great excitement. The author mostly uses short and simply structured sentences trying not to interrupt this excitement, though especially persons and move ments are described very vividly and in an illustrating way (eg see 6), p. 168: "Hagrid shuffled into view, hiding something behind his back. He looked very out of place in his moleskin overcoat.").
To link the reader to the book's characters more closely, especially to Harry, the author uses lots of dialogues in a familiar level of speech between the pupils of Hogwarts (eg see 7), p. 85: "How thick would Harry have to be to go looking for a nutter who wants to kill him?" ; p. 242: "He'll be sick as a pig!"), whereas the teachers talk in a higher leve-English (eg see 7), p. 180: "I did express my concerns [...]").
J. K. Rowling does not only think of the speech of the characters being important but also of their sensory impressions. The narrator nearly always tells the reader in detail what Harry sees or hears. This illustrates the plot enormously. To increase this effect these impressions are sometimes used as part of the action, Rowling actually plays with them.
The most noticeable example is the one of thePensievein "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire". ThePensieveis kind of a basin in which Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, sometimes "unloads" his thoughts. Harry eventually finds it and looks into it.
But when his nose touches the misterious substance in thePensievehe is sucked into it and finds himself immediatly in Dumbledore's thoughts and memories. So Harry's sensory impression "see" becomes a new part of the action (see 5), p. 508 ff.).
II. 2) J. K. Rowling's special use of language
As she had studied French and classical philology (ancient Greek and Latin)23 she was able to play with these languages, and so she is in English. The reader may find lots of linguistic figures in "Harry Potter", if he knows what to search for.
II. 2. a) Altering existing words and their meaning
J. K. Rowling uses some neologisms in "Harry Potter" which can be derived etymologically in every detail. To get these neologisms24
- Rowling connects existing English terms (egparseltongue, the language of snakes which have a divided tongue =to parcel[to divide] +tongue),
-she alters existing words by adding letters (egmuggle, the wizards's word for non- magic people, comes frommug, an informal word for idiot),
- she mixes up words (egDurmstrang, a wizard school in Eastern Europe, probably has its origin in the German wordsSturm & Drangwhich were often used during National Socialism in Germany and therefore implies the evil. AtDurmstrang, dark magic is being taught. Another example isHogwartscoming fromwart-hog, whatever Rowling intends to mean by this.),
- or she just turns them around (egMirror of Erised, a mirror which shows the secret wishes of the viewer =Mirror of Desire; see also the anagram of Tom Riddle, Voldemort's real name:Tom Marvolo Riddle=I am Lord Voldemort).25
II. 2. b) Using different languages
I have already mentioned that Rowling had studied French and classical philology (ancient Greek and Latin) which she uses quite often in "Harry Potter". Especially interesting in this context is the nameVoldemortwhich is actually subject ofII. 2. c)but is better mentioned here because of its origin.Voldemortmight have several meanings: (Latin)volere= to want, or (French)vol= the flight, or (French)vol= theft + (French)de =of + (French)mort= death.
Furthermore, by the use of foreign languages the mystical aspect of spells is also strenghened. They are either a mixture of different languages (egwingardium leviosa, a spell to let things fly: (English)wing+ (French)garder= to guard + (latin)levis= light) or they are completely Latin origin (egexpecto patronum: I expect the protector).
Not in a foreign language but with a strong Scottish accent does Hagrid speak, the Keeper of Keys at Hogwarts. This emphasizes his carefree nature of giving way to his feelings (eg see 6), p. 44: "Ah, Harry, I don' know if I'm the right person ter tell yeh - but someone's gotta - yeh can't go off ter Hogwarts not knowin'.").
