The Secret Behind Harry Potters Popularity

By: Eoghann Irving

Many articles have been written on the subject of Harry Potter and his remarkable appeal to the mass market, but that's not going to stop me putting in my five cents on the subject.

I came to Harry Potter late myself, having dismissed the books as something for children for several years. It was a silly dismissal on my part since I can name several children's books that I still happily read. However, a couple of years ago the staggering media coverage of the movies forced me to read the books to see what all the fuss was about. Since then, like most everyone else, I have been captivated.

I have read all of the Harry Potter books in order, watched the movies and read many articles about various aspects of both Harry and J.K. Rowling and I believe that I have identified two key elements in the success of Harry Potter. I make no claims that these are the only elements, but I believe they are central to its appeal to both children and adults.

GROWING UP ALONG WITH THE READER

One obvious feature of the Harry Potter novels is that Harry ages. With each book, a year goes by. While this is not unique to Harry Potter, it is unusual for a writer to stick with a single feature character over so many years. Particularly when those years encompass the key ages of ten through seventeen.

As a result of this, and the fact that the books have come out over an approximately nine year period (most likely ten by the time the final book is published), the children who read the Harry Potter and the Sorceror's/Philosopher's Stone have effectively grown up with Harry Potter.

Whether by accident or design, it seems that J. K. Rowling has reflected that increasing maturity in both Harry and her audience by telling tells that become progressively darker and more complex in their characterization.

This reflection of Harry's growth towards adulthood conveniently mirrors the same growth that Rowling's core audience was experiencing. It also has the side benefit of attracting the interest of adults, many of whom became aware of the books through their children but discovered something with a little more depth than the average children's tale.

So the increasing sophistication helped Harry Potter capture an ever larger audience, but what was it that appealed to them in the first place?

THE IMPORTANCE OF ARCHETYPES

The Harry Potter books are packed full of archetypes. From the Dursely's, a family that will be very familiar to anyone who has read the works of Roald Dahl, to Lord Voldemort (Tolkien anyone?), to the boarding school environment (a setting used in many older British children's books) to the magical creatures which inhabit Harry Potter's world.

Now, it's important to be clear on this point. I am not suggesting plagiarism. Those allegations have been made and in each case, clearly showed to be false. No I am talking here about archetypes:

"the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based

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