Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

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Harry Potter books
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Book Cover.jpg
Author J. K. Rowling
Illustrators Thomas Taylor (UK)
Mary GrandPré (1998-2007)/Kazu Kibuishi (2013) (US)
Genre Fantasy
Publishers Bloomsbury (UK) (Canada 2010-present)
Arthur A. Levine/
Scholastic (US)
Raincoast (Canada 1998-2010)
Released 26 June 1997 (UK)
1 September 1998 (US)
Book no. One
Sales unknown
Chapters 17
Pages 223 (UK)
309 (US)
Word count 76944 (US)[1]
ISBN 0-7475-3269-9
Followed by Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is the first novel in the Harry Potter series and J. K. Rowling's debut novel. The plot follows Harry Potter, a young wizard who discovers his magical heritage, as he makes close friends and a few enemies in his first year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. With the help of his friends, Harry faces an attempted comeback by the dark wizard Lord Voldemort, who killed Harry's parents, but failed to kill Harry when he was just one year old.

The book, which was Rowling's debut novel, was published on 26 June 1997 by Bloomsbury in London. In 1998, Scholastic Corporation published an edition for the United States market under the title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The novel won most of the British book awards that were judged by children, and other awards in the US. The book reached the top of the New York Times list of best-selling fiction in August 1999, and stayed near the top of that list for much of 1999 and 2000. It has been translated into several other languages and has been made into a feature-length film of the same name.

Most reviews were very favourable, commenting on Rowling's imagination, humour, simple, direct style and clever plot construction, although a few complained that the final chapters seemed rushed. The writing has been compared to that of Jane Austen, one of Rowling's favourite authors, or Roald Dahl, whose works dominated children's stories before the appearance of Harry Potter, and of the Ancient Greek story-teller Homer. While some commentators thought the book looked backwards to Victorian and Edwardian boarding school stories, others thought it placed the genre firmly in the modern world by featuring contemporary ethical and social issues.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, along with the rest of the Harry Potter series, has been attacked by several religious groups and banned in some countries because of accusations that the novels promote witchcraft, but some Christian commentators have written that the book exemplifies important Christian viewpoints, including the power of self-sacrifice and the ways in which people's decisions shape their personalities. Educators regard Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and its sequels as an important aid in improving literacy because of the books' popularity. The series has also been used as a source of object lessons in educational techniques, sociological analysis and marketing.

Synopsis[edit]

Plot[edit]

As the main title suggests, the plot centers on a legendary alchemist substance which is believed by some to give immortality.

Before the start of the novel, Lord Voldemort, considered to be the most evil and powerful dark wizard in history, murders married couple James and Lily Potter but mysteriously disappears after attempting to kill their infant son, Harry. While the wizarding world celebrates Voldemort's downfall, Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and half-giant, Rubeus Hagrid place the one-year-old orphan in the care of his surly and cold Muggle (non-wizard) aunt and uncle: Vernon and Petunia Dursley with their spoiled and bullying son, Dudley.

Ten years later while living in Four Privet Drive, Harry is tormented by the Dursleys, treated more as a slave than a member of the family. Shortly before his eleventh birthday, a series of letters addressed to Harry arrive but Vernon destroys them before Harry can read them, leading only to an influx of more letters. In order to evade the pursuit of the letters, Vernon first takes the family to a hotel and, when the letters arrive there too, he drives them all to a small island. On Harry's eleventh birthday at midnight, Hagrid bursts through the door to deliver Harry's letter and tells him what the Dursleys have kept from him: Harry is a wizard and has been accepted into Hogwarts. Hagrid takes Harry to Diagon Alley, a magically concealed shopping precinct in London, where Harry is bewildered to discover how famous he is among witches and wizards as "the boy who lived." He also finds that he is quite wealthy, since a bequest from his parents has remained on deposit at Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Guided by Hagrid, he buys the equipment he will need for his first year at Hogwarts.

One of the many materials Harry needs to purchase for his upcoming year at Hogwarts is a wand. At the wand shop, he finds that the wand that suits him best is the twin of Voldemort's; both wands contain feathers from the same phoenix.[2] Harry also leaves with a new pet (and birthday gift from Hagrid), an owl he names Hedwig. A month later, Harry leaves the Dursleys' home to catch the Hogwarts Express from King's Cross railway station. There he meets the Weasley family, who show him how to pass through the magical wall to Platform 9¾, where the train that will take them to Hogwarts is waiting. While on the train, Harry quickly befriends Ron Weasley, who tells him that someone tried to rob a vault at Gringotts. They discuss the upcoming school year, which Harry is both anxious and excited for. During the ride, they meet Hermione Granger, who is later to become one of their best friends. Harry also makes an enemy on this trip, fellow first-year, Draco Malfoy. Draco, accompanied by his dim-witted companions Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle, offers to advise Harry, but Harry dislikes Draco for his arrogance and prejudice and rejects his offer of "friendship".

Before the term's first dinner in the school's Great Hall, the first-years are allocated to houses by the Sorting Hat. While Harry is being sorted, the Hat suggests that he be placed into Slytherin which is known to house potential dark witches and wizards, but when Harry objects, the Hat sends him to Gryffindor, Slytherin's rival house. Ron and Hermione are also sorted into Gryffindor. Draco is sorted into Slytherin house, which his family has been traditionally sorted into for many years. During the meal, Harry catches Professor Severus Snape's eye and feels pain in the scar Voldemort left on his forehead.

