Friday, October 12, 2007

Harry Potter

The success of the Harry Potter franchise has led to a set of stamps being commissioned by Royal Mail, which feature the British children's covers of the seven books.[1]
Author J. K. Rowling (Joanne Rowling)
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Fantasy, Thriller, Bildungsroman
Publisher Flag of the United Kingdom Bloomsbury Publishing
Flag of the United States Scholastic Publishing
Flag of Canada Raincoast Books
Flag of AustraliaFlag of New Zealand Allen & Unwin
Publication date 26 June 199721 July 2007
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback) and
Pages Flag of the United Kingdom 3407 (in total)
Flag of the United States 4100 (in total)

Harry Potter is a heptalogy of fantasy novels written by British author J. K. Rowling. The books chronicle the adventures of the eponymous adolescent wizard Harry Potter, together with his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. The story is mostly set at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, an academy for young wizards and witches. The central story arc concerns Harry's conflict against the evil wizard Lord Voldemort, who killed Harry's parents in his quest to conquer the wizarding world.

Since the release of the first novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 1997, which was retitled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the United States, the books have gained immense popularity, critical acclaim and commercial success worldwide.[2] The series has spawned films, video games and Potter-themed merchandise. As of April 2007, the first six books in the seven book series have sold more than 325 million copies[3] and have been translated into more than 64 languages.[4] The seventh and last book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released on 21 July 2007.[5] Publishers announced a record-breaking 12 million copies for the first print run in the U.S. alone.[6]

The success of the novels has made Rowling the highest-earning novelist in history.[7] English language versions of the books are published by Bloomsbury in the United Kingdom, Scholastic Press in the United States, Allen & Unwin in Australia and Raincoast Books in Canada.

The first five books have been made into a series of motion pictures by Warner Bros. The sixth, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is set to begin filming in September 2007, and has a scheduled release of 21 November 2008.[8]




Plot summary

The story opens with the conspicuous celebration of a normally secretive wizarding world. For many years, it had been terrorised by the evil wizard, Lord Voldemort. The previous night, on 31 October, Voldemort discovers the Potter family's hidden refuge, killing Lily and James Potter. However, when he attempts to murder their infant son, Harry, the Avada Kedavra killing curse he casts rebounds upon him. Voldemort's body is destroyed, but his spirit survives: he is neither dead nor alive. Meanwhile, the orphaned Harry is left with a distinctive lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead, the only physical sign of Voldemort's curse. Harry is the only known survivor of the killing curse, and Voldemort's mysterious defeat causes the wizarding community to dub Harry "The Boy Who Lived".

On November 1, Hagrid, a 'half-giant', delivers Harry to his only living relatives, the cruel and magic-phobic Dursleys, comprising Uncle Vernon, a bad-tempered uncle with hardly any neck; Aunt Petunia, a long-necked woman who appears to absolutely loathe Harry; and Dudley, their spoiled, overweight son. They attempt in vain to rid him of his magical powers, hide his magical heritage, and severely punish him after any strange occurrences.

However, as his eleventh birthday approaches, Harry has his first contact with the magical world when he receives letters from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which are delivered by owls. However, his uncle intercepts the letters. On his birthday, Hagrid, Hogwarts' gamekeeper, appears and informs Harry that he is a wizard and has been invited to attend the school. Each book chronicles one year in Harry's life, which is mostly spent at Hogwarts. There he learns to use magic and brew potions. Harry also learns to overcome many magical, social, and emotional hurdles as he struggles through his adolescence, Voldemort's second rise to power, and the Ministry of Magic's corruption and incompetence. After facing many obstacles, making countless friends, and losing loved ones, Harry Potter confronts the Dark Lord for the last time.

For a detailed synopsis of the novels, see the relevant article for each book.


Main article: Harry Potter universe
Hogwarts school, as depicted in the first film.
Hogwarts school, as depicted in the first film.

