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Magic Beyond the Pages

Text by: Traci G. Lee

Every generation is defined by a story that takes them beyond the real world. Our daily lives become interrupted by these tales and give way to our wildest dreams. For fans of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, it is not uncommon to be so deeply attached to any one of the seven books. The characters became our friends, our teachers, our family, and our common enemies. Any achievements in the book were celebrated in reality, and every instance of death was met with grief and heavy hearts as we turned page after page.
© Kevin Parker Photography

The magic of Harry Potter travels far beyond the witchcraft and wizardry in the books themselves; it lies in Rowling's natural ability to transform ordinary themes of courage, fear, friendship, and love into an extraordinary tale. A single novel is difficult enough to write, let alone one crafted around a unique world of the author's own imagination.

It is through her innate talent that Rowling gradually draws readers into Harry's story by introducing the various elements of the wizarding world over the course of seven installments. Through this slow immersion, Rowling's genius is clear; whether you read the books as they were published or you read them long after the seventh novel was released, you felt as if you aged with Harry, Ron and Hermione both literally and figuratively. Harry's journey, though filled with magic potions and flying broomsticks, is also our own adolescent journey. As Harry's mind and understanding of his own universe expanded, we, too, grew. Each novel brought a new and terrifying ordeal Harry's way, and he and his friends were forced to face difficult obstacles that destroyed the enchantment and whimsy of the fantastical world they all entered into as children - and who hasn't felt the anguish of watching his or her own childhood fantasies disintegrate with age?

© Kevin Parker Photography

Though some see Harry Potter as a depressing analogy to a child's loss of innocence as he or she becomes more and more exposed to the world, Rowling maintains a sense of hope carried by individual characters throughout the series. Her novels are not just a series of depressing events repeated over and over; instead, they tell a story that is as much of a struggle to fully comprehend as adolescence itself.

But it isn't pure escapism that we are fleeing to when we crack the spine of any one of Rowling's seven installments. Despite the lightheartedness of the series' beginning, there is a darkness that creeps into the books. It is subtle, but becomes intense within a matter of chapters. While reflective of our own shadows and other heavy themes that pervade society, it is unavoidable, and Rowling does not shy away from unpleasant (but, sadly, inevitable) topics, such as war, discrimination, and death.

© Kevin Parker Photography

The emotional journey that fills the novels is mirrored in readers' experiences as we travel through forests and castles and crowded wizard shops to follow characters we've only just met but end up spending years with. Rowling's series engaged readers of all ages by using Harry's story as both a window and a mirror: we've watched Harry, Ron, and Hermione mature as we matured, too, and we learned from their steps (and missteps). We can even see ourselves in them at various moments. Though the final book of the series was published in 2007, there is no limit to the effect Harry Potter has had on the "Muggle" world. This is the beauty of great literature, after all: the author's ability to take the magic inside a book and enchant the outside world.