After a terrible first Potions lesson with Snape, Harry and Ron visit Hagrid (groundskeeper of Hogwarts), who lives in a cabin on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. There they learn that the attempted robbery at Gringotts occurred the day Harry withdrew money from his vault. Harry remembers that Hagrid had removed a small package from the vault that had been broken into.

During the first years' first broom-flying lesson, fellow Gryffindor Neville Longbottom breaks his wrist and is rushed to the infirmary by their instructor. Draco takes advantage to throw the forgetful Neville's fragile Remembrall, which Neville dropped because of his accident, high in the air. Harry gives chase on his broomstick, catching the Remembrall inches from the ground. Unbeknownst to Harry, Professor McGonagall, who is head of Gryffindor house, has witnessed his performance on his broom. She dashes out and appoints him as the new Seeker for the Gryffindor Quidditch team.

When Draco tricks Harry and Ron, who are accompanied by Neville and Hermione, into a midnight excursion, they accidentally enter a forbidden corridor and find a huge three-headed dog. The group hastily retreats, and Hermione notices that the dog is standing over a trap-door. Harry concludes that the monster is guarding the package Hagrid retrieved from Gringotts.

After Ron criticises Hermione's ostentatious proficiency in Charms, she hides in the girls' toilet, crying. At the Halloween Feast, Professor Quirrell reports that a troll has entered the dungeons. While everyone returns to their dormitories, Harry and Ron rush to warn Hermione, who was not at the feast to hear the announcement. The troll corners Hermione in the toilet but Harry and Ron clumsily save her. Afterwards, Hermione takes the blame for the battle and becomes a firm friend of the two boys.

The evening before Harry's first Quidditch match, he sees Snape receiving medical attention from Filch for a bite on his leg caused by the three-headed dog. During the game, Harry's broomstick goes out of control, endangering his life, and Hermione notices that Snape is staring at Harry and muttering. Concluding that Snape is responsible for Harry's out-of-control broom, she dashes over to the Professors' stand, knocking over Quirrell in her haste, and sets fire to Snape's robe. Harry regains control of his broom and catches the Golden Snitch, winning the game for Gryffindor. Hagrid refuses to believe that Snape was responsible for putting Harry in danger, but lets slip that he bought the three-headed dog (named Fluffy) and that the monster is guarding a secret that belongs to Dumbledore and a wizard named Nicolas Flamel.

When Christmas break arrives, Harry and the Weasleys remain at Hogwarts, while Hermione goes back home. One of Harry's presents, from an anonymous donor, is an Invisibility Cloak that belonged to his father and also a flute by Hagrid. Harry uses the Cloak to search the library's Restricted Section for information about the mysterious Flamel, and he happens to find a room containing the Mirror of Erised, which shows him his parents and several of their ancestors. Harry becomes addicted to the Mirror's visions, choosing to spend time with his 'family', rather than his friends at Hogwarts, until he is rescued by Professor Dumbledore, who explains that it only shows the viewer what he most desperately longs for.

When the rest of the students return for the next term, Draco plays a prank on Neville, and Harry consoles Neville with a sweet. The collectible card wrapped with the sweet identifies Flamel as an alchemist. Hermione soon discovers that he is 665 years old and possesses the only known Philosopher's Stone, from which an elixir of life can be extracted. A few days later, Harry notices Snape sneaking towards the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest. There he half-hears a furtive conversation about the Philosopher's Stone between Snape and Quirrell. Harry concludes that Snape is trying to steal the Stone and Quirrell has helped prepare a series of defences for it, which was an almost fatal mistake.

The three friends discover that Hagrid is raising a baby dragon in violation of wizarding law, and arranges to smuggle it out of the country around midnight. Draco, hoping to get them into trouble, informs Professor McGonagall. Although the dragon is safely sent away, they are caught outside of their dormitory. Harry, Hermione, Draco, and Neville are punished and assigned the task of assisting Hagrid with saving a badly injured unicorn in the Forbidden Forest. They split into two parties and venture off into the Forest where Harry and Draco come across a hooded figure drinking the blood of an injured unicorn. Aware of their presence, the figure approaches the boys but Harry is rescued by a centaur named Firenze, who offers to give him a ride back to the school. The centaur tells Harry that drinking a unicorn's blood will save the life of a mortally injured individual, but at the price of having a cursed life from that moment on. Firenze suggests that it was Voldemort who drank the unicorn's blood in order to gain enough strength to make the elixir of life (from the Philosopher's Stone), and regain full health by drinking it.

