Walk carefully through the mist, ever mindful of snake holes and tree limbs that come to life, and climb up to the overlook. From here, where the sun shines directly overhead, you can scan the horizon, the fog filling the valleys below, the sea glistening many miles away in the hazy distance. Sit down with me on the green and consider a young chap named Harry Potter and consider how much the world has fallen in love with him.
Young Harry, as the story goes, was orphaned as a babe, his parents the victim of the evil Voldemort…er, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (or You Know Who). Harry was incarnated as the only human being who can match the Dark Lord. A classic good-vs-evil story, the Harry Potter series by author J.K. Rowling was cleverly embedded in a "coming of age" saga, and she succeeded in enticing both young and old readers alike into this imaginary dimension where there exists two types of people: wizards and witches, who have magical abilities; and muggles, who have no magical ability at all.
Rowling’s plot and character development keeps us spellbound in the lives of Harry and his best pals Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger – and his archenemy among classmates, the sneering Draco Malfoy – as well as Harry’s mentors at Hogwarts (the school of witchcraft and wizardry), namely headmaster Albus Dumbledore, who has looked out for Harry ever since James and Lily Potter were killed.
This is a fantasy world filled with spells, incantations, cauldrons and potions, unicorns, centaurs and dragons, boggarts, gnomes, house elfs and giants. Evil dementors feed on human souls, and death eaters who support Lord Voldemort attack wizards and muggles alike. With the return of You Know Who to the scene, the orchestra is rising to a fever pitch as the highly anticipated climax nears.
Just out July 16, the newest episode – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth in a series of seven – continues an advancing story that will end with the next book when Harry Potter and Voldemort match wits and power for the final time.
So what is one to think of the Potter phenomenon (outside of a purely financial perspective that Ms. Rowling earns $677 a word and is the first person ever to become a billionaire by writing)?
The religious outcry that usually erupts when ideas of sorcery and broomsticks are introduced to children has been tempered by the public’s overwhelming acceptance of the fictional stories. And as such, the magical community has been spared another barrage of prejudice and intolerance.
Roger Williamson, shopkeeper of Magus Books, a must stop along Minneapolis’ version of the magical shopping district Diagon Alley in the novels, says the success of Potter is noteworthy not for its promotion of magic and witchcraft among the populace, but for the tolerance demonstrated by those who might otherwise had labeled it as unacceptable.
"It’s all about being open and accepting that other people have a right to their own point of view, isn’t it?" he said.
We are living in a strange time in which the boundaries are gray and the dimensions are overlapping. While children of the past needed a clear example of what was right and wrong, perhaps the new children need something else, perhaps a more subtle guidance of the ways that love transports them through the darkness in the world.
That’s what Ms. Rowling has been showing us in Harry Potter. A young, na