Or: ‘Harry Potter And The Plot That Shouldn’t Be Meddled With’
Harry Potter has gone way beyond the books J.K. Rowling first penned in a humble Edinburgh cafe. You see it in the English Dictionary, where ‘Muggle’ is now officially a word. You see it in school playgrounds, where people valiantly attempt to play Quidditch without brooms. And as recently as last week, when Perfume Genius sorted a bunch of musicians into Hogwarts houses, everyone went mad. It’s tied to a generation. It will never go away. Harry Potter will forever be cited, evil nogooders will be referred to as Syltherin, and the boy who lived will never die.
We already have films, theme parks, pop-up menus and a strain of weed devoted to Harry Potter. And very little of this has anything to do with the original format. But every time Rowling mentions the series – her own creation, so if anyone has the right to chat all things Potter, it’s her – something nags. Because instead of marvelling at the characters she came up with, or divulging her favourite moment from the books, she changes the plot.
Time and time again, she adds another facet to her fiction. Most recently, she revealed that there are not one, but two Harry Potters in the wizarding world. According to a note posted on Pottermore, the elder Harry was otherwise known as great-grandfather Henry, a politicised thorn in the Ministry of Magic’s side, protecting the rights of muggles.
This latest example isn’t too bad. She’s expanding on the original tales, adding more context, and giving thirsty Potter fans more to get excited about.
But Rowling has also been known to reveal the odd plot twist and revelation on Twitter. Expanding on a celebrated story in the space of 140 characters isn’t the wisest move, but in the last few years she’s revealed that Albus Dumbledore was gay, that Voldermort has a silent “t”, that Ron, Hermione and Harry all took big official roles in rebuilding wizarding society, and that Snape was always on Harry’s side. She also claimed that her family consisted of 2 Hufflepuffs, 2 Gryffindors and a Slytherin. Is nothing sacred?
Any author has ultimate privilege on how to interpret their own work. For all she cares, she could rip the original plot into shreds, claim Gryffindor was in fact a faction of the MI5, and announce that Malfoy goes on to become head of Hogwarts. It’s artistic license. And after all, she did create the most-adored novels of all time.
But the real magic of Harry Potter was the way its plot resembled a perfect jigsaw. All seven works pieced together. Tiny things mentioned several books back would return a hundred chapters later. Nothing is trivial, not a single sentence can be dismissed as filler. It’s why ultimate Potter-heads are still discovering more sorcery from the series several years on.
But there should be a limit to all this tinkering. Every added nugget of info could, in theory, tarnish the book for original Potter fans. Back in May, she apologised to readers for killing off Snape. Some things are best left unsaid, and more often than not, it’s much better to maintain the mystique. On the one hand, it’s great that Rowling has such an open dialogue with her readers. But every added strand of plot seems to kill some of the original’s appeal. It’s time to stop tweeting.