Prologue: The Beginning
I hate prologues, but I think it’s important to give a brief, overall summary of what I’m doing here. This is an apology of sorts, although I don’t really think I owe an apology to anyone, except perhaps myself and a couple of high school friends that will never read this. It’s probably more of an acceptance, an admission that I was wrong, for a very, very long time. You see, I like Harry Potter.
‘So what?’ you might be thinking. Plenty of people like Harry Potter, even adults. The thing is: six months ago, I didn’t. For the longest time, I said that I hated Harry Potter. And I meant it. Although my view softened over the years, maturing as a teenager and young adult, I never thought that I would sit here and write those words. The words, as horrible to me as an unforgivable curse or the name of You-Know-Who, that I like Harry Potter now.
Please, sit back and enjoy the ride, as I explain how the hell this happened. This post has ended up being a bit of a monster, so I’ve included a table of contents. Plus, it makes it look more like a fantasy book.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: The Lord of the Rings vs Harry Potter
When I was ten years old, my father showed me The Lord of the Rings. It wasn’t my first experience with fantasy, because I will, to my grave, argue that Star Wars is fantasy in space, which isn’t sci-fi. It was, however, the beginning of my fantasy obsession. To this day, they remain my favourite films. I was stupid enough to read the books when I was only eleven, and they took me over a year to finish. From there, I jumped into the Riftwar Saga by Raymond E Feist. This, I realise, is a major reason that I decided to hate Harry Potter. I’d already started enjoying adult fantasy, and isn’t that how it goes? When you’re a kid, you want to be treated like an adult. When you’re an adult, you just want to be a kid again.
When I first had the chance to watch Harry Potter, I’d already decided I wouldn’t like it. Perhaps if I’d been shown it earlier, I would have loved it, and I wouldn’t be writing this. I was four when The Philosopher’s Stone came out in cinemas. For some reason, I didn’t see it until I was at least ten. I saw the first three movies as a kid and didn’t think much of them. They were for kids, and I was already into ‘real’, ‘adult’ fantasy. I didn’t have time for that nonsense. It was a shame I didn’t watch Goblet of Fire. There’s a chance I would have changed my tune after Cedric’s murder. Probably not. I’m pretty stubborn.
Before I was a teenager, most of my friends liked Harry Potter, but they didn’t love it. Hence, it was easy to convince myself that it wasn’t proper fantasy. I took offence to the fact that elves were not slender tree-huggers, but tiny slaves that were obsessed with socks (thanks to a stereotype based entirely on Dobby). I thought wands were stupid because Gandalf used a staff instead. I thought it didn’t make sense, because it was set in the real world, which isn’t how fantasy works (until I heard about urban fantasy). These thoughts weren’t helped by my constant engagement with high fantasy through novels and Dungeons and Dragons. As a child, my understanding of it came down to the simple fact that Lord of the Rings was real fantasy, and Harry Potter was fake fantasy.
Chapter Two: Adversity and Pride
It’s 2009, and I’m sitting in a dark room of the children’s cancer ward at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide. It would have been the perfect time to swallow my pride and decide to try something new. Something that I am the target audience for. Eleven years old and obsessed with fantasy. A series of six movies and seven books. I have literally hundreds of hours to pass while on chemotherapy. There’s a LEGO set of Hogwarts sitting right in front of me, and all I can think is, “Don’t they have anything else?”
None of my brothers like Harry Potter. I’m entirely to blame for that. Being the oldest, I told them all that it was bad and not worth their time. They believed me, as little brothers are inclined to do. My parents didn’t really care about it, and I didn’t have any friends pressuring me into watching or reading it. My year of cancer passed by without a thought on the series, except for that one lonely night where I gave a heaving sigh and built Hogwarts out of little bricks.