Not a foreign language as well but with a strong French accent speaks the headmistress of the French wizardry school of Beauxbatons, Madame Maxime (eg see 5), p. 215 f.: "Will you please inform zis `Agrid zat ze `oarses drink only single-malt whisky?"). Viktor Krum, student of Durmstrang, the Eastern European and probably Russian or Bulgarian wizardry school, speaks with a plainly recognizable accent (eg see 5), p. 368: "Vare is Herm-own- ninny?"). These accents make the reader realize that those persons are no neighbours but foreigners who probably have different manners and customs, too.26
II. 2. c) Labelling names
The names of the many persons appearing in "Harry Potter" books are not completely fictitious. J. K. Rowling gives a name to practically every character that fits. There are also names of existing persons used like Nicolas Flamel, an alchemist who lived about 600 years ago.
Unfortunately this is only a conjecture, Rowling has not commented on the names so far.
As there are hundreds of examples, in this text only some very outstanding names will be analysed:
-Sirius Black, Harry's godfather can transform himself into a great black dog:Sirius= main star of the constellation "Great Dog" +black
-Newt Scamander, author of the schoolbook "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find
Them":Newt= "small animal with short legs and a long tail that can live in water or on land" (see 22), p. 747) [German: "Wassermolch"] +Scamander= changed form ofsalamander. The author seems to be a beast himself!
-Draco Malfoy, student at Hogwarts and Harry's enemy:Draco= (Latin) dragon, snake, devil + (French)mal= bad + (French)foi= faith. He seems to be the embodiment of evil!27
Every name having a special meaning is one of the reasons for adults being fascinated by "Harry Potter" and shows that it is not only a book for children. Where children only see an interesting plot with many names in it, the educated adult recognizes personal traits of the characters predestined by their names.
III. The success of "Harry Potter" as a result of PR and marketing
It is no secret that much of "Harry Potter's" success is caused by the public relations and the marketing, some even say that the success is mainly caused by it. This might be too ignorant concerning the literary work of J. K. Rowling. But it is true that without PR "Harry Potter" would probably not have been that successful.
The strategies of the publishing houses and of Time Warner which bought the marketing rights were and still are quite good, millions of people desire to buy the next volume and read on about Harry's adventures.
III. 1) Peculiarities of the start of sale and content of the books kept secret
At the latest after the publication of the third volume "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" each new volume is expected with great excitement by his readers. But in 2000, when the fourth volume "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" was about to be published, an enormous hype began as it has never been seen before. Book stores and Internet book traders like Amazon.com had longer advance order lists than ever before, Amazon sold about 400,000 copies at the first weekend after the book had been published.
The first volume "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" was printed in a edition of only 500 copies (one of these first edition prints was sold lately for 6,000 £ at a British auction house). The story of "Harry's" gigantic success began with the sale of the copyright to the US publishing house Scholastic for an amount of more than 100,000 £ which is enormous for an unknown book by an unknown author. The sensation caused by this sale lead to a rapid increase of copies sold, and with "Harry Potter" becoming more and more well-known the number of his fans who were waiting for the next volume with yearning desire grew fast. At this point the targetted marketing began.
The content of the next volume was and still is strictly kept secret while it is advertised in the media and in book stores. The publishers and the author always pointed out clearly that the content is not to be spoken of before the book will be published, this definitely clever tactics made the waiting readers even more curious. So when the date of publishing has come, which is everywhere in a country the same date that strictly has to be kept under threat of penalty, all the fans ran to the stores if they had not been already waiting there for it to open to buy the new book and to devour it at once.
Sometimes the author J. K. Rowling gave some smaller prospects for the content. So she did announce before the publishing of "Harry Potter and the Goble t of Fire" that someone would die in this book. In Germany about 530,000 copies were sold at the first weekend. As the success of this volume was kind of predestined it was printed as "the first edition of a book with the largest number of copies ever printed" (see 15), p. 50).
To additionally boost the sale of the books, in the evening before the date of publishing some "Harry Potter"-parties had been organised in larger book stores like Hugendubel in Munich and were attended by thousands of people, mostly dressed up children with their parents. At one minute past twelve they were the first people to buy the new volume of "Harry Potter".28
III. 2) Merchandising of "Harry Potter"
As in the following of sucessful movies more or less usual, the merchandising concerning these movies is quite an important factor of the marketing.