The wizarding world in which Harry finds himself is both utterly separate from and yet intimately connected to our own world. While the fantasy world of Narnia is an alternative universe and the Lord of the RingsMiddle-earth a mythic past, the wizarding world of Harry Potter exists alongside ours and contains magical elements analogous to things in the non-magical world. Many of its institutions and locations are in towns and cities, including London for example, that are recognisable in the real world. It possesses a fragmented collection of hidden streets, overlooked and ancient pubs, lonely country manors and secluded castles that remain invisible to the non-magical population (known as "Muggles"; e.g., The Dursleys). Wizard ability is inborn, rather than learned, although one must attend schools such as Hogwarts in order to master and control it. However it is possible for wizard parents to have children who are born with little or no magical ability at all (known as "Squibs"; e.g., Mrs. Figg, Argus Filch). Since one is either born a wizard or not, most wizards are unfamiliar with the Muggle world, which appears stranger to them than their world does to us. The magical world and its many fantastic elements are depicted in a matter-of-fact way. This juxtaposition of the magical and the mundane is one of the principal motifs in the novels; the characters in the stories live normal lives with normal problems, for all their magical surroundings.


The books mainly avoid setting the story in a particular real year; however, there are a few references which allow the books and various past events mentioned in them to be assigned corresponding real years . The timeline is sufficiently set in Chamber of Secrets, in which Nearly-Headless Nick remarks that it is the five-hundredth anniversary of his death on October 31, 1492; thus, Chamber of Secrets takes place from 1992 to 1993. This chronology was again reiterated in Deathly Hallows, in which the date of death on James and Lily Potter's gravestone is October 31, 1981. Thus, as Harry was a year old at the time of his parents' murders, his year of birth is 1980 and the main action of the story takes place from 1991 (beginning of Philosopher's Stone) to 1998 (end of Deathly Hallows).


  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (26 June 1997) (titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the United States)
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2 July 1998)
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (8 July 1999)
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (8 July 2000)
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (21 June 2003)
  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (16 July 2005)
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (21 July 2007)

Supplementary books

Origins and publishing history

Cover of the first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Cover of the first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

In 1990, J. K. Rowling was on a crowded train from Manchester to London when the idea for Harry suddenly formed in her mind. Rowling gives an account of the experience on her website saying:[9]

I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea before. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, and all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn't know he was a wizard became more and more real to me.

In 1995, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was completed and the manuscript was sent off to prospective agents. The second agent she tried, Christopher Little, offered to represent her and sent the manuscript to Bloomsbury. After eight other publishers had rejected Philosopher's Stone, Bloomsbury offered Rowling a £3,000 advance for its publication.[10]

Despite Rowling's statement that she did not have any particular age group in mind when she began to write the Harry Potter books, the publishers initially targeted them at children age nine to eleven.[11] On the eve of publishing, Joanne Rowling was asked by her publishers to adopt a more gender-neutral pen name, in order to appeal to the male members of this age group, fearing that they would not be interested in reading a novel they knew to be written by a woman. She elected to use J. K. Rowling (Joanne Kathleen Rowling), using her grandmother's name as her second name, because she has no middle name.[12]

The first Harry Potter book was published in the United Kingdom by Bloomsbury in July 1997 and in the United States by Scholastic in September of 1998, but not before Rowling had received $105,000 for the American rights – an unprecedented amount for a children's book by a then unknown author.[13] Fearing that American readers would not associate the word "philosopher" with a magical theme (as a Philosopher's Stone is alchemy-related), Scholastic insisted that the book be given the title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for the American market.

Rowling's publishers were able to capitalise on this buzz by the rapid, successive releases of the first four books that allowed neither Rowling's audience's excitement nor interest to wane while she took a break from writing between the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and also quickly solidified a loyal readership.[14] The series has also gathered adult fans, leading to two editions of each Harry Potter book being released (in markets other than the United States), identical in text but with one edition's cover artwork aimed at children and the other aimed at adults.

Completion of the series

In December 2005, Rowling stated on her web site that "2006 will be the year when I write the final book in the Harry Potter series." Updates have since followed in her online diary chronicling the progress of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, with the release date of 21 July 2007.

