Saturday, 16 July 2011

Harry Potter Special - The Top Ten Best Things About Harry Potter

In honour of the release of the last film of the Harry Potter franchise (until Rowling realises what a money train she's given up and writes some sequel or even prequel stuff), I thought I'd do a list of my top 10 favourite things from Harry Potter. That's the books, the films, the universe - everything. Narrowing it down to ten has been... tricky, so apologies if I leave out something you consider to be really obvious. So, in ascending order...

10. Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Jelly Beans

I would LOVE to have some chocolate frogs. Not real world non-moving chocolate frogs, the ones as seen in the films that are enchanted to hop about for a bit. And the jelly beans... well I wouldn't want to eat them but I love the idea of it (If you'd like to know all the flavours they comes in then the interweb can tell you.)

It's not the same - IT'S NOT THE SAME I TELL YOU!

9. Hagrid's 'Pets'

Hagrid was a great character, though he didn't really get to do much as the story progressed. But this was more than made up for with his love of strange and unusual animals. Whether it was dragons (Norbet was a great name for a dragon), Hippogriffs (my favourite of the Potter creatures), Aragog the giant spider or just Fang the Boarhound, Hagrid loved them all. Oh, and he deserves credit for giving a great name to a three headed vicious dog that bears a slight resemblance to Cerberus; "Fluffy".

8. That Theme Tune

I catch myself whistling the Harry Potter tune at random times, and it's a bugger to get out your head once it's in there but I love it nonetheless. Dammit, I've started again...

7. The School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

High school isn't fun, no matter what adults may say to children. It's a place of confusion, torment and misery - but also good fun if you're lucky. The School of Witchcraft and Wizardry takes the underlying threat of high school and makes it something very real, with the risk of a troll attack a threat along with the trials of puberty. But it looks like great fun. I know I would have much rather have been taught spells and potions then trying to work out how fast the train was going when nine people get on at stop a and three get off at stop c...

My high school was no where near as impressive. Or green.
6. Ginger is cool

One of my pet peeves about the media, and a lot of people who consume it, is this notion that there's something wrong with red hair. Children and adults with "ginger" hair are subjected to some terrible mocking from many different sources. I've always thought red hair is gorgeous, mainly because of how unusual it is. So I love the fact that Rowling put not just one but a whole family of red-heads into her story, who play such a vital role in Harry's life and are the first family to show him love. And Ron always entertained me - he was no where near as self-righteous as Harry could be at times, and his awkward attempts at wooing Hermione were always amusing.

Aw, Ron, you always had the best facial expressions.
5. House Elves

Dobby the house-elf - at first I hated him, with all his interfering in Harry's life, but as the reasons for it were revealed he became a loveable character, and allowed Harry to express his selfless side when Harry arranged his release from servitude. I also liked the idea of Dobby as a freedom and rights fighter for the house-elves. Fight the good fight Dobby.

4. Diagon Alley

This may sound odd, but Diagon Alley reminds me of Camden, the way it used to be. Lots of stalls selling odd and unusual things, and strange people lurking in the background. Except Camden has drugs rather than potions, but I suppose the two aren't that different. Nevertheless I wish there were a real Diagon Alley - if only so I could get some really cool, magical jewellery.

Obviously inspired by Oxford Street in Christmas.

3. Giving hope to would-be authors everywhere

I know, it sounds really arrogant, "oh, if Rowling can do it, I can to." But I find her story inspiring; here was a woman, separated from her husband and with a young child and no job, living on benefits in a small flat in Edinburgh, the kind of person that papers like the Daily Mail and the Conservative Party like to blame for the downfall of society. But despite all this, and the clinical depression she developed during that period, she wrote the story she'd had in her head for years, of a young boy at a wizard school. While taking a PGCE to become a teacher the book was submitted to numerous publishers who rejected it. Finally Bloomsbury, a small London based publisher at the time, agreed to release the book and gave Rowling a £1500 advance (!), not expecting the book to do terribly well. Five months later "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" won the Nestle Smarties Book Prize and went on to win the British Book Award for Children's Book of the Year. When the book was auctioned for USA publishing rights it sold for $105,000. Rowling is now a multi-millionaire.

I think Rowling proves that if you're determined enough you can be successful, but also that success is not overnight, and may not come in the form you expect. While we may not all become millionaires, she shows that even in the darkest of times there is hope and a light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to stick it out and keep working to get there.

2. Kids started reading again

Yep, J.K. achieved what countless education programmes, teachers, parents and charity events had only partially succeeded with; getting children to read. Even kids that hated books, and hated reading were picking up their own copies of Harry Potter and reading them. Or at least reading bits of them, which is better than nothing. Regardless of the technical problems Rowling's writing may have (in my opinion she waffles too much and gets too caught up in pointless details) kids loved her books and anything that gets children to read deserves praise.

1. Family is more than what you're born into

Okay, it's a bit cheesy, but then again it is the whole point of the books. Harry is born to parents who love him dearly but they die before he has a chance to know them. Instead he's cast away to his hideous uncle's family, who can't stand him, and force him to stay in the room under the stairs. I always thought that opening to the Potter story was very Roald Dahl influenced. But as the books progress you see a new family forming around Harry, one built on friendship, trust and love. They argue and fall out but ultimately always come back together. It's a great message for a children's book, and Rowling manages to not make it too sickly sweet. You may not be able to choose your family but you can choose your friends.

Awww, they were so cute! (I bet they hate this picture)

So those are the things I've enjoyed the most out of the Potter franchise, though it's left a lot out. Dementors, Dumbledore, wands, unicorns, fairies, they were all great too (not quidditch though, I hated the quidditch bits). What about you? What, if anything, do you love about the Potter franchise? All ideas and ramblings welcome.


  1. I've become terribly jaded and critical. Sometimes it seems that the more popular a thing is, the more I find some reason to be critical of it. Some people think I hate Harry Potter!

    Well, I don't. I think the setting is the star of the story --- and it's one of the best settings, ever. Moreover, I love the recurring theme through the plot that teachers can be cool and mysterious.

    I also like how it's even affected the Urban Dictionary. The last time I looked there, the word "owl" had about 25 definitions (many of them offensive), but the best one is someone enlisted against their will to carry a silly message of no import from one person to another. Have you ever had a perfectly good phone conversation hijacked by your significant other?

    "Oh, who are you talking to? Is that Jack? It is? Ask him if he'll come out with us Friday. He will? Good? Ask him what movie he wants to see. Ask him if he wants to meet here or in New York. Ask him if he wants Indian food... and on and on...!"

    Now I can just hand off the phone, and say "Talk to him yourself, I'm not your owl!"

    When silly details of the fantasy world filter down into urban slang --- in ways that can't be readily interpreted without the aid of an online dictionary --- then you know you've got something.

    Harry Potter has also been added to the obligatory list of books that have always been "banned" during the political career of whatever candidate the local political junkie hates the most. Some American politicians have been repeatedly implicated in banning the Harry Potter books up to a decade before they were even published!

    Talk about an impact... OK, I've rambled enough for now.

  2. I laughed out loud when I read that definition of "owl", it's so apt. I definitely feel like that at work sometimes!