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Andrea Armstrong

Goodbye, Harry

For a generation raised alongside author J.K. Rowling’s famous fictional wizard, the final movie marks the end of childhood

By Lauren Bird

Although I knew it was coming, my heart sank when I turned the 607th page of the seventh and last Harry Potter book and found nothing on the other side. I was 18 then — roughly the same age as Harry, as I’ve always been.

At least I could still look forward to the book’s movie version, the two-part Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Part one came out last November. Part two comes out on July 15, four years after I finished the original book.

For some, it’s simply the end of a great franchise. But for those of us who grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione, who waited in long lines to get the books, who went to every midnight movie screening and book release, who had Harry Potter journals and who knew what animals our “patronus” and “animagus” would be, this month is momentous. It’s the end of our adolescence, and we’ve known it was coming.

Harry Potter was a defining influence on my childhood, as well as millions of others born in the late 1980s and early ’90s. He was a pop culture phenomenon. Our parents had the Beatles, their parents had Elvis and we had Harry Potter. Harry and the magic of his story united a generation around the world. And after July, we’ll have to go on without them. 

“I feel like my inner child is dying and it’s time to grow up,” says University of New Brunswick grad student Brittany Deveau, who started reading the books when she was 12. 

“I don’t know what’s next,” admits Mitchell Feero, a third-year student at St. Thomas University in Fredericton. “What is going to make my adulthood like Harry Potter made my childhood?”

Courtney Hill, a fourth-year science student at UNB, says the end of the movies brings great sadness. “I will never do this again. I only have one more midnight showing. What am I going to do now? I will never read or be into another series like that.”

I started the series when I was 11. My Grade 5 teacher, Mrs. Fallon, read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to my class. For a chapter’s duration every day, I was transported (or “apparated”) from the pale blue confines of the classroom into the world of magic and possibility.

That magic, that possibility has become a rallying point for millions. And ever since, Harry has been dependable. Each year the seasons changed, we grew older and there was the promise that Harry’s story would be furthered, either on screen or on the page.

When the books became supremely popular, so did the notion that they would lead children down a dark pathway to Wiccanhood. Some Christians decried the series’ sorcery and witchcraft. Others wrote entire books to prove its immorality, citing mortal sins like curfew breaking. 

But those who believe those claims are usually the ones who have never taken the time to actually read the series. If they had, they would know what I, and so many like me, have come to know: the magic is enchanting, innocent and imaginative; the characters are strong; the morality is deep; and in the end, love surmounts all.

For the most part, the movies haven’t lived up to the novels, but Deathly Hallows: Part 1 followed the book almost to perfection.

For the first time, I felt the characters were portrayed as they are in the stories (with the exception of Harry, who, to my mind, is still not quite the Harry created by author J. K. Rowling), and no jumps were made in the plot. This film actually did the book justice; I left the theatre satisfied.

Which is what I can say about Harry Potter as a whole: I’m satisfied. Rowling created a masterpiece about a young boy and his two best friends who fought for what they believed in — for something bigger than themselves. These characters will live on and continue to inspire children around the globe, but maybe not quite so much as they inspired us. Even though the series has to end, and it does, I know that in my life I understood the power of a story.

Reality is coming. We are moving into adulthood. But the good news is, we can take Harry with us. The magic doesn’t have to end with our childhood. The quest for the seemingly impossible, the hope that good will triumph, the desire for something beyond ourselves and a world that is more than we ever dared imagine is the challenge of Harry Potter. And that doesn’t end with the final credits.

On July 15, I will head to the Regent Mall in Fredericton, a decidedly unmagical place. It’s a standard building with standard shops, but when the clock strikes midnight, it will be as though life is breathed into the smallest cracks of every wall. That night, a generation clinging to the last strands of its adolescence will line up from the theatre to the top of the food court, unsure of its destiny.

In the timeless words of Rubeus Hagrid, “What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.”

Lauren Bird is a journalism and English literature student at St. Thomas University in Fredericton.

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