I Love Harry Potter…and I Don’t.

I am torn, seriously torn. I was going to title this, “I Love Harry Potter but I Hate JK Rowling,” but that’s not exactly the truth, either. I don’t know JK Rowling, now do I? And honestly, although I’ve heard some conflicting myths about the creation of the books, her life before and after, the battle with Terry Pratchett, and some disturbing rumors about her suing a grade-school, the truth is there is no way to find out how much of what about all that is true. Or if it is true, how much of that was her responsibility. For instance, I researched the whole Terry Pratchett brouhaha and discovered that an awful lot of it was media-manipulated. That sort of thing happens, after all. I’m not aware how much control she has over things legally, either. She wrote the books…but generally speaking, the publishers own rights to almost all of that stuff. Or the producers, in the case of the movies. So the law suit against the grade school may not have been her fault. Of course, it could.

Part of the problem here, is that I get exhausted just sticking my toe in the internet on this one. I mean…there are far too many Harry Potter fan sites, book reviews, and Christian hate-sites to easily make my way through and find the truth for myself. In the long run, its just not all that important anyway.

And yet…a few things bother me. Maybe you’ve got some criticisms too…maybe you noticed something that bothered you as a writer, or think something was creatively borrowed. To be fair, it’s accepted that people “borrow” things creatively. Everyone does it, and it’s not usually intentional. We’re all influenced by what’s around us, and none of us live in a bubble. So I’m not pointing fingers here…I’m not making conclusions…I’m just saying…

And let me admit here that it’s been some time since I’ve read the books although I watch the movies over-and-over…and I never read past book 4. That’s where I think the writing problems first started bothering me.

The first thing that has annoyed me since the very beginning is the whole bit with Dumbledore and the streetlights. Has anyone else seen “Bell, Book, and Candle?” Jack Lemmon’s character pulls that same trick…also in the very beginning of the story. Huh. Just saying. And it’s old enough that there’s a good chance ol’ JK has seen it too. I mean…she’s only a couple years older than me and it is a classic Jimmy Stewart flick.

Then there’s the movie “Troll.” I’m probably on my own with this one. I can never find anyone else who remembers that movie or the absolutely adorable talking mushroom. But I digress. “Troll” is also a fantasy-themed movie, with the aforementioned troll taking over apartments in an apartment building, the idea being that if he can take over the building by a certain time (I want to say it’s the solstice…but it might be the equinox. It’s been some time since I’ve seen it), he’ll take over our world. And the name of the hero in that movie? Harry Potter, Jr. There are two Harry Potter’s in that flick…the older one being “Senior.” And although they don’t live under the stairs, their apartment is at the bottom of the stairs. As forgotten as this movie is now…it had a lot of famous television people in it…including Sonny Bono…(and one of the chicks from the original Battlestar Galactica) so again, likely she saw it at some point.

Harry vs the Basilisk? Yeah…straight out of Norse mythology. Thor vs the Midgard serpent. Of course, Harry had a happy ending and Thor did not. Sorry about that, Thor.

Being an adult who read these (as opposed to a kid who grew up with them), I have to say some of the names gave way too much away for me, as well. Who else caught on to Sirius and Lupin before the reveal? Yeah, spoils it a little.

As a writer…there are other things that bother me. Things that might not bother other people. It seems to me that some of the minor characters changed far too abruptly between the first half of the series and the second. I just don’t understand the motivation there.

There’s something else here, about the writing that bothers me. It might just be because I’m sensitive about this in  my own writing, I’m not sure. How do I explain this…?

Okay, let’s take the whole snake-talking thing for example. In the first book, it was innocent and funny, completely believable that a child with magical powers would talk to snakes as well as anything else he felt like. It’s my own belief that it was written innocently…that there was no intent to make this into a gift that only “evil wizards” would exhibit. It wasn’t until the series was picked up and JKR needed something else that she turned to that and went…”aha!” But it lacks credibility with me. Same thing with the Horcruxes, especially with Harry being one himself. It feels unplanned, and even a little bit forced to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that these things will pop into your head while you’re writing…and sometimes your own creative endeavors will spontaneously create lives of their own that you have no control over. I think I have problems with this because the first book is so drastically different from the later books. It’s as if they are two different series, and should never have been blended.  I know, I know…most people who read them were younger with the first book and grew as the characters and books grew. Maybe that’s one of the many reasons it bothers me whereas it doesn’t seem to bother anyone else.

