It all started with an innocent 11-year-old boy with glasses and a funny scar on his forehead who lived in a broom closet.
That boy, the title character in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” got a letter on his 11th birthday that introduced him to the world of magic — an invitation to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he would spend the next seven years experiencing the trials and tribulations of being “the boy who lived.”
OK, folks: Time to test your knowledge of J.K. Rowling’s wizard series.
Q: What is the one “muggle” football team talked about in the books?
A: West Ham United
Q: What other famous literary wizard has a portrait in Dumbledore’s office?
A: Gandalf the Grey makes an appearance in “The Chamber of Secrets.”
Q: Why is Hermoine’s patronus an otter?
A: Because it’s J.K Rowling’s favorite animal.
Q: What would a “muggle” see if they walked towards Hogwarts castle?
A: An old ruin with a sign that says, “Keep out, dangerous building.”
Q: What’s Hogwart’s motto?
A: “Draco dormiens nunquam titullandus.” It means, “Never tickle a sleeping dragon.”
After the release of J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book in 1997, many young readers woke up on their own 11th birthdays disappointed, realizing they’d never receive their Hogwarts letter via an owl.
Those kids grew up in the world of Harry Potter, aging alongside their favorite characters and going through some of the same life changes — just sans magic. Now many of those fans are in college, and for some at the University of Colorado and other local campuses, their journey with the young wizard is nearly over.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” — the penultimate movie in the series, covering the first half of the seventh book — opens Friday with sold-out, post-midnight screenings at Century Boulder at Twenty Ninth Street. The second part will be in theaters July 15.
“Everyone wanted to be a witch or wizard as a kid,” said Zach Keller, who graduated from CU last May. “Everyone has trials and tribulations growing up, even if they are not quite as drastic as Harry Potter’s.”
Coming of age
Many have called the Harry Potter books a “coming of age” series, as the characters in the books, and the actors who play them onscreen, seemed to mature and grow before the world’s eyes.
“Hermione was the first character in a book I ever felt I identified with, and I read many, many books before and after Harry Potter,” CU junior Alejandra Taylor said. “Like me, she had crazy hair, a different name and a love of learning. We were so alike, and I felt I was almost growing up with her and the others.”
It seems Rowling’s world of “muggles” (non-wizarding folk, for the uninitiated), charms and spells captivated the imaginations and attentions of the young fans who experienced it. Whether these readers realize it or not, by delving into the seven-book series, they were fulfilling the wishes of the adults in their lives by reading more.
Becca Miik, a sophomore at Front Range Community College, didn’t like reading when she was 11, so her mother took her to the local library to make her choose a book. This was around the time the first Harry Potter book was published, so Miik chose that.
“I could relate in weird ways to (the characters) because they were my own age,” Miik said of why she kept reading the series.
Taylor also said she quickly became addicted to the series.
“A friend lent me first three books. From that moment, I was hooked,” Taylor said. “I think the thing I found so appealing was J.K. Rowling’s mix of magic and realistic experiences.”
In the classroom
At this point, Harry Potter is such a part of popular culture that it’s even taught at CU. Associate professor Scot Douglass teaches “Harry Potter & The Conflict of Being” as part of an ongoing series of courses he created for CU’s Maymester session on 20th-century British fantasy literature.
“While the Harry Potter series is clearly a page-turner, it also puts universal themes together in such a way that merit a much more sophisticated analysis,” Douglass said. “What really sustains (the books) is the uniting of plot with real character development against a backdrop of complex values.”
Douglass said the majority of the students in his class have been “Harry Potter junkies” and the challenge has been how to teach them to read the books better when the students already know what happens.
“They know every plot detail well enough to be able to answer on the first day of class such detailed questions as, ‘What spell did Hermione use in Book 5?'” Douglass said.
The dedication of the true Harry Potter fans is clear in the high attendance of the book releases and midnight movie premieres.
Nile Greenberg, a senior at CU, said he went to the last three midnight premieres in the Harry Potter movie series, and has dressed as an “ambiguous wizarding world” character each time.
Keller has been to book releases for the fifth through seventh books, as well as every midnight movie premiere — and plans to attend Thursday’s late-night showing.
“I’m a huge fan, I’m not a crazed fan,” Keller said. “I do think this is an end of an era, but, as they say, all good things must come to an end.”
As the first part of the final Harry Potter installment opens at theaters this weekend, fans such as Keller feel that it’s the end of a 13-year era. But some believe the wizarding world of Hogwarts and Harry Potter will live on.
“For me it’s already ended because the books ended,” Miik said. “But the movies are a way to keep it alive for a bit longer.”
For Taylor, it’s bittersweet.
“On the one hand, I’m excited to see ‘Deathly Hallows’ brought to life since it’s my favorite book, but on the other hand, the movies have been kind of all I’ve had left of the series since it ended in 2007,” Taylor said.
“It’ll be like saying goodbye to my best friend.”