“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.”
This is how everything began, the first lines of “The Philosopher’s Stone“. It is one of the most famous sagas of all time, written by J.K. Rowling and published by Bloomsbury exactly 20 years ago. Since then, the wizard Harry Potter has been conquering the hearts of millions of fans around the world!
How did this phenomenon begin? The writer, then a young mom who could barely pay the rent of a modest apartment and who used to write in a pub in Edinburgh, claimed to have had the idea during a train trip while observing the English countryside. When she arrived at her destination, she had the general structure and the characters already well-understood in her mind. But, despite this, she had to endure the refusal of 8 publishing houses before Bloomsbury accepted to publish the first chapter of the saga.
And just like the magic began…
In an interview with BBC dated December 1997, J.K. Rowling revealed that she could not believe that her book was really available in the shops, giving then a wise piece of advice to aspiring writers: a lot of practice, understanding what works and what not and continuity, starting possibly from what is best known.
Since then, the 7 books have sold more than 450 million copies and have been translated into 67 languages: the number of first prints has increased chapter after chapter until it reached the circulation of 12 million copies with the last volume! And again “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” still holds the record for the fastest-selling book in history.
The saga of 8 films based on the 7 books has earned more than 7 billion and, when “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 2” came out, billboards did not even report the title of the film because everyone simply knew about it and was expecting it: they just said “It All Ends“, thus marking the end of an era for many young people who had grown alongside Harry and his friends and had accompanied him in his adventures.
In 2016 “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” was published, a kind of spin-off, a screenplay written for the stage; the play was and still is a huge success, winner of awards and acclaimed by critics and fans (although some Potterheads were skeptical in front of this publication as they did not recognize it as a continuation of the saga.)
In the same year the movie “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” was released, and once again it was a huge success. Inspired by one of the 3 books written by Rowling that investigate certain curiosities of the magical world: one about the fantastic animals, Quidditch and the fairytales for children.
The merchandising then knows no limits: makeup products and clothing, food and drinks, basically everything possible and imaginable! And let’s not forget the theme parks of Orlando, Hollywood, and Osaka and the studios in London, in which the set still stands, and the Pottermore online platform, where the members can do tests to discover their houses and their Patronus, play themed games and access to unique contents.
This week, therefore, the best known and appreciated wizard turned 20: how did the world celebrate? Social media went all in with official hashtags and magical fonts (on Facebook by writing “Harry Potter” or the name of one of the Hogwarts houses in the original language, themed animations appeared on screens). Instead, everywhere in the world these days, children (and not only them) have been getting dressed like their heroes (the Bolton Primary School has beaten the record for the most children-themed clothes in a place, almost 700). The British Library is organizing a theme exhibition for the next fall and the first book was republished with the various houses of Hogwarts on the covers. And in July at the Giffoni International Film Festival, the one and only festival for children and young adults, there will be a screening of all the 8 films to celebrate Harry Potter’s birthday.
So this summer, you just have to hold the wand and raise it to the sky to celebrate the “boy who lived”‘s birthday (remember the 31st is his actual birthday!) We hope that you have not forgotten the spells in the meantime but we doubt it… Probably, you know entire pages of the books by memory and what better time than this to free the Hermione that is in you to correct the muggles in the pronunciation of Leviosa?