|The magic of Harry Potter has had fans spell-bound for 2 decades|
If, as an adult woman, who has reached the grand old age of 26, I was still obsessed with Barbies I would be considered a bit strange.
A fondness for Thomas the Tank Engine would also be seen as a bit out of left field.
But an enduring love for Harry Potter? That’s pretty common.
My love for Harry Potter is hard to explain. I have seen every single film a dozen times. I’ve re-read the books until they’ve fallen apart. I have a Deathly Hallows tattoo on my left ankle (yes, really).
I feel, like so many other millions of people around the world, a kind of ownership over Harry Potter. Harry Potter is mine. But why is Harry Potter the last part of our childhoods that we’re not willing to let go of?
Today marks the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter being published. Twenty years ago today a book that wasn’t supposed to do that well changed the face of children’s publishing. And two decades on, those of us who by rights should have grown up and moved on, are still in love with the world of a fictional wizard.
It was my dad who brought the books home for me. Someone in his office had told him they were good.
I wasn’t convinced. The book had a boy on the cover, and as far as I was concerned, the only books worth reading were about girls. I was, up until this point, a Worst Witch kind of girl. But, I allowed my mum to read it to me (I was an imperious sort of child) and I fell in love.
The magic (sorry) of the books is different for everyone. For me it’s always been a world where physical strength was secondary, so women were inherently equal to men. A concept which made me feel safe, and hopeful.
And then there’s school aspect. Harry Potter showed a world where it was good and normal to want to learn. In the magical world, knowledge is power, and by studying harder and doing better academically you became more potent – a far cry from the real world where so many of us lived, where a craving for knowledge wasn’t exactly considered cool.
The books were the constant companion of my childhood. As I got older, so did the books, and as my world became darker, they did the same.
Summers were marked out by getting hold of a brand new copy. The later books came out when I was discovering drinking, smoking, sex and broken hearts. But alongside all those trappings of adulthood, there was this life raft, this thread that connected me to my childhood.
Potter fans will often say that they grew up with the characters, and it’s true.
No, we weren’t battling Voldemort annually some time around June, but as teenagers we were battling other things.
Getting older, however little any of us would have admitted it at the time, is frightening. That feeling of being slowly corrupted by all the things that your parents have tried to shield you from is a confusing one.
Adulthood is obviously great. You can eat whatever you want and no-one can tell you what to wear. But it’s kind of scary too. The safety net of childhood is gone.
Being able to drop back into a world which you’ve known since you were small means always having somewhere to go.
Going home physically isn’t an option for a lot of us. We’re a generation who move far away from home for education and careers. So for me, when things feel dark and frightening, I have a routine. At bed time I’ll put an audiobook of Harry Potter on.
The combination of Stephen Fry’s voice, JK Rowling’s words and a place that I’ve come to see as home will never fail to make me feel better, and safer. Just like JK Rowling said at the final film premiere, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.