If “the boy who lived” could witness the fuss over the 20th anniversary of the fictional chronicle of his school years, he would likely have a mid-life crisis. After all, Harry Potter — now 37 years old — cannot be happy about having peaked at 17. We can, of course, only imagine the not-so-young Harry’s reaction. But the jubilation, often excessive and obsessive, from his many fans marking the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on June 26 does make it seem that the nostalgia is on the verge of becoming pathological.
There are reasons for the continuing popularity of the Harry Potter series. The books were riveting, initially combining the drama of Enid Blyton’s school stories with an accessible fantasy world where an underdog turns hero with talented, loyal friends by his side. As the series progressed, it dealt with adolescence, death and morality in interesting ways. J.K. Rowling’s fantasy world though is more than just good literature for children and young adults — it is an industry. Apart from the seven books in the main series and the blockbuster films made on them, there are background texts like Hogwarts: A History, video games and merchandise ranging from costumes and wands to cloaks and clocks. And a new spin-off film series kicked off with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in 2016.
The hullabaloo over the 20th anniversary of the first book is at least, in part, a consequence of the constant exposure to Rowling’s magical universe across mediums. Those that grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione have not had a chance to grow out of them. Instead, we have 30-somethings getting tattoos of Harry’s scar, businessmen trying to brighten up their suit-and-tie uniforms with Ravenclaw socks and online declarations of eternal love by real adults for fictional children. To look back at the books that made adolescence a little more bearable, and appreciate them, is a good thing. But perhaps it’s time to pass on the obsession to the next generation.