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Star Ledger Harry Potter Special!


Power of the pen conjures a magic of its own

11/11/01

BY STEPHEN WHITTY
STAR-LEDGER STAFF
 

There's more than one way to cast a spell.

Of course, even first-year Hogwarts students know that. They've already got textbooks full of dozens of different enchantments, not to mention hundreds of hard-to-remember potions.

How to catch a Hungarian Horntail? What to do when chased by a troll? Where to find a centaur when you really need one?

A student could spend seven years cramming and still never learn it all.

But what even the best Hogwarts student doesn't know is that there are a few other kinds of wizardry, too -- ones that even Professor Dumbledore doesn't teach.

You already probably know one, though: The magic of movies.

Laughing? Don't. It may not be as flashy as levitation or changing your desk into a pig. It doesn't call for flying broomsticks or even a trained owl. Still, movies are a powerful enchantment and one that even You-Know-Who can't break.

What other wizardry can -- for the price of one ticket and perhaps a small package of Gummi bears -- give you two hours of happy forgetfulness? Can make your teachers and your chores and your rotten younger brother disappear? Can wave away all your worries and fears?

Go see "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and not only will you forget all of that, you'll actually see monsters and mad wizards come to life. You'll see spells and sorcerers and the sorting hat, all as big as your house. You'll even see Quidditch being played.

If that's not magic, what is?

There's still a deeper kind of magic, though: The magic of books. Of course, if you're a Harry Potter fan, chances are you're already a believer.

It's strong stuff. Although the spell of a good movie can make you forget your problems for a few hours, the spell of a good book can make you forget them for days. It can introduce you to anyone you like, and take you anywhere you can imagine (and even a few you probably didn't, like Platform Nine and Three-Quarters).

A truly good book can cast an even stronger spell. That kind of book doesn't just help you forget your problems, it helps you understand them. And even as it's helping answer your questions, it's also asking some of its own, such as whether it's really smart to judge people by appearances, or if heroes can sometimes turn into villains.

And if you've already read about Professors McGonagall, Snape and Quirrell, you already know the answers.

Both arts work their own special magic. They take us out of our own bodies for a while, and let us live in someone else's. They ask us questions, offer answers, and ask us to ask even better questions back. They're more amazing enchantments than anything taught in Hogwarts.

But there's still a more powerful magic than seeing a story, or even reading one. And that's the magic of writing one yourself.

It takes more schooling than the others, and more work, and more practice. Some of it has to be learned, just like any common invisibility charm. Some of it has to be felt, like the proper handling of a Nimbus Two Thousand. Really mastering it is probably even more difficult than learning to catch the Golden Snitch.

Still, to understand the enchantment of writing, even if only for a moment, is to have a special kind of power.

It can be sending a funny e-mail to a friend, or cracking up a chatroom with a silly message. It can be simply coming home after school, opening up your own journal and writing down every confusing thing that happened. It can be creating new adventures for Harry, as in the stories from young readers on pages 4 and 5, or even dreaming up your own wizards and dragons.

But once you've learned to cast its spells, it's the deepest magic of all. Because, like the best and truest magic, it comes back to you, doubled.

Send a funny e-mail or crack up a chatroom, and you'll find yourself laughing, too. Put down all your confusion into your diary, and you may see an answer appearing before you close the cover. Imagine a new world, and you'll discover yourself there as well -- and, if you're lucky, even bring thousands of new friends along for the ride.

These sorts of magic may not be as flashy as the ones taught at Hogwarts. They won't allow you to fly, or levitate, or become invisible, or tame dragons. They don't involve magic mirrors or flying broomsticks.

But they may help tame the real-life dragons in your life. They may help you see a different face in your bedroom mirror. They may even help turn you invisible for just a little bit -- and walk any place you want, in anyone's shoes you care to.

There's no more powerful enchantment than that in any Hogwarts classroom. And it's no further then your local movie house or school library. Or that magical blank sheet of paper lying upstairs on your desk right now -- waiting.

 

2001 by Star Ledger