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10 things I learned from the Harry Potter books

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The following article contains many spoilers for the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. Though to be frank, if you haven’t read the books yet you won’t appreciate this article very much. So go and read them.

There are those who love Harry Potter and his bespectacled face. There are those who cannot stand any mention of Quidditch or Hogwarts. There are those who have every spell, every member of every house, every magical plant memorised and logged in their brains. But whatever your opinion, the seven books of the Harry Potter series have some lessons that everyone can benefit from.

1. It is possible for Mr and Mrs Dursley to keep Harry in a cupboard under the stairs for eleven years without the social services intervening in some way.

2. Harry pretty much lacks any kind of defining personality characteristic until the fifth book Order of the Phoenix, when he suddenly turns into Angsty!Harry, shouting and sulking and moaning until his friends and readers are thoroughly sick of him. Obviously JK Rowling’s most developed and interesting character.

3. The title “The Boy Who Lived” can be applied to anyone if they’re alive. Despite this, it appears to be an honorary title bestowed only upon Harry.

4. It is perfectly acceptable and understandable for Dumbledore, supposedly the wisest wizard of his age, to hold back vital information about how to defeat Voldemort until the sixth book, information that would probably have been extremely helpful to Harry.

5. When Harry is “killed” by Voldemort in the last book, it is normal to go to some odd “King’s Cross in the sky” and talk to Dumbledore’s ghost then revive and defeat Voldemort. This is not some weird “it-was-all-a-dream” cop-out by Rowling but a mastery of the literary structure.

6. If you have ginger hair, you’re either fiery or gormless.

7. It is not, I repeat not, incredibly hilarious to take the word “wand” as a euphemism for something else and read out innuendo-filled passages from the book such as “Draco whipped out his wand, but Harry was prepared and his wand was in his hand before Draco could react” and “”Your father, on the other hand, favoured a mahogany wand. Eleven inches.” This is not funny and undermines the seriousness of the book.

8. Despite numerous references and anvil sized hints throughout at least 4 of the books, it takes Ron and Hermione four years to realise that they’re meant to be together. In the world of romantic literature, opposites attract and if you hate someone then you’re bound to fall in love with them eventually. They never stood a chance.

9. Snape is evil. Or is he? But he looks evil. No, he’s just pretending to be evil. Oh, he was just in love with Harry’s mother.

10. It was OK to secretly hope on your eleventh birthday that somehow the world of wizards and witches was true, JK Rowling had inside information and wrote a tell-all book and a letter from Hogwarts would arrive inviting you to start learning magic. It was also OK to be crushed that it didn’t happen…

Originally published on The Yorker 27th November 2010

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