J.K. Rowling had hoped to be a writer at an early age but it wasn’t until 1990 during a delayed train ride in London where her first big idea popped into her head; an idea that would become one of the biggest franchises in the world twenty years after its release.
“I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea before. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, and all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who did not know he was a wizard became more and more real to me,” said Rowling on her website.
The course of the next five years would see Rowling map out the seven-book series on a variety of scraps of paper. Yet it wasn’t until her divorce in 1993 that the chapters of her first book really started to take off.
She sent the first three chapters to an assortment of literary agents and when one asked to see the rest, Rowling wrote the rest of the story rather quickly.
In June 1997, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.
According to Bakka Phoenix bookstore owner, Chris Szego, the launch of the first book wasn’t that big of a deal at the time.
“When it first began, it wasn’t this reaction of, ‘Oh my god, Harry Potter!’ It was a children’s book that sold to a small to midsize British publisher for a normal amount of money, something like 2500 pounds,” said Szego.
However, by the time “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” was released booksellers knew that there was something different about these books, the likes of which had never been seen before.
“[Booksellers] could tell by the time book two came out that there was something odd about the phenomenon. It was turning into something so big and became the kind of publishing phenomenon that became completely unpredictable,” said Szego.
After the release of the fourth novel, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” readers of all ages, especially children and teenagers, became obsessed with Rowling’s series.
Hollywood decided to capitalize on this success and in 2001, the film adaption of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was released to the masses and grossed over 974 million dollars.
Over the next decade, the rest of the books and films would be released to massive fan fare.
The final movie, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” was released in 2011.
According to Mental Floss, in 2015 Harry Potter was the second highest grossing film franchise of all-time, just below the Marvel franchise. The films have made a combined total of seven billion dollars.
It was clear that Rowling’s series was indeed magical. Despite the series being over for a number of years, Rowling has found small ways to feed fans hunger for more.
She has released multiple companion novels including the play, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and she has made a spinoff film called, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”
Other franchises around the world are also capitalizing on the Harry Potter phenomenon including Universal Studios with their Harry Potter theme park in Florida and the Harry Potter Studios tour in London.
However, the most impactful thing that has happened because of Harry Potter is how the series has changed the literary world.
According to Professor Gabrielle Ceraldi who teaches, “The Many Faces of Harry Potter” course at Western University, Harry Potter has opened up so many avenues for authors to explore.
“The Harry Potter books are just as popular among adults as they are amongst children and teenagers. Neil Gammon for instance has been able to benefit from that because he had a lot of trouble trying to publish his book ‘Coraline’ because publishers didn’t know what age it was for. Publishers are willing now to publish books that are addressing a more broadly defined audience and stories that aren’t so narrowly directed at boys or girls,” said Ceraldi.
Szego agrees with Ceraldi as she says Rowling helped to establish a new form of literature now known as young adult literature.
“Because of Harry Potter in the decades since publishers have taken on much more chances on young adult books as that segment of the market grew exponentially larger, kind of with the publication of every [Harry Potter] book. Now, because of Harry Potter there is a lot more room for writers to try things and there are also millions upon millions more readers,” said Szego.
Unlike many other franchises, Harry Potter looks to be in it for the long haul as more and more kids are being introduced to the stories.
Twenty years since the release of the first book, the popularity of Harry Potter looks to be growing and as Ceraldi puts it, “Harry Potter doesn’t look to be going anywhere anytime soon.”
Want to know more about the “Many Faces of Harry Potter” course taught by Professor Gabrielle Ceraldi? Listen to her full interview:
The term “superfan” has been overused and overexposed in this social media age.
However, before there was social media there was Harry Potter and the massive fan base it accumulated.
People like Tess Barao, who is an actress as well as a Harry Potter cosplayer, grew up with the series and has Harry Potter on her mind all the time.
“My whole life kind of revolves around Harry Potter, which may sound sad to some but you love what you love,” said Barao.