A few weeks later, Harry learns from Hagrid that the dragon egg was given to him by a hooded stranger who had asked him how to get past Fluffy, which Hagrid had admitted was easy: music sends it to sleep. Realizing that one of the Philosopher's Stone's defenses is no longer secure, Harry goes to inform Dumbledore, only to find that the headmaster has just left for a meeting in London. Harry concludes that Snape faked the message that called Dumbledore away and will try to steal the Stone that night. Harry decides that they must protect the stone themselves in Dumbledore's absence. Covered by the Invisibility Cloak, the trio enter Fluffy's chamber, where Harry sends the beast to sleep by playing the flute, which was sent by Hagrid to Harry as a Christmas present. After lifting the trap-door, they encounter a series of obstacles, each of which requires special skills possessed by one of the three, and one of which requires Ron to sacrifice himself in a life-sized game of wizard's chess.

Despite their reluctance to leave Ron behind, Harry and Hermione arrive at a room with a series of potions of varying sizes and colors. After Hermione figures out the riddle provided, she instructs Harry on which potion to drink. Harry swallows the liquid, allowing him to safely pass through a magical fire and enter the final room, while Hermione returns to collect Ron and notify Dumbledore of the night's events.

In the final room, Harry, now alone, finds Quirrell who admits that he had tried to kill Harry at his Quidditch match against Slytherin. He also admits that he let the troll into Hogwarts. This means that Snape had been trying to protect Harry all along, and had not been trying to kill him. Quirrell is one of Voldemort's followers and, after failing to steal the Philosopher's Stone the first time, he allowed his master to possess him so that he could get the stone for himself. This however, proves a difficult task because the only other object in the room is the Mirror of Erised, which will not reveal to Quirrell where the Stone is. At Voldemort's bidding, Quirrell makes Harry stand in front of the Mirror. The Mirror shows Harry finding the stone. Quirrell removes his turban, revealing the face of Voldemort on the back of his head. Voldemort/Quirrell tries to grab the Stone from Harry, but fails to do so. After the long struggle, Harry passes out. He awakes in the school hospital, where Dumbledore explains to him that he survived because his mother sacrificed her life to protect him, and neither Voldemort nor Quirrel could understand the power of love. Voldemort left Quirrell to die and is likely to return by some other means. The Stone has now been destroyed. The school year ends at the final feast, during which Gryffindor wins the House Cup. Harry returns to the Dursleys' for the summer holiday, but does not tell them that under-age wizards are forbidden to use magic outside of Hogwarts.

After ten years, Harry became an eleven-year-old boy. The Dursleys have kept the truth about Harry's parents from him, but it is revealed in the form of Rubeus Hagrid, who tells Harry that he is a wizard and has been accepted at Hogwarts for the autumn term. Harry takes the train to Hogwarts from King's Cross Station. On the train, Harry sits with and quickly befriends Ron Weasley; the two are also briefly visited by Neville Longbottom and Hermione Granger. Later on in the journey, Malfoy comes into Harry and Ron's compartment with his friends Crabbe and Goyle and introduces himself. After Ron laughs at Draco's name, Draco offers to help Harry distinguish the wrong sort of wizards, but Harry declines.

Upon arrival, the Sorting Hat places Harry, Hermione, Neville and Ron into Gryffindor House, one of the school's four houses, while Draco and his cronies are placed in Slytherin. After a broom-mounted incident to save Neville's Remembrall, Harry joins Gryffindor's Quidditch team as their youngest Seeker in over a century.

Shortly after school begins, Harry and his friends hear that someone broke into a previously emptied vault at the wizarding bank, Gringotts. The mystery deepens when they discover a monstrous three-headed dog, Fluffy, who guards a trapdoor in the forbidden third floor passageway. On Halloween, a troll enters the castle and traps Hermione in one of the girls' lavatories. Harry and Ron rescue her, but are caught by Professor McGonagall. Hermione defends the boys and takes the blame, which results in the three becoming close friends.

Harry's broom becomes jinxed during his first Quidditch match, nearly resulting in Harry falling from a great height. Hermione believes that Professor Snape has cursed the broom and distracts him by setting his robes on fire, allowing Harry to catch the Golden Snitch and win the game for Gryffindor.

At Christmas, Harry receives his father's Invisibility Cloak from an unknown source. Later, he discovers the Mirror of Erised, a strange mirror that shows Harry surrounded by his parents and the extended family he never knew. Later, Harry learns that Nicolas Flamel is the maker of the Sorcerer's Stone, a stone that gives the owner eternal life.

Harry sees Professor Snape interrogating Professor Quirrell about getting past Fluffy, seemingly confirming the suspicion that Snape is trying to steal the Philosopher's Stone in order to restore Lord Voldemort to power. The trio discover that Hagrid is hiding a dragon egg, which hatches; since dragon breeding is illegal, they convince Hagrid to send the dragon to live with others of its kind. Harry and Hermione are caught returning to their dormitories after sending Norbert off and are forced to serve detention with Hagrid in the Forbidden Forest. In the forest, Harry sees a hooded figure drink the blood of an injured unicorn. Firenze, a centaur, tells Harry that the hooded figure is Voldemort.

