Friday, July 15, 2011

Fiction Friday: The End

A some misguided people thought the world was going to end on May 21, 2011.  I think more people really believe that today, July 15, 2011, is the true end of the world as we know it.  I have a few words to say in honor of this historic day, and those words are:

Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!

(That's a reference from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, if you didn't know.  And if you don't know anything about Harry Potter and would eventually like to read the books someday, don't read any further.  This blog is for the family of readers who, like me, have been forever changed by a book series by J. K. Rowling.)

I have yet to see the second part of the seventh (and last??) installment of the Harry Potter films.  I probably won't see it for a couple of weeks because that's about how long it will take for the hype to die down so I can see it in peace.  But I'm pretty sure I know how it ends, unless the filmmakers decided to go crazy.  I've known how Harry Potter ends since the day after the last book came out.

But I'm getting way ahead of myself...

I was 21 when I read the first Harry Potter book.  It was September.  That means that Harry Potter has been part of my life for almost a full decade.  A decade.  Wow. 

As a Christian, I definitely heard all the warnings that Harry Potter was evil and promoted witchcraft.  As a Christian who tries to think before she makes judgments, I knew that I was going to have to eventually read a Harry Potter book before I decided if it were really evil or not.  For some reason, I just hadn't gotten around to reading it yet.  Then my parents--my Christian parents--intervened.  While most good Christian parents were trying to shield their children (and young adults--which is what I was at the time--AND STILL AM) from Harry Potter, mine thrust the books into my hands and said, "YOU HAVE TO READ THESE." 

At the time, the first four books were out, and, at my parents' insistence, I read them all.  In about three days.  I don't know if I slept.  I don't know if I ate.  I just know that I lived and breathed Harry Potter for three days.  And I decided they weren't evil.  Later, when I did some research, I discovered that J. K. Rowling actually claims to be a Christian--and that there's Christian imagery throughout the series, including actual Scripture references in the last book.  But I don't want to get into that right now...

J. K. Rowling's style is so descriptive that I can remember my first cognitive and emotional reactions to so many of the elements of her books.  I remember the mystery of Dumbledore deluminating the lights up and down Privet Drive.  I sympathized with the orphaned boy who lived under the stairs.  I wondered about his scar.  I delighted in the letters that chased his "family" all the way out to an abandoned shack in the middle of an island.  I remember the shudder of fear that came the first time I ever read the name Voldemort.  I remember the wonder and FUN of my first views of Diagon Alley.  I remember the silliness of the idea of Platform 9 3/4 and the enjoyment of the Hogwarts Express.  I remember my immediate love of Hagrid and Dumbledore, my immediate loathing of Draco Malfoy and Snape.  I remember the simple sweetness of Harry, Ron, and Hermione's friendship (along with one of the greatest lines in literature: "There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them").  I remember the delight of escaping into the mind of eleven year olds who were experiencing the wonders of living and going to school in a magical castle.  I remember the spookiness of the Forbidden Forest.  I remember the thrill of "watching" my first Quidditch match.  I remember the yearning I felt for poor Harry when he saw his parents in the Mirror of Erised.

But mostly I remember the total and utter shock of learning that Snape was not evil.

Rowling created a fun, magical world full of interesting, believable characters who do silly, sweet, heroic things.  And she knows how to make a good twist ending.

In book six, Rowling fooled a lot of people into thinking Snape was evil again.  She didn't fool me on that note, though she did fool me several other times.  I was shocked to find it was Ginny Weasley (under the influence of the horcrux diary--which also surprised me later to learn it was a horcrux) that opened the Chamber of Secrets.  I was shocked to discover that Sirius Black was really an awesome dude all along.  I was shocked to discover that Mad-Eye Moony was an impostor--and I was devastated when Cedric Diggory died. 

I was a little older (had to wait for them to come out) when I read the last three books.  Maybe that's why they didn't shock me as much.  Don't get me wrong, I was very shocked when Dumbledore died.  I had to read over that sentence about five times before it sunk in.  But even then, I knew that Rowling was trying to trick us again.  I knew that Snape had to be good.  The reason I knew this was because I knew Dumbledore.  I didn't learn about his past until book seven, but I knew him.  I knew him so well because Rowling wrote him so well. 

And I knew that Dumbledore was not a man who would ever EVER plead for his own life.  I knew that when he said, "Severus, please," he was asking Snape to kill him.

And I think I shed some tears when Snape died.  I loved to hate him, but I also just loved him.  He was a brilliant character.  So was Dumbledore.  So were Draco, and Dobby, and Hagrid, and Ron, and Hermione, and Neville, and Luna...and I could go on and on.  These characters have been part of my life for a decade. 

And now I feel like I'm sayng goodbye.  Only I really already know how it ends.  Seeing it on the big screen is just like an afterthought to the goodbye I said a few years ago when book seven came out.  And I stood in line at Walmart.  And got a free Gryffindor arm band.  Though I'd probably be in Hufflepuff.

But the great thing about great books is that you never really have to say goodbye.  They're there to read over and over and over again, revisiting old friends and discovering things that you'd either missed the first time or just plain forgotten. 

So, I'm not saying goodbye.  I'm saying, till we meet again, Harry James Potter.  Thanks for being awesome.

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