Saturday, August 18, 2007

Finally, I Know Harry's Secrets

You may have heard that the conclusion to a certain series of books regarding a certain boy wizard was published earlier this summer. I finished reading it a few nights ago.

No, I'm not about to spoil it for you. If you're interested and you haven't finished it, please enjoy. Goodness knows there are plenty of spoilers out there. I will say that the end of the series is...well deserved. It feels like a good ending, one that the characters earned. The twists and turns that Ms. Rowling came up with were entertaining and in character.

Oddly enough, it seems that, due to some strange confluence of universal irony, Stephen King and I agree on this one (mostly). No, I'm not much of a fan of his work, though I do respect his accomplishments (something I can't say of our current President). Regardless of my political views, I do think King's review touches on some points of interest to all writers.

My interest in the whole Harry Potter phenom has been, well, academic (no pun intended). The idea of an orphan seeking his identity without the presence of a real (as in supportive and loving) family appeals to me. And that shouldn't be a surprise given some of my earlier posts.

I did notice something curious, from a story-telling standpoint. Part of what made the first books interesting to me was learning about the wizarding world and the various plays on words, puns, and related devices used to describe it. The use of Latin, Greek, and Arabic, for example, for the spells themselves. (The word "lumos," for example, conjures a small ball of light appears on the end of your wand.) The first four or five books each revealed aspects of the wizarding world that were wonderous and, well, fun.

Yet, at some point, the backstory gave way to the main story and, by the time book seven rolls around, the wonders of wizarding world have given way to the gritty conflict(s) between Harry and He Who Must Not Be Named. There is, for example, no Quidditch in Book Seven, yet Harry's previous role as a Seeker is important. Interestingly, the points and lessons of earlier books are both expanded and minimized in the final volume.

The story of Harry Potter is not just about the love of his mother and how it protected him, nor is it just about integrity (though it does show Harry's struggles with growing into integrity). It's also a story about Dumbledore and the consequences of very human ideas, choices, and mistakes. It's also a story of Snape and complicated promises and loyalties. It's a story how the people of a given community interact, protect, rally around, and support each other to accomplish a common goal.

To me, I find the series ends up being driven not by events, but rather by characters. This appeals not only to the actor in me, it appeals to the writer in me. Regardless of the universe your characters live in, you should never allow the universe to supercede the humanity of the characters.

And that's why I feel that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a fitting coda to the series.

Your mileage may, of course, vary. If it does, let me know why.

On the highly-implausible chance that anyone from Warner Brothers actually reads this, I do have one request for the filmed version of the final book. If at all possible, please bring John Williams back as the composer of the score. (By the way, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is, to my mind, the best film adaptation to date.)

Photo credit: Warner Brothers