Abra Cadabra, Lord Voldemort.
What is Harry Potter?
Harry Potter’s a wizard.
No, I mean, like, the series.
Oh! Harry Potter is a book series, written by J.K. Rowling, about a secret world of wizards.
Harry Potter is an ordinary eleven-year-old who lives with his aunt, uncle, and cousin, the Dursleys, until he finds out he is a wizard, and goes to a wizard school called Hogwarts.
Why’s he live with his aunt and uncle?
His parents are dead. Lord Voldemort, the most powerful, evil wizard ever known, killed them, when Harry was just one year old.
Which is not to say he doesn’t have fun with it.
Yeah, that’s kinda Harry’s reaction to all that, too.
Why did he kill Harry’s parents?
He killed a lot of people, to be fair. Harry’s parents were just the last before he disappeared. And he killed them because he wanted to kill Harry.
Why’d he want to kill a baby?
No, really. And I can’t say much more, without spoiling a few plot twists. But the basic answer is: magic.
Okay, smart guy, how does a baby beat the biggest, baddest wizard around?
That’s complicated, but the simple answer is: the spell Voldemort used rebounded from Harry and hit Voldemort instead. Harry walks… well, crawls away with just a scar in the shape of a lightning bolt.
That’s pretty metal.
Does it give him any special powers? Aside from wizardry, I mean?
He can talk to snakes, which is weird, and never very useful. It does some other cool stuff that becomes important in later books.
How long is this series, anyway?
Seven books. They start out standard sized, about 300 pages, until the fourth book. From there, they grow until the last, which I think is an 800 page whopper. The first two are basically kid’s books – I’d have no problem letting a 7 or 8 year old read em. The third and fourth are more young adult. By the fifth and sixth, though, the books get pretty dark, so if your kid wants to read them, check them out yourself, first.
That’s a lot of reading. Can’t I just watch the movies?
You can, and some of the movies are actually good. As the kid actors grow up, they get even better. But Harry Potter is all about the weird, fun little details, and most of those get dropped from the movies.
What kind of details?
House Elves like Dobby, simultaneously the best and worst doll you could give a child.
Like goblins and house elves and centaurs, and how wands work, and the Ministry of Magic working with Muggles and… a lot of nerd stuff that’s probably boring you. But trust me, it’s awesome
Wands? Really, like goofy sideshows, “Hocus Pocus!”? And what’s an effing muggle?
A muggle, sir or madam, is a non-wizard. There’s also Squibs (wizards who can’t use magic), muggle-borns (wizards born to muggles), and pure-bloods (wizards born from wizards).
And a wand’s important. It’s like the wizard’s lightsaber, except it uses Phoenix feathers and Dragon heartstrings instead of jewelry. It’s pretty metal, too. Unless you’re saying Dragonforce isn’t metal…
I would never say that.
And I think there was something about the government in there…
Yeah, the Ministry of Magic. The series takes place in England, and the Ministry governs the wizards and tries to keep them out of sight of the muggles.
How can that work? Wouldn’t somebody just take a picture of some kid levitating and post it to Instagram?
Probably, and I want to see that sequel, but not in the series. The series begins (in-universe) in 1991, and ends in 1998, the year the first book was published. So, give it like a decade, and muggles will probably be all up in the wizard’s business (if you’re reading, Ms. Rowling…)
All right, all right. Now I’m rereading this… I mean, reviewing our conversation, and you said Harry goes to wizard school? So this is what, Magic Times at Wizard High?
Harry goes to school with about a thousand other wizard kids from age eleven on, at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A big part of the books are about classes and sports and friends, wrapped around the plot.
Isn’t a school full of adolescent wizards, uh, dangerous?
For Harry, it’s practically a deathtrap. For everyone else, it’s just mostly dangerous. But Harry would be dead a lot if not for his best friends Ron and Hermione.
How in the world do you pronounce that name?
No! The other one!
Oh, yeah. Hmmm… HER-MY-OH-KNEE. I think. Or HER-MY-KNEE, for short.
There is no way that name is worth struggling over.
Don’t sass Hermione. Ron is Harry’s best friend, and he’s got some great snarky and bright moments, but Hermione holds them together. She’s the brains and badass wand-slinger of the series. There’s an article over here, all about her (NSFW and spoilers).
I still don’t know. I mean, I haven’t read them, and they’re really old now. Is there any point to going through them at this late date?
I think so. I still read through them occasionally, and I usually find something new to enjoy. But I’ll put it this way: If the idea of rebellious wizard-Jedi, led by Gandalf, in a war against Magic Hitler doesn’t sound appealing, I don’t know what to tell you. Except that Hermione’s in it, and she is totally awesome.
At some point, they really should have renamed the series after her.