My high school years brought both allies and foes in my Harry Potter dislike. At my first school, still in Adelaide, I made a small group of friends who all had a preference for LotR over HP, and were more than happy to hate on it with me. Soon enough, however, our group had merged with a group of girls and we were regularly hanging out. One of them was obsessed with, you guessed it, Harry Potter. She was also, unfortunately, my girlfriend. Our six-month relationship had some issues, and I think we both were to blame for that to some extent. One of them was that I openly hated on her favourite series regularly. I can see now that I was being prideful and really, really dumb. But at fifteen, I didn’t know any better. At this point, my dislike for HP was so deeply ingrained in my identity that I couldn’t help it. The fact that it was so popular only grew my resentment, for some reason. I suppose it’s similar to people who refused to watch Game of Thrones because it was popular. For some reason, we think we know better than everyone else.
In 2013 my family moved to Melbourne, and I started at a new high school. I’d always struggled to make friends, and by the time a week had passed, I was sitting alone on photo day, reading Stephen King’s The Stand. That was when some Random Girl came up to me and just started chatting. I imagine that she’d seen me in our form group before. She got all her friends to come over, and suddenly I was meeting like twenty new people that day. I ended up marrying one of them, but that’s another story. As it turned out, Random Girl was a huge HP fan. Possibly more so than my ex-girlfriend. It was fine. It wasn’t like we were best friends or anything, and I might have had an endless loathing series, but I was never petty enough to let that stop me from making friends. I was starting to accept that other people could like different things than I did.
That didn’t stop me and Random Girl arguing about it over the years, though. Mind you, it was mostly playful arguing. In the end, it didn’t really matter that she liked HP and I liked LotR, and we both knew that. But I was as stubborn as she was willful, so it was probably inevitable. We would argue about the difference between elves and whether it was real fantasy or not. I don’t think any of it was toxic. I certainly hope it wasn’t. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, and I said some stuff I shouldn’t have. If that’s the case, then I guess this is an apology to you, Random Girl, because I was horribly wrong.
In 2013 I decided that I wanted to be a fantasy author, and I began working on what eventually became my first unpublished, several-times revised novel, Incarnate. My aspirations to join the likes of Rowling and Tolkien in the stars didn’t budge me. I didn’t like Harry Potter, and that was that. It’s just now that I realise I sounded like Guy Am I with green eggs and ham.
“Say, do you like Harry Potter?”
“I do not like it, Hermoine’s Patronus the Otter.
I could not, would not, on a boat.
I will not, will not, with a goat.
I will not read it in the rain.
I will not read it on a train.
Not in the dark! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! You let me be!
I do not like it in a box.
I do not like it with a fox.
I will not read it in a house.
I will not read it with a mouse.
I do not like it here or there.
I do not like it anywhere!”
Eventually, I left high school and went out into the real world. My life had little to do with Harry Potter for the next three or four years. 2019, however, would prove to be the year that I swallowed my pride and gave it a shot.
Chapter Three: A Crack In the Wall
There were, I think, four main factors that led to me watching the entire series for the first time. First and foremost, I had already swallowed my pride regarding popular culture that I had previously claimed to hate early in the year. Throughout my adolescence, I mostly couldn’t stand anime. My only positive experiences with it were the Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh animes, along with a movie called The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Avatar: The Last Airbender doesn’t count). A more recent experience was Doki Doki Literature Club, which I liked so much that I suppose it opened me up to what came next.
My wife isn’t a huge anime fan, but she’s got a few that she particularly likes. She’s always wanted me to watch Soul Eater, and I’ve always refused. One day, she decided to put on Madoka Magica, another favourite. I only gave it half of my attention, since it was on in the background. Halfway through the series, even I, prideful as I am, had to admit, I was really good. That opened me up to finally watching Soul Eater. Surprise, surprise, I liked that too. I half-paid attention to Ouran High School Host Club and was enjoying the remake of Fruits Basket. Well damn, I guess I don’t hate anime anymore.
Another crack in the wall I’d built myself came from the fact that this year, people in my life have just seemed to be talking about HP more. After three years of barely thinking about it, suddenly my uni peers were mentioning the series in classes. We joined a local D&D group that regularly makes Harry Potter references. I was, for once in my life, starting to feel left out. Here I was, in adulthood, and yet people still cared about it. I could no longer fall back on what I’d told myself for years: that it was a series for kids. When I was a child, I didn’t feel left out at all, because I thought I was better than everyone else. Turns out I was wrong.
