I am back and with me I bring along Harry and his cohorts.
Believe me Harry Potter is either a piece of Blytonian kitsch or a great adventure similar to the likes of the Hobbit in the Lord of the Rings. It is either this or that. Can I say either you love or hate him? Probably yes but I count those who say the series is okay among the supporters. Reports abound the fourth estate that Harry and his ensemble have instilled the fun of reading into kids. Again!! Do I think so, I am a vehement affirmative. Let me relate my story. I started reading when I was past 15, and started off with popular Sheldons and Ludlums and Archers. Slowly I graduated to literature and the likes of Michel Foucault and Jean Baudrillard. But then Harry happened. The initial wave of exhilaration that started with “Philosopher’s stone” was enough to sustain the energy to wait, to be anxious and to be satisfied for the “Hallows” which came this year (2007) on July 21st in India, so to say.
For seasoned readers like me, what comes with the package of Harry Potter is very unique. It lets me, and people like me, to fulfil the voids left by “not” reading the Enid Blytons, The Erle Stanley Gardners, The Nancy Drews and The Famous Fives. It always feels like going back and regaling me to the wonder that is the creation J.K.Rowling. I often wonder what would be the reaction of an adult who is given an opportunity to read Enid Blyton for a fortnight. I know that “I am 23 years old and I am too old to read that now” would be the reaction. This is the challenge that Harry Potter poses to the “kid” among all of us.
But to say that Harry Potter is “child-lit” is to do a grave injustice to the evolution of the series. The silhouette of the characters has progressively become darker and darker. Atypical of “Child-Lit” Harry potter resembles many of the “special-power” men like Batman, Superman so on and so forth. All of them are orphans or have become situational orphans. The special power inside them is different and in fact differentiates them from the other lot. In this case Harry has the magic but the “power of love” is what differentiates him from the “others”. All our superheroes have troubled childhood and often find a paternal figure somewhere during the course of their growing up. The similarities don’t stop here. Somehow the superheroes and in our case, “Harry” are all socially aloof. Harry Potter and his cohorts are agents of therapy of older souls like me and countless others.
However Harry Potter is a linguist’s delight. For those of you who love the gift of language may take note at the first instance that the word “Harry” means to loot or to plunder. Isn’t that an anathema of name the protagonist like this? Phew!! It does not stop here. The entire story from book one to book 7 is littered with linguistic revelations like this. Let us take “Avada Kedavra” or the killing curse. Does the second word look familiar? Kedavra is derived from the word “Cadaver” which means a corpse. What about “Wingardium Leviosa”? Well this is the charm that causes objects to “Levitate”; I guess the connection is clear. Probably the best one is “Levicorpus”. It is an intelligent combination of levitation and corpus which means body. The list goes on with the ilk of “Oppugno”, “Expecto Patronum”, “Fiendfyre” and several such likes. The antagonist “Voldemort” is derived from the word “mort” meaning death. Harry ultimately steals his death from Voldemort by dying himself first. The book is a treasure trove of innocently named characters which when seen in a perspective turn out to be a real surprise. Perhaps in the rush of reading one might not note that “Kreacher” sounds same as “Creature”, a derogatory remark on the lowliness of the house elf. The endearing character “Molly Weasley” is an overprotective one, now does “mollycoddle” sound related. I guess I could go on and on.
Perhaps then Harry Potter is all about magic and it depends on the way you see it. The naming of characters, places and the spells draws from such varied sources that I cannot stop and wonder where I should stop. The esteemed reader of this eulogy will know that I am an aficionado of “Harry the-boy-who-lived Potter”.
"Small wonder that spell means both a story told, and a formula of power over living men." - J.R.R. Tolkien