Twenty-seven years ago, while sitting on a delayed train from Manchester to London, author J.K. Rowling came up with the idea of a scrawny, bespectacled boy wizard with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead that would later take the hearts of millions of people around the world.
The story of the orphaned boy and his first year at Hogwarts, a magical boarding school, was initially turned down by multiple publishers. However, Rowling persisted until June 26, 1997, when her first book, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” (“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” in the United States) was published.
Twenty years later, Rowling’s seven book series is a massive success, selling more than 400 million copies worldwide and, in doing so, inspiring a new generation to read.
For its 20th anniversary, the enormous popularity of the series was in the spotlight at KSU. The Writing Center hosted a celebration on July 5 for Potter enthusiasts, complete with typical food from the wizarding world — Cauldron Cakes, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and Butterbeer.
“It’s sort of one of those books that you don’t ever want to put down,” said senior computer science student and KSU Writing Center employee Austin Barnett. “It’s surprisingly intricate for just being a kid’s book. All these characters have their own motivations.”
The Writing Center’s celebration featured a fun segment of Harry Potter trivia. Those who answered a question incorrectly had to eat a “Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Bean,” risking the possibility of tasting an unpleasant bean such as earthworm or vomit flavor.
The event was a clear reminder of the massive impact the Potter series has had on the world, and how Rowling’s work is still loved by millions after all these years.
“I think [Harry Potter] is the most defining childhood literature or fiction work,” Barnett said. “I don’t even think the really old classics are as ‘go-to’ for children’s literature [like Potter is].”
The intricacy, combined with a sense of timelessness, has led to the creation of the Harry Potter phenomenon. This phenomenon enables the Potter series to be included in the same esteemed circle as many other literary classics.
“There’s nothing super dated about [Potter],” said junior English student and fellow KSU Writing Center employee Sara Omer. “I think the books are supposed to be set in the ’90s, but you can’t tell easily. I don’t think there’s going to be a point where kids are like, ‘this is unrealistically old.’ It’s just magic.”
Only time will tell how Harry Potter will fare in the future, but at 20 years old with a Potter stage play, multiple theme parks and a five-part movie spinoff series just beginning, the future certainly looks bright for The Boy Who Lived.