July 20, 2011 [Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2]

Jean resisted Harry Potter for years. She was happy to see the kids reading, and Harry was a part of that—but she set up a wall between herself and the books. Despite her love for The Lord of the Rings and most fantasy, tales of chivalry, and so on, Harry Potter was denied entrance. I think she felt it was somehow a little too precious; and yes, one can trill "Harry Potter" like the Queen saying "Hell-ooooo!" and there seems much ado about boarding-school rules and their clubbish attachment to "Houses" and competitions—in any case, she wouldn't touch the movies—oh, she took the children to one or another; but the older they grew, the happier she was to let them go on their own or with me.

Every summer, Jean looks for something to read. Nothing too serious, but nothing too foolish—and big enough, either as a single volume or as a series, to keep the summer filled. The children insisted while I remained silent—I've seen all the films, but haven't read any of the books.  And one day in 2010 she picked up the first Harry Potter book.

The punchline is obvious: She became an avid fan, consuming each subsequent sequel in a few days—then on to the movies, one after the other—and all with a wonderful obliviousness to her earlier disdain as she insisted that Netflix hurry it up and send the next movie—better yet: just buy 'em, have 'em handy for repeated viewing.

The year went by, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 became her must-see—and then the sad end of the series earlier tonight, no more new fun at Hogwarts—and, given the film itself, little fun at all. In Great Expectations, as Pip grows up, his language becomes less colorful, his images as narrator more straightforward. The light in Harry's world also loses that Wordsworthian glory and, at least in the Deathly Hallows films, becomes even less than light, more of a thin-then-thick grey mist slowing them all down—and then it all falls apart, brick by brick, until it seems the least likely magic trick is that there's any Hogwarts left at all. The hall where they'd had so many feasts—and Rowling and the filmmakers do not forget how much children love scenes of eating; the food in the Harry Potter stories is monumental in its indulgences—well, no more piles of goodies here, just a makeshift infirmary where beloved characters droop and sometimes fall. The losses are heavy, and the victory simply necessary. They're no longer children, and lose much joy—it's replaced by a purposeful future, one that they give to their children in a postscript that made me sadder than all the light and thunder of the big battle for Hogwarts, even with the dead friends and brothers. Well, maybe not "sad" as much as somber: those children from the books pair off and make homes and children of their own—but that means they won't go back, no more fun on the train, wandering through endless corridors and deeper and higher above the walls and windows of their favorite place.

It ends up being a true children's series as it leads them as gently as it can—and often that is not gently at all—toward adulthood, the gains of which may fill them with purpose; but that necessary seriousness made me happy that we owned all the movies and could see them be little kids as often as we'd like. Of course, they had to keep on and leave us; but, like Jean, we can wait for next summer and grow young again.


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