The book itself was finished on 11 January 2007 in the Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh, where she scrawled a message on the back of a bust of Hermes. It read: “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (652) on 11 January 2007.”[15]

Rowling herself has stated that the last chapter of the seventh book (in fact, the epilogue) was completed "in something like 1990".[16][17]

In June 2006, Rowling, on an appearance on the British talk show Richard & Judy, announced that the chapter had been modified as one character "got a reprieve" and two others who previously survived the story had in fact been killed. She also said she could see the logic in killing off Harry to stop other writers from writing books about Harry's life after Hogwarts.[18]

On 28 March 2007, the cover art for the Bloomsbury Adult and Child versions and the Scholastic version were released.[19]

After Deathly Hallows

Rowling spent seventeen years writing the seven Harry Potter books. In a 2000 interview through Scholastic, her American publisher, Rowling stated that there is not a university after Hogwarts. With regards to the series continuing past book seven, she stated, "I won't say never, but I have no plans to write an eighth book."[20]

When asked about writing other Harry Potter-related books similar to Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, she has said that she might consider doing this with proceeds donated to charity, as was the case with those two books. Another suggestion is an encyclopedia-style tome containing information that never made it into the series, also for charity.[21] She has revealed she is currently penning two books, one for kids and one not for kids.[22]

In February 2007 Rowling issued a statement on her website about finishing the final book, in which she compared her mixed feelings of "mourning" and "incredible sense of achievement" to those expressed by Charles Dickens in the preface of the 1850 edition of David Copperfield, "a two-years' imaginative task." "To which," she added, "I can only sigh, try seventeen years, Charles…"

On July 24, 2007, Rowling announced in an interview that she "probably will" write an encyclopedia of the Harry Potter world, which would include background information cut from the narrative as well as post-Deathly Hallows information, including details of what happens to the other characters, who the new Hogwarts headmaster is, and more.[23]

In a 90-minute live Web chat, Rowling revealed[24] what several of the characters did in the years between the conclusion of the book and the epilogue.


The cover of Harry Potter en de Steen der Wijzen—the Dutch language translation of the first book, jointly published by De Harmonie and Standaard.
The cover of Harry Potter en de Steen der Wijzen—the Dutch language translation of the first book, jointly published by De Harmonie and Standaard.

The series has been translated into 65 languages,[25] placing Rowling among the most translated authors in history.[26] The first translation was into American English, as many words and concepts used by the characters in the novels would have been incomprehensible or misleading to a young American audience. Subsequently the books have seen translations in languages as diverse as Ukrainian, Hindi, Bengali, Welsh and Vietnamese. The first volume has been translated into Latin and even Ancient Greek,[27] making it the longest published work in that language since the novels of Heliodorus of Emesa in the 3rd century AD.[28]

The high profile and huge public demand for a decent local translation means that a great deal of care is often taken in the task. In some countries such as Italy, the first book was revised by the publishers and issued in an updated edition, in response to feedback from readers. In countries such as China and Portugal, the translation is conducted by a group of translators working together so as to save time. Some of the translators hired to work on the books were quite well known prior to their work on Harry Potter, such as Viktor Golyshev, who oversaw the Russian translation of the series' fifth book. Golyshev was previously best known for translating William Faulkner and George Orwell;[29] his tendency to snub the Harry Potter books in interviews and refer to them as inferior literature may be the reason he did not return to work on later books in the series. The Turkish translation of books two to seven was undertaken by Sevin Okyay, a popular literary critic and cultural commentator.[30] For reasons of secrecy, translation can only start when the books are released in English; thus there is a lag of several months before the translations are available. This has led to more and more copies of the English editions being sold to impatient fans in non-English speaking countries. Such was the clamour to read the fifth book that its English language edition became the first English-language book ever to top the bestseller list in France.[31]

