The Harry I Used to Know…

“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

I took my kids to see the last Harry Potter  movie this afternoon.  I enjoyed the movie, and yes, I cried.   But I don’t entirely relate to the Harry Potter fans who are choked up because they feel like this weekend marks the end of an era.

It’s not that I’m not sentimental; I’ve been known to cry during Folgers coffee commercials. And it’s not because I love the series any less. In fact, quite the contrary.  I was at every midnight book release, and I quote Albus Dumbledore with great regularity.

But I said my goodbyes to Harry Potter four summers ago…on July 21, 2007, to be exact, the day I attended a midnight release party for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at our local bookstore.  For me, that was the final chapter, the bittersweet moment when I held the last book in my hands after waiting in a long, lone line, and knew that within a day or two of hungry page-turning, the story would be over.  That was the night I shed my Harry Potter tears, sad tears because I didn’t want to turn that last page, and thankful tears, that I was able to read and love this series with my kids, that J.K. Rowling brought Harry and his friends into our lives and onto our living room couch, cuddled up in shared story for so many nights.

For me, the magic was all in the books.  The amazing, imaginative, laugh-out-loud, sob-until-my-throat hurt, stay-up-all-night-reading books.   The movies?  I liked them a lot; I really did. It was fascinating to see how Hollywood producers tackled the issues of creating an on-screen world that already felt so real to so many.

In seeing the eight movies that grew out of J.K. Rowling’s series, I gained a new appreciation for the challenges faced in turning a beloved book into a film, but I also lost something – the characters that existed in my mind before Hollywood replaced them with actors and actresses.

Now, when I imagine Harry Potter, no matter how hard I try to take myself back to 1997, when I first read Sorcerer’s Stone, it’s Daniel Radcliffe’s face that comes to mind. I have a dim memory of a Hermione who looked a lot geekier and not quite as pretty as Emma Watson. And Dumbledore? My original image of the headmaster I love gave way to the distinguished face of Richard Harris, and later, Michael Gambon. All amazing actors. All talented professionals who no doubt love the story and who really did justice to their roles.

But they’re still not my Harry. My Hermione. My Dumbledore.

I liked the movies; I really did. But they felt like just movies to me – good ones, to be sure – but movies. The books?  They felt real.

13 Replies on “The Harry I Used to Know…

  1. I agree with you Kate. When books go to movies, something is lost. Imagination. Though I feel HP did a great job with finding character that were quite similar to my imagination! (Except Hermoine.)

  2. I started reading this series when my oldest son hated reading. He is 23 now, but then he was an Intermediate School boy who loved to read once, but decided he was too cool for books. We found the books by accident. As a mother, and as a reading teacher I realized I’d struck gold. We loved the books, we played Quidditch, we relished in every moment. Like you, the books were our love, the movies were just a bonus!

    I took my kids, who are not all in their 20s and are way taller then I, to a midnight release. We talked about all of the releases before. (Both movie and books) We agreed that the fun filled weekends of reading and drinking butter beer were the best.

    I loved the books, and the movies were always a bonus! Rowling, is a genius!

    1. Agreed on J.K. Rowling’s genius – don’t you wonder what she’ll do next? I can’t imagine the pressure of coming up with J.K. Rowling’s next project – what could possibly come close?

  3. YES! While this is the end of the movie era, for me Harry Potter was over when I read that very last chapter and said my goodbyes (well, not really. I carried that book around with me like a bag lady with a milk gallon jug of kitty litter for about a week… but eventually I stopped rereading all the very best parts and said goodbye).

    1. And I think there’s a certain wistfulness, too, with knowing what a remarkable thing this was…this series that captured so many imaginations, and will never happen again in quite the same way. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, too!

  4. In this, you perfectly expressed my own feelings about the movies. I have found myself irritated with the recent media about the end of the Harry Potter era. Didn’t it already end?

    I saw the movies through the fifth, and then I stopped watching them. I enjoyed the first three movies, but became disappointed after that. When I read Deathly Hallows for the first time, I realized that I was picturing the actors’ faces in my mind, and I had to actively fight that and attempt to picture the world my imagination had created. I still have never fully gotten it back. I’m hoping that if I wait a decent period of time before reading the books again (having not watched any of the movies), I might come close to recapturing the experience of reading Harry Potter.

    1. The difference for me, I think, is that movies feel like someone else’s vision of the story, while the books feel like mine. (Yes, I know they’re Rowling’s…but they FEEL like they belong to me, too, somehow. I think that’s the magic of classic books.)

  5. I was going through my main blogging site today and I noted that a lot of people were sad over the end of the movies. The end of the Harry Potter movie series was, “The ending of my childhood,” as most people have written. I also noted that people were saying that it was a way to open up a new childhood, and thus began to discussion of The Hunger Games and it’s movie release coming early 2012.

    1. And that’s an interesting comparison – HUNGER GAMES – because when I picture Katniss Everdeen in my mind, she’s still my Katniss – the one I first envisioned when I read Suzanne Collins’ description. After I see the movie, I know she won’t look like that Katniss any more. (And in fact, my son says he already pictures the actress because they had photos of the cast posted at school!)

  6. I’m with you on this, Kate. It’s all about the books, for me. I like the movies, but they just can’t compare to the books. I have a feeling the people who see the final movie as the end of an era are the young twenty-somethings who grew up reading the series and watching the movies as kids. They’re saying goodbye to a part of their childhood. There’s nothing quite so nostalgic as that!

    What I love is that kids are still discovering this series for the first time every day. I love helping a kid find Sorcerer’s Stone at the library. What a ride they’re in for.

    1. Yes, the idea of new kids discovering the series always makes me smile – and I’m sure when my kids are older and have families, this is one they’ll share with their own kids. Fun to think about!

  7. You expressed my feelings perfectly! My fondest memories are book-centric: reading them aloud to my kids … watching my son come in second in a HP trivia contest … attending the midnight release parties with a carload of costumed kids.

    I like the movies. But to me, seeing the unprecedented excitement over a literary work was the real cultural phenomenon.

    1. Couldn’t agree with you more – it was the books I was so excited to see kids lined up for. Can’t help but wonder if there will ever be another series that makes us feel the same way…