Buckle up kids, this is going to be a sad one.
Like almost every other human being on this planet (and potentially on others too, fingers crossed cos I have some big design plans) I had some rocky times in my formative years. Things that often go unexplained, that you are expected to adjust to on your own, character building experiences and so on. Not everything is 1920s jolly hockey sticks growing up and that’s ok…if you learn to cope. It’s how you cope that I want to explore because, like so many of my shy, quiet, anxious peers, I didn’t lash out or rebel, I never got a lip piercing, I never painted my room black or got an awful box dye job. No, like so many people, I turned in on myself, and found peaceful, consistent, and enduring solace in books.
The Hobbit came to me at a particularly difficult period in my life where all I wanted was to escape reality. It was around the time the LOTR films were released and, being the mini-snob in training that I was, I decided it would be best to start from the very beginning and go with reading The Hobbit first. It was my first real experience of the fantasy genre (I came to Harry Potter later), an experience I’ll never forget, for it was the beginning of my long career in obsessing over magical worlds and fantastical beasts in every way imaginable.
Spoiler alert, this post is full of clichés about the magic of reading so let’s acknowledge that right here so we can all move on with our lives. J. R. Tolkien took me out of myself and transported me to Middle Earth, I was getting away from my problems, away from a non-descript Northern town, and joining Bilbo and Gandalf on their adventures. When I was sad, I battled trolls, I supped with dwarven kings and fought mighty dragons, I wasn’t a 10 year old girl alone in her room, I was somebody legendary.
Now I couldn’t very well have written any more blog posts (this is my 4th, sorry to keep badgering you all with my drivel) without eventually fully confronting that which this earth revolves around – The Harry Potter series. Like an uncultured swine, I rejected the series when it first came out.
The year was 1997, the place was my bedroom. At the time, 6 year old me just couldn’t move on from the fact that Privet wasn’t pronounced the same as Private, and the issue left me questioning why language had forsaken me so. That single tiny dumb piece of minutiae turned me off the series for 4 years. I guess it’s lucky I never became a literary agent because woah was my taste-radar faulty.
I picked up the HP series just after the Hobbit only I started with The Goblet of Fire, forgive me for I was young and naive back then, twas a different time, a simpler time. My love for the greatest literary cultural phenomenon predating 50 Shades of Grey was born on the floor of my bedroom somewhere in the North of England, then a foreign and lonely land for me, it was born there and developed into the friendly monster I carry with me today, now I can safely declare that Harry Potter runs through my veins. Cut me and I bleed Polyjuice potion.
Reading gives you a freedom like nothing else in this world can, not happiness, not money, and I mean, money is pretty awesome but not even Elon Musk can use broom sticks to fly across London (though I’m certain he’s trying to develop something as we speak) Reading Harry Potter meant that I found a safe space in between the pages of a few books where, being myself meant not being afraid, not feeling sad, but being exactly who I wanted to be, and being rewarded for it, in fact, I still get emotional now when I read J. K. Rowling’s quote, “Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” Because, although I’m sure she’s told it a hundred times a day, there were so many of us that needed Hogwarts, needed Middle Earth, needed magic and adventures to keep us going, to inject sparkle and passion into our lives.
Books are my reason for breathing, without these stories, and the wonder they bring us, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. So, when you see a grown-up reading children’s books, or wearing their favourite Ravenclaw sweater (not pointing fingers here) don’t scoff because you think they are reading below their level, smile because they are reliving their best memories and reuniting with old friends.
If you haven’t already, please go back to your favourite book from childhood, and enjoy the warm welcome when you return to it.