Forever Harry Potter: The Lasting Legacy of Lily and James Potter

Well, here we are.  It’s Halloween and the official end of #HogwartsOctober.

As we all know, Halloween is a very important day in the series for a number of reasons like (1) the day Lily and James Potter were killed and Harry was given his scar, (2) the day the troll was in the dungeon and Harry, Ron, and Hermione became a trio, (3) Nearly Headless Nick’s death day party and the day the Chamber was opened again, (4) the day Sirius broke into Hogwarts, and (5) the day Harry was picked as a Triwizard competitor.

Phew, I’m tired.  That’s a lot of stuff happening on Halloween.  You’d think Harry would start circling it on the calendar and then wearing his invisibility cloak all day just to avoid it all.

But in all seriousness, I feel like Halloween is a day that we as Potter fans mourn.  Lily and James were betrayed by a close friend and lost their lives protecting Harry.  Sure, it ended the war and Voldemort was no more (…I uh, didn’t mean to make that rhyme…), but the cost was high.

And that’s the point.  War is costly.  Any time we fight for what we believe, there is a cost.  Perhaps we feel like we can pay it and we fight back.  Perhaps we feel the cost is too high and we either bury our heads in the sand or we flee.

Lily and James taught us the importance of sacrifice and love.  James willingly stood between Voldemort and Lily to protect her and Harry, to give them time to run.  Lily refused to move so Voldemort could attack Harry, even though he would have let her go.

Both of them were only 21 at the time.  Since wizards live to incredibly old ages, they literally had their whole lives ahead of them–possibly upwards of 100 years or more.  And yet this was important enough to lay down their lives for.

Because of love.  James loved Lily and Harry enough to sacrifice himself.  Lily loved Harry enough to die for him.  Neither of them cowered or begged for their own lives–they begged for the lives of their family instead.  Because they loved them enough to die for them if it would save them.

Love is the lasting legacy of Lily and James Potter.  They taught Harry how to love fiercely, even if he didn’t consciously remember that lesson.  He knew the effect, he knew the importance of it.

And through them, we have learned to love as well.

We’ve learned to love our friends with all our hearts.  Especially when they make mistakes or act like prats.  (Looking at you, Ron.)

We’ve learned to love a significant other unselfishly, and to let them go if need be.  (Like when Harry breaks up with Ginny.)

We’ve learned to love those who are different from us because each of us is important and you never know what we can contribute.  (Thanks, Luna.)

We’ve learned that love also means forgiveness, even if you don’t always forget.  (*cough* Ron)

We’ve learned that love comes in many forms and is expressed in many different ways.  Hagrid’s love and belief in Harry is exhibited differently than McGonagall’s or Dumbledore’s or even Dudley’s.  Because no matter what’s happened in the past, by the end of the series I firmly believe that Dudley realizes he does love Harry as a brother.

We’ve learned that sometimes with love, actions speak louder than words.  The Weasleys may never have said they loved Harry in so many words, but he was undoubtedly part of the family from the beginning.

We’ve learned that love lasts beyond death.  Those that we love never truly leave us.

And we’ve learned that underestimating the power of love is a dangerous thing.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re Voldemort, a political figure, a terrorist, or a bully/abuser.  Forgetting the power of love is to your detriment.

This is why we all still love Harry Potter and why it will continue to move generations beyond ours.  It’s a simple message, that love–and being willing to sacrifice to protect those you love–will bring light to even the darkest times.

Love is love is love.

We’re experiencing some dark times ourselves in the US and around the world.  Remember that with love, we can rise above the hate.

Thank you, Lily and James.

Top Ten Reasons I Will Always Love Harry Potter

#HogwartsOctober (1)Hey everyone!  There are only a couple of days left and I’m ready to talk about what makes this entire series so special.  Why I’ve seen more costumes/costume parties devoted to Harry this year than ever before.  Why the series lives on with Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts.

Why the magic endures.

Are you ready?  Because I’m ready.


Top Ten Reasons Why I Will Always Love Harry Potter

1. The Characters

I think almost everyone you ask about Harry Potter will immediately begin talking about their favorite characters.  And many people will debate for hours with you about why this character is better than that character. (A bit of that started happening when I mentioned I liked Dumbledore more than Snape.)  These characters are so real that many of us see ourselves in many of them.  They’re flawed in so many ways–selfish, quick to judge, arrogant, impulsive, stupid, clumsy, odd–and yet we love them all the more for it.  Even the villains usually have either a redeeming quality or you can understand why they got to the point they did.

