This week marked the 20th anniversary for the publication of the first book in J.K. Rowling’s magical and remarkable series! Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone graced our shelves in 1997 and the Harry Potter generation has learnt so much since they first entered the Wizarding World all those many years ago.
Please Note: In this article, ‘the Harry Potter generation’ refers to those who were primary school aged or younger when the first few books came out, and are now twenty-somethings who haven’t gotten over the disappointment of never getting their Hogwarts letters on their 11th birthdays.
Read on to discover what they (and future generations too) have learnt! We’d also love to hear about your magical Harry Potter experience in the comments below!
1. You’re never too young to start reading
Our generation are among those who were reading novels when we were still being taught to use safety scissors. Many of us had parents who began reading the series to us, until we started devouring them ourselves after becoming too impatient to wait for them. From reading books 4 and 5 on our own as young as 7 years old and with some being over 400 pages long, we learnt early on that you’re never too young to start reading. This will be an important lesson we will pass on to our children, as much as we will hate to share with them the inevitable disappointment come their 11th birthday.
Most of us fondly recall the tattered and yellowing early edition copies of Harry Potter that we bought and reread with each new release. The unavoidable re-reading that occurred during the wait between books meant that so many pages were turned again and again, developing a loved, albeit battered, appearance. As we grew up, more editions with new cover art, additional information, illustrated copies and hard covers were released, so we couldn’t quite help ourselves. It’s rare to find a Harry Potter lover who only has one copy of the series. Unfortunately we have to repeatedly explain to our friends and family that you can simply never have too many copies of the same book.
3. Family is more than just blood
Just like many of the characters in the Wizarding World, we have problems and issues within our families. While a lot of us are lucky enough that our parents have not been murdered by evil tyrants, no one’s family is perfect. Sometimes we have to realise that blood relatives will not always be good to us. Often it is when we have a Dursley in our lives that we come to appreciate just how good others are to us: the people who let us stay with them even though we will take up the only spare space in their shoebox of a bedroom and the people who help us keep going even when we feel like giving up. These people are family and it has nothing to do with DNA.
4. The world isn’t split between good people and death eaters
As Sirius explains so well, people are not good or evil. People are complicated; we are not simply good people for going to church or bad people for not signing up to donate monthly to charity. We are all filled with good and bad but we’ve come to learn that this is okay. We’ve come to learn that we don’t have to be entirely self-sacrificing to be good members of society. Sometimes we need a break, sometimes we need to put ourselves above others. This is not only okay, but healthy.
5. There is always light in the darkness
One of the best quotes in the entire series is from Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”. Our generation has learnt to see just how true this is every time something terrible happens. The world will never be free of disaster or cruelty, but at least we know we’re not doomed to be forever in the dark.
6. The sentence “I’ve never read or seen Harry Potter” is blasphemy
Many of us bring up Harry Potter when making new friends and on dates; it’s a good topic to talk about if you’re. Usually the conversation will touch on favourite characters, books and movies, but occasionally we’ll be faced with the shocking reality that some people just haven’t read or watched it. After dealing with our grief we try to encourage the poor soul to open a book or start watching a movie. But sometimes, the person doesn’t heed our advice. You may be able to beg and nag, but we fear we may have to concede defeat when it comes to some muggles.
7. No one should have to live in the closet
Harry’s ‘bedroom’ under the stairs never fails to pull on our heartstrings, our hearts going out to poor young Harry who had to live with dust and spiders. No one deserves to live like that. Whether literally or metaphorically, no one should ever have to live in the closet. Our generation are huge supporters of achieving equality and acceptance of everyone in the lesbian, gay, transgender and non-binary community. People deserve better.
Speaking of quotes, we’ve discovered that you can select any of J.K. Rowling’s quotes from any of her books and you will have a powerful tattoo.
9. Re-reading a book is nothing but rewarding
We’ve all heard that stupid phrase, “I can’t believe you’re reading it again!” By now most of us can quote our favourite sections of the books, having turned those pages so many times. Even once the series was finished, we weren’t done with it. With every reread you find foreshadowing you didn’t see before, or notice yet another thing that was left out of the movies (Peeves anyone?). We’re becoming fairly good at ignoring such silly questions asking why we’d bother reading it again. Clearly they’re the ones missing out.
11. The last book in a series does not mean that the story is over
It is clear from yellowed pages and our ability to quote sections of the books and movies, our love for Harry Potter didn’t disappear with the last book, or the last movie. There were strong emotions when these came out, but it didn’t mean that the story was over. The glory of being a part of something so big is that there is always more out there. Fanfiction, new editions of the books, spinoffs and theme parks help the magic to live on, no matter how many years have gone by.
12. There are a few (very few!) things more important than books
While no one can argue that books are one of the most important things to us, we’ve worked out our priorities as we grew up with the books. Sometimes we need to put down the book we’re reading so we can study for an exam, or put it down so we can actually spend some time with our loved ones.
13. We will never be satisfied with being muggles
Developing from our disappointment on our 11th birthdays where we never got our Hogwarts letters is the frustration that we don’t have magic. We can’t learn to play chess with pieces that move, we can’t ask our books to come to us from the shelf with a simple ‘accio’. We can’t truly be a part of that world, but we’re beyond grateful to have a series of books that touches our hearts even though it’s always going to be a sore spot.
By now we’ve mostly come to terms with our house, whether it be accepting the stigma that comes from saying you’re in Slytherin or arguing that you’re not flaky when you explain that you’re in Hufflepuff. This also means we’ve come to see how we can show our house pride with our clothes. While scarves, hats, t-shirts and even hoodies are no surprise, our house colours also work well when it comes to more formal and business occasions. You can’t go wrong with your house colours.
15. You do not betray your friends
Our generation have become the fiercest of friends. We understand what is means to be loyal and to have our friends’ backs. The bond between Harry, Ron and Hermione is something a lot of us wished for and when we found the type of friends who would stand between us and the world, there is no chance we’d ever betray them.
16. Chocolate really does make you feel better
It doesn’t matter what the demon is that you are facing, be it school, work or even just a bad day, there is something about chocolate that can really make you feel better. It doesn’t have to be a dementor for chocolate to work its magic.
17. J.K. Rowling is full of words of wisdom
Although her books are full of wisdom and quotes worthy of tattoos, she has more to offer. On Twitter, in interviews, on Pottermore and other platforms, she continues to reach out to people all over the world and everything she says is full of wisdom. For example, “We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already” is not only wise, but it also offers hope in what is sometimes a world with darkness.
18. Laughter is vital in dark times
Every character in the books has something to teach us, in particular Fred and George Weasley. It’s become clear to us that they are not the clowns that they appear to be in the first few books. In fact they are warm, generous characters with an aptitude for making people feel better, usually through making them smile. These characters have taught us just how important laughter is, especially when things seem to be going wrong.
Almost all of us despise Umbridge with a ferocity that surpasses our hatred for Voldemort, but we did learn a few valuable things from her such as how we mustn’t tell lies. In order to maintain strong and healthy relationships with those closest to us, we must trust one another and be honest. Umbridge is not a role model of any kind, but we will remember this.
20. Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home
One thing we will always be sure of, and that is how Harry Potter will always be a part of us. It does not matter how old we become, or how many other books we read or how many new spinoffs there are, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome us home, by page and screen.