Nine years ago, the nerd world thought that they had received the final installment of the Harry Potter series. However, with the support of an unrelenting fan base, series author J.K. Rowling decided to open the Harry Potter universe up once again, starting with the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a script meant to be performed on stage, for the eighth Harry Potter story, on July 31, 2016.
The Cursed Child picks up where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows left off, nineteen years later on Harry’s son Albus’ first day of Hogwarts. The script speeds through his first few years of school and focuses on the time travel adventure Albus and his best friend Scorpius Malfoy, the lovably nerdy son of Draco Malfoy, go on in their fourth year. Of course, The Cursed Child spent plenty of time with the first generation, showing what the original gang has been up to and reinforcing the relationships that Rowling crafted in the original book series. The script bridges the gap between the generations, especially Harry and Albus’ increasingly discordant relationship, as brooding, anti-social Albus is nothing like the charismatic hero his father was.
Reception for The Cursed Child has been mixed. A great deal have been ecstatic about receiving another full length story. The Cursed Child revisits themes from both Rowling’s third and fourth books, two of the most well-loved books in the series, so it was bound to be at least somewhat successful in receiving the hearts of Rowling’s fans. However, many readers have said that it “read like a fan fiction,” implying that it seemed as if it was written by someone who didn’t write for a living and didn’t know the characters as well as the original author did. This may be attributed to the fact that Cursed Child was a script, but its audience was used to reading books, which are considerably more detailed and very different from the prose style of a script. A script is mainly the actions and dialogue of a story, which means it typically leaves the thoughts and motivations of the characters to be determined by the audience. The character shifts may also be attributed to the fact that J.K. Rowling partnered with playwrights Jack Thorne and John Tiffany in writing this script, so the story is not strictly being told with J.K. Rowling’s voice.
Whether The Cursed Child was a good story or not is very subjective, however the reason it exists can be attributed to an unusual cultural affinity for the Wizarding World. Despite the fact that even the oldest of high school students would have been close to the age of ten when the final book came out, a significant population of high school students have read them. Even if a person hasn’t read the book, they have most likely seen the movies, been sorted into a house by an acquaintance, or at least referred to Emma Watson as “that girl from Harry Potter”. At AHS, the Harry Potter phenomenon has been so strong that it hosted a Quidditch Club, a club where members play the fictional sport introduced in the Harry Potter universe.
It’s clear that a market still exists for Harry Potter, however why Rowling has chosen to take advantage of it with a completely new story has been widely speculated. Some say it might be because Rowling needs more money, but it is more likely that Rowling, a self proclaimed lover of writing, has no other way to write for the general public. After writing Harry Potter, Rowling wrote adult fiction book The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym Robert Gailbraith and she explains her choice to write under a pseudonym on her website.
“To begin with I was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new
genre, to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback. It was a fantastic experience and I only wish it could have gone on a little longer than it did,” J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, said.
Her name seems to have quite a bit of weight. After the world found out about her other persona, reviews for The Cuckoo’s Calling went from mixed to overwhelmingly positive. Almost all reviews, positive or negative, ended up comparing her the work to Harry Potter.
Aside from The Cuckoo’s Calling, Rowling has written three other books for mature audiences, and none have escaped constant comparison to Harry Potter. As a result, it is possible to conclude that Rowling’s incredible success with Harry Potter has put her into a creative conundrum. She can no longer write anything without it being compared to Harry Potter, and people assume that her writing is good simply because of her past achievements. Because of her limited position, one could speculate that Rowling decided to steer into the skid and continue writing Harry Potter content because then it would be rightfully compared to her past work.
No matter what is thought of The Cursed Child or it’s origin, Rowling’s revitalization of the Harry Potter phenomenon is far from over. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a movie set within the world of American wizards is set to come out this November. Rowling is also advertising a set of companion eBooks that came out September 6. The world isn’t done with Harry Potter, and now it’s clear that J.K. Rowling isn’t either.
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros and Lizo Mzimba at BBC