Growing up with Harry

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

At 18, Felix Taylor has known Harry Potter all his life. As the final film hits cinemas, he explains what he’ll miss about the boy wizard

If I look at my life to date, it seems odd that the two symbolic events that will mark the end of my childhood occur within a week of each other.

Last Friday, I left school, having finished my A-levels, with the whole summer ahead of me, and on Thursday night I shall be attending the first possible screening of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part II, the last in the series. Friday 15 July brings the end of an era. There are many adolescents, of whom I am one, who have not only read the Harry Potter books and seen the films (repeatedly), but have also grown up with the characters. It’s safe to say that my childhood and the world of Hogwarts have developed side-by-side, and without Quidditch, Transfiguration and Horcruxes, I would probably have been a different person.

Since 2001, when The Philosopher’s Stone, was released sales figures for the films have added up to an estimated $3.5bn (£2.2bn) and the seven novels are now thought to have amassed up to £400m. But it’s important to remember just how smallscale a phenomenon it was, seeing as the print run for the first book was limited to 500 copies. As I recall, people only began to realise how big it would get after the third book, The Prisoner of Azkaban, was released; after that, the thing went global.

So when did Harry first come into my life? The first three Potter books were published in quick succession in the space of a couple of years. Five years old when the first book emerged, I became aware of them after the third one was published. Being only seven or eight years old at the time, it was a pleasant break from the continuous barrage of Pokémon and daytime children’s television my brain had been subjected to, so I was instantly hooked. I can remember where I was and what I was doing on the day of each of the later Harry Potter publication dates, but that’s because those days seemed so important to me. However hard I try, I simply cannot recall what I was doing when I heard about the 9/11 attacks, or what my reaction was to them, but with Harry Potter, everything is so much clearer in my mind. When The Order of the Phoenix was released in 2003, for example, I remember attending the launch at what used to be Ottakar’s in Norwich and seeing hundreds of the yellowbound books stacked on the floor made to resemble a spiral staircase. It was a big book; more than 750 pages long, and bigger than most of the adult fiction on the shelves at the time, but I didn’t care – the longer it was, the better, because it meant I never had to stop. It was like a drug. Seriously, why people inject heroin when they could just sit down and read Harry Potter, I will never know.

When The Half-Blood Prince, the sixth in the series, was published, I was on holiday in France; sun, sea, sand and no foreseeable way of getting my hands on the book. Eventually realising that France had bookshops, I hurried to the nearest town. On arriving at the bookshop, we found already waiting a small crowd of fellow tourists, and relief washed over me as we found out that an English language version would be available the next day. I read it in two days. I was only 12 at the time, and I was having to share the single copy with my younger brothers, so I consider that an achievement to be proud of.

When the final book was released, The Deathly Hallows, I was stranded on a Scout camp in the middle of a field in Jersey – I must have been cursed. As I sat next to my tent, I glared at the boys who had been sneaky enough to pre-order a copy and have it delivered on site by a postman. Luckily, it wasn’t long before I felt so ill I couldn’t participate in any of the activities, which meant I was able to read someone else’s copy. Everyone wanted to know what was going to happen; would Voldemort be defeated? With Dumbledore gone, who was going to take over Hogwarts? And most importantly, who died? Even the Harry Potter haters were secretly dying to know.

I remember watching the news around the time The Half-Blood Prince was released, and seeing that someone had actually made a banner stating which character dies at the end of the book, and had hung it from the top of a bridge on the M6. Luckily, the police took it down almost immediately, so not too much harm was done, but my heart went out to those poor children being driven to school that morning. The films came out after the fourth book was published. The first (named Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in America – I never understood why they did that; do Americans not know what a philosopher is?) being released in 2001 and the second just a year later. I was a little apprehensive to see the first film when it first came out, I think because I had my own set of images in my head of what Harry Potter and his world were supposed to look like. Professor Snape seemed in my mind to have bright green skin, a hooked nose, which curved down beyond his mouth, a long black cloak and a hunchback. Now compare this image to Alan Rickman’s straight-backed, pale-faced portrayal of the character, and you’ll see we have a problem.

After enduring the whole of my school talking about how brilliant the film was, I finally went to see it. It was good, it was nice, it was lovely, but it wasn’t exactly how I imagined, which left me slightly disappointed. However, as the films went on, I began to view them as separate from the books – as someone else’s representation. I’ve really enjoyed them, but I still have my own images that I conjure up whenever I read the books. While Dumbledore didn’t look right to me, Richard Harris played him in a warm-hearted sort of way. I’ve often thought about why most children love Harry Potter, why some people obsess over it and why J K Rowling is richer than the Queen. On the one hand, the books touch on adolescent issues that make them relevant and appealing to a huge amount of people, but Rowling also draws elements from a lot of previous best-selling fantasies; it’s not hard to find similarities between the Potter series and Tolkien, or even C S Lewis’s Narnia, with its quests, magical beasts and Christian symbolism, and I think this has to be the overriding reason that attracted me and so many other readers to them. Rowling’s writing isn’t as brilliant as some more illustrious authors, but if you’re looking for brilliant writing, go away and read a Brontë novel.

Meanwhile, as Deathly HallowsII day looms, there is some consolation in the fact that none of this is going to go away for a long time. Pottermania has embedded itself too deeply into our culture for it to vanish completely, and with even more pieces being added to the franchise, such as Pottermore (an interactive website which also allows fans to download ebooks) and the release of an encyclopaedia, it seems as though Harry Potter is here to stay. I’ve even heard a rumour that there’s a Potter fan club at the university I hope to attend, where the main event is Horcrux hunting, so it looks like Harry is set to remain in my life for a long time yet.

Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower