The world of Harry Potter has enchanted the lives of millions of readers both young and old across the globe since its birth in 1997. In 20 years, J.K. Rowling has sold an estimated 500 million copies of her work, in 73 different languages.
The idea for the world of Harry Potter came to Rowling when she was on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990. When she arrived at her flat in Clapham Junction, she immediately started pencilling down what eventually became Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Word spread about Rowling’s debut novel once it was published in 1997 and, after winning multiple national awards, the United States publication rights were sold to Scholastic for £100,000. The following year, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets became the first children’s book to top the hardback bestsellers list and the US was introduced to the wizarding world of Harry Potter. The third and fourth novels in the series came out in quick succession, with the release of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in 1999 and Goblet of Fire in 2000.
$974.8 million at the box office worldwide
There was then a pause in the rapid publication of the Harry Potter books. In 2001 Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint found fame as the three leads in the first film adaptation of the series, introducing a new audience to the books. The film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone enjoyed an exceptional opening, taking $974.8 million at the box office worldwide and securing its status as the highest grossing movie of the year. The film adaptations of the second, third and fourth novels in the series were released with similar success in 2002, 2004 and 2005 respectively.
The popularity of Rowling’s publications only intensified as the rest of the seven-book series was released. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the longest book in the series at 766 pages, was released in 2003 and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince hit bookstores two years later. The grand finale of the Harry Potter series, where Harry and his arch-enemy Voldemort battle for the last time, smashed records as the fastest selling book of all time. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold more than 15 million copies in 24 hours and is the second bestselling book in history, behind only Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.
The year 2007 was a significant one in the Harry Potter calendar. Not only was the book series concluded, but it marked ten years since the release of Philosopher’s Stone as well as the fifth film arriving in cinemas. As the series progressed, Harry Potter’s journey becomes darker and bleaker , something that was particularly clear in the 2009 film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Director David Yates announced in 2008 that the final book was to be divided into two parts to be released eight months apart in November 2010 and July 2011. Unsurprisingly, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 1 and Part 2 opened to huge success. Part 2 is the 8th highest-grossing movie of all time after taking $1.34 billion at the box office worldwide.
However, it was not an easy journey for Rowling. Her mother died soon after she began writing the Philosopher’s Stone, her grief of which is conveyed through Harry’s feelings of loss as he grows up as an orphan. Rowling went through a divorce and, as a single mother, moved to Edinburgh where she was on state benefits. It may be hard to believe now but Rowling also had a difficult time trying to get published; J.K. Rowling was rejected 12 times before the relatively small publishing company Bloomsbury agreed to an advance of 1,000 copies- 500 of which were given to libraries. One of these copies was recently auctioned off for £43,750.
The Potter Legacy is not yet over
Despite seeming adamant that the Harry Potter series was over for good, in 2015, J.K Rowling teamed up with playwright Jack Thorne and theatre director John Tiffany to take Harry Potter to the stage. In July 2016, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child premiered at the Palace Theatre, London and the play begins 19 years on from the conclusion of Deathly Hallows, which was, in fact, this very year.
Likewise, in November 2016, J.K. Rowling took on the role of producer and writer of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a film based upon one of the books Harry studies whilst at Hogwarts.
But the legacy of Harry Potter does not stop there. There are even theme parks dedicated to the series, with Universal Studios Orlando, Hollywood and Japan playing host to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, featuring themed rides, shops and restaurants.
Despite the obstacles that J.K. Rowling faced, her relentless dedication and imaginative mind has enabled millions to escape to a world of wondrous possibibility. Without Rowling, we would have never have heard the word “muggle”, “expelliarmus” or “incendio”. We would have never been able to do sorting quizzes on Pottermore, placing us into Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. We would never have found a school that we would all have happily attended, nor would we know the rules of quidditch inside and out. Perhaps most importantly, we would never have met Dobby.
For all of that and so much more, thank you J.K. Rowling and thank you Harry Potter.