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The Enchanted Muggles

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on July 19, 2011

 As we settled into the comfortable and plush seats of the movie theatre to watch the screening of Harry Potter – Deathly Hallows Part 2, I glanced at my two sons – who already looked gone and lost into a different world behind those largish dark 3D glasses – and a slightly supercilious thought flitted through my mind: here are two mesmerized muggle kids – addict like, excited, expectant, thrilled, thralled, soft suckers – who will remain so for a brief while to come. For over three years – ever since they have started to come into their own and asserted their limited independence – not a week went by without reference to some aspect of the fantasy world that Rowling created for them. To them the world of Harry Potter was precious. Every single twist and turn of the fascinating tale spread over seven volumes was keenly pored over. Every detail was internalized including the Latin sounding names of spells and potions. The complex but consistent and ever altering nature of relations among the key characters, the gentle twists and turns in the tale, the possible shape of things to come was regularly discussed and debated. If only they applied fifty percent of that absorbed intensity to their regular school work – things would have been different. The younger one, who could not read fully well on his own, followed the older one for information, giving the older one an opportunity to feel superior, knowledgeable and big brotherly. Even elders were reduced to kids. In a commencement address at Harvard University – the pedestal of higher learning – the segment of Rowling’s brilliant speech received claps for the longest duration when she equated them to the class of Gryffindor. Lush with imagination, originality and above all a wonderfully inventive storytelling, the tale of Harry Potter and his brave friends and acquaintances entertained a generation of kids and adults like no other books did in the recent past. That the popularity of the book was sustained by brilliant marketing and hype created by the stunning movies with their ever improving computer graphics does not and should not take away the richly deserved recognition for Rowling’s work. The sad part is that it has now come to an end – although some feeble hope has been left lingering with the initiation of circle of life of the next generation of Potters, Weaslies and Malfoys about to begin their schooling at the reconstructed and restored Hogwarts. Platform 9 ¾  – the place from which the first step to the fantasy land made has been left intact.   

However, as the curtains draw to a close, a question that remains worth pondering is – Will the Potter mania sustain with the same intensity and excitement beyond this generation of muggles? My guess is that it will not – although actually the contrary seems to have happened with similar other sagas like Tolkien’s The Lord of Rings and C.S.Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. These two fantasy sagas received a second shot in the arm through an introduction to a second generation of readers by their movie adaptations. These propellants (of movie adaptations) came nearly five to six decades after the original works swept away an older generation of readers off their feet across the western world. On a minor scale the same happened with Urusula Le Guin’s “The Earthsea Quartet” (despite some controversy on intended interpretations) and Philip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass”. In all these cases the spacing seems to have worked very well. On the contrary and with Potter, the intensity of hype got sustained simultaneously by the book releases and superbly entertaining movies. In that sense the twin forces of hype sustainers stand spent unless something dramatically different substitutes them to ensure a sustained interest.

 My weak imagination and dim sight does not see any substitutes on the horizon barring a generational commitment and love for the work. I do hope that this generation of muggles who supported, sustained and poured life and vitality into Rowling’s wonderful creation will have the good sense and commitment to pass it on to a next generation of little muggles

…………….. and that only time will tell

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