Literary analysis

Structure and genre

The novels are very much in the fantasy genre; in many respects they are also bildungsromans, coming of age novels. The stories are predominantly set in Hogwarts, a British boarding school for wizards, where the curriculum includes the use of magic. In this sense they are "in a direct line of descent from Thomas Hughes's Tom Brown's School Days and other Victorian and Edwardian novels of British public school life".[32] They are also, in the words of Stephen King, "shrewd mystery tale[s]",[33] and each book is constructed in the manner of a Sherlock Holmes-style mystery adventure; the books leave a number of clues hidden in the narrative, while the characters pursue a number of suspects through various exotic locations, leading to a twist ending that often reverses what the characters had been led to believe. The stories are told from a third person limited point of view; with very few exceptions (such as the opening chapters of Philosopher's Stone, Deathly Hallows, and the first two chapters of Half-Blood Prince), the reader learns the secrets of the story when Harry does. The thoughts and plans of other characters, even central ones such as Hermione and Ron, are kept hidden until revealed to Harry.

The books tend to follow a very strict formula. Set over the course of consecutive years, they each begin with Harry at home with the Dursleys in the Muggle world, enduring their ill-treatment. Subsequently, Harry goes to a specific magical location (Diagon Alley, the Weasleys' residence or Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place) for a period before beginning school, which he commences by boarding the school train at Platform 9¾. Once at school, new or redefined characters take shape, and Harry overcomes new everyday school issues, such as difficult essays, awkward crushes, and unsympathetic teachers. The stories reach their climax near or just after final exams, when Harry confronts either Voldemort or one of his Death Eaters. In the aftermath, he learns important lessons through exposition and discussions with Albus Dumbledore. This formula was completely broken in the final novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in which Harry and his friends spend most of their time away from Hogwarts, and only return there to face Voldemort at the climax.[HP7]


According to Rowling, a major theme in the series is the theme of death. She says:[34]

My books are largely about death. They open with the death of Harry's parents. There is Voldemort's obsession with conquering death and his quest for immortality at any price, the goal of anyone with magic. I so understand why Voldemort wants to conquer death. We're all frightened of it.

While the books could be said to comprise many other themes, such as love, prejudice, and choice, they are, as J.K. Rowling states, "deeply entrenched in the whole plot"; the writer prefers to let themes "grow organically", rather than sitting down and consciously attempting to impart such ideas to her readers.[35] Along the same lines is the ever-present theme of adolescence, in whose depiction Rowling has been purposeful in acknowledging her characters' sexualities and not leaving Harry, as she put it, "stuck in a state of permanent pre-pubescence".[36]

Rowling said that, to her, the moral significance of the tales seems "blindingly obvious." The key for her was the choice between what is right and what is easy, "because that, that is how tyranny is started, with people being apathetic and taking the easy route and suddenly finding themselves in deep trouble."[37]


Blood purity
Wizards in general tend to view Muggles with a combination of condescension and suspicion; however, for a few, this attitude has evolved into bigotry. These characters tend to class those around them based on the number of magical ancestors they had, with "pure-blood" wizards (those with an entirely-magical bloodline) at the top of the hierarchy, "half-blood" wizards in the middle (those with both wizard and Muggle ancestry), and "Muggle-borns" (those with no magical ancestors) at the very bottom. Supporters of blood purity believe pure-bloods should control the wizarding world, and don't consider Muggle-borns real wizards. Some have even gone so far as to murder them or demand that they should not be taught magic. Most blood-purity-believers are pure-blood themselves, though it should be noted that Voldemort, one of the most radical supporters of blood purity ever known, is himself half-blood. Also, very few, if any, true "pure-blood" families actually exist as many have intermarried into the Muggle-born population to stop the families from dying out. Many of these families have covered this up, however. One example of this is the removal of certain members from the Black family tree.[HP5]
Owls are perhaps the most visible aspect of the Wizarding world. They appear at the start of the first novel, presaging what is to come, and play a very visible role in every novel following, except for the last. They act as the principal form of communication among wizards (somewhat like carrier pigeons) and also as pets. Harry's snowy owl is Hedwig.
Like most boarding schools, Hogwarts is divided into four separate houses, named after the four Hogwarts founders, and students are sorted into their respective houses at the start of their first year. They are Gryffindor, named after Godric Gryffindor, which favours courage; Ravenclaw, named after Rowena Ravenclaw, which favours cleverness; Hufflepuff, named after Helga Hufflepuff, which favours fairness and loyalty; and Slytherin, named after Salazar Slytherin, which favours ambition and Blood Purity (See above). Upon arrival, Harry, along with his friend Ron, and Hermione, who would later be their friend, are sorted into Gryffindor.[HP1]
A spectator sport in the Wizard world, played up in the air on brooms, Quidditch is similar in style to polo and association football. Harry is a great player at Hogwarts and has helped Gryffindor win a number of games. Harry is the Seeker for his team whose role is to try to find and catch the Golden Snitch.[HP1] The quidditch matches at Hogwarts were usually commentated by Lee Jordan until he graduated from school. Unlike in all previous books, Quidditch does not appear in the final book.[HP7]