Hagrid accidentally tells Harry, Ron, and Hermione how to get past Fluffy; and they rush to tell the headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, what they know, only to find that he has been called away from the school. Convinced that Dumbledore's summons was a red herring to take him away while the Philosopher's Stone is stolen, the trio set out to reach the Stone first. They navigate a series of complex magical challenges set up by the school's faculty, and at the end of these challenges, Harry enters the inner chamber alone, only to find that it's the timid Professor Quirrell, not Snape, who is after the Stone. The final challenge protecting the Stone is the Mirror of Erised. Quirrell forces Harry to look into the mirror to discover where the Stone is hidden; and Harry successfully resists, and the Stone drops into his own pocket. Lord Voldemort reveals himself: he has possessed Quirrell and appears as a ghastly face on the back of Quirrell's head. Quirrell tries to attack Harry, but merely touching Harry proves to be agony for him. Voldemort flees and Quirrell dies as Dumbledore arrives back in time to save Harry.

As Harry recovers, Dumbledore confirms that Lily had died while trying to protect Harry as an infant. Her pure, loving sacrifice provides her son with an ancient magical protection against Voldemort's lethal spells. Dumbledore also explains that the Philosopher's Stone has been destroyed to prevent Voldemort from ever using it. He then tells Harry that only those who wanted to find the Stone, but not use it, would be able to retrieve it from the mirror, which is why Harry could acquire it. When Harry asks Dumbledore why Voldemort attempted to kill him when he was an infant, Dumbledore promises to tell Harry when he is older.

At the end-of-year feast, where Harry is welcomed as a hero. Dumbledore gives a few last-minute additions, granting enough points to Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville Longbottom for Gryffindor to win the House Cup, ending Slytherin's six-year reign as house champions.

Main characters[edit]

Harry Potter is an orphan whom Rowling imagined as a "scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn't know he was a wizard."[3] She developed the series' story and characters to explain how Harry came to be in this situation and how his life unfolded from there.[4] Apart from the first chapter, the events of this book take place just before and in the year following Harry's eleventh birthday. Voldemort's attack left a lightning bolt-shaped scar on Harry's forehead,[4] which produces stabbing pains when Voldemort feels any strong emotion. Harry has prodigious natural talent for Quidditch and the ability to persuade friends by passionate speeches.

Ron Weasley is Harry's age and Rowling describes him as the ultimate best friend, "always there when you need him."[5] He is freckled, red-haired and quite tall. He grew up in a fairly large pure-blood family as the sixth-born of seven children. Although his family is quite poor, they still live very comfortably and happy. His loyalty and bravery in the face of a game of Wizards Chess plays a vital part in finding the Philosopher's Stone.

Hermione Granger, the daughter of an all-Muggle family, is a bossy girl who has apparently memorised most of the textbooks before the start of term. Rowling described Hermione as a "very logical, upright and good" character[6] with "a lot of insecurity and a great fear of failure beneath her swottiness".[6] Despite her nagging efforts to keep Harry and Ron out of trouble, she becomes a close friend of the two boys after they save her from a troll, and her magical and analytical skills play a vital part in finding the Philosopher's Stone. She has bushy brown hair and rather large front teeth.

Neville Longbottom is a plump, diffident boy, so forgetful that his grandmother gives him a Remembrall. Neville's magical abilities are weak and appeared just in time to save his life when he was eight. Despite his timidity, Neville will fight anyone after some encouragement or if he thinks it is right and important.

Rubeus Hagrid, a half-giant nearly 12 feet (3.7 m) tall, with tangled black hair and beard, was expelled from Hogwarts and his wand was broken, but Professor Dumbledore let him stay on as the school's gamekeeper, a job which enables him to lavish affection and pet names on even the most dangerous of magical creatures. Hagrid is fiercely loyal to Dumbledore and quickly becomes a close friend of Harry, Ron and, later, Hermione, but his carelessness makes him unreliable.

Professor Dumbledore, a tall, thin man who wears half-moon spectacles and has silver hair and a beard that tucks into his belt, is the headmaster of Hogwarts, and thought to be the only wizard Voldemort fears. Dumbledore, while renowned for his achievements in magic, finds it difficult to resist sweets and has a whimsical sense of humour. Although he shrugs off praise, he is aware of his own brilliance. Rowling described him as the "epitome of goodness".[7]

Professor McGonagall, a tall, severe-looking woman with black hair tied in a tight bun, teaches Transfiguration, and sometimes transforms herself into a cat. She is Head of Gryffindor House and, according to the author, "under that gruff exterior" is "a bit of an old softy".[8]

Petunia Dursley, the sister of Harry's mother Lily, is a thin woman with a long neck that she uses for spying on the neighbours. She regards her magical sister as a freak and tries to pretend that she never existed. Her husband Vernon is a heavily built man whose irascible bluster covers a narrow mind and a fear of anything unusual. Their son Dudley is an overweight, spoiled bully.

Draco Malfoy is a slim, pale boy who speaks in a bored drawl. He is arrogant about his skill in Quidditch, and despises anyone who is not a pure-blood wizard – and wizards who do not share his views. His parents had supported Voldemort, but changed sides after the dark wizard's disappearance, claiming they had been bewitched. Draco avoids direct confrontations, and tries to get Harry and his friends into trouble.

Twitching, stammering Professor Quirrell teaches Defence Against the Dark Arts. Reputedly he was a brilliant scholar, but his nerve was shattered by an encounter with vampires. Quirrell wears a turban to conceal the fact that he is voluntarily possessed by Voldemort, whose face appears on the back of Quirrell's head.

