Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Boy Who Lived

For me, these words are nothing less than a magic spell: these books created for me my own land of enchantments which eventually turned out to be only a portal to a more exquisite kingdom. As a nine year old, I remember my mother telling me about a writer who had had phenomenal success writing books for children. Until then, I was acquainted with only Enid Blyton and this new author, J. K. Rowling seemed immensely interesting. After that began a journey that has been fulfilling like no other. It has lent to my childhood memories I shall forever cherish. This is not about what happens in the books. This is only an accolade to the sheer magnitude of the impact it has had on me and undoubtedly on thousands of other readers as well. Apart from the delightful fact that I share my birthday with Harry Potter, there other niceties that make these books much more than books for me.

The character of Harry Potter has been created as that of an orphan who finds more family in friends than in blood relatives. He has friends so loyal and devoted, and yet, I was particularly delighted to find out that after Harry’s baffling selection for the Triwizard Tournament, Ron is upset for not being told about it. The underlying tone definitely reeks of jealousy, standing testimony to the fact that nothing, especially relationships, is absolute. Dementors could symbolise all the darkness in our lives while the Patronus would be our strength to ward them off. And yes, Lupin offers a piece of chocolate to recover from an unfortunate tryst with dementors; chocolate supposedly contains the chemical compound ‘anandamide’, the word being derived from the Sanskrit word for ‘joy’. Albus Dumbledore is the guardian angel, the character being perfectly portrayed as a caring but stern headmaster. Sirius Black is the father he never had, and Rowling plays very well with the reader’s emotions by killing him off. In this regard, she displays her mastery in that game with the death of Dobby. Cedric Diggory’s death did not affect me as much as I thought it would, while Fred Weasley’s demise was so much more painful. Perhaps my only complaint would be the treatment of Severus Snape. The man’s story is kept off until the last, and Rowling does not do him justice by making him look like the villain all through until The Half Blood Prince; I would have appreciated hints dropped from the very beginning that there could be much more to him. Rowling plays her cards craftily when she lets us into the character of Tom Riddle. The great villain is a terror and an enigma at the same time; he turns out to be an evil genius, almost the stereotypical villain. The same thing cannot be said of Draco Malfoy as he gets older, and his vulnerabilities are laid bare. I was also charmed by the way Rowling introduced us to Harry’s love life: not explicitly detailing it, not making it more romantic than it actually was. She knows what to say and how much to say – my teenage heart swooned at every little kiss. There is no more romance than is required to excite the interests of a teenager, and I still chuckle at how Rowling managed to handle this particular element in Harry’s tale: striking the right chords all the way. The more subtle details: So I learnt that Minerva is the Roman Goddess of wisdom. And Sirius is the Dog Star, also the brightest in the earth’s night sky Yes, I learnt about phoenixes from this book, and it nearly made me believe that dragons were for real. Funnily enough, bezoars and aconite have actual existence, though not used exactly as mentioned. The Philosopher’s stone is not a figment of Rowling’s imagination, but has mythological existence in books.
I do not still understand why the division of the society in Divergent reminds me of the houses of Hogwarts. Dauntless and Abnegation should be Gryffindor, Amity and Candor could roughly equal Hufflepuff, Erudite would be Ravenclaw and Slytherin in a combination. Such has been the influence of Harry Potter that I would disagree on classifying the series as fantasy. Not a surprise, but the California State University, San Marcos has even started a course on the characters in Harry Potter. Come to think of it, I am almost inclined to believe that we all have been put under some spell doomed to be forever enchanted by the delights of Harry’s world.
Imperio, anyone?