Books

Happy birthday, Harry Potter and J.K Rowling

The author who invented the boy wizard made sure they had a special connection: the same July 31 birthday.
J.K. Rowling at the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film premiere in 2016. (Bloomsbury/Angela Weiss/Getty Images)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was first published by Bloomsbury on June 26, 1997. The book told the story of Harry Potter, who, on his 11th birthday, learns he is a wizard and has been accepted to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

His date of birth? July 31 — the same birthday as the author who created him, J.K. Rowling. Rowling was born on July 31, 1965, making her 54 years old today. Harry was born in 1980, meaning he is now 39 years old.

In the two decades since the very first Harry Potter book was published, more 450 million copies of books from the series have been sold around the world.

J.K. Rowling's story is nearly as famous as her boy wizard's. A single mother who relied on welfare in Britain, Rowling came up with the idea of Harry Potter on a delayed train trip. She described it in 2000 as a "rush."

"Harry was there. People like Nearly Headless Nick and Peeves, the inhabitants of the castle were there," she said in a CBC interview, shortly after the fourth book in the series had been published.

"Harry's scar was there and I kind of knew how that had happened. It's a very strange thing, but I know I'm not alone in this among writers."

Rowling spent five years working on the Harry Potter universe and finishing the first book of the series. She described the day she got a book deal as one of the best of her life.

"The happiest moment of my life was having my daughter handed to me in the hospital. Indescribable feeling. Second only to that moment was the moment my agent phoned me up and said, 'We've got a deal with Bloomsbury,'" Rowling said on her press tour for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

"Nothing that has happened since, and I include the sales figures and the New York Times bestseller list and all of that, which is, don't get me wrong, has been fabulous. Nothing has equalled the moment when I knew my book was going to be published. What a moment. Walked on air for days."

After seven books, the Potter series ended, but fans' appetite never waned. A play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,  written by Jack Thorne, with help from Rowling and theatre director John Tiffany, premiered in London's West End in 2016 and opened on Broadway in 2018.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is coming to Toronto in 2020.

 

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