For those of you who aren’t aware (anyone who’s been living in a cave for about 20 years), J. K. Rowling, one of the world’s most famous living authors and creator of the Harry Potter franchise, has made yet another amendment to her original books.
The initial series spanned seven books, which are among the best children’s fiction ever written, in my humble opinion. They grow with their readers and offer them a unique glimpse into a magical world where you can be pretty much anything you want with a little bit of courage, a lot of determination and a big dash of kindness. Rowling’s hero and his friends overcome adversity whilst at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where they are learning magic.
Thanks to the international appeal of the series, and the pretty much all-round failure of her other ventures, Rowling has continued, over the years, to add to her books and work hard to keep them in the public consciousness. As part of this she set up Pottermore, a website where fans converge and read new short stories, essays and insight into their beloved childhood characters.
However, she has been using the site, and her social media platforms, over recent years to add increasingly outlandish and maddening details to her books. For example, she recently said that before the introduction of Muggle plumbing wizards would simply relieve themselves where they stood and then magically vanish the evidence.
Most recently she has claimed that Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, was gay and in a deeply passionate relationship with a dark wizard barely mentioned in the books, but whose character has developed as a result of her new franchise Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which was also devised to keep the Harry Potter universe current and brining in money. The idea of the character being gay has been mentioned before, but now sexuality is also bought into play with the notion of a ‘passionate’ relationship.
As I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that I don’t believe fully subscribe to the notion that ‘the author is dead’, however I do think that Rowling needs to leave her creations alone. Although she devised the world and wrote the books, they belong to everyone now, and they are deeply entwined with many childhood memories that she is trampling on by constantly embellishing her work over two decades after she first published it.
Another issue I take with her changes to her books is the fact that she is clearly trying to add inclusivity, presumably to bring them up to today’s standards. The fact is, the Harry Potter books were progressive for their time, with a lot of female characters revoking traditional stereotypes, and many differently-abled characters proving that anyone can stand up for what’s right. Despite this, she has felt the need to change this since the publication of her books, for example when she declared that one of her protagonists Hermione could have been black, despite the fact that she is described as pale throughout the books.
Rowling’s most recent revelation, that Dumbledore was gay, comes despite the fact that the character does not have any sexual relationships with any other characters, either male or female, throughout the books. As such, whilst the addition of a gay character into the books would have been really great, the fact that Rowling drops this information after her books are published and popular allows her to seem to progressive but not actually address this in her work.
Alongside the new films in the latest spin-off franchise, merchandise is another key area in which Rowling continues to make money from the Harry Potter series. I recently wrote a post about the issues this poses and why I feel like it doesn’t encourage more people to read, and as such I feel, perhaps a little cynically, that it is simply a money spinning exercise. I understand the need to earn a crust, but I personally feel like it cheapens the books themselves, which were beloved by so many and are a key part of a whole generation’s childhoods.
At the end of the day, Rowling doesn’t need to enhance her books any further; the series is already a worldwide hit. What she should do now is sit back and let her readers carry on her legacy by using their own imaginations to do the work rather than tainting it by constantly adding to it. Also, in a literature and film market saturated with remakes, sequels, prequels and a general lack of imagination, it would be great if Rowling could use her considerable literary talents to create something completely new and inspiring to rival Harry Potter rather than just constantly going back to it. Her detective series and standalone works have not been successful so far, but there is so much more she could do, and perhaps a return to children’s writing in a new series with a new idea could bring back the magic to her work.