HENRY P. RALEIGH
I DON'T KNOW where in the Harry Potter series humans came to be called Muggles. Isnít there something really condescending about the term? Muggles, Muggles — would you like to be called a Muggle?
If it came up in any of the films I must have missed it or muddled it or muggled it up with a good number of other odd and preciously cute names of things or people — I was not always sure of the difference — that are scattered liberally throughout the five extant films. Keeping a Hedwig and a Hagrid, a Quidditch and a Quaffle and a Quirinus Quirrel in their proper places isnít easy, you know. And a Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle lumps together in the mind as an old-time vaudeville rather than a trio of nasty kids.
To tell the truth, I began to lose my way right after Harry boards the train for Hogwart in ìHarry Potter and the Sorcererís Stoneî and never recovered. My problem with Harry, and itís no fault of his or J.K. Rowling, began when it struck me that Harry bears a strong resemblance to Waldo. In the early 90ís my last-born child was hooked into the ëWhereís Waldoí craze. Waldo, if you recall, is, like Harry, slender with unruly dark hair and large eyes behind prominent round glasses. Both are fond of long scarves and usually look a bit surprised. True, Harry does not wear a red and white hat and shirt like Waldo, yet when I see Harry in the films I see Waldo and if you had ever been forced to sit with a small tyke searching among an infinity of tiny cartoon figures to find Waldo — well, it does spoil the magic for you.
Now Iíve never read any of the seven Harry Potter books although I did take a crack at The Sorcererís Stone before seeing the film. The cover illustrations for the books, so clearly aimed at younger minds, was discouraging but that was before I became aware of the claims that the Potter series is one of the great literary achievements of the century, a work that is prophetic, moralizing, inspirational, and touched the divine. Yes sir, by the divine. Thatís hard to beat and bound to rub off on the film adaptations. This shows you how smart filmmakers were to pick up on this back in 2001 and how fast things move nowadays. A great literary classic used to hang around gathering dust for decades before a studio dug it up to belt out an ëartí film to make up for all the trash it was accustomed to making. Look how long the BrontÎs had to wait before racking up some much needed box office returns.
And what about Jane Austen? The Old Testament moldered away for centuries before Cecil B. DeMille stumbled upon it and did a pretty fair job of pepping up this ancient material in ìThe Ten Commandmentsî — did it twice, as a matter of fact. All those old classic authors certainly missed out on the big bucks expiring as they did before any film rights offers came along. How they must be envying J.K. Rowling whose wealth is second only to, or exceeds, depending on who is adding it up, the Queen of Englandís. Harryís a goldmine, all right.
Already the divinity, or morality, or literary beauty of the Harry Potter books has blessed the domestic and overseas gross of not only the most recent Harry Potter film but its predecessors in re-runs, as well. ìHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenixî set a new record high and will probably keep right on giving until 2008 when the next and sixth film, ìHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Princeî comes due. The seventh film, ìHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallowsî, is planned for summer 2010 and not a second too soon, Daniel Radcliffe is getting long in the tooth.
There is speculation about exactly how this last film will end. Oh sure, Harry will do in Voldemort, but the book has an epilogue — nineteen years later. Harry is married to Ginny Weasley and has three kids, Ron Weasely also, surprisingly, married to Hermione Granger and with two children. Now I ask you, would anyone have the appetite to see this unfolding in the final film — marriages, teen-age problems, using magic to have the best lawns in their suburban neighborhood? I donít think so.