By Valerie Dunn
Elm Staff Writer
The theatrical release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two” this past summer marked a bittersweet moment in the lives of Harry Potter fans. Like many of my fellow fans who literally grew up alongside Harry, the final film concluded my childhood.
Meanwhile, less knowledgeable observers of the phenomenon remarked that the final film was the end of Harry Potter. I disagree. Author J.K. Rowling herself has acknowledged what a loyal and passionate fan base her books, and their subsequent films, have garnered. So she decided to give back, as she always has, to the fans.
J.K. Rowling, in association with Sony, has created Pottermore. Though much confusion surrounds the intricately designed website (no, it’s not a fan fiction site, nor is it an online game base), Rowling describes Pottermore as, “an online reading experience unlike any other.” Once a fan creates an account, he or she can explore the magical world as structured around the seven books, chapter by chapter. Travelling through this setup, fans can read the original text embellished by clever graphics and challenges. Even more alluring to the diehards are the additional bits of background information revealed for the first time by J.K. Rowling.
Pottermore, as Rowling intends it, is also an online community of Harry Potter fans from across the globe. Finally, fans can brew potions and cast spells at their computers, a place more convenient than in public (muggles have been known to stare, after all). Members of Pottermore can request friendship with other members of Pottermore in a fashion similar to Facebook, but with profiles more dependent on those things important to the magical community: mastered spells and potions, wand specifications, and Hogwarts house.
That’s right. Harry Potter fans can finally have answered the questions they’ve asked since Sorcerer’s Stone. What wand would choose me? Where would the Sorting Hat place me? At the appropriate chapter segments in Book One, members of Pottermore are asked a series of questions to determine both the best fitting wand and Hogwarts house. After a successful trip to wand-maker Ollivander, I emerged with a wand to call my own. To those poor people less in love with the Potter series, this virtual event might be little call for excitement, but I am quite proud of my wand (Redwood, 12 ½ Inches, Phoenix Feather, Quite Bendy). More nerve-wracking is the sorting process, with a video introduction by Miss Rowling herself. (Muggleborns beware, I am a Slytherin!)
Potter fans who did not gain early access to the site as Betas by locating an online magical quill, unfortunately, will have to wait before they can enter the online realm of Harry Potter. Though Pottermore originally announced it would open its gates to all hopeful participants at the beginning of October, it is now the middle of October and only the one million lucky Betas can scurry through the virtual halls of Hogwarts. That this delay has occurred is no surprise; Pottermore, a technologically and graphically involved project, has staggered under the sheer multitude of fans clamoring to be a part of the magical world.
Technical difficulties are frequent, and members must proceed through Pottermore with patience. Error messages that occur, “Due to overwhelming demand” are tedious. But, with humor typical of the series itself, messages announce a page can’t be displayed perhaps because somebody has cast a spell on the page or employed an invisibility cloak. These downfalls are minor, however, and seem to have lessened since the initial release. More pressing to a member of Pottermore is the amount of time the website can steal from a college student who admittedly might need to study for things outside of Charms Class.
Sophomore Carissa Marcelle has experienced such an addiction to Pottermore.
“I wanted to see what she [Rowling] gave back to us,” Marcelle explains. “It’s fascinating.”
The Sorting Hat, much to Marcelle’s delight, placed her in Ravenclaw, the house known for its wit and love of learning. Thus, it fits that Marcelle has launched herself into learning to brew potions for house points rather than challenging friends to duels.
“It’s growing,” Marcelle remarks on Pottermore. “I think it’s a good start.”
Perhaps that’s the most endearing quality of J.K. Rowling’s newest project. Pottermore secures the longevity of the magical series, adding to the original without diminishing the quality of the books. Pottermore is like any other element of the incredibly successful series; dependent on the fans’ enthusiasm for a woman’s brilliant imagination.