This week we celebrate the 20th anniversary of this century’s most famous fictional character. On June 26, 1997 Bloomsbury dared to publish an edition of 500 copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. We are told that 500 printed copies is standard for a new, unknown author. 300 of these were sent to libraries in hopes of attracting attention and favorable book reviews. The other 200 slowly sold for £5.99. Not long ago one of those sold online for £1.95 million.
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling needs no introduction, as the saying goes. It is so famous that just this week the Vatican, again, condemned it (that is, the Vatican’s chief exorcist, Fr. Cesare Truqui, mentioned it as an avenue to demonic possession that should be avoided). US President, Donald Trump, has traded insults with Harry’s creator, contributing its bit, I think, to Trump, this week, being dis-invited to visit the United Kingdom. The Queen of England on her Birthday Honors List this week promoted J. K. Rowling to the rank of Companion of Honor. It is hard to keep up with Harry and his maker.
540 million copies of Harry Potter books are in print (as of a year ago) in about 90 different languages. The last 3 books in the 7-book series all broke previous sales records on their release days. Harry turned Jo Rowling into the world’s first female $ billionaire author and the world’s richest woman until she began setting up charities that made her one of the world’s most generous philanthropists.
Harry’s fandom shows no sign of flagging in zeal.
We may not have caught on quickly, but we have remained loyal. I confess. I have read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone at least once a year since I broke down and splurged on both that and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at the time the movie “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was released in 2001. After volume 3 came out my name was on the list for each of the rest on the day of issue. There is no series of books I have re-read as often, and I doubt there ever will be.
I used Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in English and Thai editions for teacher training workshops on how to develop supplemental activities based on popular literature for English language classes. Then I broke down and joined thousands of fans in writing my own Harry Potter stories (see www.kendobson.asia/blog/book-launch). There are countless Harry Potter fandom websites around the world.
Harry Potter’s birthday, we fans all know, is July 31, which happens to be J.K. Rowling’s birthday, too. So I will not say “Happy birthday” at this time. I’ll just say, “Thanks!”
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.