Sunday, July 22, 2007

Flourish, Exeunt

Oh, the torment bred in the race, the grinding scream of death and the stroke that hits the vein, the haemorrhage none can staunch, the grief, the curse no man can bear.

But there is a cure in the house and not outside it, no, not from others but from them, their bloody strife. We sing to you, dark gods beneath the earth.

Now hear, you blissful powers underground-answer the call, send help. Bless the children, give them triumph now.

The Libation Bearers- Aeschylus [JK Rowling- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows]

And then it was midnight, or 7:01pm in Trinidad. I had never stood in line, as I would for food or a movie, for a book. But all that changed on the night of July 20th, 2007. I was fully caught in the hype for the final installment of the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry Potter may mean different things to different people, but for the last 10 years, it has been to me very much what I suppose Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was to my parents.

Ever since I could remember, I have read or been read to. I don’t know if my father remembers, but I remember, at 3 years old, clambering into bed with him and my younger brother, and being read the classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel and many, many more. I never forgot them and as I grew, it was evident that those evening spent discovering the enchanted lands of fantasy and escape had laid the foundation for a lifetime of reading a myriad of books.

Finishing 400 page novels at nine and ten years old became norm for me. Then, as I started high school, there emerged from obscurity a British writer, who, on good account had created this series about a boy, who lived amongst Muggles but who was really the lone survivor of murder and who had vanquished, as a baby, the most evil of all Dark Wizards. And so, binding the planet with her tale of Harry Potter, Rowling’s spell evolved from a battle between good and evil to a battle between Harry and himself

Harry faces his greatest challenges, but as we read, he learns to overcome them using love, trust, friendship and restraint. His quest to recover the Horcruxes is akin to Frodo’s ‘precious’. He grapples with the loss of many of his closest allies in a bloodbath filled novella that answers all questions, ties up the series wonderfully and brings a sense of bittersweet closure to his legion of readers.
He longed to discover the truth about his past and forged the strongest of friendships whilst courting danger under the watchful eyes of Headmaster Dumbledore at Hogwarts. We walked alongside him, whether recovering the Philosopher’s Stone or understanding Quidditch or participating in the TriWizard’s tournament or acing the Potion’s class using the text of the Half Blood Prince.

We were captivated, drawn into the magical fantasy of Harry’s world, vacillating between love and hate for Snape, becoming impatient with Hermione or just feeling sorry for Ron. The books became increasingly longer and more popular, as Rowling narrated every detail, from the shade of the drapes in the Gryffindor hall to the elusive Snitch to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself.

She has served, not only to entertain us, but to allow us, especially those in our mid twenties, to live our own lives through the lives of her characters. Talking about Hogwarts is as nostalgic as talking about your old school. The non-magical tribulations faced by the gang while doing their OWLs is easily relatable and their stuggles with relationships is as human as ever. Rowling made sure never to cast Harry as a superhero. She ensured that he wasn’t perfect and it was that fallibility that accorded him a degree of humanity that so many of us could attest to. He needed people to trust, friends to confide in, teachers to guide him and was the subject of taunts and antagonisms. Were he not the Chosen One, he would be a regular boy. And it is that connection that had millions lining up at midnight to get their hands on the final installment to discover for themselves whether Harry’s fallibility would end in death or if the merchants of good would defeat the Dark Lord and his disciples.

Rowling imputes resounding political themes and lessons are learnt about absolute power and domineering government control. From the various Ministers of Magic to Dolores Umbridge herself, the latter books are wrought with warnings about allowing freedoms to be systematically undermined without a definitive uprising against those taking away those freedoms.

Reading the final book finally put a realization that as each page turned, you were one page closer to the end, with no Book 8 to come. As things were explained and understanding dawned, tears flowed freely, if not for those who died, but for the selflessness of some, the utter sacrifice of others and the loyalty of even more.

There will never be another Harry Potter. In twenty years, perhaps, another novelist will come along and take the world by storm. Whether the next great author can top Rowling as history’s best selling non-religious author remains to be seen. It would be a great day when another 400 million books can be sold, captivating from kindergarteners to pensioners, especially now in an age of TV, Internet, iPods and movies.

For now, we are left with seven of the most magical books ever conceived from one of the most creative minds ever to bless this earth. JK Rowling has showed that people are willing to read, if they are given something that they want to read. Her formula is not easily duplicated and, dare I say, will never be replicated. And as the first 12 million copies literally fly off the shelf as if enchanted by the Accio! spell, we can take heart that Rowling does not abandon her progression into darkness and death and that the aptly named Deathly Hallows is a final reflection of life and the importance of living not only for yourself, but for the general upliftment of others and society

Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent. In this divine glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure. 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.- William Penn (More Fruits of Solitude) [JK Rowling (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)]

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