Frequently these days, I’ve seen ‘J. K. Rowling’ trending on Facebook. My first reaction is disbelief (‘what did she tweet this time?’) and then excitement as I realise another portal to the Harry Potter universe is to be opened sooner than expected.
Unfortunately, Facebook is shaky territory for a staunch supporter of the Wizarding World. Rowling’s trending name often sparks abusive articles from her critics. Too often, I see strangers speculating as to how far one woman is allowed to ‘milk’ her creation.
What nonsense! Why should we want to halt an author in her tracks when she has provided so many children (and adults) all over the globe with a comforting break from reality, at some point in their lives?
If it is moral instruction, rather than comfort, you’re after (and who can blame you, given the world’s current moral compass) the life lessons in Rowling’s stories are boundless. We learn of Remus Lupin’s virtues, for instance, before we discover that he is a werewolf and so persecuted by prejudiced wizard assholes. Centaurs, house-elves, giants and Muggle-borns are similarly harassed, but Rowling shows us the best of these oppressed groups. Hermione is a Muggle-born witch but the brightest in her year; Firenze is a centaur trusted to teach Divination; Hagrid is the beloved gamekeeper of Hogwarts, also a half-giant; and who didn’t shed a tear at Dobby the house-elf’s death?
Rowling even demonstrates how prejudice can mislead the most well-meaning of readers. Professor Snape is verbally abused throughout the series by various characters, and it’s hard not to join in with this tirade. But to what extent has Snape been shaped by a past of abuse, unrequited love, and forced loyalty to a man who fails to keep his side of a bargain? The fact that Snape turns out to be capable of love, and in the end sacrifices his life to aid the destruction of Voldemort, proves that no matter how certain we might be of disliking somebody, we can never know everything about them.
Similarly, although brave and compassionate, Rowling’s protagonist is naïve, reckless and short-tempered. Although Harry’s great victory is to stick to a path ruled by love and friendship, whilst ignoring the appeal of the Deathly Hallows (something Dumbledore himself was unable to do), he wavers on this moral journey as any mortal would.
Best of all, Rowling understands the importance of laughter. She never misses an opportunity to make her readers smile, be it because Harry, Ron and Hermione no longer fit under the Invisibility Cloak, Neville turns into a canary, or the Dursleys insist they are only Harry’s family, ‘in a manner of speaking’.
For these reasons and countless others, the world of Harry Potter is my hot water bottle when I’m curled up in bed and need to defrost my soul. And this is true for aspiring witches and wizards everywhere. Genuine fan-fictions exist where Rowling’s characters congregate inside the Great Hall, in order to read the Harry Potter books together. Jo’s writing is so well loved. I hate to see that forgotten.