This situation is not that well-known concerning books, probably the only time that there was and still is merchandising of a book are the comics of Walt Disney (Mickey Mouse etc.) and even they were not only books but also movies.
But something completely new has happened: "Harry Potter", though only a literary person (and in the meantime a film character, too), has become a brand with an immense appeal.
In 1998, the year of the publishing of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets", the second volume of "Harry Potter", the US media concern Time Warner purchased the rights of film and marketing of "Harry Potter". It is supposed they paid a seven-digit amount of US-$ only for the rights of film of "Harry Potter" volume one and two Time Warner additionally let register the name of "Harry Potter" and a few more as trademarks, which of course causes some difficulties with quite a common name like "Harry Potter". There is a complicated legal position.
Some parts of the rights of merchandising have been resold, eg to Lego, Mattel, Hasbro and Electronic Arts. Coca-Cola also purchased merchandising-rights but is not allowed to advertise with the portrait of Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who plays Harry Potter in the movie, although they paid about 160,000,000 € (see 25), p. 42). Electronic Arts who made the video game of "Harry Potter" were bound by contract not to allow Harry's death in the game. In general, the plot of the books is not to be changed or altered within any kind of marketing. This was clearly pointed out also in the production of the film: According to J. K. Rowling's wish only British actors were allowed to play, and the plot had to be exactly the same as it is in the book.
Time Warner thinks of having an 1,000,000,000 US-$ turnover by "Harry Potter" merchandising without the earnings of the film, for example by selling calendars, T-shirts, watches, bed linen, glasses and many more articles, each piece decorated with pictures or inscriptions of "Harry Potter".29
C. Criticism of "Harry Potter"
Of course something that sucessful as "Harry Potter" is criticized by some people. There are different reasons for criticism. Religious opponents of "Harry" say: According to the Bible (5.Mose 18, 9 - 13), wizards, devils and demons exist and are real and dangerous. In "Harry Potter" occult procedures are played down, wizards and ghosts are nice and never dangerous and magic is "okay" if it is done with the right moral intention.
In some cities in the USA parents wanted "Harry Potter" to be removed from puplic libraries, students were even forced by their parents to go to a different school because of "Harry" in the school's library. In a Swabian village in Germany the books were actually removed from the library after two members of the Church Council having warned of occult procedures.30
But on the other hand there is also approval for "Harry" from members of the clergy, for example the dean of the cathedral of Gloucester, Nicholas Bury, who allowed to shoot some parts of the film in there. Not everybody who is well informed about the Bible and its meaning is afraid of occultism concerning "Harry Potter".31
A completely different kind of criticism of "Harry Potter" has been expressed by Anthony
Holden, English literary critic and member of the jury of the Whitbread Book Award: "Harry Potter" is derived in a high grade from some other pieces of literature, it is unimaginative, has an ungrammatical prose style and the characters are all black-and-white (see 15), p. 135).
Another aspect of criticism is that there is a lawsuit against J. K. Rowling at the moment. In 1986 the US author Nancy Stouffer wrote a book called "The Legend of Rah and Muggles", eleven years before "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" was published. The protagonist's name is Larry Potter, there is a Lily Potter (Harry Potter's mother's name was Lilly) and Muggles are the people who survived a nuclear catastrophe. Stouffer sued Rowling for breach of copyright, the progress of the case can be followed at www.realmuggles.com.32
However, most of the criticism of "Harry Potter" is positive, probably because of the joy and relief about the fact that people and especially children started to read again, and they do it very observant.
These are some mistakes in "Harry Potter": The author did not notice them but some readers did:
Harry's birthday is on 31 July, the day when the break-in at Gringotts' happened in "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone ". From "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" it is known that Nearly-Headless Nick's (a ghost at Hogwarts) 500th day of his death is on 31 October 1992.