Cultural impact

For more details on this topic, see Harry Potter fandom.

Since the publishing of Philosopher's Stone a number of societal trends have been attributed to the series.

The most notable trend attributed to Harry Potter has been an increase in literacy among the young. Anecdotal evidence suggesting such an increase was seemingly confirmed in 2006 when the Kids and Family Reading Report (in conjunction with Scholastic) released a survey finding that 51% of Harry Potter readers ages 5–17 said that while they did not read books for fun before they started reading Harry Potter, they now did. The study further reported that according to 65% of children and 76% of parents, they or their children's performance in school improved since they started reading the series.[38] Charlie Griffiths, director of the National Literacy Association, said "Anyone who can persuade children to read should be treasured and what [Rowling has] given us in Harry Potter is little short of miraculous."[39] British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a long time fan, said, "I think JK Rowling has done more for literacy around the world than any single human being."[40][41]

Indeed as the series progresses, each book gets progressively longer, developing along with the reader's literary abilities. A word-count comparison shows how each book, save the sixth, is longer than its predecessor, requiring greater concentration and longer attention spans to complete. This fact in itself can be seen as contributory to improved literary abilities in children who tackle the series.[citation needed]

In 2005, doctors at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford reported that their research of the weekends of Saturday 21 June 2003 and Saturday 16 July 2005 (the release dates of the Order of the Phoenix and the Half-Blood Prince, respectively) found that only 36 children needed emergency medical assistance for injuries sustained in accidents, as opposed to other weekends' average of 67.[42]

Crowds wait outside a Borders store in Newark, Delaware for the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Crowds wait outside a Borders store in Newark, Delaware for the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Notable also is the development of a massive following of fans. So eager were these fans for the latest series release that book stores around the world began holding events to coincide with the midnight release of the books, beginning with the 2000 publication of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The events, commonly featuring mock sorting, games, face painting, and other live entertainment have achieved popularity with Potter fans and have been incredibly successful at attracting fans and selling books with nearly nine million of the 10.8 million initial print copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince sold in the first 24 hours.[43][44] Among this large base of fans are a minority of "super-fans", similar to the trekkies of the Star Trek fandom. Besides meeting online through blogs, podcasts, and fansites, Harry Potter super-fans can also meet at Harry Potter symposiums. These events draw people from around the world to attend lectures, discussions and a host of other Potter themed activities.

The Harry Potter books have inspired the "Wizard Rock" movement, where a number of bands were formed whose names, image and song lyrics relate to the Harry Potter world. Examples include Harry and the Potters and The Cruciatus Curse.[citation needed]

Harry Potter has also brought changes in the publishing world, one of the most noted being the reformation of the New York Times Best Seller list. The change came immediately preceding the release of Goblet of Fire in 2000 when publishers complained of the number of slots on the list being held by Harry Potter and other children's books. The Times subsequently created a separate children's list for Harry Potter and other children's literature.[45]

The word muggle has spread beyond its Harry Potter origins, used by many groups to indicate those who are not in the know or are lacking in some skill. In 2003, "muggle", entered the Oxford English Dictionary with that definition.[46]

There is an accredited course at California State University, Bakersfield devoted to the literature of Harry Potter titled "The World of Harry Potter."[47]

The 2007 Iowa State Fair featured a statue of Harry Potter sculpted entirely out of butter. The sculpture was based on Harry's appearance in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and also featured sculptures of Harry's owl Hedwig and his school trunk as depicted at the beginning of the book.

