― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Today marks a very interesting day in the publishing world. Firstly, it is Harry Potter’s birthday (although I cannot confirm how many candles will be on the cake) and to celebrate, the world will be going crazy over the release of the script of the new play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Please note, this is not a new book! Having heard so many people talking about ‘the new Harry Potter book’, I am concerned of the number of disappointed fans when they discover it is the script of the stage show that has just opened in the UK. Cursed Child is the highly anticipated continuation of J.K Rowling’s beloved series. As hinted at the end of the seventh book, Harry, Hermione and Ron are now grown up and dealing with a whole new world. The last time we saw Harry, he was waving off this two children as they departed Platform 9 ¾ on the Hogwarts Express. Cursed Child is ‘the eighth story’, a look at what happens after that last moment.
“It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.”
Now, I adore the Harry Potter series and I always have (and always will). Like many children, I was completely captivated and obsessed by Rowling’s world; the magic captured within the pages was unlike anything I had ever come across. I only have to pick up the first book to be transported back to that child-like state of wonder and happiness. I know there are many others out there who feel the same.
The excitement around the script’s release has been building and so too has the discussion about what the script will mean to readers. As much as I would have loved the opportunity to see the play, I am still very unsure as to whether I will actually read the script for Cursed Child. The only part of the Harry Potter series I didn’t like was that final chapter where Harry is all grown up. As a reader and a lover of children’s fiction, do I really need to see my favourite characters all grown up? As an adult reader, do I need to see their progression into adulthood as well? There was a really interesting article published that explores why authors feel the need to do this. A classic example of this is J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan. At the end of the book, Wendy is all grown up with a daughter of her own and in a really sad moment she says,
“Why can’t you fly now, mother?”
“Because I am grown up, dear. When people grow up, they forget the way.”
Now perhaps my own desire to return to childhood is clouding my judgement, but as adults, do we really forget the magic of childhood? As a reader, do we forget how enchanting we found those fictional worlds when we first fell into them? Of course, the way we read these books change as our lives do. We have different experiences as life pushes and pulls us in different directions however I really believe that there are some books that will never change, no matter how many times we read them or how our lives evolve.
In the Guardian article, Anthony Horowitz – author of the Alex Rider series – commented that he once thought about testing the waters with an older Alex Rider,
“Curiously, I once flirted with the idea of re-examining my own hero, Alex Rider, in his late 20s. He wouldn’t exactly be old, but he would certainly be a wreck, psychologically damaged by all the terrible adventures I’d put him through. I saw him in the opening chapter, waking up in a dirty, crumpled bed in a shabby room, rolling over and lighting two cigarettes; one for himself, one for the woman he was sleeping with. My publishers told me, politely, that it was a terrible idea. And they were right.”
The difference between Rowling and many other children’s authors is that she allows her characters to grow older as her series progresses. The term ‘arrested development’ comes to mind in so many instances however in children’s fiction, this seems less obvious than in movies or TV shows. Hrry Potter has a birthday at the start of every book and while this isn’t necessarily the happiest of days, it marks Harry (in my own mind) as more real than many of my other favourite characters. As much as I love this realness, I’m not sure I’m ready for seventeen-year-old Harry to become an unhappy forty-something man. In my mind, that may take away some of the charm!
I applaud Rowling’s bravery at giving her characters a second life. If she believes there is more to the characters’ lives that needs to be shared then I will be right there to celebrate them with her! There are many die-hard Harry Potter fans out there and I look forward to seeing their reactions; I will be joining in the celebrations at my local bookstore and online and I will definitely be purchasing a copy of the script. Not necessarily for the story, but for the chance to immerse myself within the happy pages of Rowling’s writing… once I finally decide to see what all the fuss is about.