In Harry Potter series of books, there is a mention of books that actually teach you how to make a Horcrux that is the most evil form of magic. There is also a mention of restricted section in library which is to be accessed only with permission and which has all these books describing about dark arts. This led me to think about real life books and why we do not see books that actually teach you how to do wrong things. A manual on breaking into a house, gambling or doing con jobs (maybe more but I do not wish to go in that direction); scientifically explained with details.
Most of the books that are written and are present in libraries are about stories where good always triumphs over evil or there are books about some real life events but written with compassion. Of course there are some thriller books where authors go to great details about how a criminal is planning and executing the crime but these are work of fiction and mostly have details which are really not easy to do in real life. The author tries to show that despite the criminal being so intelligent, they always get caught by police. There are restricted sections in library but they are meant primarily for adult stuff related to sex and relationships.
Maybe such books do exist somewhere but they get banned and never come to mainstream market and are only available in grey market. I am not complaining here. It is actually a good reason for all of us to encourage reading habit in kids. The chance of kids getting something good out of the books is so high due to the nature of book writing itself. Sometimes, I wonder if I had access to really easy tricks for gambling or con-job, would I be tempted to indulge to buy that book or more interestingly use that book for some extra money? I guess I will never know. Will you?
I was wondering why some characters and their names in the books become so famous and why some of them are completely forgotten even though the book itself may be quite famous. In some cases the title of the book itself makes the name of the character very famous like Harry Potter or Eragon but in other cases it is the strength of the character that makes it famous like Howard Roark in Fountainhead. But there are other books where you will find it very difficult to remember the name of the character. As an example, I do not remember the name of main character in Five Point Someone or Love Story. I guess it has also to do with the narrative style of the story as well. If the story is written in first person the name is used less often making it less memorable.
Is it necessary for the name of the character to reflect the nature? I guess not. I wonder how J. K. Rowling decided on Harry or Hermione or Ron. She has given lot of thought while deciding names of spells but she seemed to have picked up really common names for her main characters. Even the Bella of Twilight is a very common name. On the other hand, some books come up with very uncommon names like Eragon. Something that you have never heard of. If the name is so common, do we still start relating that name with the type of character if that character becomes famous. Will we think of very intelligent and sharp girl if we meet some real life Hermione?
There is another aspect of naming that I have found very amusing. When books are translated from other languages to English, the native names are still taken in and then it becomes difficult to remember those names like it happened with me while reading War and Peace. I guess many non-Indians will find difficult to remember names if they were to read Mahabharata in English.
I guess the naming of characters is a complicated process in the minds of author and mostly they also do not realize how it can turn around depending upon the success of that book.
I have never given this topic a thought that who would be my favourite character in Harry Potter books besides Harry himself. Let me see what will be the result by the end of this post. I am excluding Harry here because he seems to be the favourite by default and it would be difficult to compare and select somebody else if he is also in the competition.
Ron and Hermione are the obvious choices but I have not liked character of Ron much. He is a good friend but he has his own quirks and moods. Hermione also is a good friend of Harry but she is portrayed as too self-assured and bookish though the character develops into much more mature person in later books. Hagrid is probably most lovable of the characters but then he seems to be goofing up all the time. Dumbledore is another choice but somehow he is shown above all throughout the book except for the last one where we get to know about his past.
Then there are second level of Harry’s friends like Neville, Luna, Weasely brothers, Ginny, Lupin, Sirius and many others. All of them are shown as really good friends of Harry. I think I have liked Neville’s character more than anybody else. Somebody who grows from being a scared, shy person to a very strong character by the end of the story.
There are dark characters as well who go between being bad and good through the story like Snape, Draco, Peter and few others. I normally do not like these dark characters but in the end it is the Snape that impresses me most. He is one of the most misunderstood character who gave everything for the love of his life. His character really shows what remorse can do to a bad person.
