Monday, June 26, 2017

Harry Potter's birthday: 20th anniversary of the first book

As we mark the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter book, let's consider the massive influence and worldwide appeal of the series.  Here a 46 considerations.

  1. The first book in the JK Rowling series, Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone was published on June 26, 1997.
  2. Harry Potter first came to life on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990 when Joanne Rowling dreamt up the young wizard and his friends, Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley.
  3. Over the next five years, the author developed plots for seven books – writing mostly in note form and longhand – set partly in the wizarding world and partly in a somewhat fictionalised modern-day England. The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry houses – Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin – were created on the back of an aeroplane sick bag.
  4. Moving to Edinburgh with baby daughter Jessica in 1993, Joanne Rowling, who was living on benefits at the time, began writing in a café as she expanded her story. She sent the completed manuscript to a number of publishers – and at one point received 12 rejection letters in a row. 
  5. Publishing house Bloomsbury saw the story’s potential. The chairman gave the first chapter to his eight-year-old daughter to read and she immediately demanded the rest of the book. Just 500 copies of Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone were initially printed.
  6. Since 1997, the seven books have sold 500 million copies worldwide and been published in 79 languages, making it the world’s best-selling series.
  7. Breaking every kind of literature record, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows became the fastest-selling book ever, with more than 2.65 million copies sold within the first 24 hours in the UK alone in 2007. If you own a first-edition Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone in hardback, you’re in luck. One sold in 2016 for £43,750. 
  8. The first film adaptation, Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, was produced by Warner Brothers in 2001. Seven more followed, concluding with the release of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 in 2011, making a reported $6.5 billion at the worldwide box office. It shot all three of its stars to fame, with Emma Watson, who played Hermione, now on track to be the highest-earning actress of 2017.
  9. The franchise has spun into theme parks, with the Harry Potter worlds seeing thousands of visitors a day. The franchise alone is reported to be worth an estimated $25 billion.
  10. JK Rowling went from not being able to afford to photocopy her manuscript to becoming one of the world’s wealthiest women, worth an estimated £650 million.
  11. The author has 10.5 million followers on Twitter, which she uses to air her views. She is known for being very outspoken and often ends up in high-profile spats. 
  12. The editorial team advised her not to publish under her full name as they feared boys would not read a book written by a woman. She doesn’t have a middle name so added a K, in tribute to her grandmother Kathleen, to her own initial of J.
  13. She based quidditch on baseball. It has now become a sport with teams at many universities and its own world cup tournament. 
  14. Harry Potter’s birthday is July 31, 1980. His creator’s birthday is also July 31, but she was born in 1965.
  15. While playing schoolgirl ghost Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, actress Shirley Henderson was actually 37.
  16. To become better acquainted with their movie characters, the three main actors were asked to write essays about them. Emma Watson wrote 16 pages about Hermione, Daniel Radcliffe wrote a single page on Harry, while Rupert Grint, who played Ron, didn’t even turn his in.
  17. Rupert Grint dressed as his female drama teacher and rapped about Ron Weasley for his audition tape. His rap began, “Hello, my name is Rupert Grint, I hope you don’t think I stink.”
  18. Contrary to popular belief, the “t” at the end of Voldemort is silent. The name comes from the French and means “flight of death”.
  19. Rowling based 11-year-old Hermione on herself at the same age. She made Hermione’s patronus (wizard’s spirit animal) an otter, which is her own favourite creature.
  20. The idea for Sirius Black’s tattoos came from those used in Russian prison gangs. The markings identify the person as someone to be feared and respected.
  21. Dementors, the deadly phantoms that guard Azkaban Prison, represent depression and were inspired by JK Rowling’s struggle with the condition after her mother died from multiple sclerosis in 1990.
  22. “It’s so difficult to describe (depression) to someone who’s never been there, because it’s not sadness,” she has said. “I know sadness – to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling – that really hollowed-out feeling. That’s what the Dementors are.” 
  23. One of the flying cars used in Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets was stolen from the set. It was discovered seven months later after an anonymous caller rang to tell police they’d found it.
  24. In 2007, when asked by a fan whether Hogwarts’ headmaster Albus Dumbledore had ever been in love, JK Rowling responded, 
  25. “I always thought of Dumbledore as gay.” He fell in love with Gellert Grindelwald.
  26. Michael Jackson once approached the author about making a musical based on the books. She turned the idea down.
  27. For a long time, JK Rowling planned to have “scar” as the last word in the series, but she changed the last sentence to read, “All was well.” 
  28. Rowling killed Hedwig (Harry’s owl) because it represented the loss of innocence and security. Her fate marked the end of Harry’s childhood. 
  29. Two alternative titles for the final book were Harry Potter And The Elder Wand and Harry Potter And The Peverell Quest. She decided against the latter because she thought it sounded too corny.
  30. There are 700 possible fouls that can be made in the game of quidditch.
  31. Some of the original names of the books’ characters – before JK Rowling changed them – included Hermione Puckle, Neville Puff, Draco Spinks and Lily Moon, as an alternative to Luna Lovegood.
  32. Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy, originally auditioned for the roles of Harry and Ron.
  33. Having written half of Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, the author realised she’d created a “giant hole” in the plot which she had to go back and fix, which is why the book is so long.
  34. While filming Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, the pockets of Tom Felton’s (Draco Malfoy) Hogwarts robes were sewn shut to stop him sneaking food on to the set, meanwhile other cast members asked for pockets for cigarettes.
  35. Dumbledore is an Old English word for bumblebee. JK said she chose the name because she pictured Dumbledore humming to himself around Hogwarts.
  36. The writer almost killed the character of Ron Weasley halfway through the series when she “wasn’t in a very happy place” in her life. She now believes that she wouldn’t have been able to go through with it, but at the time considered killing Ron off “out of sheer spite”.
  37. When asked by a fan how she chose the shape of Harry’s scar, JK Rowling replied, “Because it’s a cool shape. I couldn’t have my hero sport a doughnut-shaped scar.”
  38. Richard Harris – Dumbledore in the first two films – only took the role after his granddaughter swore she’d never speak to him again if he didn’t.
  39. Magic potion ingredients toadwax and mugwort may sound like made-up words, but in fact Rowling got most of them from a real book, Nicholas Culpeper’s The Complete Herbal.
  40. While filming the series, the actors weren’t allowed to play contact sports in case they were injured. Dominoes anyone?
  41. JK Rowling said she frequently saw crying girls in bathrooms when she was younger, hence the inspiration for Moaning Myrtle.
  42. “If I had any power, I would have the power of invisibility,” says the writer. “This is a little bit sad but I would probably sneak off to a café and write all day.” 
  43. West Ham is the only real football club mentioned in the books. One of JK Rowling’s oldest friends is a West Ham supporter.
  44. The seeds of a relationship between Ron’s sister Ginny Weasley and Harry were subtly planted throughout the series, such as during the quidditch match in which she beat rival Cho Chang.
  45. While filming on set, the young actors did real homework to make the setting more realistic.
  46. To mark the 20th anniversary, Bloomsbury has published new Hogwarts house editions of Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone; Saturday sees a Harry Potter Trivia Tournament in 20 bookshops across the UK and on Friday in  Greater Manchester there will be a Guinness World Record attempt for the largest gathering of people dressed as Harry Potter.   

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