It’s been twenty years since we first met the boy wizard who lived inside a cupboard under the stairs, in a perfectly normal home at Number 4 Privet Drive, thank you very much. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1997 on June 26, and while the first print of the hardcover ran with only a minuscule 500 copies – 300 of them going to libraries – the series has now sold more than 450 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 67 languages.
What we celebrate on June 26 is more than a bestselling children’s book series, but what it has come to mean and developed into in the twenty years since 1997. The everlasting effects of the magic can be seen all around the muggle world, which will now forever pale in comparison to the wonderful wizarding world created by JK Rowling. Countless Potterheads are still waiting for an owl to fly in through a window with our letters from The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. We won’t give up!
In the last two decades, we’ve read seven books, three companion reads published for charity, and watched eight captivating movies. The wizarding universe, however, continues to grow and enthrall us. Pottermore, the official Harry Potter interactive news and updates platform can help sort you into your house at Hogwarts, find your patronus, and read more about the magnificent magic – character backstories, information about new schools outside of the United Kingdom, chapters of life after Hogwarts, the fate of the many favourite characters, and so much more. And now, the four-part Fantastic Beasts series is introducing us to the magical community in America, the magical wild, the adorable niffler, a young and vicious Gellert Grindelwald, and powerful concepts like the Obscurus, which can be linked back to the book series and with the fates of the Dumbledore siblings.
The fans have taken over
The wizarding world is ever-evolving. And even if it isn’t canon, the vast and unfathomable wealth of Harry Potter fan fiction is what unites us in our nerdity. These go from origin stories, future predictions, fan theories, successful spin-offs like Rainbow Rowell’s Bestselling YA novel Fangirl, hilarious comics that explore what it would be like if the sage-like Albus Dumbledore was in fact, a jerk, and what is life as a background Slytherin, the high school-comedy-like life of the Marauders before the time of Voldemort, to list just a few. Owing to their singular brilliance and also the size of the fandom, the fanfiction often becomes as wild and viral as the original stories.
Case in point, wonderfully sticky The Mysterious Ticking Clock by Potter Puppet Pals, a Youtube content creator’s channel which consists of short hand-puppet videos of all the major characters from the books.
The Mysterious Ticking Noise has been viewed over 17 million times, and is such an integral part of Potter-inspired pop culture that when Alan Rickman arrived at at the screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the huge crowd serenaded him with the Potter Puppet Pals version of Snape Snape, Severus Snape
Countless such fan made tributes and dedications exist, and some of these rise above the rest with clicks, views and popularity, making them a truly iconic part of Potterdom. Yung Mavu, a Belgian dancer turned-rap musician translated his love for Harry Potter into a rap song which is so incredible that it garnered more than a million views in the first week alone.
Business as well as pleasure
Some of this wonderful fan-made content gets more than just views though. A fan made a Kickstarter project about the life of young Tom Riddle, titled Voldemort, Origins of the Heir, uploaded a teaser on YouTube and received over 30 million views within the first few days. The project was stalled till the filmmakers could get a go ahead from the Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. which owns the copyright to the stories, characters and everything Harry Potter. The overwhelming response to the teaser ensured they received the nod. There will be more of the Dark Lord in the days to come.
Potterheads are everywhere and so is the inspired content. There are a great number of podcasts discussing the wonders of wizardry and witchcraft. Pottercast and MuggleCast have both been around for a very long time and remain the most-followed and trusted sources of discussion and celebration, and for getting better acquainted with the actors and creators from the Harry Potter Universe.
One podcast that is especially innovative is Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, hosted by Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, two Harvard Divinity school graduates who read the text of Harry Potter series like it was scripture – mining the rich stories for lessons on morality, ethics, human nature, faith and philosophy. They explain that fear can be dispelled by humour, talking about how a boggart reacts to the ridiculous images that make us laugh, and chat about the vast and wonderful well of love and forgiveness in the heart of Rubeus Hagrid.
And of course, as Harry Potter grew up, so did the readers. There exists an entire world of Harry Potter Erotica, which talks about what really happens when hundreds of excited teenagers live together in a castle that has only too many places to hide in – there is literally a Room of Requirement on the seventh floor. Podcast hosts Allie LeFevere, Lyndsay Rush, and Danny Chapman discovered this genre and it is the basis of their NSFW Potterotica Podcast.
We keep the Harry Potter stories alive with new stories, new interpretations of the magic, rereading the books to find something new or feel at home in a familiar place – the Hogwarts castle, the Burrow, or the magical streets of Diagon Alley. The has empowered millions of Harry Potter lovers to connect with one another and showcase their creativity to the entire world. Be it artists that create and sell only Harry Potter-inspired merchandise or musicians who derive inspiration from the wizarding world – it has transcended the page, script and screen.
