Life After Harry

A fourteen-year bond between reader and character hangs by a thread

Staying up until 4 am on a Friday night. Groggily refusing to leave the house Saturday and instead spending the daylight hours nestled into a favorite couch corner. Running to bed, only to stay up again until dawn. It was impossible to stop. To break the flow. To wait until tomorrow.

This entranced hangover was a universal experience for legions of devoted fans. Legions who spent months and months between installments speculating about upcoming plot twists and developments. Legions who, after July 15, 2011, must break their addiction with few strings remaining to tie them to the companionship that was once so all consuming, so enveloping.

For this date marks the end of an era, the end of Harry Potter.

With the last installment of the movie series based on the fastest-selling book series of all time on the verge of a global release, it’s worth a closer look at just how deeply J.K. Rowling’s wily, wistful, and at times, bleak alternaverse affected an entire generation of devoted followers.

An outline written on a napkin turned into one of the most resilient and resonant stories of our time. There is the rags-to-riches success story of Joanne Rowling, who, in the past 14 years, went from toiling away in a Scottish tenement flat to globe trotting with an estimated net worth of over $1 Billion. The series totals over 4,000 pages and has been translated into 65 languages. In a climate that killed newspapers and left the print industry in utter crisis, these pages have thrived. Kids (and adults) read books. In a very real sense, Harry Potter is a physical manifestation of the magic of the implausible.

With odds against them, a rag-tag group of middle schoolers blossomed into a wizened-beyond-their-years team of friends who thwarted, swindled, and out maneuvered the most nefarious forces in their midst. As one of the defining cultural properties of the 2000s, Harry Potter reflects a generational imperative to refuse complacency, embrace the unknown, and with all tools available, be a force of good, a force of change

Both the macro (book) and micro (story) lessons from Harry Potter revolve around inspiration and possibility, instilling a sense of hope, awe, wonder and curiosity into its followers. But what may be even more important and more prevalent is the bond that’s been forged over the last decade and a half between reader and character, the likes of which have only been hinted at with franchises like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Built upon years of anticipation, grasping for nuggets of information, and savoring layers of experiences, this was a deeply enriching and formative relationship.

Like the best friend from elementary school who moves away and attempts to become a pen pal but eventually falls off the bandwagon, this connection seems to be at the inevitable precipice of estrangement. With the mysterious online megaverse, Pottermore, in beta, the powers that be are fearful of this too. But going back and reliving the past, maybe uncovering something that was missed will never quite rival the power of what’s next. So now that the greatest unknown of all lies ahead, the unknown of a life without Harry, it’s clear that now is the time to put the learnings of this relationship–loyalty, courage, trust, freshness–into practice beyond the page.

Written By Lirra Schiebler Photo Via