Before Harry there was Alice
Did you know that Harry Potter is the fifth best-selling book worldwide, with over 107 million copies sold and that it is now the best-selling children's novel? But did you also know that before Harry Potter, the best-selling children's novel of all time was Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland? It may seem hard to believe for those of you who know the topsy-turvy world of Wonderland, with its endearing Mad Hatter and its frightening Queen of Hearts who is so fond of yelling for people to be beheaded. Yet it's not just children that these two novels appeal to. Adult readers love both stories too. But why?
As a child, I loved both books equally and have fond memories of my brothers, and even my mum, all fighting over each newly released Harry Potter book, so that in the end Mum decided to read us a chapter every night, like she used to when we were little children! However, it is not until I read the books for a second time, as an adult studying literature, that I realise the depth of the language hidden in both. Did you realise that, in Harry Potter, 'Diagon Alley' is actually 'Diagonally'? And that 'Knockturn Alley' is 'Nocturnally' (at night)? Each, of course, have their own connotation within the magic world.
Both authors tell their stories by using poems too. Have a read of the nonsense poem 'Jabberwocky' in Alice and Wonderland and 'The Sorting Hat Song' in Harry Potter. Both authors loved playing with language and J. K. Rowling uses Latin and obsolete words (words which are old-fashioned and no longer used). Here are a few examples:
- 'Dumbledore' is old English for 'bumblebee', because she pictured Dumbledore humming to himself.
- Apparate and disapparate combine the words 'appear', 'disappear' and 'evaporate'.
- Protego Totalum means 'total protection'.
- Grimmauld Place is a grim (depressing or serious) old place.