Harry Potter has seamlessly cut across the world of literature and become a part of our physical reality with locations that call back to the stories, or celebrate their infinite wonder. Not just at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios or the Warner Brother’s studio Tour in London, but also at inspired locations like Lockhart, a Harry Potter-themed bar in Toronto, or the Georgian House Hotel in London where you can live in a Hogwarts-style dorm room. Visit the wall at platform nine and three quarters at the King’s Cross Station in London, or the Alnwick Castle in North East England, which is one of the locations where the movie was shot, take a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train in Scotland and pass over the Glenfinnan viaduct, or study Harry Potter and the Age Of Illusion at Durham University – there are now a million ways to find your way into the magical world created by Rowling.
There is an International Quidditch association, and every year about 200 teams play the sport, 80 of which participate in a Quidditch World Cup. Sorry, but there is no flying involved. One player, though, acts like a human-golden snitch -–which must be entertaining!
Every October, Chestnut Hill University in Pennsylvania turns an entire street into something from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for an entire weekend. There is butterbeer to be had, Quidditch to be played, duels to be fought, and quizzes to the conquered. Fans can attend classes about magic and mythical creatures, and live in an actual castle at the College of Wizardry in Czocha Poland, experiencing the Hogwarts Life for four days.
In 2016, a series of ten writing workshops was organised in Delhi, discussing the magic of Harry Potter. It was also the year that Delhi hosted its first ever Yule Ball.
To mark the 20th anniversary, Rowling is inaugurating a Harry Potter exhibition at the British Museum in October. It will take readers on a journey to the heart of the stories and the wizarding world, created with medieval descriptions of dragons and stories about the origin of the philosopher’s stone, with an extraordinary range of books, manuscripts and objects being showcased.
On Friday, June 23, Harry Potter‘s UK publisher Bloomsbury created a world record by bringing together over 676 wand-carrying little kids dressed as Harry Potter at Bolton in Manchester.
But the story goes on
Many of those who have stuck with Harry until the end, refuse to give up just because Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is where the official story came to an end. A gazillion stories have emerged using the books as raw material – major and minor characters, themes, histories, future predictions and OTPs. A dominant genre is of love stories, many of which ship Hermione and Draco – though Rowling confirmed that Malfoy doesn’t have any redeeming qualities, he remains a particularly interesting and complex character who many believe deserves a little more love.
Here’s where the Fan Fiction comes in. Dramione stories crowd the FanFic universe – Macbeth combines the forces of Shakespeare and Rowling to bring Draco and Hermione together in a fanfic inspired by the play and set in the wizarding world, and in Isolation, Draco is locked up in Hermione’s room for his own safety, at the orders of the Order. It could be the good girl trying to save the bad guy trope which somehow doesn’t seem to get old.
Draco Malfoy, it’s your Lucky Day is considered a classic. Prolific fanfic writer Faith Wood tells the story of the beginning of Harry and Draco’s relationship from Draco’s point of view, while he is lost and injured, wandering about the Forbidden Forest. This one is for the Drarry (Draco and Harry) shippers. Harry Potter and The Paradigm of Uncertainty, a fanfic by Lori Summers (written in the early 2000s), picks up nine years after the trio graduated from Hogwarts – Hermione Granger is a Charms Fellow, Ron Weasley is dead and Harry Potter is a spy for the International Federation of Wizards. Since this was written around the release of Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix, Cho Chang happens to still be around. When Luna met Rolf is a sequel to the original books and follows Luna Lovegood as she moves to Dorset to work with Newt Scamander and falls in love with his grandson, Rolf.
But not all fanfic writers are hopeless romantics, there are stories of adventures and reimaginings of the story that could change the course of the Harry Potter series. In Cunning and Ambition by MinaAndChao, Harry Potter chooses to befriend Draco instead of Ron on the first day, and ends up getting sorted into Slytherin. Gypsy Caravan is set in Harry’s pre-Hogwarts years when he runs off to meet the “freak” Gypsies camping nearby, wondering if they’ll accept him. The Shoebox Project is about the friendship of Remus Lupin and Sirius Black, told through a series of heartwarming and funny letters and notes. Dumbledore’s Army and the Year of Darkness fills in the gaps in the story for the year the trio spend looking for Voldemort’s Horcruxes. This fanfic is set in Hogwarts where Neville Longbottom and the rest Dumbledore’s Army stay back and fight the Death Eaters now in charge.
The reading list is long and full of magic. It is a reflection of fierce commitment and stubbornness to find a way into the wizarding world. In the words of Albus Dumbledore (the original one), “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic” and nowhere else do these words ring truer than in the vast, vivid and living universe of Harry Potter fanfiction.
Schools, bookshops and libraries around the world are celebrating the milestone, paying homage to a world we wish to live in forever. And while it may be fiction from book one to eight, we have found a way to the magic, the witchcraft and wizardry in our lives. As long as we keep creating, imagining, believing and writing, the magic will live on. And if anyone asks a Potterhead, “After all this time?” The answer is always “Always.”