by Sarah James
“All was well”
For the past ten years, these words have resonated with Harry Potter fans around the world, for these words closed the story on the Boy Who Lived. Or so we thought. Since reading these words in the “Nineteen Years Later” epilogue to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Potterheads everywhere have only seen the Wizarding world grow. Two theme parks based on the books and movies opened in the United States; Pottermore became the definitive source for finally getting sorted into your Hogwarts house; a play continuing the story of Harry and his kids released in the Summer of 2016; and the first of a five part film series set in the Wizarding World came out last November. As of yesterday, it is nineteen years later. So let’s take a moment to reflect on the behemoth that is the Harry Potter franchise, and see how far our favorite wizard has come over the years.
In 1998, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone released, thus beginning the inevitable reign of Queen Rowling. The book starts out with a one-year-old Harry Potter being dropped off at Number 4 Privet Drive in 1980, making it 1991 when Harry first hears he is a wizard. In this book, J.K. Rowling first introduced her Wizarding World to a mass of children and adults alike, who fell in love with the pictures she painted. In that moment, myself along with so many others decided that Hogwarts was our home. The books continued to be released until 2007, with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows releasing that summer. Serendipitously, this means that the events of the seventh book take place in 1998, the same year that the first book released. “I open at the close.”
In 2001, the first of eight Harry Potter films swamped theaters across the globe. It was our first glimpse at what Hogwarts would actually look like. A young Daniel Radcliffe lead the pack of actors in creating a world so many people had already fallen in love with. And along with Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, the three child wizards wormed their way into the hearts of millions. The movies continued production until 2011, with the second installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I can remember the night I saw this film as if it was yesterday; people came dressed up as their favorite characters brandishing wands and swapping stories of how they came to love the boy who lived. It was my first ever midnight premiere of a movie.
In April of 2012, less than a year after the final movie release, J.K. Rowling announced a new website named Pottermore, which initially served as an interactive way to read through the books. You could cast spells, brew potions, and even take quizzes to discover your wand type and Hogwarts house. Since then, the site has morphed into an encyclopedia of Potter knowledge, as well as a source of updates about the franchise. Pottermore is where the first information about American wizards was introduced, where stills and videos from the set of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them could be found, and where I discovered that I am in fact a Slytherin and my Patronus is a Thestral. New today, Pottermore now offers you the opportunity to explore the grounds of Hogwarts, with information and quotes from the series sprinkled throughout the experience.
In 2010, the world of Harry and his friends jumped off the page and screen and entered our world in the form of “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” which first opened in Universal Studios Orlando resort. The original area included a stretch of Hogsmeade where one could take a picture in front of the Hogwarts Express, grab a butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks, and have the wand choose them at Olivander’s (which obviously isn’t book accurate, but they wanted the opportunity to sell wands so they took it). You could also step into Hogwarts castle by riding the Forbidden Journey of Harry Potter, which was 11 year-old Sarah’s biggest dream. Since the opening of the park in Orlando, another version of the Wizarding World has been brought to California, and both parks now include an area dedicated to Diagon Alley.
2016 saw the continuation of the Harry Potter story in two different directions. In the summer, we had the release of a two-part play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The play received mixed reviews from fans, who saw it more as glorified fan fiction than a satisfying addition to the canonical universe. Personally, I was not a fan of Cursed Child. While I’m sure the play is visually stunning in person, as a story, I was not as immersed or enthralled as I was when reading the original series. Later on in 2016 came the first installment of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise. This first movie mostly focused on Newt Scamander and introduced the world to the lives of American witches and wizards, but the upcoming movies will expand on the life of Albus Dumbledore and tell the story of the first Wizarding War against Gellert Grindewald.
And that’s where we are now. Yesterday in the world created by J.K. Rowling, an older Harry Potter knelt by his second son, Albus Severus Potter, and reassured him that no matter what house he ended up in, he would be loved and welcomed at Hogwarts. Yesterday, on September 1st 2017, Harry and Ginny stood next to Ron and Hermione as they waved to their children on the Hogwarts Express on their way to another year at the greatest school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. For the past nineteen years, Harry Potter and his story have captivated audiences from across the world; people off all ages and backgrounds found a home at Hogwarts. And for the past ten years, the Harry Potter books and movies have been a place to where I can always escape. I read the first book when I was eleven, and grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione by my side. Hogwarts has been my home for a decade now, and even as the Wizarding World expands, I will continue to return to the place that showed me just how real magic can be.