Professor Snape, who has a hooked nose, sallow complexion and greasy black hair, teaches Potions, but would prefer to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts. Snape praises pupils in Slytherin, his own House, but seizes every opportunity to humiliate others, especially Harry. Several incidents, beginning with the shooting pain in Harry's scar during the start-of-term feast, lead Harry and his friends to think Snape is a follower of Voldemort. Snape is the Head of Slytherin House.

The school's caretaker, Filch, knows the school's secret passages better than anyone else except, possibly, the Weasley twins. His cat, Mrs. Norris, aids his constant hunt for misbehaving pupils. Other members of staff include the dumpy Herbology teacher and Head of Hufflepuff House Professor Sprout, Professor Flitwick, the tiny and excitable Charms teacher, and Head of Ravenclaw House, the soporific History of Magic teacher, Professor Binns, a ghost who does not seem to have noticed his own death; and Madam Hooch, the Quidditch coach, who is strict, but a considerate and methodical teacher. The poltergeist Peeves wanders around the castle causing trouble wherever he can.

In the book, Rowling introduces an eclectic cast of characters. The first character to be introduced is Vernon Dursley, Harry's uncle. Most of the actions centre on the eponymous hero Harry Potter, an orphan who escapes his miserable childhood with the Dursley family. Rowling imagined him as a "scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn't know he was a wizard",[3] and says she transferred part of her pain about losing her mother to him.[9] During the book, Harry makes two close friends, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger. Ron is described by Rowling as the ultimate best friend, "always there when you need him".[5] Rowling has described Hermione as a "very logical, upright and good" character[6] with "a lot of insecurity and a great fear of failure beneath her swottiness".[6]

Rowling also imagined a supporting cast of adults. The headmaster of Hogwarts is the powerful but kind wizard Albus Dumbledore, who becomes Harry's confidant; Rowling described him as "epitome of goodness".[7] His right hand is severe Minerva McGonagall, who according to the author "under that gruff exterior" is "a bit of an old softy",[8] the friendly half-giant Rubeus Hagrid, who saved Harry from the Dursley family and the sinister Severus Snape.[10] Professor Quirrell is also featured in the novel.

The main antagonists are Draco Malfoy, an elitist, bullying classmate[11] and Lord Voldemort, the most powerful evil wizard who becomes disembodied when he tries to kill baby Harry. According to a 1999 interview with Rowling, the character of Voldemort was created as a literary foil for Harry, and his backstory was intentionally not fleshed-out at first:

The basic idea... Harry, I saw Harry very very very clearly. Very vividly. And I knew he didn't know he was a wizard. [...] And so then I kind of worked backwards from that position to find out how that could be, that he wouldn't know what he was. [...] When he was one year old, the most evil wizard for hundreds and hundreds of years attempted to kill him. He killed Harry's parents, and then he tried to kill Harry—he tried to curse him. [...] And—so—but for some mysterious reason, the curse didn't work on Harry. So he's left with this lightning bolt shaped scar on his forehead and the curse rebounded upon the evil wizard, who has been in hiding ever since.[4]

Development, publication and reception[edit]

Development[edit]

The book, which was Rowling's debut novel, was written between approximately June 1990 and some time in 1995. In 1990 Jo Rowling, as she preferred to be known,[a] wanted to move with her boyfriend to a flat in Manchester and in her words, "One weekend after flat hunting, I took the train back to London on my own and the idea for Harry Potter fell into my head... A scrawny, little, black-haired, bespectacled boy became more and more of a wizard to me... I began to write Philosopher's Stone that very evening. Although, the first couple of pages look nothing like the finished product."[9] Then Rowling's mother died and, to cope with her pain, Rowling transferred her own anguish to the orphan Harry.[9] Rowling spent six years working on Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and after it was accepted by Bloomsbury, she obtained a grant of £8,000 from the Scottish Arts Council, which enabled her to plan the sequels.[15] She sent the book to an agent and a publisher, and then the second agent she approached spent a year trying to sell the book to publishers, most of whom thought it was too long at about 90,000 words. Barry Cunningham, who was building a portfolio of distinctive fantasies by new authors for Bloomsbury Children's Books, recommended accepting the book,[16] and the eight-year-old daughter of Bloomsbury's chief executive said it was "so much better than anything else".[17]

Publication and reception in the United Kingdom[edit]

Imitation of the fictional Platform 9¾ at the real King's Cross railway station, with a luggage trolley apparently halfway through the magical wall

Bloomsbury accepted the book, paying Rowling a £2,500 advance,[18] and Cunningham sent proof copies to carefully chosen authors, critics and booksellers in order to obtain comments that could be quoted when the book was launched.[16] He was less concerned about the book's length than about its author's name since the title sounded like a boys' book, and boys prefer books by male authors. Rowling therefore adopted the nom de plume J.K. Rowling just before publication.[16] In June 1997, Bloomsbury published Philosopher's Stone with an initial print-run of 500 copies in hardback, three hundred of which were distributed to libraries.[19] Her original name, "Joanne Rowling", can be found in small print on the copyright page of this first British edition. (The 1998 first American edition would remove reference to "Joanne" completely.)[20] The short initial print run was standard for first novels, and Cunningham hoped booksellers would read the book and recommend it to customers.[16] Examples from this initial print run have become quite valuable, selling for as much as US$33,460 in a 2007 Heritage Auction.[21]