I’m not going to bash all the lacking originality because some of it seems just thematic or mythic. For instance, the orphan who turns out to be somehow gifted or has this wondrous experience. That’s as old as fairy tales…look at Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel…and many more all the way up until the present time. I know one of my favorite books as a child was “House with a Clock in its Walls.” Again, child gets orphaned, goes off to live with his crazy (magically gifted) uncle. Repetitive, yes…but its a useful technique for storytelling. The “magical school” thing has been done before, as well. Although to be honest, if you’re looking for reading for pagan young adults, I’d stick with the Earthsea Triology by Ursula LeGuin. The Christians like to get all anti-Harry Potter, insisting that its some plot to convert them over to our way of being…which it’s not. When push comes to shove its simply good vs evil, and hasn’t really much to do with religious mythology. Earthsea Trilogy on the other hand is chock full of wonderful pagan values and lessons. There are many, many fantasy books with the classic “wizard duel” as well…my favorite being Katherine Kurtz’ Deryni Chronicles which of course also pitted the genetically magical vs the genetically not, and made some excellent observations about prejudice and fear.

There’s more…much more…but not only am I not remembering it all (I really need to start taking notes!), I’m running out of space. I try to keep these blogs to a smaller size so I don’t bore anyone 😉

In the long run, I will say that if I’m right about some of JK Rowling’s influences, not only would I not hate her if I met her, we might actually be able to be friends. After all, she seems to have the same taste in movies as I do and is well-read in mythology and Latin. If what bugs me about it doesn’t bother anyone else, then it’s my problem, isn’t it?

It also could mean that maybe I’m just a bit too hard on myself…and too critical about my own writing…

Which would figure, wouldn’t it?


About Camylleon

I don't need gurus, and sure don't want to be one. I'm not here to buy stuff or to sell it. I am just another spiritual wanderer, trying to figure it all out. My blend? A little Santeria, a little Polytheism, a little Spiritism and shake gently. Comments are closed...because I detest drama. I'm not completely anti-social though. If you've got questions, shoot me a email. Camylleon at hotmail dot com...
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11 Responses to I Love Harry Potter…and I Don’t.

  1. I look at Harry Potter from several different stand points . . . a teacher, a writer and a parent. I also started the books as an adult (I was in college). I’ve read all of them. In fact, I anxiously awaited books 5, 6 and 7 and bought them on the day the were released and then finished them within a day and a half!

    Before I go any further, I would like to state that I remember “Troll”! It’s been a gazillion years since I’ve seen it and now I have to go look it up on Netflix! (I also totally remember the mushroom!)

    Ok, back to Harry Potter . . .

    “To be fair, it’s accepted that people ‘borrow’ things creatively.” . . . That pretty much covers my thoughts on all the possible borrowing 🙂 I remember being told by one of my creative writing teachers in high school, “There are no new stories. You just have to find a new way of telling the story.”

    As for the character changes . . . I didn’t feel a need for further explanation. Summer’s a long time to a teenager and a lot can happen in that time. I know when I was in school, a lot of people would come back to school in September like they were completely different people.

    The parsletongue (sp?) bit . . . In the first book, the only one who knew about Harry being able to talk to snakes was Harry. It makes sense to me that he wouldn’t think it was a big deal because he doesn’t know anything about Voldemort or magic in general. It wasn’t until the second book that Harry’s peers discovered this ability and that’s when it became Harry discovered it was an “evil” trait. (And so also when the readers discovered it.)

    I also didn’t think Harry being a horcrux was forced in the books . . . but you already said that you didn’t read past the 4th book, so I assume you were only judging based on the movie? If so, I agree with you . . . but that’s totally the script writer and editors or whoever else’s issue, not JK Rowling’s 🙂

    One of the things I loved most about the books was that such seemingly insignificant details in earlier books would become prominent in future ones. The movies leave nearly all of that out. It’s understandable because they had to cut so much out of them, but it still makes them pale in comparison to the books (which is pretty much normal). I love the movies, but I don’t think I would give them nearly as much credit had I not read all of the books. The story lines solely presented in the movies definitely leave much to be desired, but I don’t think that reflects poorly on the books!

    Wow! I didn’t mean to write that much! LOL . . . I guess it’s a bit obvious that I love Harry Potter 😛

    • Camylleon says:

      …and to clarify, I’m not saying I don’t love Harry Potter. I usually say that I love Harry Potter and hate JK Rowling…but that’s not the truth either. Obviously, I don’ t know her…and secondly because if those were her influences, she and I have an awful lot in common and probably could chat for hours.

      To clarify again…I don’t think the kids’ personalities changed drastically, it was some of the adults. And it happened around book/movie 3-4, which I did read. I think that ws the beginning of the change…that the series began to actually foment as a series and subplots started to get linked together well. In the first three books, the plots and subplots seemed unrelated. I’m not saying they weren’t interesting…quite the contrary! Just unrelated…book two could have stood alone from book one. Actually I believe book 3 was the critical switch if I think about it. Of course, that book and movie were also my favorite…but that was because it has the least Voldemort in it. (I’ll have the strawberry tart with not very much rat in it…{sorry, can’t resist Monty Python references!})

      This was another annoyance of mine…the repeating villain. Not that they’re not completely common…or uncommon…but that he’s completely VANQUISHED in the first and second book, and then raises his evil head again in 4. Normally, the villain isn’t completely vanquished only to return…mortally wounded, maybe. Otherwise, it just smacked of the Doctor vs the Master…in other words, old serials. Which annoyed me as well. I would have liked Voldemort to hang in the background more, threatening, while Harry vanquished some minor trouble-makers and built his abilties up. But that’s just me.

