Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: A Magical Reading Experience

(Guest post by David T)

I wouldn’t consider myself a Harry Potter fan. Yes, I have seen all 8 movies. I can name the main heroes and villains. I have my favorite student and professor (Hermione Granger and Albus Dumbledore). I’ve taken the “Hogwarts House Sorting Quiz” twice (I was in Ravenclaw, but now I’m in Hufflepuff). I even own some of the early Lego sets and more recent blind bag minifigures. But the main reason I don’t consider myself a fan is the fact that I am one of those rare people who haven’t read J.K. Rowling’s works (except one) that all the above are based on.  

Even though I served my mission in England at the turn of the millennium, I was unaware of Harry Potter and the fictional “Wizarding World” until 2001 when it seemed many people around me here in the U.S. were gripped with the phenomenon. When people learned I didn’t know who Harry Potter was and hadn’t read the novels, they enthusiastically encouraged (it felt more like pressured) me to do so. These Potter fans excitedly anticipated “The Sorcerer’s Stone” on the big screen. I briefly investigated what everyone was raving about when I cracked open a copy of the first book, but quickly lost interest. As Potter fever raged around me, I resisted. I couldn’t understand why it appealed to family members, friends, and coworkers. To me, it was a fad (which I tend to be suspicious of), and I was determined to buck the trend.  

Now, fast forward 22 years (and unbeknownst to me it’s also the 25th anniversary of The Sorcerer’s Stone’s book release in the U.S.), and I’m looking for a new audiobook to listen to. I’d recently retaken the sorting quiz on Wizarding World, and being more interested in Rowling’s works as a result, I decided I’d give the first novel a try. I knew that there were British and American versions of the books. Wanting to enjoy the words and slang of the U.K., I chose to listen to The Philosopher’s Stone.  

Before I began the audiobook, I’d watched The Sorcerer’s Stone multiple times over the years. As a result, I believed I knew enough of the Potter universe that I didn’t need to read the story. However, as I listened to it, I discovered a richer tale than the film portrayed. In fact, I would tell my sister and friends how much I enjoyed the details and nuances. It was these specific things that created a magical experience for me with the novel.  

For cinematic storytelling purposes, I understand why certain details in the book were left out of the film. However, it is these details that fleshed out Harry Potter’s world for me. For example, I finally understood how Quidditch is played, and learned that killing unicorns and drinking their blood is a grave offense to the soul. One of my favorite details was the introduction of some of the minor characters through the house sorting. While it takes longer to find out which houses the Sorting Hat will send the major characters to, hearing the names of Lavender Brown, Millicent Bulstrode, Parvati Patil, etc., made their characters more recognizable when mentioned later.  

These details made the characters and their situations more nuanced. I found Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s friendship more believable as it gradually developed over multiple chapters. Draco Malfoy and Harry’s initial meeting at “Madam Malkin’s Robes” was amusing because they were unaware of who the other was. One of the nuanced moments that I enjoyed was the challenges the characters faced to retrieve the Philosopher’s Stone. Even though I knew from the movie what many of the obstacles were, it was interesting to learn the connection between Hagrid and the Hogwarts professors and the unique barriers that each put in place that Ron, Hermione, and Harry would end up encountering.  

The combination of detail and nuance created a magical experience with The Philosopher’s Stone. Although I was aware at the outset who the villain was, I enjoyed the unfolding process of how it turned out to be Professor Quirrell. I felt for Harry when he saw his deceased relatives in the “Mirror of Erised.” But the most magical moment in the novel for me was Christmas Day at Hogwarts. As I listened to this chapter in September, it felt like Christmas to me. I enjoyed learning about the different presents Harry received. My heart was warmed by Fred and George’s excitement at Harry receiving a knitted “Weasley jumper” from their mother. And I felt the true Spirit of the season as the twins and Ron included Harry in their holiday festivities. I LOVED this part SO MUCH that I had to listen to it AGAIN before I could move on!  

Now that I’ve listened to The Philosopher’s Stone, I still can’t say that I’m a Harry Potter fan. I’m not sure what’s preventing me from becoming one. However, I will say that I’m more endeared to the franchise than I was before. Because of the details, nuances, and the magical experience with the first novel, I will continue listening to the books (I’m currently on The Prisoner of Azkaban at the time of writing this post). And who knows, once I’ve listened to all seven books, maybe I will be a fan.

No comments:

Post a Comment