The boy with the lightning scar, marked from birth. Carrying the fate of the wizarding world on his young shoulders. Fighting against an evil dark lord. By now, every person knows (or at least, ought to know) which story I’m talking about. The Harry Potter series is one of the most popular series of this age. However, this series of magic and wizardry didn’t always enjoy the same freedom to enchant us. There were dark times when it used to be frequently banned, such as in 1999, when the Harry Potter books topped the controversial book list in the U.S. and held a reputation of being one of the most challenged books from 2000-2009 (Peters, 2017).
It is interesting to note that before 1999, the reasons for banning of books were mostly associated with the human body, the topic of sex, and use of swear words. Harry Potter shifted the focus from these topics towards magic whereby the books were challenged on the grounds of encouraging witchcraft and occultism (Dunne, 2006).
According to American Library Association, Harry Potter books are one the most banned books in America (Olukotun, 2012). Richard Abanes, in his book Harry Potter, Narnia, and the Lord of the Rings: What You Need to Know About Fantasy Books and Movies has made distinction between The Harry Potter series when compared to The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings series. Abanes believes that the children are lured in by Harry Potter series to the idea of witchcraft and occultism. This is apparently mainly because of the references in Harry Potter regarding astronomy and Numerology, which are used by the Wiccans. From the interview, though, it seems that Abanes makes these remarks specifically because he believes that J.K Rowling doesn’t seem to be a devout Christian (Elliott, 2018).
On 30th December, 2001, the Pastor of Christ Community Church in Alamogordo, New Mexico, led a book burning at the Alamogordo Public Library. The library, however, demonstrated great strength and assured the people that “Harry is alive and well at the library”. I guess it is true that “happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”.
It seems that the journey of the Harry Potter series has been fraught with many controversies. A recent instance was when J.K Rowling announced that Dumbledore was gay. In 2015, a fan tweeted to Rowling mentioning that she cannot see Dumbledore in that [gay] way. Rowling replied “Maybe because gay people just look like… people?”. Although the world has come along a long way, some critics snatched this chance to point it out as yet another detail to pronounce the series unfit for younger children.
However, being trash mouthed and manhandled doesn’t stop the Potter empire from growing stronger each day. Censorship and controversies cannot overpower the enduring legacy and massive success of this series.
By Namita Suberi