The third thing was similar to the second, in that it mostly comes down to repeated exposure. Netflix Australia added all eight movies to their catalogue. Suddenly, I was seeing them, right there, every time I wanted to watch a movie or tv show on there. And every day I felt its pull a little stronger. I started to reason with myself. If I want to be a fantasy author, I have to watch them, whether I like it or not. But my pride continued to hold me back.
It was Stephen King that came along with a wrecking ball and knocked down the wall. About halfway through the year, I finally decided to finish reading On Writing after I’d stopped in the middle a few years ago, for one reason or another. It is about three-quarters through the book that King recommends HP because of how well Rowling handles backstory, along with the fact that the series is “just fun, pure story from beginning to end”. As if that wasn’t enough, he then puts the first three books, if I recall correctly (4-7 had not been released yet), in his list of favourites from the previous ten years.
Well, I guess that’s it then. If the King suggests it, then who am I to argue?
Chapter Four: Through the Trapdoor
And that’s where it started. Over the next couple of months, my wife and I watched all of the movies for the first time. Philosopher’s Stone was fine, even if the actors did make me feel like I was watching The Little Rascals: Magic Edition. Hermoine’s “What, an, idiot,” line is the best. Chamber of Secrets was all right; even Dobby was okay in the end. I really liked the Tom Riddle stuff. Prisoner of Azkaban was, overall, pretty good, but the time travel stuff was weird. Lupin is my favourite character in the movies and Sirus is great, too. But what the heck was up with that final shot? A freeze-frame, really? Nonetheless, I was starting to get into it at this point.
Goblet of Fire is where it started to pick up, though. I much prefer the darker tone of the series, and the Triwizard Tournament was fun. Also, I like Michael Gambon better as Dumbledore (sorry not sorry), and I have no problem with the line DIDYOUPUTYOURNAMEINTHEGOBLETOFFIRE? Order of the Pheonix was my favourite movie, because it’s simply amazing how Voldy is this unspeakably evil murderer, and yet within about a minute you hate Umbridge more than him. Also, the Department of Mysteries stuff is awesome.
Next was, obviously, Half-Blood Prince. It’s impossible not to know pretty much all the plot twists of the series by 22, fan or not, so I knew about both Dumbledore’s death and Snape’s whole thing. It was a great movie, though, and the cave by the ocean scene was simply chilling. I found Deathly Hallows Part One kind of confusing and annoying, mainly because it felt like for half the movie they were wandering around the wilderness aimlessly. I didn’t really get why they couldn’t go back to Grimmauld Place, because Hermoine’s explanation of their escape from the Ministry was so quick. Deathly Hallows Part Two was solid, although I still didn’t really know how they got the Sword of Gryffindor in the Forest of Dean since it was so quickly explained. But it was a great way to end the series, leaving me wanting more.
Thankfully, there are these things called novels.
