Falling in love again with an old friend
So, for a couple of hours yesterday, I fell in love again with one of my greatest old friends.
Yes, a few days ago I went to Coles and bought the Illustrated Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and last night I sat down and devoured it, and fell in love again. I was 7 when the book was first published, but I didn’t read it until either my ninth or tenth birthday, when I received it as a gift. Now, the third book was already out at that point, but for some reason my 9 or 10 year old self was convinced I wasn’t going to like those Harry Potter books, and was boycotting reading them. This seems strange to me, looking back as a 25 year old, because I have always been a voracious reader, and fantasy and magic are right up my alley for books. Maybe I thought it was a “boy book.” Maybe I was going through a nine (or ten) year old hipster phase. I don’t know. But whatever it was died a pretty swift death when I finally decided I’d read that darn book, and yeah, that was it for me.
I was hooked.
I flew through it, and then called my dad – who was coming back from the States on business – and begged him for the 2nd and 3rd ones. My desperation was so great that he bought them on the actual ferry from Maine he was on at that moment, and as soon as he got back, I had devoured those. I went to midnight releases. I stayed up until 5 am the next morning finishing the books I got at said midnight releases. I flipped to the last page of Deathly Hallows before I read the book.
I grew up with the Harry Potter books. I was 10 (or possibly 9) when I read the first one, and 17 when I read the last one. And in those stories, I found a world I could escape to, and characters I could relate to. In Hermione, I found a female character, who was defined by, and proud of her intelligence. Who didn’t think of her self as pretty, but as smart, and helped save the world just as much as her male friends. I loved Harry and Ron too, of course, but Hermione was my avatar into the story – not a shell of a character, a self insert like Bella Swan or Anastasia Steele that I could slip into like a human raincoat – but a realized character with flaws and personality that I could identify with, see parts of myself in her, and vice-versa.
And yes, I also loved the movies. I’ll assert, of course, that the books are better, but not because the movies were bad – the movies were great (though some were greater than others, I think we can agree) but because the story in the books were mine. To quote John Green here;
“Images and sounds just kind of work on us differently than text does; like one of the things I love about text-based stories is that we sort of make them up with the writer. Because the images that are described in the text only exist inside of my head while I’m reading. Like Hank, my Harry Potter is different from your Harry Potter, and every other Harry Potter on the planet. My Harry Potter is just mine!” – John Green
Green also says this;
And I agree with this whole heartedly. My Harry Potter belongs to me, and is different from your Harry Potter, from Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, or Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry Potter. My Hermione was probably a little bit more like me, just like your Hermione or Harry or Ron was probably a little more like you, because when we are reading, without visuals or sound, we are free to dream up our very own versions of these characters, similar but different; unique.
Now, despite that, it doesn’t mean I don’t want so see other people’s versions of Harry Potter. As the movie clearly proved, these versions were pretty darn alright (still not over Fred either, just FYI). My Harry Potter isn’t diminished by other versions of Harry Potter, merely enhanced, and so when I found out that they had released an illustrated version of the first Harry Potter book, with art by Jim Kay, I couldn’t wait to read it. Another chance to revisit my old friend, and to marvel at some spectacular art while doing so sounded pretty perfect to me.
I’m glad to say that it didn’t disappoint.
I cannot recommend this version of the book enough; both to fans and to people who might be thinking of getting into the series. The book is just chockfull of these gorgeous pictures, all of them stunning and memorable. Each page I turned was like a new adventure, because I couldn’t wait to see what would be waiting for me. From;
The biggest laugh I got out of the whole reread; one page of illustrations is about the troll in the dungeons, like a textbook, and this little illustration at the bottom says that a part of a troll’s brain is dedicated to “kittens” and yeah, I was dying of laughter.
There was all that, and many, many more, and each page was – if you’ll pardon the pun – spellbinding. It reminded me why I’d loved the books so much the first time around, and made me only want to read them again. That is an endeavour I think I’ll wait on, though, as the rest of the series is apparently going to be released in illustrated form, one book a year over the next 6 years. I can’t even imagine how big the Deathly Hallows version of that will be – and it will probably weigh a ton! – but I don’t care; I’ll be there, 31 years old to buy that book, because the love we have for books is timeless, and because I know that it will still be magical.
My Hogwarts letter might still be lost in the mail, but as long as I still have the books, and more importantly, the story, I’m happy 🙂