It’s just fantastic writing.  These characters have worked their way into our bones and have become a part of us.  Like I will never be able to disassociate myself from Hermione.  She is me and I am her.  I’ve read a lot of books in my life (some with bookish characters like Hermione) but there’s something different about her.

These characters are our role models in so many ways.  Ways to be, ways to not be.  We can learn from their mistakes.

2. Good vs. Evil

One of the most powerful themes in this series is the battle between good and evil.  What makes a person good or evil?  How do you combat evil without sinking to their level?  How do you do the right thing?

In our everyday lives, we see bad things happen and evil acts perpetrated all around us.  (This past weekend was prime example of that here in America.)  Seeing how Harry and the Order stand up to Voldemort gives us a guidebook on how to do our best to rise above it all.  It doesn’t come without sacrifices, and it won’t be easy.  But if it’s something you believe in, you have to be willing to fight for it.

3. The Life Lessons

Whether it is that battle between good and evil or something else, this book is full of life lessons.  Every book is full of them, from how prejudice affects people (Mudblood) to the power of believing in yourself and your cause (Neville and the D.A.).  We see that death can’t stop love.  That our choices show who we are far more than what we’re capable of doing.  That bravery comes in many forms.  That every answer can be found in the library.  🙂

There’s just so much you can learn about life between these pages.  It gives you a better understanding of our world, in its own way.  There have actually been studies done that show that people who read Harry Potter as children are more empathetic than those who didn’t.  It’s because we understand the world and our role in it better.  We see how words and actions can hurt others and we’re cognizant of that because we saw it happen to Harry and his friends.

4. The Humor

It’s the little things, but in the midst of some of these truly terrible things, it’s always nice to know that we can still find humor in the darkness.  Typically this comes from Dumbledore or the Weasley twins, but let’s not forget that Harry can drop a good one-liner himself.

Sometimes levity is what helps you remember that the world isn’t a hopeless place, that there are still good things out there if you can still laugh.

5. Wizard or Muggle, Teen Years Are Awkward

I think we all agree that teen years are incredibly awkward.  We relate with Harry and his friends because we’ve been through those awkward times too.  Hermione’s considered to be…not “ugly” but not pretty…and then she shows up at the Yule Ball on the arm of Victor Krum.  Harry has a crush on Cho for years and his first date with her goes disastrously.  Ron is jealous of Harry and Hermione’s friendship.

Beyond that, there’s stuff about hitting growth spurts, family issues, bullying, struggling with school, and more.  Teen years are tough no matter who you are.  And I love that Harry deals with these very normal things at the same time he’s being known as The Chosen One.  It brings him back to earth in a way.

6. The Wizarding World

If we didn’t all love the wizarding world so much, there would be theme parks devoted to it.  The way Rowling creates this entire world is just enthralling.  We want to be a part of it because we already feel like we know our way around it.  We understand Diagon Alley and we’ve always wanted to find our own wand at Ollivander’s.  We want to go to the Quidditch World Cup and be sorted into our houses.

This world is a wonderful escape from our own.  Sometimes it feels like another layer on our own, the way it hides in plain sight.  I love how we apparently walk past all this magic all day long and never know it (like how St. Mungo’s in an abandoned department store or the entrance to the Ministry is in a phone booth).

7. The Clever Writing

Let’s give Rowling a lot of credit here–she knows how to craft a story.  Her foreshadowing game is strong.  Like how we learn about the locket Horcrux in Order of the Phoenix without actually knowing what it is.  Or Trelawney’s predictions about how when 13 people sit at a table, the first to rise will die.  These are tiny, insignificant things for the most part, but they eventually become bigger deals.  And it’s fascinating that she had the forethought to put all of this together.

I reread the books just to see what new details I can pick up on this time.

8. The Battles

Let’s not lie, we all really like the action/battle scenes.  There’s practically one every book (Azkaban may be the only exception, depending on your definition).  We like seeing how Harry, who’s anywhere from 11 to 17, outsmart and outlast his enemies, who are typically much older and stronger than he is.  (Voldemort’s in his 70s by the final book.)

