Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Every couple of years, I find myself in the mood once more to read the Harry Potter series. The story never gets old; it’s earned itself a special place in my heart.

harry_potter_and_the_sorcerers_stoneI think people are still drawn to these books because they feel like home. When thousands of people gather to read a story, it creates a sense of belonging which doesn’t fade when we finish the series. I think that’s the reason why Harry Potter will never die.

These books lack the elaborate description to which I am normally drawn, but that is not a weakness. We must take into account factors such as the age of the targeted audience. It surprises me a little that I enjoyed it, being a person who prefers old books with long paragraphs, but I then realize there’s more to a good story than flowery writing. J.K. Rowling is a master at writing action that keeps us turning the page, and I appreciate that, by not over-describing, she gave us room to imagine.

As for the story, I don’t think much description is necessary, however here is a loose overview:

Ten-year-old Harry Potter lives a miserable life with his aunt, uncle and cousin, the Dursleys. This family take pride in being perfectly normal and respectable, unlike Harry, who has nothing in common with them at all. He is not normal; strange things happen when he feels threatened or upset. For example, one time Harry jumped onto the roof of his school, when all he’d wanted was to dive behind a trash can.

The worst of his mishaps comes to pass on his cousin Dudley’s birthday. During a trip to the zoo, Harry Potter finds he can talk to snakes. Then, when his cousin Dudley pushes him, Harry–in a flash of anger–causes the glass case to vanish, setting the python free. Though unable to explain how he did this, Harry is punished for it, locked in his cupboard under the stairs for days.

Just when he is convinced that he will never have any friends, a letter arrives in the mail for him. Uncle Vernon does not let him read it, though apparently he knows who it’s from, because it sends him into a panic. It doesn’t end there: soon dozens of letters begin to arrive, identical to the first. Then hundreds come pouring through the chimney and all the crevices along the windows. These letters can find Harry wherever he happens to be, whether under the stairs or at a hotel.

Driven mad by paranoia, Uncle Vernon moves his family to a desolate island. At last he is certain no one will be able to find them, but he is wrong. While on the island, the clock strikes midnight on Harry’s eleventh birthday–which, of course, the Dursleys haven’t celebrated–but he is about to receive the ultimate gift, that which loyal readers long to receive, even after we’ve grown old.

On his eleventh birthday, Harry Potter meets Hagrid, the gentle giant, who breaks into that island shack and hands him a letter like those Uncle Vernon had been hiding. In the letter, Harry Potter discovers that he is a wizard, a famous one at that. Most of all, he discovers that he has a home away from these unkind people, a place where he will belong.

Though we readers will never receive our letters from Hogwarts, dedicated fans will always feel like witches and wizards. This is the belonging: we might have nothing else in common, but our love for Harry’s story will bring us together for a very long time, perhaps for life.

Have you read the Harry Potter books? What House were you Sorted in? I am a Ravenclaw!

What Professor Snape’s Death Tells us about Fiction

12075060_10153859413444313_8491525309490219634_nYour news feeds are full of Alan Rickman—pictures, quotes, and tributes. Perhaps you’re tired of it, which considering the volume of posts would be understandable, but allow me to explain what it means in my point of view.

The Rickman post I’ve seen going around most is this:

Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.”

He’s right.

A lot of people aren’t missing him as the actor Alan Rickman. Many of my friends are mourning the loss of Professor Severus Snape, who despite being a fictional character—and not one people liked all the time—played a huge role in our childhood dreams.

As a storyteller, an ‘agent of change,’ I’m sure he knew this would happen. He must have been familiar with the sensation of attachment to a fictional character, one who to so many people was real.

This does not only apply to Harry Potter.

I’ve always been fascinated by the effect a good story has on an audience. Not everyone understands why we attach to fictional characters, more so than the actors who play them. I’ll admit I don’t follow the actors in movies, but love and respect what they represent. They become faces that get us through difficult times; we look forward to seeing them at movie premieres.

A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world. No one understands this better than fandoms, communities who gather because they love the same stories. We stick together because we have a special magic in common, not just the magic found in Harry Potter!

Members of fandoms are familiar with the looks we get when we gush over a favorite movie or cry over the character’s death. We are strange to the rest of the world who consider fiction a waste of time—and we don’t care what they think, because fandoms are huge families.

Judgment from ‘normal people’ can’t budge us. It makes us stronger, steeling our bond, enforcing our love for something fictional.

If you ask me, there’s nothing fictional about the love we feel for these dreams, the stories told, and the actors behind them—even when we don’t recognize them by name.

I didn’t think much when I heard Alan Rickman had died. It wasn’t until they played a clip of him as Professor Snape that I became sad—because he was, and is, Professor Snape.  I felt like I’d gone personally to Hogwarts and one of my teachers passed away.

Many will find this sentiment silly, but more yet will agree. This is the power of storytelling, fandoms, dreaming.

Alan Rickman’s death inspired this blog post, but I didn’t follow him as Alan Rickman. I followed him as Professor Snape, the favorite teacher to many. I never followed him as an actor, but he was part of my life and those of many other Potterheads.

So tell me fiction isn’t real. Tell me the sadness so many now feel is fake, an irrelevant waste of time. I disagree! Fiction might not be tangible, but it’s made so many people whole, creating beautiful friendships and unforgettable moments.

RIP, Alan Rickman, and thank you for giving us Professor Snape.