Tuesday 1 August 2017


When Joanne Rowling was born 52 years ago on 31st July 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire, England to Peter James Rowling and Anne Rowling in a very humble background, no body probably realized that a star was born who would grow up to light the minds of an entire generation and more with magic, an inspiration who would give the dying Young Adult Fantasy genre a new life and hundreds of authors would later follow her footsteps.

Rowling’s story is a typical ‘rags to riches’ one but there is nothing mundane or ordinary about it, when one take a closer look at her long struggle, it becomes very clear that every single hardship that plagued her life defined her character and in many ways, gave fodder to her masterpiece. Her disturbed childhood, with an extremely strained relationship with her father, her mother’s long illness and her seeking solace in books because she felt that no one understood her , later gave her strength to give birth to the character of Hermione Granger, a character who she has confessed to be most alike her. It is of course unlikely that Rowling was thinking of flying brooms, spells or house rivalries when she started school at St. Michael’s Primary School at Winterbourne, but it has been hinted that her then headmaster Alfred Dunn became her inspiration for writing the enigmatic and very esoteric headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. Studying French and Classics at the University of Exeter was never really her plan as she aspired to be a part of the reputed Oxford University, but she nevertheless embraced the opportunity with open arms.

It was on a four- hour- delayed train trip from Manchester to London, that idea of a young boy attending a school for wizardry and witchcraft first entered her mind and she went on to write her ideas, the moment she reached home. It was during that time when she was still writing Harry Potter, that Rowling lost her mother. Harry’s pain and remorse over his mother’s death is very much Rowling’s own. But her struggle that would test her mettle started after she moved to Portugal and found herself in a strained and abusive marriage, a life she walked out of with an infant daughter and a suitcase with the first three chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, carrying with her nothing but regret and a feeling that her life was an utter failure. The concept of ‘dementers’ is the product of her depression and remorse. It was in those years living in Edinburg , Scotland in poverty without a job and with an infant Jessica to take care of , that Rowling actually started writing Harry Potter full time.

Rowling adopted her grandmother’s name Kathleen, for her penname J.K as her publishers believed that young boys would probably not like to read a fantasy book on a wizard boy, written by a woman, but since their publication, the amount of woman writers writing fantasy novels has sky rocketed and the YA genre is laden with promising woman writers.

The Harry Potter books are a brand in itself, to say that their only accolade is to be the bestselling book series of all time would be wrong. Harry Potter is a way of life, being a ‘potterhead’ is a part of one’s being, it’s not merely the largest fandom ever, it is also the most important one for an entire generation. The Harry Potter generation speaks for every dreamer, every curious child who aspires for a letter in a faded brown paper brought in by an ugly owl asserting their acceptance at the biggest school for wizardry and witchcraft. If the mid- 20th century kids looked inside their closet for a distant fairy land with fawns and a giant lion in a majestic place called Narnia then this is the generation which believes that there is an another world in the other side of the wall, a world that watches over us with wonder, amusement and at times contempt, a world we all desperately seek to be a part of. Did Rowling realise what she was giving the world when she wrote Harry, Hermione and Ron? Did she have an inkling that the word ‘always’ would become almost as sacred as a sermon after she made her most complex and difficult character utter them? Perhaps not, perhaps she was merely giving all the characters a part of herself, perhaps in doing so she created something she never really hoped for.

Or may be perhaps she knew all along that she was giving a generation a way of living, a generation who doesn’t remember a life before Harry Potter.

It would hardly be fair to say that Rowling doesn’t have her flaws, her protagonist Harry is extremely flawed himself, but like Harry, it is Rowling’s flaws that make her series so beautiful. In her excessive detailing of every scene, in her over creativity and in her somewhat twisted sense of justice, Rowling made her books a legend. These attributes are so unique of Rowling, that they became beautiful under her penmanship. Edgar Poe’s famous commentary, ‘’There is no exquisite beauty…without some strangeness in the proportion’’ is very defining of Rowling and her works.
As this maestro who has been bestowed with several  honorary titles from the British Crown and alike turns 52, it is well to remember her as a legend who showed the reading public a new world, a world that would be kept alive across the globe by its lovers. Harry Potter shall always live in the hearts of the billion Potterheads and the stories written in Potterverse will never exhaust and in those stories. JK Rowling will live on forever and would continue to be the light that would ignite the imagination.

- Annesha Mahanta

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