It has been sometime since I read or watched Harry Potter movies again for the umpteenth time. Finally my craving was too strong and I decided on a marathon reading of all the books once again and as usual I was not disappointed. It is a great feeling when you know the story by heart and still end up discovering nuggets that were hidden somewhere or finding something that you had not really appreciated earlier. Here I am going to focus on such simple things that I discovered.
This being a long series of books you wonder how J. K. Rowling managed to maintain consistency across characters and events. But the truth is that she did maintain it. It was a pleasure to come across the name “Lovegood” in book four “The Goblet of Fire” before the introduction of Luna in book five. But that mention tells you how Ron will remember that “Lovegoods” stayed close to “Burrow” in book seven. Similarly reading about Peverell coat of arms in book six while Dumbledore takes Harry to meet with Gaunts in memory was interesting since the actual meaning of Peverells gets clear only in book seven.
The most amazing discovery was during the final fight between Harry and Voldemort when I realised that during second round of fight nobody from Harry’s side gets hurt since he had already sacrificed himself to save everyone else and it was same sacrifice that her mother had made for him. Somehow I had missed that finer detail during earlier readings of the book in the excitement of final battle.
I also found one inconsistency in book four. I am not sure if it is a well-known mistake or not. It comes towards the end of the book four by when Harry had already faced Voldemort and seen the death of Cedric Diggory. He uses horseless carriages to return from Hogwarts to train station to catch the train at the end of the year but does not notice the invisible creatures “Thestrals” pulling on the carriages. In book five he notices them on arrival at Hogwarts and the explanation we are given is that he can see them since he has seen death. But he should have seen them in book four itself or he should have used another means of transport to return to train station.
I am sure I will find more such nuggets as I read it again sometime in future and it will amaze me once again. This is a great story however many times you read it.
My earliest memories of book reading are related to stories. Books were meant for those short simple stories either related to mythology, animals or cartoons. They were meant for entertainment and passing your time. After some years a different category of books got added to this. I remember reading some Russian books translated in Hindi about space exploration, planets and other science subjects. There were books about greatest and best adventures, mysteries, treasures and such information. That was the time when books changed from being entertainment to source of information as well.
As I grew older, the kind of stories I was reading also changed. I was reading thrillers, complex stories, science fiction and humor. I still enjoyed reading the stories but now I was also learning from these stories. I was able to create my own version of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts in my mind. I had my own image of Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark or Eric Segal’s Barney. I was creating my own Universe while reading these stories. Many of these stories were also rich source of cultural nuances of different societies and people. I also started reading history and books related to historical research. That opened my eyes to not only today’s civilization but of our ancestors as well. Now the books were becoming more than a source of information. They were my friend and guide as well.
More recently, I got interested in books which are described as Self-Help books. Many of these books have complex philosophical and psychological concepts. They are about behavioral economics of individuals, groups and societies. I have started learning about the nature of our own thoughts and actions. Today the books are my companion, friend, my shrink and my guide as well. Not only the nature of books that I read have evolved but what I extract from a simple story book has also changed over the years. I can enjoy a non-fiction “Guns Germs and Steel” as easily as a story book and I also enjoy discovering deep psychological concepts from Harry Potter books.
When I speak to people, it is the books that I have read throughout my life that are speaking on my behalf. This attempt at writing blog on the books that I have read is the next phase of my book reading where I am not only benefitting from the books that I read but I am also sharing them with the unseen world. Books have played a great role in shaping my life and I wish it will play the same role to all the other readers out there.
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets book Dumbledore announces while being forced to leave Hogwarts that “Help will be given to those at Hogwarts who ask for it”. I have found that it is true for me in a different way. It seems as though some unseen identity has decided that “Help would be given to me through books whenever I need it and am ready for it”. It has happened to me before and it has happened again. I have been reading “The Present” by Spencer Johnson for quite some time now but I was reading it in bits and pieces. I did not finish it till recently and probably it was good because I was not ready for it.
The book is about how we should live in the present moment and how that can help us to be happier and more effective. It talked about learning from past and also planning for future. I was reading it with a bit of scepticism since these are very common sensical thoughts and I had read them before in many other books. But recently I finished reading the book and the final words made the true difference for me. In the end the book says that “Realize your purpose and explore ways to make your work and life more meaningful”. Once again it is not something new but it made great sense to me in the current situation. Any planning, living in the present or learning from past can be futile if you do not have or follow a purpose in life.
This is a very simple and short book like others from the same author and he has put his thoughts in a form of a very simple story. Actually, it can be read in one sitting. But I think it was good that I read the book over many weeks and slowly grasped it.
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.