Awards and honours

J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series have been the recipients of a host of awards since the initial publication of Philosopher's Stone including four Whitaker Platinum Book Awards (all of which were awarded in 2001), three Nestlé Smarties Book Prizes (1997–1999), two Scottish Arts Council Book Awards (1999 and 2001), the inaugural Whitbread children's book of the year award, (1999), the WHSmith book of the year (2006), among others. In 2000, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was nominated for Best Novel in the Hugo Awards while in 2001, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire won said award. Honours include a commendation for the Carnegie Medal (1997), a shortlisting for the Guardian Children's Award (1998), and numerous listings on the notable books, editors' Choices, and best books lists of the American Library Association, New York Times, Chicago Public Library, and Publishers Weekly.[48]

Commercial success

The popularity of the Harry Potter series has translated into substantial financial success for Rowling, her publishers, and other Harry Potter related license holders. The books have sold over 325 million copies worldwide and have also given rise to the popular film adaptations produced by Warner Bros., all of which have been successful in their own right with the first, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, ranking number four on the inflation-unadjusted list of all-time highest grossing films and the other four Harry Potter films each ranking in the top 20.[49] The films have in turn spawned five video games and have in conjunction with them led to the licensing of over 400 additional Harry Potter products (including an iPod) that have, as of July 2005, made the Harry Potter brand worth an estimated 4 billion US dollars and J.K. Rowling a US dollar billionaire,[50] making her, by some reports, richer than Queen Elizabeth II.[51][52]

On 2007, 12 April, Barnes & Noble declared that Deathly Hallows has broken its preorder record, with over 500,000 copies preordered through its site.[53]

A Maine bookseller said she had to sign a legal form stating that she wouldn't open the boxes of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince until their official release date at midnight, and that she would cover the boxes with blankets in her back room so they would not be seen.[54] For the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, extra security was added by limiting the number of librarians who handle the book prior to its release. Those who failed to comply with the written agreement, which employees were required to sign, would jeopardize those libraries' access to "future embargoed titles."[55] Prior to the release of Deathly Hallows, the BBC reported that some booksellers and libraries may have been tempted to break the embargo for publicity, as there were no future Potter books to be banned from selling.[56]

For the release of Goblet of Fire, 9000 FedEx trucks were used with no other purpose than to deliver the book.[57] Together, and Barnes & Noble presold more than 700,000 copies of the book.[57] In the United States, the book's initial printing run was 3.8 million copies.[57] This record statistic was broken by Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, with 8.5 million, which was then shattered by Half-Blood Prince with 10.8 million copies.[58] 6.9 million copies of Prince were sold in the U.S. within the first 24 hours of its release; in the United Kingdom more than two million copies were sold on the first day.[59] The initial print run for Deathly Hallows was 12 million copies, and over a million were preordered through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.[60][61]

Others have claimed that sales of the Harry Potter books have not been highly profitable for book retailers. Intense competition to offer the best price on the popular novels have whittled away expected revenue. The suggested retail for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was $35 but offered the book at a discounted price of $18, with other major chains following suit to remain competitive. Some hope that the frenzy associated with the book will create sales of other items when customers are drawn to bookstores. Other small, independent sellers have tried to protect revenues necessary to keep them in business by selling the book at the suggested cover price but offering other "add-on" items like Potter memorabilia or coupons towards other purchases. [citation needed]