But I also like the battles because it shows Harry to be the hero we all know he is.  He’s fighting evil, he’s protecting those he cares about, and he’s willing to sacrifice himself to stop Voldemort if he has to.

9. Love

So much of the story revolves around the importance of love and understanding the purpose of love.  After seeing it in this series over and over this month, I’ve started seeing it in different books and movies as well.  (It’s totally present in Hocus Pocus, my friends.  Max and Thackery understand what it means to love their sisters, but the Sanderson witches don’t and that’s their downfall.)

This is why this series will endure.  Its message about love is timeless and will remain so for generations.  I’m hoping that someday hundreds of years in the future, kids will still be reading this the same way we still read Romeo and Juliet or Pride and Prejudice.

10. The Fan Community

This series would not be as successful as it is if it weren’t for the fan community.  I swear to you, I love walking around wearing Hogwarts things because I always get someone who talks to me about it.  The other day, I was at Chick-fil-a and the cashier saw my Hogwarts shirt.  She started telling me that she was a Hufflepuff and we had like a two minute conversation about our houses while she was filling my order.  It was just so funny to me that we connected that quickly over something so simple.

And that’s what it all comes down to: we all have a love for the same thing and it gives us a way to connect to people who are different from us.  We befriend people we might not normally befriend because once we see we have something in common with them, we have a way to see they are just like us.  You can be American, Chinese, German, Kenyan, Brazillian, a refugee or an illegal immigrant, young or old, and we suddenly start seeing each other as people the moment we know we have something in common.

Harry Potter brings people together.  And I love that the book is doing the same work that Harry was trying to accomplish in the books: we combat the evil around us by banding together.  No matter who you are or what your background is, we are always stronger together than apart.

Life Lessons From Magic

#HogwartsOctober (10)

Hey everyone!  We’re only a few days away from the end of all this.  So for these final days, I want to talk about what makes Harry Potter so special and why it will endure for generations.

One of the things we Harry Potter fans love so much is how much this series has taught us about life.  While this list could be super long, I’m going to limit myself to three major lessons.

1. Love is the strongest force in the world

This gets hammered into our heads from the very beginning.  Voldemort’s ultimate weakness is that he doesn’t understand love and sacrifice.  He doesn’t understand that love binds people together tighter than fear.  Lily’s love for Harry and her willingness to sacrifice herself for Harry protected him and brought about Voldemort’s downfall the first time.  Harry’s willingness to die for his friends created that kind of protection for them and, again, brought about Voldemort’s downfall.

But even beyond that, there are smaller signs of this theme.  The Weasley’s become Harry’s true family as all of them–except maybe Percy–would do almost anything to protect Harry as one of their own.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione share a bond that helps them overcome so many dangerous situations.  You can even include in this the Dursley’s, who took Harry in and renewed Lily’s protection year after year.  Sure, they didn’t love him, but they did ultimately protect him.

It’s a powerful lesson for us to learn.  This was our chance to see what happens when we fight evil with love.  When people bond together over mutual respect and admiration rather than fear and ambition.

The world is a cold, cruel place.  A little more love would never go amiss.

2. Stand up for what you believe in

Every year, we saw Harry standing up for something that no one else believed.  Whether it was the fact that a teacher was going to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone or that Voldemort had returned, Harry shows us time and again the type of bravery it takes to stand alone, loudly proclaiming what you know to be your truth.

More than that, Harry was willing to fight for it.  He backed up his words with actions, and he was usually right.  He inspired others to fight as well.  Ron and Hermione.  Neville and the D.A.

As difficult as it may be to stand up and be the lone voice demanding something, it can bring about great changes in people and in the world around us.  I think more of us are learning that in this current world.

3. People can be both good and bad at the same time

This is one of my favorites, taken from a line said by Sirius.  The world isn’t broken into good people and Death Eaters; we each have a bit of light and dark in us.  None of us are perfectly good all of the time, nor are we evil to the core.

We see this time and again throughout the story.  I’d say the most specific examples are Dumbledore and Snape.  Harry would, in the beginning, have put Dumbledore firmly on the side of good and Snape all the way in the evil category.  But by the end of the series, I think he realizes that they are both human and can change/make mistakes.  It doesn’t mean that he can’t respect them–in fact, I would argue that we respect them more for their flaws.

