Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and I first got to know each other back in 1998. I was in my second year of teaching and vividly recall one of my students telling me in animated tones about a book his mother was reading to him at night. It was about a boy and his friends who went to a school specially for wizards and witches and they had all these adventures and ... I'm not exaggerating when I say that this boy determinedly never showed excitement about anything; he was one of the most 'in control' students I have ever come across, and so his manner immediately got my attention. Anything that could get him talking animatedly had to be good.

Fast forward a few months and we held a Book Week at our school, involving an exciting week with stacks of book-related activities and culminating in a big event on the Friday when staff and students all came to school dressed as book characters. We invited notable Wellingtonions and New Zealanders to read stories to our classes. I was thrilled when Sir Michael Hardie Boys (who was Governor General at the time) asked if he could read The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate by Margaret Mahy to a class! Another guest, Mark Blumsky (Wellington mayor at the time) arrived with a book he had bought at Los Angeles airport and excitedly read all the way back to Wellington. The book? Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which we were already reading together in class.

We raced through the first three novels in the series and even my most reluctant readers fell in love with the world of Hogwarts. The children (and teachers) couldn't get enough of the books and we eagerly anticipated the fourth installment in the series being released: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Unfortunately for my younger readers, the length of the novels doubled at that stage and the reading level rose considerably. The most determined continued with support. I couldn't help myself and raced ahead of my class. (There has to be some advantage to being an adult reader among a bunch of 8-year-olds.)

And then the movies started to be released. We keenly anticipated the first. Would it be any good? What would the characters look like? And Hogwarts itself? For me, the ultimate test would be the enchanted ceiling in the great dining hall. It passed, but I haven't been overly enthralled with any of the movies since then, preferring to get back to the books.

I really struggled to get through Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final installment in a series I thoroughly enjoyed. After repeatedly hearing that it was the best of them all, albeit a bit slow to start, I finally finished reading it in three stages. Admittedly, this didn't help me much with continuity but I preferred to pick up where I left off rather than re-read some chapters. For me, the story just went on and on with endless chases for horcruxes and hallows, resulting in some huge battles and an extensive body count; I lose interest when things get like that. Things did manage to resolve in the last fifty or so pages, so we got there in the end. For me, none of the books was quite as 'magical' (no pun intended) as the first in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which set the scene for everything else to come.

I can't help but wonder if the characters of the novel evolved more into the actors who played them in the movies, rather than the other way around. For example, Hermione. She was initially portrayed as being a girlie-swot mudblood, born of Muggle parents who were dentists. This led to her ironcally having huge front teeth. However, once the movies got going and Hermione assumed a glamour-puss look à la Emma Watson, all mention of her oversized teeth disappeared.

And so, here we are at the end of a twelve-year relationship. I'm a little sad but ready to say goodbye. 101 in 1001 activity #67 - Read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was about far more than reading a single book; it was finding closure with a literary tale that started in the early days of my career and followed me ever since. Love or hate the books, there's no doubting that J K Rowling's greatest achievement has been inspiring a generation of children to love reading - I've seen it first hand and will always admire her for that. Potter fever is once again about to sweep the movie world. I'll probably see the final two movies in time, but it's the series of books that will hold my memories and loyalty.


Mark said...

Harry Potter has come to an end. I’m sure to miss you all. But I’m so excited for their red carpet.

remi online said...

i will miss Harry Potter for shure!i heard that daniel is getting kinda bored of playing harry for 10 years..

Susan said...

I will me harry either.

Sarah of 'Catching the Magic' said...

Phew! Well done on finishing the last book! I read all the others with ease, but struggled to get into the last and have yet to finish it.

I have a 7 year old (and 2 younger children), so know that Harry will be in our lives for many years yet.

Alli said...

It was a closing mark to a certain part of my life when I finished Deathly Hallows. I just saw the seventh movie last night and I enjoyed it (I have a high appreciation for the movies because I accept that they'll never tell us everything that the books do). I'm glad Harry Potter could get your students so excited to read - that's what I truly love this series for! I was in fifth grade when the first book came out and it's what inspired my love of reading. For that I will forever be indebted to JK Rowling.