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01.06.2022 | ב סיון התשפב

25 Years Since the Publishing of Harry Potter

On June 26, 1997, the first book in the Harry Potter series was published. Dr. Danielle Gurevitch, head of BIU’s Multidisciplinary Humanities Program, writes about the wizard’s charm

הארי פוטר

On June 26, 1997, the first book in the Harry Potter’s series was published. Dr. Danielle Gurevitch, ethnologist and head of the Multidisciplinary Studies Program at Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Humanities, writes about the wizard’s charm.

No one, not even author J.K. Rowling, foresaw the unprecedented success of the fantasy series, which depicts the experiences of the bespectacled wizard. Much has been told of the moment when Rowling, impoverished and deep in despair, sat down in the neighborhood café and wrote up the draft of the first Harry Potter book.

From a literary standpoint, better novels may have been written, but the Harry Potter series is in a category of its own. Today it is evident that it is a cultural milestone. The sweeping and unprecedented success of the sequels around the world, from Beijing to Honolulu, from Zimbabwe to Stockholm, has been met with surprise and criticism among conservatives (including the Catholic Church). To their consternation, the series appeared in perfect cosmic timing and expressed the feelings of an entire generation, as did the Beatles in the music field, and Picasso in modern art.

Harry Potter is the face of the generation: a talented lad with vision and courage, who wages war against the ailing, outdated bureaucratic establishment, which refuses to give way to the leaders of the new world. Potter is joined by a creative team and one adult – Dumbledore, the school principal – who all believe in him. Hogwarts is perceived by many as a model for an ideal educational system which offers vast opportunities – social, cultural, spiritual, technological, and even economic approaches: from the division into houses according to personality type, to the incessant interactivity of all the surrounding world, including humans, magicians, and fantasy creatures as well as animals, plants and the inanimate.

In the series, Rowling impressively weaves together knowledge areas and complexity  that mainly characterizes Generation Y, a digital generation that grew up in a culture of global abundance and stimuli, refusing to come to terms with dogmatic behavior patterns and fixed beliefs. This is a generation of young entrepreneurs who change the game rules and the face of science and technology, irrepressible young people who refuse to preserve the archaic axioms of the children of light against the children of darkness and strive for freedom of choice (aka Slytherin), fight for the right for diversity (including magicians, mad wizards, and confused witches), and expect the optimal realization of personal potential.  

The clear insight from the novels is that Harry Potter is indeed the chosen one, and not just in the fictional series. The 21st century began with change and upheaval, and Potter and his determined friends are its ambassadors. All this happened thanks to the gifted author, who breathed deeply during the storm, listened attentively to the winds of change, and put it into writing.