Criticism, praise, and controversy

Literary critics

Early in its history, Harry Potter received overwhelmingly positive reviews, which helped the series to quickly grow a large readership. Upon its publication, the first volume, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was greatly praised by most of Britain's major newspapers: the Mail on Sunday rated it as "the most imaginative debut since Roald Dahl"; a view echoed by the Sunday Times ("comparisons to Dahl are, this time, justified"), while The Guardian called it "a richly textured novel given lift-off by an inventive wit" and The Scotsman said it had "all the makings of a classic".[62]

By the time of the release of the fifth volume, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the books began to receive strong criticism from a number of literary scholars. Yale professor and literary scholar and critic Harold Bloom raised pungent criticisms of the books' literary merits, saying “Rowling's mind is so governed by clichés and dead metaphors that she has no other style of writing."[63] A. S. Byatt authored a New York Times op-ed article calling Rowling's universe a “secondary world, made up of intelligently patchworked derivative motifs from all sorts of children's literature … written for people whose imaginative lives are confined to TV cartoons, and the exaggerated (more exciting, not threatening) mirror-worlds of soaps, reality TV and celebrity gossip".[64]

The critic Anthony Holden wrote in The Observer on his experience of judging Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for the 1999 Whitbread Awards. His overall view of the series was very negative—"the Potter saga was essentially patronising, very conservative, highly derivative, dispiritingly nostalgic for a bygone Britain," and he speaks of "pedestrian, ungrammatical prose style[65]."

By contrast, author Fay Weldon, while admitting that the series is "not what the poets hoped for," nevertheless goes on to say, "but this is not poetry, it is readable, saleable, everyday, useful prose".[66] The literary critic A.N. Wilson praised the Harry Potter series in 'The Times', stating: "There are not many writers who have JK’s Dickensian ability to make us turn the pages, to weep – openly, with tears splashing – and a few pages later to laugh, at invariably good jokes…We have lived through a decade in which we have followed the publication of the liveliest, funniest, scariest and most moving children’s stories ever written." [67] Charles Taylor of, who is primarily a movie critic,[68] took issue with Byatt's criticisms in particular. While he conceded that she may have "a valid cultural point—a teeny one—about the impulses that drive us to reassuring pop trash and away from the troubling complexities of art", he rejected her claims that the series is lacking in serious literary merit and that it owes its success merely to the childhood reassurances it offers. Taylor stressed the progressively darker tone of the books, shown by the murder of a classmate and close friend and the psychological wounds and social isolation each causes. Taylor also pointed out that Philosopher's Stone, said to be the most lighthearted of the seven published books, disrupts the childhood reassurances that Byatt claims spur the series' success: the book opens with news of a double murder, for example.[69]

Stephen King called the series "a feat of which only a superior imagination is capable," and declared "Rowling's punning, one-eyebrow-cocked sense of humor" to be "remarkable." However, he wrote that despite the story being "a good one," he is "a little tired of discovering Harry at home with his horrible aunt and uncle," the formulaic beginning of all seven books.[33] King has also joked that "[Rowling]'s never met an adverb she didn't like!" He does however predict that Harry Potter "will indeed stand time's test and wind up on a shelf where only the best are kept; I think Harry will take his place with Alice, Huck, Frodo, and Dorothy and this is one series not just for the decade, but for the ages."[70] Orson Scott Card wrote a review of Deathly Hallows in which he said, "J.K. Rowling has created something that . . . deserves to last, to become a permanent classic of English literature, and not just as 'children's fiction.'"[71] Tina Jordan of Entertainment Weekly called Deathly Hallows "stunningly beautiful" and predicted that "these books are going to be on my grandchildren's shelves, and my great-grandchildren's, and maybe even further down the line than that."[72] A Telegraph review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and of the series as a whole, observed that Rowling's success was entirely self-made and not due to hype of her books by the publishing world, which has instead followed in her wake.[73]