      To say the horcruxes are forced…ok I’ll try to explain why I said that. It wasn’t so much teh concept of horcruxes in general that bothered me, as much as the idea that the journal had been one, and I don’t know if I actually believed Dumbledore wouldn’t have known what that was. It was in the library, for Pete’s sake. Someone would have figured it out before then. At the very least, Snape as the consummate double agent, would have known and told him. Don’t buy that for one second. I feel as though the explanation of the diary being a horcrux was an attempt to tie…forcibly…the second book into the later books when that had not been originally planned. I’m sure authors do this ALL THE TIME… its just that I feel like I noticed it. And why I’m so critical about that is because I don’t want to do that myself. It’s one of my anal-retentive qualities; I’m going over and over previous chapters, making sure that they’re all in synch, and taking copious notes about the next book so that it will all blend together well. All foreshadowing is perfectly planned. If I do try to force a plot or subplot connection like that, I hope it won’t be noticed…

      Of course, if that is what happened, I may be the only one who noticed it. Possibly because I’m so critical of that in my own writing. Which means she did do it well, and I’m just being picky. 😉

      The whole parseltongue thing in the first book…I don’t think that was just Harry’s innocence. It was the innocence of the first book in general. If she did not plan out the second book in advance, it would make sense to look at that and say, “hey, people hate snakes. So people who talk to snakes are evil. Harry talks to snakes, so everyone’s going to think he’s evil.” I don’t know that JKR was planning the horcrux thing at that point, I think she was taking it into a different direction altogether. But the new direction was brilliant, and worked, so who am I to judge, right? Everyone noticed that as the series went on it got darker and darker…and book 3 was the beginning of that. Book 1 and 2 were simple, easy, and solved by the end of the book. Voldemort vanquished, problem solved, book over. Not so with book 3 and on.

      Needless to say, whatever I feel about the books and her writing, or her as a human, I ADORE THE MOVIES. Seriously, seriously, adore. I know they took a lot of material out of the later books, and occasionally added some of their own. But there are many differences between those art forms that have to be compromised, unfortunately. On the other hand, the cast is frikin’ amazing. A perfect example of how much better British actors are (in general) than the crap that’s coming out of Hollywood these days. You can barely call Hollywood movie actors “actors.” Performers, yes. Actors, not so much. The special effects are…beyond words, at least in later movies. In the first one…I still have problems because I can see where the CGI is being used instead of the actor. I suspend my disbelief (aka kick it in its pants) and just keep going on, though. Even the casting agent should be complimented…how hard it must be to find talent that young who will be able to live up to and grow into the roles? But they did. All in all, I will not critique the movies much at all.

      Besides, its made my favorite game much, much, easier. And more fun. And more mind-blowing. Six Degrees of BBC. Try it sometime. I can connect Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings with three moves…and therefore Harry Potter to Star Wars in four…Mwuahahahaha…

  2. Jeyna Grace says:

    nice post! it was interesting 🙂

  3. =Tamar says:

    With regard to the “borrowing” – Terry Pratchett refers to the “pool of story” from which all writers draw.
    (I traced the “School for Magic” idea in storytelling back to the chansons de geste in the 15th century with many, many earlier examples in the 20th century – Aymon and his cousin Malagigi.) What matters is what you do with it.

    I don’t re-read HP after book 3. I feel that book 4 was where it really fell apart, but there were problems from the beginning. In my opinion, the major problem with the HP writing is that it was a first novel – the whole thing, plotted as a first novel, with a first novelist’s abilities. She was locked into that beginner’s plot. Making it worse was the situation – it was such a big secret that nobody got to do deep critique work before things were set in stone. If I recall the story correctly (and it may have been changed, since she is nothing if not a spin artist), book 1 was slightly altered to be a standalone in case it didn’t take off, but then they didn’t repair it when they went with the rest of the series. Later, it seemed that nobody bothered to actually edit, though I know they did – some details were changed in later printings. But they missed so many flaws – the fans who discussed the details online found things that really should have been caught before printing, like simple calendar mistakes, inconsistent numbers of students, monetary values, etc.

    I applaud you for working on those details in your own writing!

    • Camylleon says:

      I’m not alone! 😀 Of course, I think you phrased it better than I did…but that’s alright. And I didn’t work so hard on the research…15th Century!?! Whew! I knew the idea was old, but….really? Never would have thought of it!