As Harry then is in his second year at Hogwarts, his eleventh birthday is on 31 July 1991. In "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" Harry says that his eleventh birthday was on a Tuesday, the day after Dudley's favourite programme on TV. But there is the mistake: 31 July 1991 definitely was a Wednesday, not a Tuesday!
At the cemetary in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (see 5), p.577ff.) Voldemort's victims appear in reverse order to the order in which he had killed them. But Harry's father appears first and second Harry's mother, although his father had been killed first!33
This ambition while searching for mistakes shows how much Harry Potter is on the readers' minds, and not without good reasons, as I have tried to show. But of course everybody can have his own opinion about a boy whose name is Harry Potter.
I. A short biography of J. K. Rowling
Joanne Kathleen Rowling was born on 31 July 1965 in Chipping Sodbury near Bristol / England as the first of two daughters of Peter and Anne Rowling. During Joannes youth they moved twice: first to Winterbourne, not far from Chipping Sodbury, where she and her sister used to play with Ian and Vicki Potter. Joanne liked the name "Potter" and named "Harry Potter" after these two children, but she says that Ian and Harry had nothing to do with each other except the name.
The second time her family moved they came to Tutshill near Chepstow / Southern Wales in 1974. In Chepstow there is an old castle which influenced Rowling when she invented Hogwarts.
As she said in an interview Joanne hated her new school and thought of some of her teachers when she created the character of "Severus Snape", a quite mean teacher at Hogwarts.
When she attended Wyedean Comprehensive school from 1976 on, she started to feel interested in the English language and even wrote a book about a rabbit called Rabbit which was never published. Nevertheless, from this time on, she wanted to become an author, but as she was afraid of being a bad one she told nobody.
At Wyedean she got to know Sean Harris who became her best friend. Ron Weasley, Harry Potter's best friend is "really very Sean-ish" so she says (see 15), p. 19). Joanne herself says that she was a very shy but a very ambitious little girl, a fact that influenced her while creating Hermione Granger, Harry Potter's other best friend.
In her last year at school Joanne even became Head Girl of the school.
Joanne liked to read very much, every book of Jane Austen and especially books for children like "The Little White Horse" by Elizabeth Goudge.
From 1983 on she studied French and classical philology (ancient Greek and Latin) at the University of Exeter and she lived in Paris as a Teaching Assistant for one year. In 1986 she graduated with good success and worked for two years for Amnesty International. Soon she moved to Manchester where her boyfriend lived, and on a train from Manchester to London she got the idea of "Harry Potter". In 1990 Joanne's mother died of multiple sclerosis at the age of 45.
Joanne lost her job in Manchester and went to Portugal to work as a teacher where she got to know Jorge Arantes. They married in 1992, and in 1993 their daughter Jessica was born. In the same year Joanne and Jorge got divorced and Joanne moved back to England with her little daughter. They lived in Edinburgh receiving income support as Joanne had no job. She completed her education as a teacher and wrote the first volume of "Harry Potter" at the same time.
Waiting for a publishing house to print her book she worked as a French teacher. Several times publishers refused to print it, but in the end a rather small and new publishing house named Bloomsbury accepted it. "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" was printed in a edition of 500 pieces only, Rowling is said to have received an advance of 1,000 £.
She even accepted to get herself a middle name, Kathleen after her grandmother, for reasons of marketing, but her name should only appear on the cover of the book as "J. K. Rowling" so that young male readers could not refuse to buy a book written by a woman. So her real name was unknown to the reader until it was evident that "Harry Potter" would be very successful.
Not long before the first volume was published Rowling had been awarded a grant of 8,000 £ by the Scottish Arts Council so that she was able to work on the second volume.
After Scholastic had bought the copyright for the US, "Harry Potter" was quite famous because of the sale (see B. III.1) and the next two volumes were published following close on one another.
Rowling, who was a rich woman by this time, stopped working as a teacher and concentrated on the promotion and writing of "Harry Potter". Until spring of the year 2000 more than 35,000,000 copies of "Harry Potter" were sold worldwide.
