The Harry Potter books are an immensely popular series of fantasy novels by British writer J. K. Rowling. It depicts a world of witches and wizards, the protagonist being the eponymous young wizard Harry Potter. Since the release of the first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (retitled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the United States) in 1997, the books have gained immense popularity and commercial success worldwide, spawning films, video games, and a wealth of other items. The six books have collectively sold more than 300 million copies and been translated into 47 languages, more than any other single book except the Bible and Book of Mormon.
Most of the narrative takes place in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, focusing on Harry Potter's journey toward manhood over the course of his education, relationships, and adventures. At the same time, the books explore the themes of friendship, ambition, choice, prejudice, courage, love, and the perplexities of death, set against the expansive backdrop of a magical world with its own complex history, diverse inhabitants, unique culture, and parallel society.
Six of the seven planned books have been published, and the unnamed seventh book is yet to be released. The latest, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was issued in its English language version on 16 July 2005. The first four books have been made into very successful films, and the fifth began filming in February 2006. English language versions of the books are published by Bloomsbury, Scholastic Press, and Raincoast Books.
The story opens on the morning of November 1, 1981 (If Rowling had intended Harry to be born in 1980), a day filled with both the peculiar and the incomprehensible: shooting stars, an inordinate number of owls, and oddly dressed strangers joyously accosting bewildered muggles on the street. The source of these strange events is the unrestrained celebration of a normally-secretive wizarding world which had for years been terrorised by Lord Voldemort in his decades-long bid for power. The previous night, Lord Voldemort, who had for months sought the hidden Potter family, discovered their refuge and killed Lily and James Potter. However, when he turned his wand against their infant son, Harry, his curse rebounded upon him. He was ripped from his body and forced into hiding, leaving Harry with a distinctive lightning bolt scar on his forehead, the only physical sign of Voldemort's attack. Harry's mysterious defeat of Voldemort that Halloween night was met with a mix of awe and joy by the magical community, resulting in Harry being dubbed "The Boy Who Lived".
The orphaned Harry Potter was subsequently raised by his cruel relatives, the Dursleys, in ignorance of his magical heritage — they despising his "unnaturalness". However, as his eleventh birthday approaches, Harry has his first contact with the magical world when he is notified by Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that he is in fact a wizard and has been chosen to attend. Each book chronicles approximately one year in Harry's life at Hogwarts, where he learns to use magic and brew potions. Harry also learns to overcome many magical, social, and emotional obstacles as he struggles through his adolescence and Voldemort's second rise to power.
The wizarding world in which Harry finds himself is both utterly separate from and yet intimately connected to our own world. Unlike the fantasy worlds of Narnia and Middle-earth, the world of Harry Potter exists alongside ours, and many of its institutions and locations are in towns, such as London, that are recognisable to anyone. It is a fragmented collection of hidden streets, overlooked and ancient pubs, lonely country manors and secluded castles that remain utterly invisible to the non-magical population (known as "Muggles"). Wizard ability is inborn, rather than learned, although one must attend schools such as Hogwarts in order to master and control it. Since one is either born a wizard or not, most wizards are unfamiliar with the Muggle world, which appears odder to them than their world would to us. Despite this, the magical world and its many fantastic elements are depicted very matter-of-factly. One of the principal themes in the novels is this juxtaposition of the magical and the mundane; the characters in the stories live utterly normal lives with utterly normal problems, despite their magical surroundings.
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