It’s seven years since the final Harry Potter film was released and 20 years since the first book was published, but the popularity of the franchise continues unabated. The young wizard and his friends have captured the imagination of both children and adults across the globe to the extent that it is now hard to recall life before these characters began to cast their spells on us all. People are quite simply potty about Potter!
Changing children’s Literature
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was a book which changed children’s literature forever and a lot more besides. Released at a time when fantasy stories had fallen out of favour, J.K. Rowling’s novel was not expected to be a great success. She had received many rejections before finding a publisher and even in her wildest dreams, could not have anticipated the impact of her book.
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.” said Albus Dumbledore and in the case of the Harry Potter novels, he wasn’t wrong!
Millions of children found a new hero in Harry Potter and Ms Rowling made a mint! The books have collectively sold more than 500 million copies. This makes them the best-selling series of all time. In the 20 years since the first novel was published, the franchise has grown exponentially and is now estimated to worth something in the region of £20 billion.
The magic of Harry Potter
Nobody has managed to put their finger on exactly why these stories have proved to be so captivating. There are strong similarities between the Harry Potter narrative and the Victorian novel Tom Brown’s Schooldays, but the latter is now rarely read by children and most will never have heard of it.
J.K. Rowling took a well-trodden path in writing about kids at school but threw magic into the mix together with a liberal dose of fantasy reminiscent of Tolkien. She also introduced overtones of Roald Dahl together with elements of classic fairy stories. The Harry Potter series is essentially a mash-up, borrowing heavily on the work of other writers, but Rowling hit on a winning formula and then some.
The “Harry Potter effect” has been revolutionary. Fantasy stories now dominate children’s literature once more and adults are reading children’s books. Universal have spent an unimaginable amount of money making the world of Harry Potter a reality in their theme parks and just about anything which featured in the movies is now a tourist attraction. Ask the residents of Glenfinnan!
Flocking to Glenfinnan
Glenfinnan is a small hamlet in the Scottish Highlands. The Glenfinnan Railway Viaduct has always been a spectacular sight but one which most people probably weren’t aware of until it featured in the first four Harry Potter films. Now, thousands of tourists visit the area every day, hoping to see the Jacobite Steam Train crossing the viaduct.
As the steam train powers its way through the highlands, many watch on believing that it might be on its way to Hogwarts. It isn’t, of course, because Hogwarts doesn’t exist in reality or as a filming location in that area. The Harry Potter books place Hogwarts in Scotland but the actual filming locations were Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, Gloucester Cathedral, Durham Cathedral, Lacock Abbey and Christ Church, Oxford.
The need for less speed
There are so many tourists arriving in Glenfinnan that the locals have been campaigning to lower the speed limit on the main road to 30mph, fearing an accident. There’s no parking or pavements on the road from which visitors view the viaduct. The locals were so concerned about the situation that they recently conducted a survey to see how many people tried to cross the dangerous highway on a single day. 740 visitors were seen crossing between large lorries, coaches and cars.
The local authority is currently reviewing the situation while the villagers have managed to gain planning permission for a car park which they would like to create in front of the viaduct. But they need £450,000 to build it! Perhaps J.K. Rowling could help them out a little!
Harry Potter’s Homes
Most buildings and locations which appear in the Harry Potter movies find instant fame and soon become major attractions. However, the house which featured as Harry’s birthplace, Godric’s Hollow, in the Deathly Hallows Part One has been up for sale for over a year and the owners have now dropped the price. Harry Potter failed to work his magic on their house sale!
Potter’s aunt and uncle the Dursleys lived at 4 Privet Drive which in reality is 12 Picket Post Close in Winkfield, Bracknell. The location of this house has been well-publicised but it’s fame doesn’t appear to have affected its value. The property was sold earlier this year at a similar price to other houses in the area. Harry Potter’s magic does not transform everything that it touches.
Have you visited any of the Harry Potter filming locations? If you have, were they worthy of your time or were you disappointed?
The Harry Potter Stamp Issue
Produced in association with Warner Bros and The Blair Partnership, the agency which represents J.K. Rowling, this issue features 10 stunning stamps. Celebrating the principle characters and iconic modes of transport in the movies, the stamps also boast the official Harry Potter font denoting the “1st” class service. Royal Mail have included a little extra magic of their own as the stamps have elements which can only be seen under UV light.
The stamps showcase Hermione Grainger, The Hogwarts Express, Harry Potter, the Flying Ford Anglia, Ron Weasley, Hagrid’s motorbike, Ginny Weasley, the Triwizard Cup, Neville Longbottom and the Knight Bus.
A fabulous miniature sheet includes 5 stamps featuring the Hogwarts professors.
There’s a raft of exciting additional products in the issue and far too many to mention here. But don’t miss the presentation pack, first day cover, stamp cards and collector’s sheet or we might have to cast a spell on you ourselves!