Eight Things JK Rowling and Harry Potter Taught Us About Life
On JK Rowling (and Harry Potter’s) birthday, here’s recalling 8 life lessons we learnt from the Boy Who Lived.
(This article was first published on 31 July 2016. It is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark JK Rowling’s birthday.)
When I was younger, about 11 years old – Harry’s age, of course – I fell headfirst into a magical burrow called the Harry Potter universe. I didn’t stop tumbling, tossing, looking about me in wonder as I went down the tunnel, and would have preferred to stay there had the light not suddenly emerged at 17 – also Harry’s age, when Rowling finally stopped writing.
JK Rowling, the favourite companion of my teen years, the friend who told me about Remembralls and three-headed dogs, Quaffles and Dark Marks, and ensured I remembered that “happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”.
Let’s raise a glass of Butterbeer to the fabulous Joanne Kathleen Rowling and remember some of the best things both she and Harry taught us about life. (Rowling and Harry share their birthday, of course, in case you’re a Muggle and unaware).
It Takes a Great Deal More Courage to Stand up to Our Friends, Than to Our Enemies
A very wise man in a top hat and a swishing robe, towering over a teacher’s table said this at the end of the first book. Professor Albus Dumbledore had clearly much perspective on the Muggle world too, for this would serve us in good stead in the adult world today. Neville Longbottom stood up to his three friends in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when he though they were wrong. In an increasingly competitive world, let’s not shirk from being completely transparent with our friends – even at the risk of losing them.
You are Never Completely Alone
Yes, even when you think you might be, hold on – even to that last shred of intangible, yet palpable hope. Harry Potter spent the good part of 11 years in a broom cupboard under the stairs – till a giant called Rubeus Hagrid came to whisk him off. And of course, right at the end of the Harry Potter saga, when magical worlds came crashing down, his parents, Sirius and Lupin emerged to serve as beacons of shimmering hope as he went out to face Voldemort. Therefore, even when boxed in by an irascible uncle in an uncomfortable closet, remember – a letter from Hogwarts is never far off.
Some Battles You’ll Have to Face Alone
Yes, friends will largely be there – perhaps most of your life, but there are some struggles you’ll have to go through on your own to emerge the stronger for it. Harry knew exactly when his battle was his own, like for instance, when he went out to face Voldemort at the end, full of the knowledge that it might be the last thing he ever did. We have to fight our own duels – whether it be with a Basilisk fang – or with hardened Muggle resourcefulness. It ain’t going to be easy – but as Harry and Dumbledore will tell you, it’s worth it.
Dementors Can be Real, But So is a Patronus
Did you know JK Rowling based the throat-rattling, soul-sucking Dementors on her own life experiences? Subsequent to her failing marriage and dwindling financial resources, the then near-pauper author suffered from clinical depression and contemplated suicide. We’ve all been there – some who’d never admit it, believing the darkness to be the end. But it almost never is. Harry Potter wrestled a harrowing childhood memory to be able to produce a Patronus that kept the Dementors at bay. You can create your own; just muster all your spunk and shoot that sparkly white spirit animal out of your magic wand. Life’s bogs might just dissipate.
Treat Your ‘Inferiors’ as Well as you Would Your Equals
Sirius Black gave Harry – and us – this very sage piece of advice once. He couldn’t have been more right. Remember how Dobby, the bedraggled elf under Lucius Malfoy, switched sides to come to Harry’s aid? Harry always treated him well, like an equal and ensured his little friend got a beautiful, heartbreaking burial at the end. You have nothing to gain from being a despot to men and women socially (or otherwise) your so-called inferior. There’s much to gain (a beautiful friendship to boot) when you rise above such petty trifles.
Appearances, More Often Than Not, are Deceiving
Dolores Umbridge, anyone? The pink-garbed, teacup-whirling, giggling fiend held all the promise of a pesky little aunt, when first you saw her. Who knew she’d make students score out their forearms in blood? Cue Sirius Black – the mangled runaway convict from Azkaban – till he turned out to be our protagonist’s beloved confidante and the ultimate martyr. And if we’re talking of martyrs, can we possibly preclude Severus Snape, forever holding a torch for Harry’s mom and staking his own life – till it was taken – for the son of the woman he loved? Pay no attention to rumours or what you’ve heard of a person – he or she might just surprise you.
Asking Someone Out Can be Stressful, but Totally Worth it
Move aside Barney Stinson and your sickeningly smooth ‘Haaaaaaaave you met Ted?’ Real-life dating experiences can be quite stressful – as a 14-year-old Harry made all too clear when he came up with gems like “Wangoballwime”? Yes, Cho Chang wasn’t his lady, nor the one he was meant to end up with, but he did give us an important life lesson there. It’s okay to be tongue-tied and sputter incoherent garble. Adolescent relationships aren’t the stuff of romance novels either– as Ron and Hermione’s ever-turbulent equation proved all too well.
We may be Older, but the Magic Lives on
Completely corny as this sounds, we know the wizard/witch in you will get this. Yes, the last Harry Potter book (we’re not counting The Cursed Child) was 11 years ago; yes, the last HP movie more than seven – but once you’ve fallen into the rabbit hole, you never emerge quite the same again. You master the skill of not falling off your broom, breaking a few rules (‘I solemnly swear I am up to no good’?) and the joy of realising love is a greater power than hate.
There’s a magic that permeates even the Muggle world – reading, writing, travelling, baking a scone, etc. You just have to believe, like Harry did, and sometimes – just sometimes – bump into the solid barrier between Platforms 9 and 10, hoping it will open.
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