Introduction: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling
Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling is a book that takes you into a world of imagination, with spell, potions, an invisible cloak, unicorns and dragons; and the rich imagery brings the story to life. The book is not just about witches and wizards with magical powers who live amongst us Muggles, but it’s also a story about making the impossible possible. I must be one of the few people in the Western world who had never read any of the Harry Potter books.
So how did I come to read Harry Potter?
I like to stay away from books that everyone is reading, and yes I have made exceptions like reading series such as: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Review), The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games is This Year’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and Divergent (two books in the trilogy so far (Mentor Yourself: Book Review – Divergent by Veronica Roth, Insurgent by Veronica Roth a Book Review)). But I have been feeling creatively stuck, and I needed a break from the classics, romantic fiction, murder mysteries and other such works of fiction. I wasn’t in the mood for self-help or business books either.
While standing in Indigo Books & Music, I remembered that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was among the 50 books that Indigo readers voted as a must read. I also remembered that it was included in Andrew Taylor’s Books That Changed the World: The 50 Most Influential Books in Human History, so I decided to give it a try, and I’m glad that I did because I laughed a lot since I found the book so entertaining.
What is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling About?
When Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling begins, Harry is an orphaned infant. He has just lost his parents, who were killed by Voldemort, an evil and wicked wizard that is feared by many. Harry survives Voldemort’s wrath with only a lightning flash scar on his forehead. Although an infant, he gains the reputation for being special, since no one has ever survived an attack by Voldemort.
Professor Albus Dumbledore, the only person Voldemort fears, decides to leave Harry with his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon Dursley and their infant son Dudley. At Professor Dumbledore’s request, Hagrid leaves young Harry on the Dursley’s doorstep and tucks a letter explaining everything in his blanket. A few hours later, Aunt Petunia opens the door to put out some milk bottles, and screams when she sees the infant.
Neither Petunia nor her husband Vernon, ever tell Harry about his background, and he is growing up not knowing that he is a wizard. The Dursleys are very rigid in thought, and do not treat Harry kindly. In fact, they resent the boy and treat him very differently from their son who is a bully. Harry gets Dudley’s old clothes, which are too big for him, and he sleeps in a cupboard under the staircase while Dudley has two bedrooms, one of which holds his numerous toys.
During the summer, just before Harry turns 11, a letter comes to him in the mail. Before he gets the opportunity to read it, his uncle takes it from him and destroys it. It’s as if eyes are watching the household because the sender knows that Harry is sleeping in a cupboard. The letter is addressed:
Mr. H. Potter
The Cupboard under the Stairs
4 Privet Drive
His uncle and aunt move him to the smaller of Dudley’s two bedrooms. The next day, more letters come to Harry, and Uncle Vernon repeats the process of destroying them. His Uncle Vernon becomes overwhelmed with the volume of mail coming to Harry, and decides to take them on a trip to parts unknown, hoping that they will escape the mail. They go to a hotel, and the letter appears there addressed to the correct room number. Finally, Uncle Vernon rents a rundown shack that sits precariously on a rock, and believes that no one will bother them during the stormy night.
The stormy night is the eve of Harry’s eleventh birthday. He hears a thunderous knock on the door. It’s the giant Hagrid who placed Harry on his aunt’s doorstep. The giant is dismayed that Harry doesn’t know that he is a wizard. Hagrid pulls out a letter addressed:
Mr. H. Potter
In the letter, is an invitation for him to register at the Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the next school term. Uncle Vernon tries to put his foot down to prevent Harry from attending Hogwart’s, but he is fighting a losing battle. Harry wants to go to wizardry school because anything he is going to has to be an improvement to what he is leaving behind. The next day, on his birthday, Harry goes with Hagrid to London to shop for his school books and wizard supplies. Incidentally, it’s the best birthday he has ever had, and Hagrid gives him an owl for his birthday present.
Harry remarks to Hagrid that he doesn’t have any money for school fees and for shopping, and he discovers that his parents have left him a substantial amount of money. Their first stop is Gringotts bank, a financial institution that has never been robbed to get some money out of Harry’s vault. Hagrid also asked for access to the “You-Know-What in vault seven hundred and thirteen.” Of course Harry is curious about what is in vault seven hundred and thirteen but it’s a secret and Hagrid cannot tell him.
The story takes off when Harry gets to Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and he finds the school work difficult and demanding, except for flying on a broom which he has an affinity for. He is such a natural that he is asked to play on the Quidditch team, an unusual feat for a first year student. For the first time in his life, Harry has friends. While at Hogwarth’s, Harry also discovers that Voldemort is feared and people fret about whether or not he is still alive.
After much research, Harry and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasely finally figure out that the Philosopher’s Stone is hidden in the room that’s off limits to students. The Philosopher’s Stone is the secret that was stored in vault seven hundred and thirteen at the Gringotts bank. The Philosopher’s Stone allows the owner to become immortal. The story ends with Harry’s second encounter with Voldemort – the first time when he was an infant – when the evil wizard tries to steal the Philosopher’s Stone.
Final Thoughts: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling
Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling is a page turner with many twist and turns. I really enjoyed the book and recommend it, but I haven’t decided if I will read the other six books in the series. Next on my list to read is J R R Tolkien’s The Hobbit.