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Put the brooms back in the closet – Harry Potter is over

 The Big Issue Australia 11 July 2019

When the last Harry Potter book came out, fans around the world went through that mourning period one goes through when a saga ends. The movies, however, managed to keep the wizard-mania alive. But now it’s time to say goodbye: with the last film coming up soon, the Harry Potter era comes to an end. A 17 year-old die-hard fan describes how it was to grow up with Harry Potter and a Potter-sceptic explains why she is a non-believer. (1608 Words) - By Sophie Quick and Angus Attwood


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Illustrated by Michael Weldon

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Angus Attwood has spent the last 10 years reading the Harry Potter books and watching the movies.Photo courtesy of The Big issue Australia

The Fan

Angus Attwood, now 17, was turned into a voracious reader by Harry Potter. He describes the impact of the books and the movies, and how Harry shaped his own perspective on life.

I've spent the last 10 years of my life with the Harry Potter series, so it is fair to say it has played an important role in my childhood. I first started reading the series in Year 2, when my reading skills weren't great. My mum was reading the book to me each night, chapter by chapter, but I became so engaged by the story, and so frustrated having to wait an entire 24 hours for the next bit, that I began to pick up the book (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone) and read it myself. There was something about this awkward, dorky, unnaturally skinny boy that I related to, and I just had to know what happened to him next.

As much as I enjoyed all the magic and the mystical wizarding world Rowling created, the main element of the series that interested me was Harry's relationship with his friends. Harry got along with the other people in his year, but primarily spent time with his two best friends, Ron and Hermione. This mirrored my own friendship group at the time, as we discovered with great delight.

Harry Potter formed the basis of most of my social interactions with the people in my year. Friendships developed out of a mutual fondness for a certain character; the entire year became united by our shared excitement about the release of the first movie. The books caused heated arguments as to how, exactly, Hermione's name was pronounced, and anyone who called her "You Know Who" was immediately avoided for some time.

Harry proved to be the perfect role model as I grew older. He wasn't the brightest kid in his year, and often got stumped by questions in tests or distracted by boring classes. He often made mistakes, usually with disastrous consequences, and as a young, impressionable child it was comforting to know that someone as great as Harry Potter could still screw up.

As years passed, Harry grew up with me. The concept of death and the loss of loved ones became more apparent as I began to understand them myself. My grandfather died just over a month before the release (in 2005) of the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which is now famous for the death of Albus Dumbledore, who was a father/grandfather figure for Harry throughout the series.

As I became interested in girls, so did Harry. It was reassuring to notice he was as awkward around them as me. When my workload at school increased, so did Harry's. I noticed that he seemed to be struggling as much as I was. As I matured and lost some of the childish innocence that had guided me through primary school, the wizarding world became darker. Concepts such as corruption, racism and bigotry became apparent in the books as I learnt more about real-life examples throughout history. I was often able to understand new topics in school by linking them back to an example in a Harry Potter story.

I had stood there in the line when the fifth novel, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was released in 2003, reading it as quickly as I could to confirm or deny all the wild guesses about plot-twists my friends and I had come up with while waiting for it to be published. The same thing happened subsequently with the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005) and then, two years later, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which I read as quickly as possible to ensure no one could possibly spoil it for me. I spent the entire day of 21 July 2019 (the release date of Deathly Hallows) reading, determined to finish the book in one day. My parents had no objection: they were simply delighted to see me take such an interest in reading over everything else. It seems wonderfully appropriate that the release of the final Harry Potter movie should take place during my final year of school; the year I legally become an adult. The series has taken up so much of my time over the last 10 years, as evidenced by my extremely worn copies of all seven novels.

On many levels, the ending symbolises the end of my own childhood. And I know, for certain, I'm not the only one in my year who feels the same way. While the final movie may mean the conclusion of the series as a whole, it certainly won't stop me reading the books again, year after year.

The Non-Believer

Harry has style, spells and Quidditch skills. Who could possibly be immune to his charms? Sophie Quick, for one…

I don't care for wizards. That is why I am one of the only people in the world who has not read a single Harry Potter book or seen a single Harry Potter movie. Potions, cauldrons, novelty-sized spell books…I just can't get excited about any of it. (Pointy hats are important to me, but only when I'm the person who gets to wear one.)

I've just never really been interested in magic - even as a kid. I think it comes from my mother. She read to me a lot as a child, but didn't have much patience for the world of magic and fantasy. Her own tastes in children's fiction ran to gritty depictions of the lives of talking animals in rural Edwardian England (Beatrix Potter; The Wind in the Willows etc). Somehow, I must have picked up Mum's distaste for fantasy. Or maybe a limited imaginative capacity is genetic. At any rate, our home was a wizard-free zone and I was never really drawn in to the witch-and-wizard stories

I came across in kindergarten.

Looking back, it does seem odd that I was fine with talking toads and boating rodents but not with bearded men who could make themselves invisible. Yet I think the main reason I couldn't get drawn into wizard stories was my belief that wizard problems tended to be pretty easily fixed. Nothing was impossible - after all, a wizard could just turn himself into a rabbit (or whatever) when things started to get hairy. And if he made a mistake with a spell, well, it was only a matter of time before he figured out how to reverse it with another spell. In contrast, Toad in The Wind in the Willows might have been able to walk and talk, but he had no recourse to the supernatural when things went wrong. So, as a kid, when I read about Toad Hall getting overrun with hooligan weasels, it really seemed to me that Toad was a toad with real and urgent problems.

I was 15 years old when the first Harry Potter book came out. By then, my anti-fantasy prejudices were pretty deeply entrenched. It wasn't that I was, in any way, above Harry Potter (at 15, it was still possible for me to pass a pleasant Saturday afternoon re-reading my favourites from the Babysitters Club series), it's just that I knew I wouldn't be able to identify with Harry or care about his problems.

Even though we were all a couple of years older than the tween target market, quite a few of my friends did get caught up in Pottermania. One way or another, through younger siblings or just wondering what all the fuss was about, it seemed every person I knew picked up a Harry Potter book at some point. And a good proportion of them got sucked in by it all.

Things got worse four years later when the Harry Potter movies started to come out. Every time a new one hit the cinemas, my friends would go and see it without me. It would be a jolly, life-affirming affair, apparently- a day of popcorn and choc-tops and jumbo-size Cokes - but since I'm not into wizards, I just couldn't bring myself to shell out my hard-earned for it. My flatmates would come home from the cinema, cheery and rosy-cheeked, chuckling about 'muggles' and 'squibs'. Sometimes they'd talk up Pottermania and try to convince me to get on board. I'd dismiss them with a shake of the head and a rueful smile: "Wizards just shit me," I'd say.

With the imminent release of the last Harry Potter movie, that era will draw to a close. And I have to say I feel nothing. Nothing at all. As fantasy fads go, I suppose it could have been far worse (unicorn interns in a magical emergency ward?), but I just do not care for wizards. Give me a talking toad any day.

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