Park Inn Leavesden Ticket Contest: Third Contestant, Please!

As posted here last month, in the first of what the faculty hopes are a series of HogwartsProfessor Short Essay Contests, we asked you to write a 500-750 word composition, poem, fictional vignette, whatever in answer to the question, “When I am asked why I love the Hogwarts Saga, I answer…” This week we are  posting the best responses we received by the 1 March deadline  — and the essay receiving the most votes in a tally this weekend will earn its author two free tickets to the Warner Brothers Studio Tours, London, a $100 value.

We won’t be paying your air fare to see the famous Leavesden Studios if you’re in North America, of course, or your stay, alas. Getting there is your job. We recommend with enthusiasm, though, that you make reservations at the Park Inn Watford  hotel, which establishment has kindly provided us with these tickets for a promotional give away. Hurrah!

Without further introduction, then, the third contestant’s entry:

When I am asked why I love the Hogwarts Saga…

……my head starts spinning because there are far more reasons than can fit nicely into a 750-word essay. I have spent years studying this text and wrote many essays on many topics. I could focus this essay on the brilliance of her world building and character development, or her satisfyingly OTT attention to detail. I still laugh out loud at the funny bits, especially her Dickensian names for places like Smeltings and Ottery St. Catchpole (chuckling mildly). I marvel at the structure and geometry of the piece. Rings within rings. Triangles, circles and one ugly square. However, despite my admiration for these and other literary virtues, and the fact that there always seems to be more to discover, it’s all about my first experience of the series and its profound impact during and after reading Deathly Hallows.


I am a bookish person, always reading something. I can be quite absorbed in a plot and care about the characters. But I was wholly astonished at how emotionally invested I became during Goblet of Fire. I am a nighttime reader who found herself wandering around the house during the day in a black mood worrying about Harry, preoccupied with his safety. I realized that I’d never been as intimate with anyone as Harry. After all, even in real life we seldom share that much of someone’s reality.

I was not paying particular attention to the artistry and details, but instead I, like millions of others, was swept up in his story. Which wasn’t difficult. It is a great story, perhaps one of the greatest stories. And aside from all the treasures we have since mined, the gold was in the telling of the tale itself, the account of a boy who faced unimaginable obstacles and endured terrible ordeals without giving up or giving in. Harry’s heart is the biggest part of this story, and as the last three books unfolded, so did my own heart. Through Harry’s goodness, I was about to have a cathartic experience of my own. And what a ride Deathly Hallows was.

Waiting for the final book, I imagined complicated scenarios to save the day, while deep down I feared Jo was the sort of writer willing to let her hero die. I was pretty nervous. But there was no ducking out for Harry, or for me. I felt completely stripped bare by the time she brought things full circle at Shell Cottage.

In Philosopher’s Stone Harry noticed how the unicorn remained beautiful even in death and he saw there are things worse than dying. In Deathly Hallows she amped up the stakes with the death of another innocent. The unicorn did not choose death, but like Lily, Dobby died for love. With Dobby’s last words the power of love and sacrifice were revealed to Harry and to us. We understood together that true power is not physical and does not lie with the Hallows. From that pivotal point there were no complicated scenarios or solutions. Harry was able to abandon his search for the wand and embrace the task he was assigned. It was the end of doubt and the beginning of transformation.

It was a simple story after all. Harry looked down at his clean hands and out the window he took in a golden, pink sunrise. It couldn’t have gone any other way. He was always heading back to the Forest. Hagrid was tied up and on his knees while witnessing Harry’s sacrifice. That’s how I felt. I was brought to my knees with anguish and unaccustomed humility in the face of his courage.

I wept imagining what it must have been like for Jo. She created her saga inspired and guided by the alchemical process. As medieval alchemists were aware, steps taken to produce the Philosopher’s Stone can also initiate spiritual advancement for the practitioner. Similarly, writers could weave this process into their story and experience catharsis through that story. In this way, their work becomes a transformative journey for the writer. And then she gave it to us. I felt profoundly grateful when I understood how her work had likewise engaged our hearts making it possible for me and countless others to have a direct and edifying experience of Harry’s path to transformation and transcendence. I love Harry’s story and I love Jo for gifting it to us.

Following the triumph of Love over Death, waves of tearful joy and hope washed over me and will remain with me forever. For if Death is the last Mystery we question, Harry’s story enlightens us with the manner in which Love answers.

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