There is wonder in opening a new book. Possibilities. New friends. New adventures. Reasons to cry and to laugh. Fall in love. Loathe.
Opening a favorite book is like going home. Mom, dad, the pets are all there ready to welcome you and catch up. So familiar and yet slightly changed each visit. New perspectives, a bit more wisdom. Make you fall in love just that much more.
Like many, Harry Potter is a dear friend of mine. In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t dream up a better sister and friend than Ginny Weasley. She’s a badass who makes me smile and cheer and gives me strength. Conversely, Umbridge has my vote for the most vile literary villain. The very thought of her makes my heart pound with absolute disgust and anger. She hits that place in me which has always felt overwhelming empathy for those who are unjustly wronged. And my response to that woman hurting my friends is visceral.
Last month, I decided to re-read the seven Harry Potter books. My goal was to really pay attention to the thoughts I had about the story-the things I noticed and discovered. The emotions I had and which themes emerged for me at this point in my life. I devoured all four thousand two hundred and twenty four pages in fifteen days.
I made some quirky observations about JK Rowling’s frequent use of the word “seriously” in Prisoner of Azkaban. Did some calculations about the size and capacity of the student body of Hogwarts. Does the wizard population remain constant or do many little wizards and witches get shafted on their eleventh birthdays? If boggarts’ true form is unknowable because they always take the form of their viewers worst fear, why not just ask Mad-Eye to look through a dark trunk with his magic eye and reveal the big secret? What is it with Aberforth and goats? Siriusly.
Wondered if the innuendoes were intentional. I mean really, who else was SURE that Ginny caught Percy masturbating in Chamber of Secrets… and not just making out with Penelope Clearwater. How about Mr Dursley asking Dudley in horror if Harry used “his thing” on him in Order of the Phoenix? “Wands are only as powerful as the Wizards who use them. Some wizards just like to boast that theirs are bigger and better.” Wise words, Hermione.
I was once again ravished by the deaths of Hedwig, Sirius and Fred. But this time around, the loss that caused the most anguish was that of Tonks and Lupin. They’d only begun to figure out life and love, had become parents. That Teddy would grow up without parents. That they struggled like the rest of us and death came and screwed it all up. Despair. It brought out all the usual fears in me. What if I finally find a partner that doesn’t care if I have purple hair every now and again and then there is a terrible accident? Or we couldn’t conceive? Life is a raging bitch.
Most surprising was the amount of foreshadowed characters and events that I caught because I know this story. A dusty locket in a cupboard is not just a locket. A ghost flitting by Ron’s sickbed isn’t just another ghost. Harry notes that the barkeep at Hog’s Head is “vaguely familiar.” Realizing that Fred and George’s bewitched snowballs were really hitting Voldemort was a personal giggle moment.
As love grew between Hermione and Ron, Harry and Ginny, I mostly registered disbelief that these folk found their true life partners in middle school. I mean, their relationships are adorable and long-lasting. I just imagine Hermione kicking herself fifteen years down the road for shackling herself to a lug like Ron. We are not the people we were as teenagers. Ok, I’m maybe jealous.
Perhaps the most disturbing crossover between the world of Harry Potter and our own comes from Grindelwald’s slogan “For the greater good” etched into the Nuremgard prison and Hitler’s “Arbeit macht frei” guarding the gates of concentration camps. Grindelwald saw Muggles as inferior and therefore sought to dominate them. Later, Voldemort took that doctrine further to include Muggle-born wizards. An obsession with pure blood. A fear of cultures not our own. Under the leadership of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, the Ministry of Magic systematically increased the persecution of Muggle-borns starting with a registry, moving to accusations of falsehood and trials, and ending with mass roundups and disappearances. I will say that the similarities to the current mood in America is striking.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. — Edmund Burke
Wherever I got my love of books, I am thankful. Being able to disappear into other worlds is a gift. Being able to use those worlds to help me understand my own is priceless.