Probably the most famous orphan in the literary world, Harry Potter is taken in by his aunt and uncle when his own parents are killed in a car crash. JK Rowling’s first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone [Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the USA] establishes Harry’s downtrodden life with the Dursleys who would prefer to deny his existence. In a typical ‘hero’s journey’ story, Harry escapes the stifling and neglectful world of Privet Drive to find his own birthright and defeat the darkest wizard of all time.
From page one, it is clear that the Dursleys don’t want anything to do with Mrs Dursley’s sister. ‘The Dursleys had everything they wanted, but they also had a secret, and their greatest fear was that somebody would discover it. They didn’t think they could bear it if anyone found out about the Potters.’ By the end of chapter one, the Potters are dead and the Dursleys wake to find baby Harry, their nephew, on their doorstep.
Downtrodden and lied to, Harry is eleven when he discovers his parents did not die in a car crash. They were wizards, and were killed by a wizard so evil no one speaks his name aloud. Leaving behind his adoptive family [though at no time is it clearly stated that the Dursleys formally adopt Harry] Harry learns how to use his magic, at the same time as learning about his family’s place in wizarding history. There is, throughout the seven novels, an inevitability that Harry must face He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. These are children’s books with universal themes about family, identity and belonging.
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The Harry Potter films are produced by David Heyman of Heyday Films, the screenwriter is Steve Kloves. Rowling had initially been hesitant to sell the film rights because she ‘didn’t want to give them control over the rest of the story’ by selling the rights to the characters which would enable Warner Brothers to make none-Rowling written sequels. Rowling admitted she was ‘really ready to hate this Steve Kloves’. Later she recalled her initial meeting with Kloves, ‘He said to me, ‘You know who my favourite character is?’ And I thought, You’re gonna say Ron. I know you’re gonna say Ron. But he said ‘Hermione.’ And I just kind of melted.’
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