The books have also spawned studies investigating the saga's literary merit. One collaboration by a number of critics is The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter. In this volume, Amanda Cockrell concludes, "Harry Potter is not the lightweight imitation of such serious high fantasy as A Wizard of Earthsea or The Lord of the Rings, but a legitimate descendant of the darker and more complicated school story," and suggests that "we need to take a deeper look into Harry Potter, who is deeper than we think."[74] She points to Rudyard Kipling, C.S. Lewis, Jill Murphy, Anthony Horowitz, Diana Wynne Jones, Thomas Hughes, Roald Dahl, and others as legitimate literary predecessors to the Harry Potter saga.[75] Lana A. Whithead, editor of the book, notes that Rowling "appears to be very seriously attempting a literary achievement."[76] John Granger, a conservative Orthodox Christian and English Literature professor at Peninsula College, writes that the "Harry Potter books are classics—and not just 'kid-lit' but as classics of world literature," and believes the books carry a "mother-lode" of deeper literary and symbolic meaning than meets the eye.[77]


The books have been the subject of a number of legal proceedings, largely stemming either from claims by the American religious groups that the magic in the books promotes witchcraft among children, or from various conflicts over copyright and trademark infringements.

The books' immense popularity and high market value has led Rowling, her publishers, and film distributor Warner Bros. to take legal measures to protect their copyright, which have included banning the sale of Harry Potter imitations, targeting the owners of websites over the "Harry Potter" domain name, and suing author Nancy Stouffer to counter her accusations that Rowling had plagiarised her work.[78][79][80]

Various religious conservatives have claimed that the books promote witchcraft and are therefore unsuitable for children,[81] while a number of critics have criticised the books for promoting various political agendas.[82][83]

Other media


Main article: Harry Potter (films)

In 1999, Rowling sold the film rights to the first four Harry Potter books to Warner Bros. for a reported £1 million (US$1,982,900).[84] A demand Rowling made was that the principal cast be kept strictly British, nonetheless allowing for the inclusion of many Irish actors such as the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore, and for casting of French and Eastern European actors in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where characters from the book are specified as such.[85] After considering many directors such as Steven Spielberg, Terry Gilliam, Jonathan Demme, and Alan Parker, on March 28, 2000, Chris Columbus was appointed as director for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (titled "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in the United States), with Warner Bros. citing his work on other family films such as Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire as influences for their decision.[86] After extensive casting,[87] filming began in October 2000 at Leavesden Studios and in London itself, with production ending in July 2001.[88] Philosopher's Stone was released in 16 November 2001.

Just three days after Philosopher's Stone's release, production for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, also directed by Columbus, began, finishing in Summer 2002.[89] The film was released on 15 November 2002.

Chris Columbus declined to direct Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, only acting as producer. Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón took over the job, and after shooting in 2003, the film was released in 4 June 2004. Due to the fourth film beginning its production before the third's release, Mike Newell was chosen as the director for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,[90] released on 18 November 2005. Newell declined to direct the next movie, and British TV director David Yates was chosen for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which began production on January 2006,[91] and was released on 11 July 2007. Yates is confirmed to direct Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,[92] with release due to 21 November 2008.[8] Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has its production confirmed with release set for 2010.

The Harry Potter films were huge box office hits, with all five on the 50 highest-grossing films worldwide.[93]


Electronic Arts has so far released five video games movies based on the books and movies storylines, Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, and Order of the Phoenix. EA also produced a Quidditch simulation game, Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup, released in 2003.

Theme park

On 31 May 2007 Warner Bros., Universal Studios and Leavesden Studios announced that a Harry Potter area will be built in Orlando, Florida at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure.[94] The announcement described "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" as "the world's first immersive Harry Potter themed environment." According to the Warner Bros. press release, the section is "Expected to open in late 2009. The new environment will feature immersive rides and interactive attractions, as well as experimental shops and restaurants;."[95] In an online announcement it was revealed that plans have been in place for over a year and a half; with contributions from J.K. Rowling and Stuart Craig.[94]


A musical based on the series is currently being planned, tentatively scheduled for a 2008 run in London's West End. The Sunday Mirror reports that producers are hoping to have a "big-name composer" write the music. It has not yet been decided whether the production will tell the entire story, or focus on one particular subplot, though they do hope to include "spectacular flying scenes, live Quidditch and big showdowns with Voldemort".[96]