Even Harry deals with this, knowing that he has a part of Voldemort inside of  him.  And Voldemort was a brilliant student who could have made an amazing life for himself instead of choosing darkness and destruction.

But it’s as Dumbledore tells us: it’s about our choices.  Our choices determine who we are.  And we are just as likely to make good choices as we are bad choices.

Just For Fun: Reading Harry Potter in French

So…I can feel a number of you already questioning my sanity.

Since like, April, I’ve been working on learning French.  While I do not claim to be great at it, I can read it better than I can speak it or hear it.  I’ve watched a few movies in French and I can more or less follow along with what’s happening 60-70% of the time.  Those seem like pretty good numbers.

It just so happened that my very lovely library system had Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, my favorite of the books, in French.  I’d been wanting to try my hand at reading a book in French for a while now, and there was no question it had to be a Harry Potter book.  It was a story I was familiar with enough to understand what was supposed to be happening and also popular enough that I stood a chance of having access to it without buying it.

It’s been slow progress.  I’ll start it and twenty minutes later have only read 4-6 pages.  But it’s a challenge that’s kind of fun.  (Not to mention the looks I get from coworkers when I tell them what I’m doing.  I swear, half the stuff I do like this is 50% my own satisfaction and 50% for their reactions.)

What’s kind of funny is how some of the words get changed across different languages.  Those of you who are bilingual already know this, but I’m new to this and it’s entertaining.

For example, Hogwarts is rechristened Poudlard.  That threw me for a loop when I first started.  And, while I’m not to Harry starting Hogwarts (excuse me, Poudlard) yet, I’m pretty sure Snape name has been changed to Rogue.  I’m not even making this up.  I thought it was a little heavy-handed, since Snape does actually go rogue on Voldemort, but then I learned that rogue in French translates to “arrogant” and I decided it was a lot heavy-handed.

But you want to know the best translation?  They don’t have a word for “wand” in French, so “wand” is known as baguette magique.  Every single time, I picture Harry brandishing a baguette when casting spells and it’s worth it.

Learning a new language is hard.  I’m terrible at conjugating verbs.  (That’s the entire reason I struggled with Spanish in school.)  But by listening to the language and reading it, I feel like I’ve been learning it a little faster than I would be if I were in a classroom setting.  I’m setting my pace, I’m doing what I’m interested in doing, and I’m developing a pretty good understanding of their grammar and syntax, not to mention the etymology of where a lot of our English words come from.

Anyway, I thought I’d bring a little levity to all of this.  We’re into our final days and it could get a little sappy as I look back on this past month.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Image result for fantastic beastsHey everyone!  I always knew that at some point I was going to watch this movie.  Prior to this past weekend, I’d never seen it.  I figured that capping off #HogwartsOctober with it might be the way to go.

If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, I’ll give you a quick run-down: Newt Scamander has arrived in America looking for fantastic creatures to write about for his upcoming book.  Unfortunately, a few of his collection escape and start rampaging New York City.  With the help of Jacob Kowalski (a No-Maj) and the reluctant help of Tina Goldstein and her sister Queenie, Newt hopes to put everything to rights while also solving the mystery of what is attacking the no-majs of NYC before it gets out of hand.

The story of this started off a bit slow.  I mean, there’s a lot that needs to be built: NYC’s wizarding community, America’s version of the Ministry of Magic, 1920s NYC, Newt’s backstory, the fantastic beasts, etc.  There’s a lot that’s going into this.  So it takes some time getting off the ground.

I thought Eddie Redmayne did a good job as Newt.  I can’t say I always understood the acting choices, but I came to like him.  I also had to give Eddie kudos for his um…mating dance?…with the rhino-looking creature.  Dear Lord, the utter ridiculousness of that scene would have had me in stitches if I’d have watched this in theatres.

What’s probably more interesting is the character who actually stole my heart: Jacob Kowalski.  The only no-maj in the story that we get to know, Jacob is pretty much us.  He’s involuntarily sucked into this magical world and quickly finds out that magic is really freaking awesome–and scary.  Definitely scary too.  He quickly becomes the heart of this little group of misfits and I adored that about him.  He’s just a happy-go-lucky kind of guy with big dreams and a thirst for adventure whose been locked in a life that bars him from all of that.