Lindsey Fraser, who had supplied one of the blurb comments,[16] wrote what is thought to be the first published review, in The Scotsman on 28 June 1997. She described Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone as "a hugely entertaining thriller" and Rowling as "a first-rate writer for children".[16][22] Another early review, in The Herald, said, "I have yet to find a child who can put it down." Newspapers outside Scotland started to notice the book, with glowing reviews in The Guardian, The Sunday Times and The Mail on Sunday, and in September 1997 Books for Keeps, a magazine that specialised in children's books, gave the novel four stars out of five.[16] The Mail on Sunday rated it as "the most imaginative debut since Roald Dahl"; a view echoed by the Sunday Times ("comparisons to Dahl are, this time, justified"), while The Guardian called it "a richly textured novel given lift-off by an inventive wit" and The Scotsman said it had "all the makings of a classic".[16]

In 1997 the UK edition won a National Book Award and a gold medal in the 9 to 11 year-olds category of the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize.[23] The Smarties award, which is voted for by children, made the book well-known within six months of publication, while most children's books have to wait for years.[16] The following year, Philosopher's Stone won almost all the other major British awards that were decided by children.[16][b] It was also shortlisted for children's books awards adjudicated by adults,[24] but did not win. Sandra Beckett comments that books which were popular with children were regarded as undemanding and as not of the highest literary standards – for example the literary establishment disdained the works of Roald Dahl, an overwhelming favourite of children before the appearance of Rowling's books.[25] In 2003, the novel was listed at number 22 on the BBC's survey The Big Read.[26]

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone won two publishing industry awards given for sales rather than literary merit, the British Book Awards Children's Book of the Year and the Booksellers' Association / Bookseller Author of the Year.[16] By March 1999 UK editions had sold just over 300,000 copies,[27] and the story was still the UK's best-selling title in December 2001.[28] A Braille edition was published in May 1998 by the Scottish Braille Press.[29]

Platform 9¾, from which the Hogwarts Express left London, was commemorated in the real-life King's Cross railway station with a sign and a trolley apparently passing through the wall.[30]

U.S. publication and reception[edit]

Original U.S. cover of Sorcerer's Stone
UK to American translation examples[31][32]
UK American
mum, mam mom
sherbet lemon lemon drop
motorbike motorcycle
chips fries
crisp chip
jelly Jell-O
jacket potato baked potato
jumper sweater
The 2001 mass market paperback cover[33] for Sorcerer's Stone.
10th anniversary US cover of Sorcerer's Stone.

Scholastic Corporation bought the U.S. rights at the Bologna Book Fair in April 1997 for US$105,000, an unusually high sum for a children's book.[16] They thought that a child would not want to read a book with the word "philosopher" in the title and,[34] after some discussion, the American edition was published in September 1998[35] under the title Rowling suggested, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.[16] Rowling claimed that she regretted this change and would have fought it if she had been in a stronger position at the time.[12] Philip Nel has pointed out that the change lost the connection with alchemy, and the meaning of some other terms changed in translation, for example from UK English "crumpets" to US English "muffin". While Rowling accepted the change from both UK English "mum" and Seamus Finnigan's Irish variant "mam" to "mom" in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, she vetoed this change in the later books. However Nel considered that Scholastic's translations were considerably more sensitive than most of those imposed on UK English books of the time, and that some other changes could be regarded as useful copyedits.[31] Since the UK editions of early titles in the series were published a few months earlier than the American versions, some American readers became familiar with the British English versions after buying them via the Internet.[36]

At first the most prestigious reviewers ignored the book, leaving it to book trade and library publications such as Kirkus Reviews and Booklist, which examined it only by the entertainment-oriented criteria of children's fiction. However, more penetrating specialist reviews (such as one by Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, which pointed out the complexity, depth and consistency of the world Rowling had built) attracted the attention of reviewers in major newspapers.[37] Although The Boston Globe and Michael Winerip in The New York Times complained that the final chapters were the weakest part of the book[22][38] they and most other American reviewers gave glowing praise.[16][22] A year later the US edition was selected as an American Library Association Notable Book, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1998, and a New York Public Library 1998 Best Book of the Year, and won Parenting Magazine's Book of the Year Award for 1998,[23] the School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and the American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults.[16]

In August 1999 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone topped the New York Times list of best-selling fiction,[39] and stayed near the top of the list for much of 1999 and 2000, until the New York Times split its list into children's and adult sections under pressure from other publishers who were eager to see their books given higher placings.[25][37] Publishers Weekly's report in December 2001 on cumulative sales of children's fiction placed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 19th among hardbacks (over 5 million copies) and 7th among paperbacks (over 6.6 million copies).[40]

In May 2008, Scholastic announced the creation of a 10th Anniversary Edition of the book[41] that was released on 1 October 2008[42] to mark the tenth anniversary of the original American release.[41] For the fifteenth anniversary of the books, Scholastic re-released Sorcerer's Stone, along with the other six novels in the series, with new cover art by Kazu Kibuishi in 2013.[43][44][45]

