A theory of Potterdom

You can’t escape it, can ya? It’s like potholes on Indian roads–all over the place. And you’ll run into one whether you like it or not, whether you see it or not, whether you approve of it or not.

Harry Potter. Quite like ah, potholes. Heh. (To all those fanatics who are sharpening a lead pencil to poke my eyes out with, I offer much love and peace. Hang on a moment more, please. I am not ah, growling against your beloved Rowling.)

But anyways, back to the show, which is this: a brief theory of Potterdom.

You are a die-hard Potter-head (not just the I-like-Potter kind, but the I-worship-Rowling kind), IF:

  • Potter is your first dose of the fantasy genre or even science fiction. More specifically, you haven’t read, say, Ursula Le Guin’s (the Earthsea series), Tolkien (not just The Lord of the Rings) or Asimov (the Foundation series) before your eyes runneth over Rowling. [*]
  • You’ve never read anything substantially different from Enid Blyton or Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden as a child.
  • The unavoidable exception to the rule: is if your kids love it, and you read it out aloud for them during bed-time, though you are not yourself a Potter nut

(Yes, yes, I know there are exceptions. All that I’m saying is that the above hypothesis will hold for 80% of the Potter-nutty clan. I really am having difficulty figuring out what it is exactly that draws millions to Rowling, but not even Tolkien has had that effect.)

Now don’t get me wrong here. I am not bashing Rowling or the Potter series. I too have cult-like worshipping tendencies towards many authors (Tolkien and Conan Doyle for instance). I truly admire the way she has been able to rejuvenate reading for millions around the world. She’s done more to help instill the reading habit in youngsters than probably every previous author in history. In an age where kids waste away their precious youth in front of the Internet doing God knows what, she has been a wonderful Messiah.

It’s difficult to imagine the young adults who grew up reading Potter to suddenly abandon books altogether and go back to being couch and mouse potatotes right after the epilogue of the Deathly Hallows. The formative years of your life impact your reading habit more than any other phase. Kudos to Rowling–even if she didn’t intend it, she’s made it possible for GenNext (or whatever it is that they call themselves now) to finally know that Gutenberg exists on the same Web as orkut.

If anyone has a better theory of explaining Rowling’s success with both youngsters and adults alike, I’d love to hear it.

So long then, till we meet at one of ’em potholes.

[*] Yes, there are others too. Terry Pratchett, Christopher Paolini, Douglas Adams, whatever. I just picked three.

2 Comments

  • Well, I have the same feeling as yours. May be because we worship our great, no the greatest JRRT, second to none & may be a one without a second in the virtual worlds ;).

    I think the difference is something like the difference between Quake and Mario. Both are great games, but they are just different. There is difference in ambience and details and complexity. And diff in the nature of people who play them. But simple things can also be beautiful and successful.

    But these are all my preconceived notions about potter, since I have not read them. Do they have nazguls in that book ;)

  • LOL, I don’t think they have nazguls, but I think there are some things called the Death Eaters or so. Must ask my sister, the resident Potter-head.

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