The success of the Harry Potter franchise was unlike anything people had seen before. There would be lineups of hundreds of people waiting outside in the cold waiting to pick up their copy of the newest Harry Potter book.
Harry Potter created a craze, it created a movement and it created the superfan.
What is a superfan?
According to Dictionary.com, a superfan can be defined as a person who has an extreme or obsessive admiration for a person or thing.
Before Harry Potter, there were fans, but rarely would you see people going out of their way just to show their love of a book or movie.
Harry Potter fans do exactly that.
Many of them travel across the globe to do something Harry Potter related or wait in huge line ups just to meet someone from the films.
“When I was I think 14 I waited 6 hours outside during a heat wave to see Matthew Lewis [who plays Neville Longbottom in the films]. I got his autograph, so it was worth it but yeah some would consider that kind of strange,” said Christina Tucci whose been an avid Harry Potter reader all her life.
For some fans travelling and waiting in long line ups isn’t enough to show how much they love this series. Some fans like, Sofia De Melo, go above and beyond because of their love of the Harry Potter series.
“Some might consider it strange and some might not, I guess depending how big of a fan you are, but I got a tattoo of the Deathly Hallows [a symbol from the last book and film of the series] on my ribs,” said De Melo.
Not only did Harry Potter become one of the first major “fandoms” but it’s also unique in that it has helped people form friendships that they would have never formed without their equal love of Harry Potter.
“I’ve met people and bonded with them because of Harry Potter. On my study abroad trip to London and Iceland last summer a bunch of us stayed in one night and all watched Harry Potter movies and we all became closer than ever because of that,” said Nicole Bucar, a Harry Potter film buff.
Superfans, especially those in Toronto, demanded more Harry Potter content in their city and after years of trying Fan Expo Canada was able to oblige in 2015.
“We were thrilled to host Tom Felton [plays Draco Malfoy in the films] back in 2011 at one of his first convention appearances. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until 2015 that we could arrange to bring Tom back to Toronto. But, it was worth the wait as he brought along his cast-mates the Phelps twins [Fred and George Weasley] and Rupert Grint [Ron Weasley]. The fans went bananas!” said James Armstrong, the Event Coordinator at Fan Expo.
That event culminated a long journey for Harry Potter superfans in Toronto who had been waiting patiently for Harry Potter themed things to come to them.
Now there is even more for superfans to enjoy in Toronto as multiple Harry Potter places and events such as The Lockhart Bar and The Curiosa Shop have popped up.
One thing is for sure, there isn’t a better time to be a Harry Potter superfan.
How to Play Quidditch When You're a Muggle
- A game of quidditch is played between two teams.
- The goal is to end the game with more points than the opposing team.
- A roster can have up to 21 players for a quidditch match.
- Players on the field: One Keeper, three Chasers, two Beaters and one Seeker may be on-pitch at any given time.
- To score points, three Chasers and one Keeper must work together to pass the quaffle through their opponent’s set of hoops. Each time they do so, they get 10 points for their team.
- To prevent the other team from scoring points, they must also defend their own set of hoops. Keepers play a key role on defense as a goalkeeper.
- Two Beaters use bludgers to help bolster their team’s offense and defense. The bludgers knock people out of the game temporarily. If a player is hit with a live bludger, they must let go of any ball they possess, dismount their broom, and tag a hoop before re-entering play. There are only three bludgers and four beaters on the field (two per team), so it often takes strategic coordination for a team to have control of the bludgers.
- Seventeen minutes into the game, the Snitch Runner is released, followed by a Seeker for each team at the 18-minute mark.
- The Seekers can try to either catch or defend the “snitch tail”, which is a small ball secured to the Snitch Runner’s shorts.
- When a Seeker grabs the snitch tail from the Snitch Runner, they score 30 points for their team and ends the game.
*Rule book courtesy of Quidditch Canada