Chapter Five: Magic is Might
It was perhaps a few weeks after finishing the movies that I stumbled across the novels in my local department store, being sold for $10 each. I wasn’t reading anything at the time (what a terrible aspiring author I am), so I decided I’d take the plunge. My pride was still an issue. Watching the movies was one thing, but the books? Surely that’s too far. But, for once in my life, I swallowed my pride and bought The Philosopher’s Stone.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
I mostly read it on the train, since I had a long commute to university. My pride had me holding it cover-to-the-floor, so that other people, who I’d never see again, couldn’t see what I was reading. An adult man reading Harry Potter? Oh, how scandalous! Despite this, I enjoyed it much more than the movie, even if the climax was a little bit of a letdown since Harry falls unconscious so quickly. Things were explained so much better and I felt far more engaged with it. In a couple of weeks, I was done and went to buy book two.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
It was then that I faced a real test. When we were at the shops, my wife suggested that we just buy all the rest at once, since I was obviously going to read the whole series. Spend $60 on Harry Potter books at once? It was unthinkable. But she was right. I didn’t want to be going back to the store every couple of weeks for a new one when it would ultimately cost the same. I made her carry them, though, because there was no way I was going to be seen carrying six Harry Potter books out of the shop. I’d look like such a nerd! It was a good thing she suggested buying them all, though, because I finished The Chamber of Secrets in two days at home.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
When reading The Prisoner of Azkaban, I had a lot of fun with all of the Hermoine time-travel antics throughout the book. I did find the climax to be a bit of a letdown again, mainly because The Dementor’s Kiss is the shortest chapter in the entire series and I had been looking forward to that moment. But the few chapters right before and after it, with the confrontation in the Shrieking Shack and more time-travel antics, were excellent. Oh, and Harry threatening the Dursleys with the fact that his godfather’s a mass murderer was brilliant.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I read The Goblet of Fire with a strong sense of anticipation since this was where the movies got interesting. I turned each page eagerly awaiting the death of Cedric Diggory, as horrible as that sounds. I liked Cedric, but his death signifies a major tone shift in the series that I couldn’t wait for. I savoured every scene he was in, getting ready for the emotional punch I knew was coming. And it never came. Of course, Cedric died, but I didn’t feel it. He just kind of… died. And that was it. Harry barely gave it a passing thought, in the heat of the moment. That’s understandable, given the situation, but I was still left feeling a bit disappointed.
Other than that, it was fantastic. I love Fleur and was disappointed that she wouldn’t be in the series again (I know, more on that later). The Quidditch World Cup didn’t disappoint if you ignore the ending that made no sense (Seriously, Bulgaria just had to score two more goals before the Snitch was caught. Even if the odds were 1000 to 1, why would you do that Krum?). I like Mad-Eye, even if he was locked in a chest the whole time, and I enjoyed all of the plots that were cut from the movie. I was a big fan of Ludo Bagman. Overall, great book.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Order of the Phoenix was my favourite of the movies, so I had high expectations for the novel. I wasn’t at all intimidated by the fact that it was by far the longest in the series. Ridiculously long novels are my bread and butter. Umbridge was somehow even worse on the page. Dumbledore’s Army was awesome, and Dumbledore’s escape from the Ministry even better. He felt more in control than he did in the movie.
There was one part, however, where I read something that made me put the book down and stare off into space. Fleur Delacour working at the Ministry with Bill Weasley. “Wait,” I thought, “is she who Bill gets married to in Deathly Hallows?” I had no idea who he was marrying when watching the movie. I’d wondered why Madame Maxine was there! I thought she must have been Hagrid’s date or something. So yeah, that was an experience.
I was surprised that the occlumency lessons happened so late in the book, given that it was talked about on the blurb. Harry being upset that his father was a bit of a jerk was really enjoyable to read. Up until this point in the series, I’d been slightly disappointed at all of the climaxes, but this one was perfect. Action-packed, racing through the Department of Mysteries which had been built up for the entire book. Sirius died and Harry’s pain felt like it was actually there in the moment. Sirius had turned into my favourite character in the books, so I felt his death too. Just like the movies, at the time of reading OotP was the one I enjoyed the most. It, however, was quickly replaced.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Man, what a ride The Half-Blood Prince turned out to be. The reason this stands above OotP is because of Tom Riddle’s backstory alone. He’s just so fascinating, and I loved seeing more about him and actually learning about the Horcruxes. Slughorn was great, Harry’s obsession with the Prince excellently written. Harry as Quidditch captain, with Ron and Ginny on the team was a heap of fun. The romance between Harry and Ginny actually worked and wasn’t the most awkward and forced thing I’ve ever seen. My favourite part was when Harry takes the Felix Felicis and just does things completely on impulse. The Cave was brutal, the Lightning-Struck Tower intense, and the battle after it quick and punchy.
My only disappointment was that I thought Harry catching Snape and casting Sectrumsempra worked better in the movie. Alan Rickman’s delivery of “You dare use my own spells against me, Potter? It was I who invented them — I, the Half-Blood Prince!” was simply brilliant, and I figured that had to come straight out of the book. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for it, but it never came. That didn’t stop it being my favourite of the seven, though.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
I finished The Deathly Hallows a few days ago, and all I can say is: thank goodness for books, am I right? Reading this one was like being showered in pure knowledge, compared to the first film adaptation that left me completely confused. My favourite moment of this one was at the end of the wedding. The simplicity of the scene when Kingsley’s Patronus announces that the Ministery has fallen hit me so much harder than it did in the movie, for some reason. The chaos that follows only lasts a page, but it’s powerful.
