5 Pages, Grade: 1,7
The Phenomenon of “Harry Potter Himself”
“I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living; it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities.” (Geisel)
Books like Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter by Joanne K. Rowling were sold more or almost as often as the bible, whereby they are counted among the all-time bestsellers list (Brown). Furthermore they have been translated into various languages, in the case of Harry Potter “61 different languages, including Icelandic, Serbo-Croat, Vietnamese, Hebrew, Swahili, Ukrainian, and Afrikaans [. . .]” (Brown). Hence the fantasy-genre enjoys great popularity.
The arising question is how people’s enthusiasm becomes apparent? Has the manner of doing this changed? If so, for what reason has it been altered? These questions will be followed in this essay.
During and after World War II several epic fantasy-novels were published. In the case of The Chronicles of Narnia (1950 – 1956) by C. S. Lewis or Tolkien’s The Hobbit (1937) they aim at the young and the young at heart, while The Lord of the Rings addresses adolescence and adult groups.
Especially the euphoria around The Lord of the Rings was enormous, particularly after the time of publication. Later that development increased with the publication of the film trilogy (2001 – 2003) and by associating the influence of modern marketing strategies. At the beginning it was hardly determined by marketing, although the story offered a good base for it, it rather consisted of individual initiative. Thus, the excitement for the world of Middle-earth was converted in a journalistically, creatively and socially way.
Tolkien’s life and work was discussed in various science fiction fan-magazines, where “speculative articles and articles of fiction often took off in the direction of science fact”, because “most of the contributors to fanzines at the time came out of science fiction fandom” (“Tolkien”). Moreover, magazines with Tolkien-inspired names but “with little or no Tolkien content” were produced by the fandom (“Tolkien”). They also created clothes and make-up inspired by Middle-earths beings which they wore by way of example at the “World Science Fiction Conventions” (“Tolkien”). Further trough the formation of numerous Tolkien-societies (e.g. The Fellowship of the Ring (1960), The Tolkien Society of America (1965), or The University of Wisconsin Tolkien and Fantasy Society (1966)), a communication level was created, that later extended trough the spread of newsgroups on the web (“Tolkien”).
As opposite to this, contemporary works like Stephenie Meyers The Twilight Saga or Harry Potter are products of modern-marketing strategies right from the beginning, relating to the latter the publication of the first volume Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997) and especially after the release of the film version in 2001. Nevertheless “Clever marketing and savvy business practices” by themselves are insufficient to secure an ongoing success (Gunelius). Only if a product constantly meets consumer’s expectations “repeat purchases and word-of-mouth marketing” can be maintained or even enhanced (Gunelius). The Harry Potter books absolutely fulfil this qualification, as the story attracts people of every age and walk of life, although it is part of children’s literature.
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