Twenty years of a ‘Boy Who Lived’

Published 9:20 am Thursday, July 6, 2017

June 26, 1997 marked the publication of a young adult novel—the first in an eventual series of seven—entitled Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

You may have heard of it.

Twenty years later, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is one of the most popular stories around the world. Now it’s a whole franchise complete with movies, merchandise, a stage play sequel, theme parks around the world, and a devoted legion of fans. It’s truly amazing how a book series about wizards and magic could spark such dedicated passion even two decades later.

I was a little late joining the Potter party. I didn’t start reading the series until the first three books had already been published. But by the time the fifth book came out, my friends and I were going to the “midnight release” events at Barnes & Noble whenever a new book came out. As a teenager whose main hobby was reading, it was a dream to hang out in a bookstore for hours, browsing the shelves for other books while waiting in anticipation for the next magical installment.

I won’t say that it’s a series without flaws, but that doesn’t make it any less of an entertaining read. The story of a boy with a tragic backstory dropped into a boarding school for magic and then subsequently getting caught up in a battle of good versus evil is a compelling one, especially with the way Rowling painted the characters and setting to be so vibrant and detailed.

It’s a story you can easily imagine yourself into if you want, which is probably another part of the appeal. The popularity of many fantasy stories are often based on the escapism factor.

Even after 20 years, the hype for the Harry Potter series hasn’t faded. As mentioned earlier, there’s that stage play sequel—The Cursed Child—just released last year that people have been somewhat excited about. Last year also gave us a new movie set in the same universe, albeit with fresh characters and set in an earlier time frame. Plus those Harry Potter theme parks are quite fun from what I hear.

Even Mugglenet, the most popular website dedicated to the series, is still going strong. “Bringing you the latest wizarding world news since 1999” proclaims the banner at the top of the website’s home page. Although I haven’t visited the site in years, there was a time when I looked at it frequently to read theories about the characters, catch up on the latest movie casting news, and giggle at all the submissions on the weekly caption contest.

However I wouldn’t call myself a very dedicated fan these days. I’ve never visited the official Pottermore website to figure out which “house” I’d be sorted in, and I skipped watching the Fantastic Beasts movie last year. There are just different things that hold my interest now.

Perhaps there are many people now who aren’t as dedicated as they were when they picked up that first book. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that the series was—well, still is—something special. It inspired a ton of people to start reading and then to keep reading.

The nickname thrust upon Harry Potter at the beginning of the series was the “Boy Who Lived.” The name symbolized a bit of optimism to come out of tragedy. Even now, the literary character continues to live on, hopefully for many more decades to come.


Holly Taylor is a staff writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or by phone at 252-332-7206.