      I completely agree that what matters is what you do with it.

      I never read much in the way of fan siters. I never put myself in that category. Like I said, stopped at book 4 myself. I adore the movies, but I feel there are many creative minds helping out those particular stews, not just JKR…and despite some of my problems with plot points, I feel that they’re corrected/covered over in the movies well enough. Well, for the most part, at least.

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing!

  4. Paula says:

    I remember reading somewhere that JK Rowling had stated that there were things in book two that would be very important in later books, and this was well before books 6 and 7 were written. Which would mean that the horcrux idea was preplanned. 🙂 One reason that the horcruxes might feel forced to you, is that you are remembering it wrong. lol The diary wasn’t in the library, Lucius Malfoy had it and he planted on Ginny when she and her family were shopping for school supplies. And it is implied that Lucius knew exactly what it was.

    You didn’t miss much by not reading book 5, except for a few parts, it is my least favorite of the series. But I did enjoy books 6 and 7, and like you, book three is my favorite. 🙂

    • Camylleon says:

      Sorry…but, no. I remember perfectly well where the diary came from, thank you! Still feels forced to me. The diary was not a horcrux at the time of book 2, I’m sure of that. There was a perfectly adequate explanation of it…a memory preserved in a diary. And I don’t buy that Dumbledore wouldn’t know what a horcrux was, either…or have a suspicion previously that Voldemort would pull that trick. By previously, I mean before Harry’s birth. I can well imagine he might not have mentioned anything to Harry about it, seeing as he and his friends were young and untrained. I don’t buy that he would have waited until the last couple of books to start searching for them. So…nope…still don’t buy it. Not that the whole horcrux thing isn’t a wonderful idea…just that it doesn’t ring right with me the way it was brought into the overall plot line and followed to its conclusion.

      I still love book 3 though, so at least we agree on something!

  5. Paula says:

    It has been a while since I read book six, but I’m pretty sure that Dumbledore did know what it was, but it wasn’t something that he shared with Harry in book two. But like I said it has been a while since I read book six and I only read it once, where I have read the first four books probably 5 times each. The only thing about the horcruxes I didn’t like was Harry being one, that felt a little cliche to me.

    If I ruffled feathers that was not my intention, I thought my tone was light, but perhaps not.

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    • Camylleon says:

      I’m sorry if I’ve ruffled feathers! Didn’t mean to sound annoyed. Sometimes its difficult to get the right emotions onto the written page…especially when its quickie comments! 😉

      I got the distinct impression that Dumbledore didn’t know what it was until much later…but then, one of the problems I found was that there wasn’t as much detail in books 1 & 2…which means that it might have been intended, but was left out of the actual print. So in essence, there’s no “proof” one way or the other. I guess I’m taking a harder stand because there wasn’t any mention of it in book 2 which in my mind means JKR could have thought of it after book 2 was written…and implied that Dumbledore knew. I guess in the long run what I wish is that the first 2 books were as detailed as the last ones…they seem to not match.

      You’re right about Harry being a horcrux. That was almost a deal-breaker for me. And I didn’t think that was nearly believable either…but I tried not to criticize that as much because I didn’t read that book. It seems a little soddy to critique it based on the movies when I know things were left out. After all, it might have been written better than it was filmed. Wouldn’t be the first time that happened!

  6. Paula says:

    LOL Yeah , it is hard sometimes to know what someone means just from text. 🙂

    I guess you can tell that I am a hardcore Harry Potter fan! So, I want to believe that it was all preplanned, just because that would so cool! I always enjoyed how seemingly random things ended up being important. Like Dumbledore mentioning in passing about always being able to find a bathroom on this one wing whenever he needed it, but never being able to find it when he went back, then in the next book Harry finds the Room of Requirement. Stuff like that is part of why I love Harry Potter. 🙂

    I do agree that the first two have a different feel the later books, but I always attributed that to the characters being younger, and JKR still finding her way as a writer. I wish that they had been more detailed as well, because in my book you can never have too much Potter, except for Order of the Phoenix, which was way too long!

    As for Harry being a horcrux, not any better in the book, at least in my opinion. lol It was one of those things were I was hoping she wouldn’t go there, but she did. Oh well! There was things I loved and things I hated about the series, but overall, it is still my favorite. 🙂

    • Camylleon says:

      …and I guess that’s the crux of the problem (haha). The first two books just feel unrelated to the rest of the books. They’re written to a different level of reading, and are far less detailed and involved. So it’s reallllllly hard to make any judgments at all because I just don’t know what she did/did not leave out, y’know?

      I will ALWAYS love the movies, anyway. I’m an incredible British actor freak! 😀 So even if I never read the last four three books, I will watch the movies over…and over…and over…and over…lol.

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