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.