The era of Harry Potter

The end of an era. The end of childhood. I heard many statements like this after the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.”  The last of the Harry Potter movies was a huge event for so many people. Whether you dressed up as a witch or wizard at the midnight premiere or not, the true fans of this series were beside themselves with excitement.

We’ve grown up with Harry. The first book, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” better known as the Sorcerer’s Stone to the American audience, was released in June of 1997. That’s 14 years of our lives.

I was eight years old the first time I laid eyes on anything Harry Potter. I still remember the day my mom came into my room and handed me a strange book. I had never heard of this Potter kid and was slightly reluctant to read something other than Nancy Drew at the time. My mom persisted and told me that J.K. Rowling’s first book was already a best seller in England and that I should try it out. Soon enough, I was enamored with the story and got my five-year-old brother to read it too. In fifth grade, I wrote three of my book reports on the first three Potter books. My brother dressed as Harry for Halloween and we got Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans for Christmas. We were hooked.

Every new release of information felt like Christmas had come early, whether it was the title of the next book or the famous last line of the last book. Rereading the books became an annual tradition for me and for many of my friends. There always seemed to be some tiny nuance that was missed or forgotten. Rowling’s mastery of foreshadowing never ceased to amaze me. Her brilliant narration draws the reader straight into the story. I was triumphant when Harry felt the Sorcerer’s Stone in his pocket, distraught when Sirius died and livid when Snape killed Dumbledore.

By the time “Goblet of Fire” came out, I was unable to put the book down until I had read every last page. When I was old enough to drive, I joined the huge lines in bookstores to impatiently wait for midnight and the release of the next book. The couple of hours spent waiting in line to buy “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” felt endless. The woman behind us in line, who was reading aloud from the last chapter, nearly didn’t make it out alive. Spoilers were never welcome. I was so immersed in this final book that I read it in its entirety in a little more than 11 hours.

The film version of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” hit theaters in 2001. I was 12 years old, and I don’t think I had ever been more excited about something. Sitting in that theater and watching the story come to life was as magical as Hogwarts to me. That film alone made nearly $1 billion in the box office worldwide. Every movie release after that was a cause for celebration. Though I was never one to dress up, I proudly attended the midnight premiers for the last five movies.

Many have said that this series defines our generation, and I find it very hard to disagree. Who knows how many hours were spent discussing or, let’s be honest here, arguing about what might happen next. Finally knowing all of the details at the end of the story led to many discussions. How much money have we spent on books, movie tickets, DVDs and other things? You know it was worth it.

The story of Harry Potter had such a modest beginning that it’s almost hard to believe that it has become the empire that it is today. The legend stands that Rowling was struck with inspiration for the magical world while riding the train from Manchester to London in 1990. The manuscript for “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was completed on a manual typewriter. In a span of five years, the British author went from living in near poverty to being a multi-millionaire.

The Harry Potter brand has an estimated worth of more than $15 billion. The book series sold more than 450 million copies and has been translated into 67 languages. Rowling wrote supplementary books beyond the originals, such as “Quidditch Through the Ages” and “The Tales of Beedle the Bard.” It is very well known that the brand is much more than books and movies though. Candy, costumes, props, calendars, action figures, toys, bedding, video games, reference guides on the series, the list goes on for days. Universal Studios even created an entire theme park in Orlando called the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The fans of The Boy Who Lived are all sad to see the story come to an end. But rest assured, Harry will never be gone. No, I’m not making the cheesy joke about him always being in our hearts. What I’m saying is that Harry and our childhoods will always live on in the books. Books are meant to be read. As much as I love the movies, they will never match the level of greatness in the writing. These books have the timeless qualities that some authors can only dream to achieve. They can be enjoyed by people of all ages, and I am confident they will be reprinted many times. One day in the future, you’ll be mad at your boss or stressed about bills. When that happens, I suggest you pick up the book and revisit Privet Drive, the street where it all began.