Introduction to Harry Potter
The Harry Potter series has captured the minds of young people from across the globe. It has spanned seven best-selling books and 8 well-loved movies that launched the careers of three of the most well-known child artistes in the world. The fantasy series was written by JK Rowling in London and was first published in the year 1998. The stupendous success of the series has captured the imagination of a number of children and teenagers globally. With the release of each book in the series, the anticipation of what was to come has been high.
Introducing the Wizarding World
Titled ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone in the US), the book begins with a one year old Harry Potter surviving a mysterious murder attempt by a villain known as Lord Voldemort’ and being sent to live with his relatives, the Dursely family at Surrey, England. Ten years later, Harry is badly treated by the family who seem to fear him for unknown reasons. He is revealed to be a wizard by a man called Hagrid who takes him under his wing and tells him he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, changing his life forever. He begins his education at the school, making friends with Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. Their first year at the school sees them taking on the wraith-like form of Lord Voldemort who is out to kill Harry. It is revealed that Harry’s parents died to protect him because Voldemort wanted to kill him. When Harry asks the headmaster and his mentor, Albus Dumbledore why Voldemort wanted him dead, he says that he would answer the question when Harry was older.
The second book, ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ focuses on the elitism that the wizarding world has. The second book begins with a terrible summer vacation for Harry at the end of which he is rescued by Ron Weasley and his brothers. He is greeted warmly by the Weasley family and while out shopping for his school supplies, Harry and Hermione are introduced to the nastier aspects of the Wizarding World, where people like Harry and Hermione who come from non-magical (muggle) families are looked down upon by a few elitists who were said to support the fallen antagonist Voldemort. When they return to school, they struggle to solve the mystery of attacks that leave their victims in a coma-like state. The mystery deepens when the victims are all revealed to be muggle-borns. The identity of the attacker makes jaws drop and readers will be left marvelling at the mastery of JK Rowling’s gift of storytelling.
A Darker Tone to the series
The third book of the series, ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban takes an even darker tone than the second book which was notably darker than its predecessor. Harry is now a teenager and with the issues that come with it. Having done magic to harm a cruel relative (by accident) he runs away from home and is transported to the Wizarding World’s pub, ‘The Leaky Cauldron’ where the Minister of Magic greets him and takes steps to assure his safety. The reasons for this unusual interest in Harry are revealed when he learns that an escaped convict who was shown on the news is actually an evil wizard who is believed to be the most loyal follower of Voldemort called Sirius Black. More worrisome for Harry is the presence of the dementors, creatures of the dead who cause a person to relieve the worst moments of their life. Harry is guided through this difficult moment by a loving teacher called Remus Lupin who was friends with his father. Harry learns that Sirius Black and the slain Peter Pettigrew were also friends with his father and that one of them betrayed Harry’s parents making the other the scapegoat. How the three friends save the innocent man forms the rest of the mystery.
The first three books while far more light-hearted than the remaining four of the series establishes the complex wizarding world and the prejudices that have been ingrained in its society. From slavery of creatures called ‘house-elves’ to the treatment given to werewolves and the elitist attitude of the wizarding society towards non-magical people and muggle-borns, there is a lot of parallel to the real world. The wizarding sport of Quidditch is enthralling as the series progresses just as Harry’s understanding of the world he now lives in. The second part of this article will talk about the final four books of the series.