Rowling was given an honorary doctorate by the universities of Dartmouth, St. Andrews, Exeter and Edinburgh and she also got the Order of the British Empire in 2000. Today, J. K. Rowling shows large social engagement for single parents and for the research on multiple sclerosis.34
The Order of the British Empire35
II. The most important characters of "Harry Potter"36
- Harry Potter, the protagonist of the books, is skinny and quick, has a scar on his
forehead that is shaped like a bolt of lightning. He is quite clever and courageous.
Harry is rich but misses his parents a lot, a famous wizard and an also famous witch, but does not tell anyone about it. When Harry was a baby they were killed by Lord Voldemort whom Harry is not afraid of.
- Ron Weasley is quite tall and gangling and has red hair and a lot of freckles. He is
Harry's best friend. His family is rather poor, but they like Harry very much and help him whenever possible. Ron has difficulties in learning magic but plays chess very well.
- Hermione Granger is a very good friend of Harry's and Ron's. Her parents are muggles (non-magic people) but she is very good at school and learns very fast how to do magic. She tries to obey rules but often breaks them to help her friends.
- Draco Malfoy is Harry's opponent at Hogwarts, he is very arrogant and his parents are supposed to be former supporters of Voldemort. He seizes every opportunity of getting Harry into trouble and is always accompanied by Crabbe and Goyle, two dumb but strong friends of his.
- Voldemort , actually Tom Marvolo Riddle, once was the mightiest dark wizard ever but he lost nearly all his powers when he tried to kill young Harry who was protected by his mother's love. He tries to regain powers by different methods but Harry always manages to stop him (more or less by chance).
- Prof. Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, is just and nice and it seems that he can do no harm to anyone. But he is the only wizard Voldemort was afraid of and still is, so he is very powerful. He likes Harry very much and often helps him.
- Prof. Severus Snape is the Potions teacher at Hogwarts and is said to know much about the Dark Arts. He does not like Harry and favours Draco Malfoy.
- Hagrid, Keeper of the Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts, is a half-giant and was once (wrongly) expelled from Hogwarts. But Dumbledore "would trust him with his life" (see 6), p. 16) . Hagrid becomes a good friend of Harry's, Ron's and Hermione's.
- The Dursleys are Harry's aunt and uncle who are muggles and do not like him but they do everything to spoil their son Dudley who is bullying Harry all the time. They know about Harry being a wizard but do not tell him about that or about his parents being murdered by Voldemort, they say that Harry's parents have died in a car crash.
III. The grouping of people at Hogwarts37
Hogwarts is divided into four houses. All first-years are put into the house that supports their qualities most by the Sorting Hat.
Courageous and brave first-years like Harry or in the past also Dumbledore are sent to Gryffindor, in Slytherin live the ones that are cunning, ambitious and uphold friendship like Voldemort, in Ravenclaw are intelligent, wise and quick to learn students and in Hufflepuff live the just, loyal, helpful and diligent pupils.
Except all Slytherin pupils nearly all the students are good friends with Harry.