Translations[edit]

By mid-2008 official translations of the book were published in 67 languages.[46][47] Bloomsbury have published translations in Latin and in Ancient Greek,[48][49] and the latter was described as "one of the most important pieces of Ancient Greek prose written in many centuries".[50]

Style and themes[edit]

Philip Nel highlighted the influence of Jane Austen, whom Rowling has greatly admired since the age of twelve. Both novelists encourage re-reading, because details that look insignificant foreshadow important events or characters much later in the story-line – for example Sirius Black is briefly mentioned near the beginning of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and then becomes a major character in the third to fifth books. Like Austen's heroines, Harry often has to re-examine his ideas near the ends of books. Some social behaviour in the Harry Potter books is remininiscent of Austen, for example the excited communal reading of letters. Both authors satirise social behaviour and give characters names that express their personalities. However in Nel's opinion Rowling's humour is more based on caricature and the names she invents are more like those found in Charles Dickens's stories,[22]:13–15 and Amanda Cockrell noted that many of these express their owners' traits through allusions that run from ancient Roman mythology to eighteenth-century German literature.[51] Rowling, like the Narnia series' author C.S. Lewis, thinks there is no rigid distinction between stories for children and for adults. Nel also noted that, like many good writers for children, Rowling combines literary genres – fantasy, young-adult fiction, boarding school stories, Bildungsroman and many others.[22]:51–52

Some reviewers compared Philosopher's Stone to the stories of Roald Dahl, who died in 1990. Many writers since the 1970s had been hailed as his successor, but none had attained anything near his popularity with children and, in a poll conducted shortly after the launch of Philosopher's Stone, seven of the ten most popular children's books were by Dahl, including the one in top place. The only other really popular children's author of the late 1990s was an American, R. L. Stine. Some of the story elements in Philosopher's Stone resembled parts of Dahl's stories; for example, the hero of James and the Giant Peach lost his parents and had to live with a pair of unpleasant aunts – one fat and one thin rather like Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, who treated Harry as a servant. However Harry Potter was a distinctive creation, able to take on the responsibilities of an adult while remaining a child inside.[16]

Librarian Nancy Knapp and marketing professor Stephen Brown noted the liveliness and detail of descriptions, especially of shop scenes such as Diagon Alley.[23][52] Tad Brennan commented that Rowling's writing resembles that of Homer: "rapid, plain, and direct in expression."[50] Stephen King admired "the sort of playful details of which only British fantasists seem capable" and concluded that they worked because Rowling enjoys a quick giggle and then moves briskly forward.[53]

Nicholas Tucker described the early Harry Potter books as looking back to Victorian and Edwardian children's stories: Hogwarts was an old-style boarding school in which the teachers addressed pupils formally by their surnames and were most concerned with the reputations of the houses with which they were associated; characters' personalities were plainly shown by their appearances, starting with the Dursleys; evil or malicious characters were to be crushed rather than reformed, including Filch's cat Mrs Norris; and the hero, a mistreated orphan who found his true place in life, was charismatic and good at sports, but considerate and protective towards the weak.[54] Several other commentators have stated that the books present a highly stratified society including many social stereotypes.[55] However Karin Westerman drew parallels with 1990s Britain: a class system that was breaking down but defended by those whose power and status it upheld; the multi-ethnic composition of Hogwarts' students; the racial tensions between the various intelligent species; and school bullying.[56]

Susan Hall wrote that there is no rule of law in the books, as the actions of Ministry of Magic officials are unconstrained by laws, accountability or any kind of legal challenge. This provides an opportunity for Voldemort to offer his own horrific version of order. As a side-effect Harry and Hermione, who were brought up in the highly regulated Muggle world, find solutions by thinking in ways unfamiliar to wizards. For example Hermione notes that one obstacle to finding the Philosopher's Stone is a test of logic rather than magical power, and that most wizards have no chance of solving it.[57]

Nel suggested that the unflattering characterisation of the extremely conventional, status-conscious, materialistic Dursleys was Rowling's reaction to the family policies of the British government in the early 1990s, which treated the married heterosexual couple as the "preferred norm", while the author was a single mother. Harry's relationships with adult and juvenile wizards are based on affection and loyalty. This is reflected in his happiness whenever he is a temporary member of the Weasley family throughout the series, and in his treatment of first Rubeus Hagrid and later Remus Lupin and Sirius Black as father-figures.[22]:13–15, 47–48[51]

Legacy[edit]

Sequels[edit]

The second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, was originally published in the UK on 2 July 1998 and in the US on 2 June 1999.[58][59] Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was then published a year later in the UK on 8 July 1999 and in the US on 8 September 1999.[58][59] Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was published on 8 July 2000 at the same time by Bloomsbury and Scholastic.[60] Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the series at 766 pages in the UK version and 870 pages in the US version.[61] It was published worldwide in English on 21 June 2003.[62] Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was published on 16 July 2005 and sold 11 million copies in the first 24 hours of its worldwide release.[63][64] The seventh and final novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was published on 21 July 2007.[65] The book sold 11 million copies within 24 hours of its release: 2.7 million copies in the UK and 8.3 million in the US.[66]

