The Changing Face Of The Wizarding World : Age In The Harry Potter Series

30 Mar

Written by DJ Tyrer shortly before the release of book six.

The Harry Potter series has, amongst adults, had something of a stigma as children’s books, something that the publishers tried to counter with ‘adult covers’ (not as racy as that sounds). Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of dividing fiction up by age and whether such boundaries should be crossed, it must be borne in mind that this series was never actually intended to be solely for children, that categorisation was foisted upon it by others :  it is an easy enough mistake to make, as the books revolve around a school and children. However, JK Rowling’s intention was to create a series across which Harry would age and which would explore complex issues.

As a result, some readers were put off, or failed to even have a look, because the first volume, Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone, appeared to be aimed at children. Of course, should an eight year old in a few years time attempt to read through all seven projected volumes (two more to go at the time of writing this), they may well find the later books hard going. (In fact, there have been those adults who have criticised the later books as being too dark or scary, again because they have not understood the broad intention of the author.) For those lucky children who began at the beginning, growing up with the series creates a unique reading experience. And that is one of the core themes of the book :  growing up.
Some sections of the media have been singularly unable to grasp this concept. Apparently assuming that time should be static in fiction, they ask – every time a new film of the book is announced – whether Daniel Radcliffe and his co-stars will be too old to play their parts – a spotty teenager playing a fresh-faced eleven year old?! Um, no… Harry grows upo to be a spotty teenager himself, so there is no problem with the actors growing older themselves (well, not unless a few years are left between films, but that hasn’t happened).

As the series progresses the Wizarding World, or rather, the way in which Harry interprets it on our behalf, changes. In her article at, The Changing Image Of Grownups, Elizabeth Dalton examines the different ways in which adults feature in the books from near-forces of nature to nearly fully-rounded individuals :  this is due to Harry Potter growing up, forcing him to change his perspective and re-evaluate his relationships.
But, it is not solely the fact that he is getting older that has caused our perception of the Wizarding World to change. Through the course of the books our knowledge of it, again filtered through Harry, has increased and been corrected. Harry, of course, knew nothing of this magical reality until he was suddenly thrust into it, meaning that he was no more knowledgeable than us and that as he learns so do we. And, being uncertain in his knowledge, means that he can get things wrong or misinterpret what facts he does have (which misinformation is then filtered on to us), allowing the setting to evolve over time (couple this with the fact that the setting is anything but static, with events moving on and characters maturing, and you get an exceptional fictional world).

And the world itself is getting bigger. In book one all we saw of the Wizarding World were Gringott’s, Diagon Alley, Platform 9 3/4, and Hiogwarts School itself. By book five Harry has visited a number of other locations such as Hogsmeade, St. Mungo’s Hospital, and the Ministry of Magic, and become aware of places further afield such as Durmstrang and cursed Egyptian tombs.

As book six, Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince, approaches, the world in which Harry Potter finds himself is substantially different, both deeper and broader, and more mature, than the one he first entered five books ago.

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