In the end I think I will go with Dobby and Kreacher as the favourite characters in the book, specifically Kreacher after his transformation where he starts liking Harry. Please do share who has been your favourite character from Harry Potter series.
I am coming back to Harry Potter again. I was wondering what was the unique thing in Rowling’s first book that made it so famous. Before the first book nobody knew Rowling. The world of Harry Potter did not exist. The book became popular completely on its own merit. Of course the subsequent books also were successful but they had the advantage of riding on the success of first book.
When I started reading the book, I was bowled over by the simplicity of the thought. Harry Potter’s magical world is not a different era or earth. It is part of non-magic people (Muggles). He lives in a very simple residential locality in Britain. Watches the same TV that you and me watch, goes to same school, playground and Zoo. I think this is where Rowling scores over world of “Eragon” or “Lord of the Rings”. Reader does not need to learn about a new world, at least not when Harry is living with Muggles.
When Harry realizes that he is a wizard, the things begin to change. But here also Rowling has created magic in a most magical way. Harry is almost created in a form of common magician that we have seen so often on a stage having a wand, robe and a hat. He performs magic by the swish of a wand and a magic incantation. Harry also needs to go to a school to learn magic. He has to read books, do practicals, attend classes and pass exams. Every school going kid can relate to that. Of course the subjects are different but Rowling makes them very logical for reader to understand whether it is boring history of magic or exciting defence against the dark arts.
Even the idea of using a train with coal engine and smoke from a busy railway station in London is a stroke of genius. A part of reality mixed with a bit of magic. I am sure all Harry Potter fans passing through King’s Cross station would stop at platform 9 and 10 and search for that elusive door that can take them to Hogwarts.
Another aspect which I really like is that Harry is not shown as super being. He does not have many powers, he is not physically strong like Ron or sharp like Hermione. But what he has is courage and determination to prove himself and he knows how to value friendship. The scene in dungeon when Hermione is taking Ron back and Harry has to go alone to fight “He who must not be named” is extremely touching when Hermione hugs him and tells him the same things.
The world of Harry Potter is magical not because it has magic in it but because of its simplicity and touch of reality mixed with wishfulness of being able to do more than what we can do with today’s science.
Actually I think J K Rowling is a much bigger witch as compared to all the witches and wizards that she has put in her books. Her books have probably brought back the idea of parents reading story books to their kids like it used to be with our great grandparents. But her books are not meant only for kids. In my opinion they are the highest form of literature. The grand idea, the detailing, names, new words and a story that remains connected throughout the seven books.
I read her first book sometime in 2001 when the first movie was about to be released and I saw a lot of coverage in newspapers and media. Before that I had heard of the series and hype associated with it but somehow it could not interest me. I still thought of it as children’s book. But then I could not resist myself after hearing so much and bought the first book and I have been hooked to it ever since. I must have read all the books more than 10 times by now. Till now they have never failed to surprise me each time I read. I find something new, fascinating in these pages which I had not noticed before. It may be an emotion of character, meaning of a word or just play of words. It is a story that not only keeps you hooked till you get to the end and figure out the climax but it is also a story that you can read and enjoy even if you know the climax and end result. I find that I sometimes enjoy it more when I know the end result.
I can probably write on and on about her books but I will write about them in many more posts but in this one I just want to mention about the particular concept of “Dementors”. The idea of dementors, their characterization, their effect on people is so realistic and lifelike that they do not look like fictitious characters at all. If we just replace “Dementor” with our internal demons or the impact that we have on us due to external disasters that happen around us, we see an uncanny resemblance. She does not stop here. The cure for dementors is chocolate which is known to give a boost to person when they feel depressed. How do you deal with dementors. By thinking very hard about the happiest memories that you had in life and lighting up your life with those memories. In one brilliant master stroke she has told us the cure for all the maniac depression that is engulfing the population around the world. This is what I consider a masterpiece.
I will probably come back to writing about Harry Potter again sometime in future. Till then, happy reading