All the characters at Hogwarts appearing in "Harry Potter" (no matter if they live there or not) are members of one of these groups: Harry's friends and Harry's enemies. The most important ones are
- Sirius Black,Harry's godfather · Hagrid
Hedwig,Harry's owl people of Gryffindor:
- Prof. McGonagall,head of Gryffindor· Ron Weasley
- Hermione Granger · George Weasley · Fred Weasley · Percy Weasley · Neville Longbottom ·
- Scabbers,Ron's rat that turns out to be a dark wizard ·
people of Slytherin:
- Prof. Snape,head of Slytherin· Draco Malfoy
- Vincent Crabbe · Gregory Goyle
I. Notes on the text
II. List of references
1) Goudge, E., The Little White Horse, Oxford, Lion Publishing, 2000²
2) Ibbotson, E., The Secret of Platform 13, London, Macmillan Children's Books, 2001
3) Murphy, J., The Worst Witch, London, Puffin Books, 1996
4) Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, London, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1998
5) Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, London, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2000
6) Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, London, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1997
7) Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, London, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1999
8) Scamander, N. alias Rowling, J. K., Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, London, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2001
9) Shapiro, M., J. K. Rowling, Nürnberg, Burgschmiet Verlag, 2000
10) Whisp, K. alias Rowling, J. K., Quidditch through the Ages, London, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2001 Secondary literature
11) Beuning, B., Knobloch, J., Literaturkartei zum Jugendbuch von Joanne K. Rowling ,,Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen", Mülheim a. d. Ruhr, Verlag an der Ruhr, 2000
12) Houghton, J., Was bringt Harry Potter unseren Kindern?, Basel, Brunnen Verlag, 2001 13) http://www.hausarbeiten.de/rd/archiv/anglistik/angl-text10.shtml 14) Kienitz, G. W., Grabis, B., Alles über Harry Potter, Kempen, moses. Verlag, 2001
15) Knobloch, J., Die Zauberwelt der J. K. Rowling, Mülheim a. d. Ruhr, Verlag an der Ruhr, 2000
16) Knobloch, J. (ed), "Harry Potter" in der Schule, Mülheim a. d. Ruhr, Verlag an der Ruhr, 2001
17) Kutzmutz, O. (ed), Harry Potter oder warum wir Zauberer brauchen, Wolfenbüttel, Bundesakademie für kulturelle Bildung Wolfenbüttel, 2001
18) Preissner, S. & S., Die Zauberschule, München, Ullstein Taschenbuchverlag, 2000
19) Spinner, K. H. (ed), Im Bann des Zauberlehrlings?, Regensburg, Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 2001
20) Zollner, B. M., Mentor Interpretationshilfe zu J. K. Rowling "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone", München, Mentor Verlag, 2002
21) Hein, R., Kennen Sie Severus Snape?, Bamberg, Collibri Verlag, 2001
22) Hornby, A. S., Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 19955
23) Schneidewind, F., Das ABC rund um Harry Potter, Berlin, Lexikon Imprint Verlag, 2000³
24) Zollner, B. M., Langenscheidts Großes Zauberwörterbuch, Berlin & München, Langenscheidt, 2001
Magazines and Newspapers
25) Falz, H.-J., Potter und der liebe Schotter, in: Max, 2001, Nr. 24, p. 40 - 44
26) Görl, W., Konjunktur für Wunderbesen, in: Süddeutsche Zeitung of November 22nd 2001, p. 3
27) http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,2001230004-2001231268,00.html 28) http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,321-21928,00.html Ich erkläre hiermit, dass ich die Facharbeit ohne fremde Hilfe angefertigt und nur die im Literaturverzeichnis angeführten Quellen und Hilfsmittel benützt habe.
1see 15), p. 49
2see www.hp-fc.de and 23), p. 159
3see 19), p. 16f.
5see 19), p.17
6partly taken from 19), p. 35 and see 10)
7see 19), p. 36f.
9see 1) and 23), p. 356
10see 19), p. 11ff.
11see 19), p. 14
12see 19), p. 16f.
13see 19), p. 17f. and 15), p. 54
14see 11), p. 5
15see 17), p. 41
16see 17), p. 31
17see 17), p. 37f.
18see 6), p.76ff. and 2)
20see 19), p. 18
21see 19), p. 18f.
22see 19), p.24 - 32
23see 15), p. 21
24see 20), p. 26
25all examples taken from 21), 23) and 24)
26see 20), p. 24f.
27all examples taken from 21), 23) and 24)
28see 15), p. 31ff., p. 49f.
29see 15), p. 60 - 64
30see 15), p. 98f.
31see 15), p. 100
32see 15), p. 70f., 23), p. 348 and www.realmuggles.com
33see 15), p. 138
34biography taken from 15), p. 15 - 35
36see 20), p. 8ff.
37see 20), p. 6f.