“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” is the first installment in a series of seven volumes, written by J.K. Rowling, a British author. Originally published in 1997, the book continues to attract numerous readers. Its subject matter is quite unique, as it revolves around the surprising turn of events in the seemingly sad destiny of an eleven-year-old boy.
Harry Potter lived on Privet Drive, at number four, in the suburban area of London. He had lost both his parents in a car accident, according to his uncle Vernon Dursley and aunt Petunia, who had adopted him when he was just a year old. Aunt Petunia was his late mother’s sister and often spoke about how “strange” Lily (Harry’s mother) had been during her childhood. Together with Vernon, Petunia had a son, Dudley, an uneducated, brutal, and violent child, very intellectually challenged, who bullied Harry whenever he had the chance.
Harry’s life on Privet Drive was unbearable. He had no proper clothes, received only hand-me-downs, and his uncle and aunt were only interested in Dudley, who became even more insufferable the more attention he received. His suffering comes to an end one day when the Dursley family receives a letter from “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” addressed to Harry. From the anxious looks his uncle and aunt exchange, Harry realizes it’s something serious and makes desperate attempts to get hold of the letter, which is vehemently denied by Uncle Vernon. As the letters are delivered by owls and their number multiplies with each passing day without Harry being able to read their content, Uncle Vernon nervously gives in, takes his wife and son, as well as Harry, and isolates themselves in a cabin on a rocky island.
That night, Hagrid, a giant who knocks on their door and seems to know Harry, even though Harry had never seen him before, appears. Seeing how the little boy is treated, Hagrid takes revenge on the Dursley family, giving them a fright, and Dudley suddenly grows a pig’s tail. From that moment on, Harry will be in Hagrid’s care, who hands him a copy of the letter. It was an invitation to Hogwarts, and Harry learns that he was, in fact, a wizard, like his parents, who had not died in a car accident at all, but had been killed by the most dark and feared wizard, Voldemort. Both had studied at Hogwarts, and now it was Harry’s turn.
Dumbfounded and happy for the first time in his life, Harry is taken into the world of wizards, where only those with magical powers can enter. Together with Hagrid, he goes to London and withdraws a large sum of money from the wizard bank (Gringotts), as his parents had left him a generous inheritance there. Then, the two set out to buy school supplies (including a cauldron, cloak, and spellbooks), and Hagrid gives the boy a wonderful gift, as it was his eleventh birthday that day: a white owl named Hedwig. From there, the giant is forced to return the boy to his relatives, who no longer dared to approach him.
At the beginning of the school year, Harry takes the Hogwarts Express, where he meets for the first time those who were to become his best friends: Ronald Weasley (Ron) and Hermione Granger. At first, the boys don’t like Hermione at all, as she seems very insufferable, the kind of person who always felt the need to demonstrate her superiority to others. As they start their classes, the two realize that the girl had no friends at all, and after they go through a terrifying adventure together, they become inseparable.
Hogwarts was a remarkable school. The students were divided into four houses: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. The headmaster was Albus Dumbledore, the only wizard Voldemort feared. Dumbledore was the defender of peace and tolerance in the wizarding world, while Voldemort gathered allies to annihilate any “mudbloods” (wizards born to non-magical parents) and shape this universe to his liking. What Voldemort liked was fear, darkness, terror, absolute power. After the confrontation with Harry’s parents, he had been inexplicably reduced to a mere shadow of his former self and now needed a foreign body to inhabit in order to survive. The “chosen one” would be Professor Quirrell, who taught “Defense Against the Dark Arts”, and who would host Voldemort for a year without anyone knowing. This feared wizard was in search of the Philosopher’s Stone, a substance that alchemists believed could turn any metal into gold. In this work, it also grants immortality to the one who consumes it. Nicholas Flamel, the holder of the stone, had died (by his own choice) and was a close friend of Dumbledore.
Every time Voldemort tried to kill Harry (in a way that would not be noticed, of course), Harry, along with Ron and Hermione, believed that Snape (who taught “Potions” and seemed to particularly dislike Harry) was the one planning this. At the end of the school year, a terrifying confrontation takes place between Harry and Voldemort, who was in Quirrell’s body. The wizard invites the boy to join him, but Harry refuses. He manages to retrieve the stone, which had appeared in his pocket as a result of spells that allowed only the one who wanted to obtain the stone without using it to have it.
The end of the book foreshadows the beginning of the second one, as Voldemort is defeated (for how long remains to be seen), the school year ends well, and Harry finally has a chance at a normal life, even in a very unusual context. The greatest gain was the friendship with Ron and Hermione, whom he couldn’t wait to see again in the second year at Hogwarts.
In conclusion, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” is a wonderful introduction to J.K. Rowling’s magical universe, which has enchanted both children and adults with her writings. Enjoying successful film adaptations, video game representations, and even stage productions around the world (based on adapted scripts), the “Harry Potter” series remains an impressive phenomenon in contemporary literature.