We, the Potter readers, could be classified as omnivores, detractors and fans. I belong to all three classes, but I do love J.K. Rowling. Initially, I fell in with the detractors. With so much magic and so much action together, I wondered whether the children would become obsessed with this weird type of adventure. What kind of values would they grasp?
Then, one day, a good friend of mine who is a high school teacher talked to me about the Potter Phenomenon: how the books were translated to the main languages, how the first and second books unexpectedly began to sell by the million, assuring the publishers a huge profit compared to best-sellers for adults. But the most incredible news was—so she said—that Potter was being read by children, their parents and even their grandparents, who actually turned off the television in order to read!
My first conclusion was that it must be an incredible publicity stunt. In spite of that, I succumbed to temptation and read The Sorcerer’s Stone (or The Philosopher's Stone). Actually, I devoured it in a day-and-a-half, fitting it around work, traveling, and other tasks. As soon as I finished it, I gulped down the second, third and fourth books… The Order of the Phoenix had not been yet published, and number six probably was still in Rowling’s mind, but I could hardly wait. By now I was definitely Potter-omnivorous.
Eventually, I read the books again in the original English and that turned me into a full-blown fan of Potter, and Rowling as well. From the magical and fantastical pages there sprang many noble concepts about family, friendship, communication within the family, teens' development; the forgotten virtues of modesty, gratitude, humility; professionalism in teaching and so much more. There was a wealth of meaning I had missed earlier because I was so critical and compulsive.
I would like to give a glimpse of the family as it appears in the fantasy world of J. K. Rowling's stories.
Two archetypal families recognizable in everyday life come into view: the Dursleys and the Weasleys. The first, a middleclass family with one child, who own their own house and their own economical car of the year. The father is the manager of a drilling business, the mother a housewife, and their only boy, Dudley, is absolutely spoiled by the parents' softness and their abdication of authority.
The Weasleys, by contrast, are a generous family with seven children. Although they are wizards, the father has a modest job and a low income. Their house has been added to bit by bit and they have no car. The mother is a housewife who is always ready to welcome any friends of her husband or children. The seven kids—six boys and a girl—all have very different and strong personalities, but what they have in common is that they are hard workers, clever, level-headed, get along well together and, except for one, have a great sense of humor.
Throughout his life, both families will influence Harry Potter, forming his character, his habits, his loves and hates, his hobbies. But in spite of these domestic pressures, the author always—and I find this most educational—recognizes Harry's unique origin and respects his freedom.
Friction among the Weasley brothers brings out virtues, such as respect, although fights break out as well. Percy is notorious for his bad moods, but he is also the cause of a lot of amusement and laughter. And all the while, the authority of the parents moderates and sculpts the children's personalities. At the Dursley's house, things are horribly different. The only child not only manipulates both parents, he bosses them around, mocking them and pilfering from them. In his heart, he seems to despise them.
Both families face a financial crisis and have to contend with extra work, bosses, and unexpected friends. Among the Dursleys, trouble comes from a close relative, Auntie Marge. This prompted me to ask myself what role aunties, uncles, cousins and other relatives play in our daily life.
No role at all! I decided, sadly. There is no time for them. In big cities, we may telephone and go to the hundredth birthday celebration of our great-grandmother, but that's all. We forget how much they can share with us. Auntie Marge’s character repulses me because of her imprudence, cruelty and sneakiness. My aunties were not that kind, none of them. This contrasting character reminds me about their presence in difficult and funny moments, at funerals and in hospital rooms, as well as at weddings and after dinner chats. Am I a lovable auntie? Will my nephews and nieces miss me when I am gone?
Tonks, a young lady in her early twenties and a bit crazy, appears in book six with eyes red and swollen from weeping: Mrs Weasley has been listening to her pour out her grief. Only at the end of the books did I come to know that there are heartaches. Such a wonderful friend is Molly Weasley! Sensitive, always available, thoughtful, a true grown-up friend with her own hardships in life, ready to share her experiences with optimism. Am I Mrs Weasley to all my friends? Do they find a Molly mixed with Michael Ende's Momo? I sincerely hope so.
Enough of Harry Potter's world for now. As soon as I come up with more inspirations about Potter and Rowling, I’ll share them with you.
Alfonsina Ramirez Paulin, PhD, is a Mexican of the "third age" who has taken up writing as a second career after teaching at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).