NOTE: This post contains many spoilers for the Harry Potter series.
So, I figured this was as good a way to actually bother starting this blog as any, especially as I find it kinda cool. This is a message I sent to a group of friends over Facebook earlier today:
“So, along with a bunch of graphic novels I ordered, the final Harry Potter book arrived a short while ago as, since bringing the rest down, I’m adamant on completing the series. It actually feels kind of weird to hold a book for once because, checking online, I realise that I was five when my mum bought me the first book, but didn’t buy this last book when it came out because it was spoiled for me when I was 15, which is a shame, as ten years later would have seemed quite appropriate. But this is too, I think. Here I am about to finish the series as a 21 year old, having read a ton of books since The Philosopher’s Stone which, alongside The Hobbit, was the first book that really drew me into reading. That’s kind of cool in my opinion.”
Hopefully I don’t sound too dramatic, but it really did feel a little weird to find it at the top of the package I opened and to actually just hold it because, although I’ve passed it in book stores on several occasions, I’ve never opened it to take a sneak peak. The reason I stopped at The Half Blood Prince is pretty simple, and probably wouldn’t turn off everyone if it happened to them. But you have the context in the above paragraph: the first book was one of the first few that really got me hooked on reading (cheers, mum!) and, shortly after I discovered that the idea of what, to me, was such an amazing world filled with wonderful characters just “simply fell into [J.K. Rowling’s] head”, I even did some creative writing of my own, even though I was very young at the time; and, of course, I’m positive that I wasn’t the only kid at that age who then went on to buy the rest of the series upon their release.
So I guess it’s not too hard to imagine how it felt when, shortly after The Deathly Hallows came out, a friend of mine completely ruined it for me. Hint: it felt shit, and I still don’t really understand why she did it. Here was me, fifteen years old, going to buy the final book in the series I loved so much exactly ten years after I was given The Philosopher’s Stones, and its whole plot is told to me as an apparently rather rubbish joke. Up to that point, I’d even watched the films when they all came out, but after this I neither so much as touched the book when I passed it, or sat down to watch the film at any point when it was on television.
Honestly, I think that there’s plenty of people who had something similar happen (remember that the death of a major character in The Half Blood Prince was spoiled on a billboard, and in newspapers? (although my mother thankfully kept these away from me)), , and certainly those who would sympathise with that simply as massive fans of the series. In fact, here’s one friend’s response to my Facebook message:
“It is kind of cool. When I was younger my Dad would read them to me and my brother, a couple of chapters each night so when I see anything to do with the books I’m reminded of some of the better points of my childhood”
His last point about better times in his childhood is a little vague, but I think I get the picture. And it’s those people like him who grew up with the books and the actors of the films that probably wouldn’t find the way I paused today with The Deathly Hallows in my hand all that peculiar. It was a weird feeling but I think I can describe it.
I can’t exactly remember when my mum first started reading to me. There’s a picture book still in the loft somewhere about a mother swan protecting her child, which I believe would be the first thing she read to me at least. As this was part of some kind of Pamper’s promotion, she had my name printed as the baby’s, so I guess I could have been as early as one or two. Anyway, picture books are simple enough to read, I suppose, since they’re generally only a few basic words per page. But I was having children’s books read to me regularly when I was four, and I believe I was five when I first started reading some – albeit, with some help – by myself. One old favourite that I still enjoy reading from time to time is Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and I do credit that as amongst the first books that got me really into reading. But I can’t remember the first line of The Hobbit. Yet I’ve always seemed to remember The Philosopher’s Stone’s opening line because I recall that it made me laugh aloud.
Of course, the book itself doesn’t really get off to a happy start, considering that it’s concerned with a boy whose parents were killed by a mysterious figure known as Voldemort, and who is then left with his mother’s sister’s family who treat him like shit for the next ten years of his life, where we finally meet him in the second chapter. After that, yeah, it is a lot cheerier and so are the next three books, despite some small dark bits. It wasn’t really until I believe a character called Cedric is murdered towards the end of The Goblet of Fire that I really felt the series had took a turn into some dark places. Which is fine because, although I didn’t enjoy The Order of the Phoenix (at least as a kid – I might now), The Half Blood Prince has been my favourite of the series for a long time. It’s of course simple coincidence, but I find it kind of neat that my taste for reading grew towards books that dealt with more mature themes (outside of a few authors like Stephen King and Dean Koontz who certainly do have more adult themes going on) in the year before that one was released when I was twelve. It even seemed like an appropriate time for someone to have ruined the last book for me – at least I’d read the best book in the series, right?
But I have admittedly felt the urge to bring the books down from the loft in the years since I did have that last book spoiled. One of my friends even talked a bit about this on Facebook, as he didn’t think it was a particularly big deal that I should completely refuse to ever finish the series, and I partly agreed as I recall, suggesting I might one day cave in and finally buy it. And as it turns out, I did. A few weeks ago I was in the loft for the first time in the several months since climbing ladders had been impossible for me (I had something wrong with my right foot for a long while) and, although I never intended to bring the series down with me – I’d only gone up for a bunch of Stephen King books and a few others I’d perhaps never read (my loft is like a library, I should mention) – I ended up doing just that, and a few nights ago, after skimming through the series and being overwhelmed by nostalgia, I bought the last book for a fiver.
And it arrived today. And I held it in my hands without opening it for a while. And when I did open it I was met with a dedication that was different from the other books in the series because this time it was also dedicated to someone else. It read, after a list of names I believe the previous books are addressed to, “and to you, if you have stuck with Harry until the very end.”
I’m twenty one years old, an adult now. I’ve been reading, and writing I suppose, for a very long time, clearly due in great part to the wonderful J.K. Rowling. But let me really emphasise this more strongly, to give the significance of this to me the justice it deserves: I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of books over the course of my life, and that really is something that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t read one book when I was five years old, one book that is still thousands of times better than a lot of the books I’ve read since then, and today, I felt like I came full circle and completed a chapter in my own life.
But I don’t want to stop there. Believe it or not, even the last line of the series has been told to me, and, after checking the end of my own copy to see if even this really was ruined for me all those years ago, I’ve chuckled and left myself a message on the first page, because quite frankly I can’t think of anything more appropriate. This message is for me to be faced with when I’ve reread the series, which I intend to do quite soon; at that moment when I really will open the book and finally read it for the very first time.
All is well.
– Jordan Smith