What I thought was really funny about this was how much Newt reminded me of Hagrid.  I mean, the love of weird and probably dangerous creatures?  Check.  Likes to call himself “mummy” when talking to said creatures?  Check.  Kind-hearted and gentle, even when the rest of the world doesn’t seem to understand them?  Check. There are more similarities as well, but at risk of revealing actual spoilers, I can’t do that.  Suffice it to say, Newt could easily be Hagrid just one generation prior.

It was funny too watching this right after rereading the series because, based on the descriptions in the book alone, I was able to identify a couple characters.  I was watching the beginning of the movie and when the first creature escaped, I was like, “Oh, that’s totally a niffler.  Just look at it.”  Then I immediately questioned how deep I’d gone into the wizarding world to be able to identify a niffler in .2 seconds flat.  There was a minute or two there of legit soul-searching.

Oh, and can I saw how truly American a few scenes were?  Both good and bad.  Jacob has a purely American dream he’s pursuing in owning his own bakery.  He wants to create something himself because he knows he can do it better than the machines that are churning out hundreds more donuts than he can do by hand.  And that was awesome.  But the truly terrifying moment was this brief look at what the death penalty looks like for wizards in America.  The way they tried to kill people but claimed it was completely pain-free…I got the heebie-jeebies watching that.

Anyway, I thought it was an enjoyable movie.  I’d accidentally spoiled the twist at the end for myself when I was reading something about the next Fantastic Beasts movie, but I still found it to be enjoyable.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book): Thoughts and Reactions

Image result for harry potter deathly hallows book scholasticHey!  This month is drawing to a close, as is my foray into the Harry Potter series.  To be honest, I’m rather impressed with myself that I’ve actually read all 7 of the books in a month, especially since this month has been absolutely crazy.

Alright, so let’s get started.  There are a few topics I want to make sure I cover here.

The first is Dumbledore.  In this book, we actually see Dumbledore as a flawed human being rather than the wise, virtually all-knowing old man we’re used to see him as.  And this time through, I really liked that.  It makes him seem more real, given that he made his own mistakes in his youth and learned from them.  And I think it’s great to see someone from two different perspectives.  Is Dumbledore the genius that Elphias Doge knew or the arrogant jerk Aberforth saw?  Is Dumbledore good for defeating Grindelwald or evil for furthering Grindelwald’s cause?  That’s not to say anything about what happened to Ariana.

I just like that Dumbledore is so layered this time around.  I like him more as a character knowing that he made all of these mistakes early on and learned from them.  He learned from his quest for the Deathly Hallows that he didn’t trust himself with power.  He forced himself to be humble and to avoid positions (like Minister of Magic) that would have allowed him too much power.  And I see differences in the way he treated Grindelwald to the way he treated Voldemort.  He learned.

Perhaps the most absolutely terrifying part of this book (and it was intentionally done, I’m sure) was the required registration of every Muggleborn in the wizarding world and their subsequent trials.  I’m a history buff and I teach the Holocaust to my students every spring.  The parallels between the Muggleborns’ plight and that of the Jews and other marginalized people in the Holocaust were scary similar.  Again, I’m sure this was intentional.  It was frightening in its simplicity, as to how quickly Umbridge and other officials were able to make those policies law.  It truly didn’t take much time at all for them to make this a reality.  It’s so easy to see something like that making a short jump into our world next.

Which, thankfully, leads us now into one of my favorite things about this book.  I enjoyed the underlying rebellion seen by so many characters.  Neville says toward the end that he learned from Harry how acting out gave everyone around him hope for a better tomorrow, and that’s exactly what these little acts did.  With Harry, Ron, and Hermione on the run, everyone had faith he would eventually face Voldemort.  Hogwarts was being attacked from within by Dumbledore’s Army on a daily basis.  The Order wrecked havoc where they could, including the radio broadcasts that told everyone what was going on.  It was all dangerous, but all of it kept that hope alive that the war would end if only people kept fighting back.

I thought this book was going to be super boring with the whole “let’s wander the countryside looking for Horcruxes” angle (I didn’t remember that super well from when I last read it 11 years ago), but it was actually one that kept my attention better than most.  I think that’s because I wasn’t as familiar with the story as I am with the earlier books in the series.  They were predictable because I remembered them, but this one was almost new to me again.

This book made me look at so many characters in a different light, and I loved that.