Five years after Harry Potter series ends, its magic and legacy live on
Five years ago today, millions around the world mourned the end of an era.
With all their vital questions answered and no remaining enchantment left to anticipate, they were forced to accept the closure of one of the most indelible entries in the catalog of cultural marvels: the “Harry Potter” series.
On July 21, 2007, J.K. Rowling concluded her seven-part masterpiece. The midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows saw lines snaking through the aisles of bookstores as fans gathered to learn the fate of their favorite boy wizard and his allies.
The 759-page book sold 8.3 million copies in the U.S. alone during its first day on the market, and Rowling’s novels remain the best-selling series of all time.
Five years later, despite the fact that predominant cultural buzz has shifted to more current sensations like The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades of Grey, local and national pundits still place the “Harry Potter” series at the forefront of mainstream significance.
Barbara Roos, head of teen services for the East Baton Rouge Parish Library, conducted an informal poll among her coworkers, most of whom agreed that “Harry Potter” has achieved “classic status.” They predicted Millennials, the generation that grew up alongside Harry, will read the books to their children in years to come, furthering the series’ status as a cultural staple.
“One of the contributing factors to its possible longevity is the fact that ‘Harry Potter’ takes place in a fantasy world, so it won’t become as dated as realistic fiction,” Roos said. “You have to suspend your belief when reading fantasy.”
Roos compared the future “Potter” legacy to that of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, which is often also cited as one of the most universal book series of all time.
Their ongoing popularity allows for longstanding fans to rediscover the books’ magic and for new fans of all ages to encounter it for the first time.
Jamie Dean, 23, was first exposed to the books in seventh grade, between the release of the fourth and fifth entries. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the series opener, was required reading at her middle school in Prairieville.
Despite frequently appearing on the American Library Association’s list of most frequently challenged books in schools and libraries, Dean said the novel’s overriding “good morals” are what merited its inclusion in a middle-school curriculum.
“Giving it to children, just like C.S. Lewis did with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it lets them experience a lot more with their imagination,” Dean said. “Everybody has that kind of magical want inside them.”
The “magical want” that Dean described has manifested itself in a variety of ways since the “Potter” series reached its conclusion. Fans can now experience Hogwarts for themselves by visiting Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a 20-acre theme park that has brought such magical destinations as Ollivanders wand shop and The Three Broomsticks pub to life. The park announced an expansion plan in late 2011 that will include similar sites in California and Japan.
Here in Baton Rouge, LSU’s Department of English recently introduced a “Harry Potter” class, one of many Rowling-themed courses that have popped up at universities across the country.
Dr. June Pulliam, who specializes in young-adult and horror fiction, originated the idea for the LSU class. She said the waiting list totaled twice its capacity.
“There’s a lot of popular scholarship out there, accessible scholarship, about ‘Harry Potter,’” Pulliam said, specifically referencing Harry Potter and Philosophy, a book she uses as part of the course’s syllabus.
Often credited with renewing adolescents’ interest in reading, the “Harry Potter” series is destined to take on a new life form among those who can access all seven books and eight films simultaneously, as opposed to the generation that came of age alongside Harry’s still-unfolding Hogwarts adventures.
Pulliam predicts the novels will never be out of print, at least “not in our lifetimes.” She likened the future “Potter” legacy to that of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s circulation data corroborates Pulliam’s conjecture. Copies of the print and audio books were checked out almost 2,500 times in 2010, just three years after the series concluded. That number remained steady in 2011, and this year is on track to produce the same spellbinding figures, according to calculations provided by Tameka Roby, an official from the library’s public relations and outreach services. Those figures don’t include electronic versions of the books, which became available for the first time in March.
In addition to collecting the eBooks, fans can become part of Pottermore, an interactive site Rowling developed where readers can access new “Harry Potter” material such as details about the settings and characters’ backstories.
As if book sales topping 450 million and movie-ticket sales hovering around $7.7 billion worldwide weren’t enough, new additions to Rowling’s universe, like Pottermore and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, are sure to keep the series alive. Even bumper stickers are spreading the Hogwarts magic: One popular sticker reads “Republicans for Voldemort,” which Pulliam said she owns.
“[The series is] something that is probably going to be a rite of passage for kids for a really long time,” Pulliam said. “How many generations of children have read Goodnight Moon now, or a lot of other children’s classics? … You have something that parents and their children can read together.”