I just finished reading Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. (The Triwizard Cup was a portkey… what?!?! Never saw that coming)
Yeah, I know—I am 13 or so years behind when everyone else made the discovery.
Over the past decade of university ministry work, I have curiously observed my Millennial friends pining away for the release dates of the next book or the next film. Though I claim to be a passionate lover of fiction, my “relaxation reading” over the past several years—crammed into holidays or stolen from an occasional Sunday afternoon, perhaps—was often either research for a book I was trying to write or maybe a handful of pages from more challenging fiction from the likes of Dostoevsky or Hugo.
But finally, Harry Potter has made its way into my hands.
The advantage of missing all the excitement is that I now get to read Rowling’s books in England.
The month I picked up HP and the Philosopher’s Stone (yes, in the UK it is “Philosopher’s Stone,” not “Sorcerer’s Stone”) was the month my oldest daughter entered the local secondary school. She just turned the same age as Harry when he first saw the lights of Hogwarts Castle from those small boats led by Hagrid.
My wife bought the UK version of the series. She did not want any British turns of phrase to be lost from the reading experience. My kids are now more savvy with British lingo than American, anyway, since they spend every schoolday with their British mates and British teachers. They will understand when the magical tents set up for the World Quidditch Tournament come equipped with water kettles (no livable domicile—permanent or temporary—is British-grade without one). And when Ron starts regurgitating slugs, my daughter is appropriately prepared for repulsion by daily experience with slugs. The British slug is perhaps the most common “minibeast” (small animal life-form) that we see over here—of course Ron has slugs coming out of his mouth… we have them regularly coming out of the grass into our garage.
Studying at a British university has helped me understand the idea of “houses” like Gryffindor and Slytherin. And when I attend “formal dinners” at the college I serve as chaplain, I sit at “high table” (sort of like where the Hogwarts staff are positioned beneath that enchanted ceiling). And the very subtle—yet nonetheless present—sense of social status within British society is quite palpably felt while reading about Mudbloods, Muggles, and Purebloods.
And to assure my Millennial friends—those who compassionately lamented my inexperience with the young wizard with the lightning-scar—to assure them that I am getting the fullest experience possible, let me just relate this one anecdote: while watching the first film with my daughter on holiday in Scotland, the actual Hogwarts Express (aka the Jacobite Steam Train on the West Coast Railway) twice passed by our window puffing its cloud of vapor into the air.
So although I missed all the fun and buzz of HP several years ago, I suppose I am happy to have waited.
Another advantage, of course, is that I do not have to wait for a release date….
[Coming: Magic, Christian readings of HP, the occult, and the genre of Faërie]