Film version[edit]

In 1999, Rowling sold the film rights of the first four Harry Potter books to Warner Bros. for a reported £1 million ($1,982,900).[67] Rowling demanded that the principal cast be kept strictly British but allowed for the casting of Irish actors such as the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore and of foreign actors as characters of the same nationalities in later books.[68] After extensive casting,[69] filming began in October 2000 at Leavesden Film Studios and in London, with production ending in July 2001.[70] Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was released in London on 14 November 2001.[71][72] Reviewers' comments were positive, as reflected by an 80% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes[73] and by a score of 64% at Metacritic, representing "generally favourable reviews".[74]

Video games[edit]

Video games loosely based on the book were released between 2001 and 2003, generally under the American title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Most were published by Electronic Arts but produced by different developers:

Publisher Year Platform Type Metacritic score Notes
Electronic Arts 2001 MS Windows Role-playing game[75] 65%[76]
Aspyr 2002 Mac OS 9 Role-playing game[77][78] (not available)[79] Same as Windows version[78]
Electronic Arts 2001 Game Boy Color Role-playing game[80] (not available)[79]  
Electronic Arts 2001 Game Boy Advance "Adventure/puzzle" game[81] 64%[82]  
Electronic Arts 2003 GameCube "Action adventure"[83] 62%[84]  
Electronic Arts 2001 PlayStation Role-playing game[85] 64%[86]  
Electronic Arts 2003 PlayStation 2 "Action adventure"[87] 56%[88]  
Electronic Arts 2003 Xbox "Action adventure"[89] 59%[90]  

Uses in education and business[edit]

Educationalists have found that children's literacy is directly related to how many words they read per year, and they read much more if they find material they like. A 2001 survey by The New York Times estimated that almost 60% of US children aged between 6 and 17 had read at least one Harry Potter book. Surveys in other countries, including India and South Africa, found that children were enthusiastic about the series. Since even the first two books are quite long, a child who has read the first four will have read over four times the number of pages in a year's worth of school reading texts. This greatly improves children's skills and their motivation to read.[23]

Writers on education and business subjects have used the book as an object lesson. Writing about clinical teaching in medical schools, Jennifer Conn contrasted Snape's technical expertise with his intimidating behaviour towards students; on the other hand Quidditch coach Madam Hooch illustrated useful techniques in the teaching of physical skills, including breaking down complex actions into sequences of simple ones and helping students to avoid common errors.[91] Joyce Fields wrote that the books illustrate four of the five main topics in a typical first-year sociology class: "sociological concepts including culture, society, and socialisation; stratification and social inequality; social institutions; and social theory".[55]

Stephen Brown noted that the early Harry Potter books, especially Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, were a runaway success despite inadequate and poorly organised marketing. Brown advised marketing executives to be less preoccupied with rigorous statistical analyses and the "analysis, planning, implementation, and control" model of management. Instead he recommended that they should treat the stories as "a marketing masterclass", full of enticing products and brand names.[52] For example, a real-world analogue of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans was introduced under licence in 2000 by toymaker Hasbro.[52][92]

Release history[edit]

Country Release date Edition
(Hardback/Paperback)
Publisher Pages
Canada 1 December 1998[93][94] Hardback Children's Edition Raincoast 223
Paperback Adult Edition (Original)
1 November 1999[95] Hardback Signature Special Edition
31 August 2000[96] Paperback Children's Edition
16 October 2002[97] Paperback Magic Edition
4 October 2004[98] Hardback Adult Edition (Re-issue with new cover) 336
12 January 2011[99][100] Paperback Adult Edition (Re-issue with new cover) Bloomsbury 223
Paperback Harry Potter Signature Edition
27 August 2013[101] Paperback Adult Edition (Re-issue with new cover)
United Kingdom 26 June 1997[102][103] Hardback Children's Edition
Paperback Children's Edition
11 September 1998[104] Paperback Adult Edition (Original)
27 September 1999[105] Hardback Signature Special Edition
8 October 2001[106] Paperback Special Edition
10 July 2004[107] Hardback Adult Edition (Re-issue with new cover) 336
4 October 2004[108] Paperback Adult Edition (Re-issue with new cover) 223
1 November 2010[109] Paperback Harry Potter Signature Edition
18 July 2013[110] Paperback Adult Edition (Re-issue with new cover)
United States 1 September 1998[111] Hardback Arthur A. Levine/
Scholastic
309
8 September 1999[112] Paperback
1 November 2000[113] Hardback Collector's Edition
1 November 2001[114] Mass Market Paperback 400
September 2008[115] Paperback (Exclusive Scholastic School Market Edition) 309
1 October 2008[42] Hardback 10th Anniversary Edition
27 August 2013[116] Paperback (Re-issue with new cover) 336

Footnotes[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ J.K. Rowling was christened Joanne Rowling, without a middle name, and adopted the nom de plume J.K. Rowling for publication.[12] She says that she was always known as "Jo"[13] The book's copyright page gives her name as "Joanne Rowling".[14]
  2. ^ The Children's Book Award, The Young Telegraph Paperback of the Year Award, the Birmingham Cable Children's Book Award and the Sheffield Children's Book Award.

References[edit]

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