The Origins of Harry

The history of Rowling getting Harry Potter published is fairly familiar to fans. She went to 12 different, well known publishers trying to get her manuscript out into the world before Bloomsbury picked it up. Interestingly, Rowling told Oprah in an interview that she knew that getting it published would be hard, but once it was out in the world she had a feeling it would be well received. Of course, well received and the phenomena it has become are two very different things.

One of the reasons it was rejected, it seems, was its length. Which is interesting because not only is it quite thin compared to the others, but according to the CEO of Bloomsbury, Nigel Newton the length was never an issue. What did concern them was that they thought boys wouldn’t read it because it was written by a woman (*eye roll*). Can you imagine a world where Joanne Rowling is a household name instead of JK? The world wouldn’t have collapsed in on itself and boys would have been fine. But we’re drifting off.

The whole Bloomsbury side is a story I hadn’t actually heard before. In an article, Newton describes how he gave his then eight year old daughter a copy of a chapter to read and one hour later she told him he had to publish it. She told him that it was ‘so much better than anything else.”

Rowling famously also got the idea for Harry whilst on a train. She’s spoken in interviews how a vivid image of a boy with glasses and as the story began to form around Harry she realised it was more a wizard story than a normal one. I would love to have read the story of Harry that didn’t involve magic because it would be so different it would be hard to imagine but it would also be wonderful because, you know, it’s Rowling.

This first idea was written down on a napkin and would then be typed up on a typewriter. This is a common occurrence as Rowling has mentioned multiple times that she writes anywhere and on anything, one example being she came up with the ideas for the house names whilst flying and ended up writing them on a sick bag.

Philosopher’s Stone began with Harry and a train in 1990 and by 1995 there was a completed manuscript. It took another year for it to be picked up by a publisher, and by 1997 it was out in the world. Since then it has only grown and grown; from expanded universes and incredibly detailed characters and backstories. Rowling has said that she liked to make biographies for her characters so she knows who they are, and that certainly shows in the story. Even the smallest characters can have so much depth. It is also a bonus because we have been getting additional character information for years since both the books and the movies have finished.

There is so much to discover in the Harry Potter universe itself that it’s always fun to recall its humble beginnings and Rowling’s early life. I guess given what that one little idea sparked we can be eternally grateful that she listened to that idea that popped into her head or we might be in a world without Harry Potter!

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