We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us how Harry Potter changed their lives. In celebration of September 1, the day we go back to Hogwarts, here are some of their most heartwarming stories...
1. "It made me take on my life as my own. J.K. Rowling probably saved my life with that line."
"I'm 28 now, and I didn’t get into Harry Potter when I was in school. I didn’t read much, so just thought I’d wait until the films came out, but the films came and went, and life got in the way.
"I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. It means I have variable and extreme emotions, and the slightest phrase that anyone utters without thinking can wound me deeply, and for a long time. The most frustrating thing was when people would tell me it was 'all in my head'. When I finally got around to reading the books, I loved them instantly and quickly made it to Deathly Hallows. There, I read my favourite quote from Dumbledore: 'Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?'
"That one line made me take on my life as my own. I now understand that although my mental health may be telling me things that aren’t real or making me feel things that I probably shouldn’t, it is real to me, and that’s what matters. J.K. Rowling probably saved my life with that line."
2. "My English was OK, but not great, and I decided to train myself to read the books."
"I’m French and grew up in France, mostly without friends. I always loved reading, and when I was around 9 I discovered Harry Potter. I instantly loved it, obviously. I read the first three books on loop, then excitedly read the fourth when it came out. After that, I realised that it took months and months for the new books to get translated to French after they were published in English, and I found that unacceptable. My English was okay, but not great – I was, after all, 11 – so I decided to train myself. Given that I knew the first four books by heart, I figured that reading them repeatedly in English would help. I badgered my parents until they ordered the English versions off Amazon, and did just that.
"When Order of the Phoenix came out, I immediately ordered it in English, and realised that I mostly understood it. I continued to read the other books in English, and I eventually became fluent. By the time I was 16, and had to look at my university options, I decided to try and get into a university in London. I had rubbish grades at my baccalaureate but got 19/20 in English, which gave me an OK grade overall. I got an offer from a university in London, moved here, finished my degree, and got into journalism.
"Three years later, I’m writing this from the BuzzFeed office in London, which I’m confident would never have happened if it hadn’t been for Harry Potter."
– Marie Le Conte, BuzzFeed Media and Politics Reporter
3. "Harry Potter gave me a friend when I felt like I had none."
"When I was 9 years old, my family moved from Virginia to Germany. My dad was working extra hours at his new job, my mom was back in the States at my dying grandmother’s bedside, my big sister had just gone off to college, my big brother was trying to figure out high school in a foreign country, and I was dealing with a huge culture clash as the new kid with no friends.
"A month or two into the school year, a teacher started playing the Philosopher's Stone audiobook to our class. I instantly fell in love, and borrowed the book to read the rest on my own. I sped through the first three, and received Goblet of Fire for Christmas that year.
"Harry Potter gave me common ground to bond with the kids in my class who had seemed so intimidating to me beforehand, and the series continued to help me make friends as my dad’s job took us to Florida, Nepal, Austria, New York, and England. Harry Potter gave me a friend when I felt like I had none, and introduced me to a new world when I was intimidated by the one I was living in."
4. "It was the first time in my life that I could follow and enjoy a story, and my confidence at school and in life grew and grew."
"I was 10 years old, and an undiagnosed dyslexic kid who couldn’t read. I hated going to school. I felt so stupid, especially in English, pretending to follow what was going on, while all the words were jumping around on the page.
"My mum tried to help me as much as she could, and one day brought home Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. She had been told by her colleagues at work that all the kids were reading it. That night I went to bed and picked it up. It was the first time in my life that I could follow and enjoy a story. I devoured the series as it came out: It gave me the confidence to read other novels, and my confidence at school and in life grew and grew.
"I ended up doing a degree in English literature, which definitely would not have happened if I hadn’t picked up that first Harry Potter book."
5. "Having Hogwarts to escape to helped me get through the days during my life in the hospital."
"My first son was born with a very serious heart defect, and we lived at the local children’s hospital for the entire six months he was alive. During the last two months of his life, I decided to read the Harry Potter books. Living in an Intensive Care Unit is very emotionally draining, and having Hogwarts to escape to helped me get through the days during my life in the hospital.
"I’m currently pregnant with a heart-healthy child, who will be named Harry."
6. "It's been 19 years, and I still believe if it hadn't been for that book I might not be here today."
"I was 8 years old when the first book came out, and I had just come down with a terrible case of food poisoning. The doctors said I may have less than a 50 per cent chance of getting through it. It was so bad I lost ten pounds in a week, and friends and family were coming to my house with gifts practically saying goodbye.
"I was terrified, but I was in so much pain that I was starting to just not care anymore. That is, until I saw all the news stories on TV about Harry Potter. I just had to read it. It was the first thing I’d shown interest in in a while, so my mom immediately went and got it for me. I was hooked from the start.
"It’s been 19 years, and I still believe if it hadn’t been for that book I might not be here today. It gave me my sense of wonder and will to live back. Thank you always, J.K. Rowling, from the bottom of my heart."
7. "Harry Potter gave me an escape from the real world when I needed it most."
"When I was 6 years old, my older brother passed away. This was understandably a hard time for me and my family, and as I was so young I wasn’t allowed to know the details of how he died. I had no idea what had happened, and this made it really hard for me to come to terms with losing him.
"Not long after he died, a neighbour lent me a copy of Philosopher's Stone, and I instantly fell in love. Rowling’s words transported me to a world full of magic, one that distracted me from the tragedy in my own life. My dad and I would take it in turns reading a chapter when it was my bedtime. After that, I always felt a deep connection with the wizarding world and the intricate characters it held.
"The heavy amount of loss that occurs in the books helped me to understand that I was far from alone in my situation. Harry Potter gave me an escape from the real world when I needed it most, and for that reason it will always be a part of me."
8. "She saved my life, and I can honestly say that I have never felt this healthy and happy."
"I have always suffered with anxiety and depression, but didn’t start to get help until I was in my twenties. As part of my cognitive behavioural therapy, my therapist told me to think of a person who was non-judgmental and imagine what they would say to me when I was feeling particularly down on myself or anxious.
"I thought of Luna Lovegood. She saved my life, without a doubt. I always think of her when I’m down and no matter what, she brings a smile to my face and makes me realise that it’s OK not to be perfect, as long as I’m myself. It’s hard to explain to people just how much Luna means to me, but having had mental health issues since I was a young child I can honestly say that I have never felt this healthy and happy."
9. "It taught me that life can throw all the crap imaginable at you and it won't always be easy, but you'll find a way through it."
"I have a degenerative condition which, over time, has led to my needing a wheelchair, communication aid, ventilator and tube feeding. I’ve also had multiple episodes of life threatening illness due to my disability. I identified with Harry because he felt so different from everyone else and attracted unwanted attention everywhere he went. I was touched by Harry’s friends standing by him despite the dangers they faced, as it reminded me of my friends and family standing by me even when it causes them anxiety, or when I’ve been too ill or tired to be great company.
"Most importantly, the series taught me that life can throw all the crap imaginable at you and it won’t always be easy, but as long as you have people who you love and who love you in return, you’ll find a way through it."
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.