A series of seven books written by Scotland native JK Rowling captured the hearts and minds of countless people the world over. Very few books published in recent memory have even come close to the success of the Harry Potter series. The world fell in love with magic and children fell in love with reading once again. The Harry Potter fandom is one of the largest and most passionate and there are many good reasons why.
One of the main takeaways for me can be summed up in my high school’s motto: Caritas omnia vincit, love conquers all. It’s love that saves Harry from Voldemort’s killing curse at the very beginning. Lilly Potter’s final act of self-sacrifice sealed a powerful magical protection into Harry’s blood that shielded him from Voldemort’s curse causing it to bounce back at him and rip what was left of his mangled soul from his body. The lack of love in the life of Tom Riddle ultimately drove him to become Lord Voldemort. Voldemort’s mother died giving birth to him, so he never knew her love. His grief turned to anger and that anger led him to spend his life finding ways to become stronger than death itself by using Horcruxes. Later in life, Voldemort’s father rejected him and it led to one of his first violent outbursts. He killed his father, his father’s wife, and his own half-brother.
Harry Potter also teaches us that no matter who you are, where you come from, and how good at magic you may be, life involves some pretty tough choices. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry begs the Sorting Hat not to place him in Slytherin House. At first we think it’s because every single dark wizard that joined Voldemort came from that house, but as we watch Harry grow throughout the series it becomes obvious that the Slytherin obsession with ambition and achieving ones ends regardless of the means didn’t represent Harry’s values at all. That’s a tough choice to make at age 11 when all you want to do is fit in. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we watch Harry, Ron, and Hermione have their share of troubles with the opposite sex. Their choice in love interests didn’t always work out for them. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince we watch Draco struggle to choose between his family’s loyalty to Voldemort and what he knew in his heart was right. That’s a lot to ask of a 16 year old boy. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry had to choose to either allow the people closest to him to continue to fight for him or to face Voldemort on his own and in the end he chose to die rather than have anyone else die for him at the age of 17.
If there’s one thing everyone can relate to in Harry Potter, it’s his struggle with Professor Umbridge. There’s actually a lively debate among Potterheads about who hate we more: Voldemort the main villain, or Delores Umbridge, an ancillary villain who makes her first appearance in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Professor Umbridge gives Harry no end to trouble by punishing him unfairly. She gives the entire student body of Hogwarts, the faculty, and the staff a hard time. Think back on your life and I’m sure you can find your very own Professor Umbridge. She could be that self-important climber at work that undermines you every chance she gets and claims your ideas as her own, a teacher who treated you unfairly and gave you a hard way to go for no reason, a bully at school who chose you as her target just because she could, or that manager or supervisor who constantly criticized your work and refused to grant even the simplest of requests.
Another great lesson Harry Potter gives us is that kindness costs you absolutely nothing. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry performs an act of kindness by slipping one of his socks to Dobby the house elf, freeing him from the abusive ownership of the Malfoys. That act of kindness cost him nothing, save for exactly one sock and Dobby later repaid that act of kindness by helping to free Harry, Ron, Hermione, and others from the Malfoys and Bellatrix Lestrange.
Harry’s story also shows us that when we come together, anything is possible. The four Houses of Hogwarts had their differences that ran deeper than Quidditch rivalries. The four founders of Hogwarts all valued different attributes in the students that they chose to teach. Godric Gryffindor valued courage, Rowena Ravenclaw valued cleverness, Salazar Slytherin valued pure blood, and Helga Hufflepuff valued anyone who wanted to learn. It wasn’t until all four Houses put their differences aside and came together with the common goal of destroying Voldemort once and for all that they actually achieved that goal. The Sorting Hat called it in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Harry Potter has universal appeal. We all experience the magic of love and kindness, make tough choices, deal with our own versions of Professor Umbridge, and we all know how magical it is when people come together. We all want to believe there’s still some magic in the world. In Game of Thrones, Maester Aemon told Jon Snow to kill the boy so the man can be born. I’m sure there are plenty of people in my life who would tell me to kill the girl so the woman can be born, but to me the girl is everything. The girl is proof that I haven’t let life’s cold, harsh reality harden me. I’m sure the same can be said for many of my fellow Potterheads. Therefore I say believe in magic, Muggles!