Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows--One Week Later

By Dave Kopel

July 29, 2007. "Your Show," Hosted by Adam Schrager. Channel 20 KTVD/ 9News, Denver. Video. More by Kopel on Harry Potter.

After two years of anticipation, it was all over for some of us in less than 24 hours. Now that we’ve finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is it time for the Potterheads to go into mourning? Certainly not.

We will never again be able to read a Harry Potter book for the first time. But there are different pleasures in re-reading books. J.K. Rowling says that she reads her own favorite book, Jane Austen’s novel Emma, at least once a year.

Re-reading doesn’t offer the excitement of an unknown ending, but it does take us into the deeper mysteries of the writer’s craft, including the treasures of thousands of years of literature and myth from which J.K. Rowling has drawn.

Earlier this week, I went back to volume 1, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This time, I noticed important details which had flown over my head the first time around.

For example, spiritual alchemy is a tremendously important theme of the Potter series. On my second reading, I noticed how book one is full of images and metaphors of gray and lead—the starting point of the alchemical synthesis and transformation which reaches completion in the final volume.

This time around, I realize that almost every name in every book has its own story to tell. So with my handy web-enabled cell phone, I took the time to look up names like Cliodna—who turns out to be an ancient Irish goddess of love and beauty

The world-wide web barely was tiny when J.K. Rowling began writing her books. Yet thanks to the web, the Potter series has been the subject of an enormous amount of thoughtful analysis by serious scholars. On websites such as HogwartsProfessor.com, or Sword of Gryffindor, you can read analyses of how J.K. Rowling incorporates themes and techniques from Charles Dickens. Or her use of sources from the Italian Renaissance.

It’s been fun to see how much the Potter series has spawned so many kinds of personal creativity. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of Harry Potter stories written by the fans – taking the canonical characters, and imagining them in new situations.

To everyone’s surprise, J.K. Rowling accidentally spawned a new genre of rock music. It’s called Wizard Rock. There are now several dozen bands which perform songs inspired by the Potter books. Two of the biggest of those bands, Harry and the Potters, and Draco and Malfoys, will be playing dates in Denver and Boulder this August.

Ten years from now and a century from now, the media excitement over Harry Potter will be gone, and Wizard Rock may be just a memory. But new readers will still be making their way through the series, and, sometimes, coming of age along with Harry.

Like many families, our family has been immersed in the Harry Potter series for the last decade. With the book, audio tapes, and compact disks, we’ve spent a lot of time getting to know the characters and thinking about them.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows begins with an epigraph from William Penn:

"Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still….This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal."
So too, all of today’s Potterheads will be ever-more distant from the day when we read one of J.K. Rowling’s masterpieces with fresh eyes. Yet we will never truly be separated from those books. They will always be part of us, for they have helped shape who we are. Like all great books, the Harry Potter series is immortal, and future generations will enjoy a world made better by readers who have absorbed Harry Potter’s lessons of bravery, tolerance, redemption, and the power of self-sacrificing love.

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