Harry’s visions get more intense, building tension. Their journey through the countryside made much more sense to me with the group Apparating to new locations every day. Ron calling it quits is timed much better, with Harry’s dismissal of the danger to Ginny. I felt that the order and timing of information (such as the Snitch revealing ‘I open at the close’, needing the Sword of Gryffindor, etc.) just worked better. I understand how the sword got there, sympathise with Snape a bit more now, and am not so confused about how Harry survived Avada Kedavra a second time anymore.
Kreacher becoming friendly with the trio was amazing, and then he came out of nowhere and led a freaking house-elf revolution! Best line of the series, however, goes to Ron when he invisibly punches Malfoy and says, “And that’s the second time we’ve saved your life tonight, you two-faced bastard!” The Battle of Hogwarts was thrilling. You-Know-Who throwing the Sorting Hat onto Neville and then setting it on fire was absolutely brutal.
I also loved that Harry stayed under the cloak right until the last moment, when Voldy and Bellatrix were cornered in the great hall. And then the final showdown! I absolutely adored that it was mostly dialogue, rather than casting spells. Harry trying to convince Voldy that the Horcruxes were gone and that he had been played by Snape was much more satisfying than them flying weirdly around the castle together for three minutes. And then, rather than destroying the Elder Wand, which I thought was weird in the movie, Harry uses it to repair his old wand, planning to hide the WMD instead. This book wasn’t quite my favourite (it does move up to #2, though), but it easily had the best improvement from the movie.
Clearly, I had a lot more to say about the books than the movies. The movies were decent. The books were freaking fantastic. I’ve never read an entire series so quickly. In order of enjoyment, I’d probably rank the books as follows.
#1 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
#2 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
#3 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
#4 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
#5 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
#6 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
#7 – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Chapter Six: The Parting of Ways
It’s been quite the journey. I’ve written over four thousand words about Harry Potter in one day. I would have laughed if you’d told me that twelve months ago. It’s weird, and now that I’ve reached the end, now that I’ve put all my thoughts down on the page, I don’t quite know how to end it. I guess the end can begin with an apology.
To anyone I ever made fun of or judged for liking Harry Potter, I’m sorry. To myself, I’m sorry. To J.K. Rowling, even though you’ll never read this, I’m sorry. I was wrong. To anybody who’s read to the end, I’m sorry this post ended up being so long. I didn’t expect to write an essay today. I took a whole day out of revising A Fate Entwined, so I hope someone at least makes it this far.
One day, I’ll read these books to my children, and I’ll give them the experience I never had as a kid. I don’t get excited for much, by nature, but I am very much looking forward to that. I hope I can do it justice.
This has been a strange experience for me. As you would have worked out by now, I’m a very prideful person. It’s going to be hard to put this piece out there, because people I’ve told my whole life that I hate Harry Potter will probably see it. They’ll either think I’m joking or have gone mental. I’m not joking, mental or both. I’ve changed. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. I never thought I’d be here.
The truth is, I
am Iron Man like Harry Potter.
Say! I do like Harry Potter!
I do! I like it, Hermoine’s Patronus the Otter!
And I would read it in a boat.
And I would read it with a goat…
I thought I’d finish off this post by answering some of the questions I would have asked myself, or others would have asked me, had I been a fan of Harry Potter back then.
Hogwarts House: Ravenclaw
Hogwarts Pet: An owl named Pockets
Favourite Spell: Accio
Quidditch Position: Beater
Type of wand based on a totally random test: 9″ vine wood, thestral tail hair
Patronus: Red panda or fox
Which Deathly Hallow?: Cloak of Invisibility
What would I see in the Mirror of Erised?: The Richmond Tigers winning the AFL Premiership every year. That, or a seven-book publishing deal.
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