The final installment of the Harry Potter movie series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, is due to hit the theaters on July 15. Let’s take a look back to 1998 when the “Harry” phenomenon started.
As we open the American edition of Harry potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone we meet the Dursleys of number four, Privet Drive for the first time:
“The Dursleys had everything they wanted, but they also had a secret, and their greatest fear was that somebody would discover it. They didn’t think they could bear it if anyone found out about the Potters. [Lily] Potter was [Petunia] Dursley’s sister, but they hadn’t met for several years; in fact [Petunia] pretended she didn’t have a sister …”
Millions of readers worldwide now know Petunia’s secret—Lily is very unlike the Dursleys; Lily is a witch, but Petunia is a muggle. Heavens! And, there is worse to come for the Dursleys. There has been “an accident”; Lily and her husband are dead and their small son Harry is about to be delivered to Dursley’s doorstep.
It is the middle of the night on Privet Lane and a huge motorcycle falls from the sky and lands safely before Dursley’s porch. The man astride the motorcycle is “twice as tall as a normal man and five times as wide”. Hagrid is about to enter Rawling’s story; he carries a basket in which baby Harry Potter is sleeping. Won’t the Petunia be surprised when she picks up the milk from her front porch in the morning?
As we all know, Harry is an unusual child. Time passes in the story. Let’s pick it up again 11 years later, the Dursleys still have not adjusted to their ward Harry, who is about to start secondary school. The Dursleys are planning to enroll Harry in Stonewall, the local public school, but we readers know that that will never happen.
An owl drops off an invitation for Harry to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (the best school of wizardry in all of England). The Dursley’s throw out the invitation like so much junk mail, but soon more invitations arrive, and more, and more until the house is inundated with invitations. Finally, an invitation is hand delivered by Hagrid in a very forceful manner—the Dursleys can no longer ignore Harry’s destiny, which is to attend Hogwarts.
The giant Hagrid has come to fetch Harry and take him to the wizard’s bank Gringotts for money to buy the items Harry will need at Hogwarts. Harry soon finds himself in London where he and Hagrid have entered The Leaky Cauldron, a drinking establishment for the wizard crowd, vampires, hags and the like. They stand before a brick wall with no apparent openings:
Vampires? Hags? Harry’s head was swimming. Hagrid, meanwhile was counting the bricks in the wall above the trash can.
“Three up … two across…” [Hagrid] muttered. “Right, stand back, Harry.” He tapped the wall three times with the point of his umbrella. The brick he had touched quivered—it wriggled—in the middle, a small hole appeared—it grew wider and wider—in a second later they were facing an archway large enough for Hagrid, an archway onto a cobbled street that twisted and turned out of sight.
“Welcome,” said hagrid, “to Diagon Alley.”
As he walks through the archway, Harry enters for the first time into the world of witches and wizards. Neither he nor Rawling’s readers will ever be the same.
Harry and the Sorcerer’s Stone was reviewed in the NYT on Feb. 14, 1999; the reviewer concludes his review with this:
“On the whole, ”Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” is as funny, moving and impressive as the story behind its writing. J. K. Rowling, a teacher by training, was a 30-year-old single mother living on welfare in a cold one-bedroom flat in Edinburgh when she began writing it in longhand during her baby daughter’s nap times. But like Harry Potter, she had wizardry inside, and has soared beyond her modest Muggle surroundings to achieve something quite special.”
Michael Winerip, The New York Times Magazine.
I agree with the reviewer; The Sorcerer’s Stone is a near perfect introduction to the world of magic. Thank you J.K. Rawling for inviting us muggels into your fantasia.
Day 46: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Spanish title: Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal)(J. K. Rawlings)(1998).