Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Future Is Now

So a week or two ago I decided to re-read the Harry Potter novels for the tenth or eleventh time. While reading Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, I discovered something I never realized before— the book is set in the early 1990s!

See, Harry gets invited to Nearly Headless Nick's "deathday party," which is the five hundredth anniversary of his death. At the party Harry sees a decorated cake that reads:

Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Portpington
Died 31st October, 1492

Add five hundred years to that figure and you get 1992!

Holy crap! Hard core fans have probably known about this for ages, but it was news to me! I did not realize that before now. I just assumed they took place "now," that is, whenever they were being read. I had no idea they were set in a specific year.

This means that Harry's first year at Hogwarts, as seen in Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone (or Philosopher's Stone, as it's known in England) takes place in 1991. It also means his seventh and final year of school happened in 1997. Oddly enough, the first book was published in June of 1997, meaning the story was over before it ever started!

Also, the eighth and final movie, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, features an infamous "19 Years Later" epilogue, in which an adult Harry and Ginny send their own kids off to Hogwarts. 

If the movies follow the same timeline as the book, then this scene happens in the far off year of 2016

I have no idea why J.L. Rowling set the books in a specific year like she did. Seems to me it would be better to keep the setting vague, so they don't run the risk of seeming dated to new generations of readers.

It's especially puzzling since most of the books take place in the Wizarding World, which seems pretty timeless. They don't have electricity, they fly around on brooms, still write with quills and wear odd, Victorian-esque clothing. She could have easily glossed over the whole date thing and no one would have noticed.

But hey, she's the multi-billionaire author, not me, so I guess she knows what she's doing.

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