Over the almost twenty years of the website’s existence, we have been challenged for our use of Rowling’s interviews as canon. That’s perfectly understandable, especially since we make a point of NOT including the Potter films. Why one and not the other?
There is an obvious response, that those films were not created by Rowling and the interviews are her actual words. And since we consider canon to be the things that can be verified as being created by Rowling herself, that makes sense.
But the real question for many fans has nothing to with whether Rowling is the source of the information. Rather, it’s whether her answers to questions in interviews should be considered part of the actual, final, official version of her world. In other words, should every musing and idea that she comes up with on the fly be considered canon? Isn’t that somehow making the concept of canon overly loose and broad?
In the case of some authors, I’d say yes. They craft their writing to include everything they want it to include and nothing more, and the drafts and ideas along the way are merely imperfect, incomplete versions of the final perfected piece.
Rowling doesn’t work this way. She creates far more than she can include in the books, and she has stated so. She knows backstories and histories for characters. She lists their houses and families. She works out details of her world for which she will never have room in the pages of a novel or the script for a film. But those details are just as much part her final creation as are the things that do end up on the page. They’re not discarded drafts, they’re final facts.
The way many of these facts have found their way into the hands of fans is through the interviews she’s given over the years. Some interviews have very little in the way of new information but others are treasure troves of canon information. As part of my series where I talk about various canon sources, I’m going to talk about some of those canon-rich interviews from the last couple of decades. I need to acknowledge the amazing work done by one of our retired editors, Lisa Waite Bunker, who create the Accio Quote website. She has archived every one of Rowling’s interviews from the late 1990s to the end of the first decade of the 2000s. If you want to read the interviews for yourself, follow the link on the page for that source on the Lexicon.
The earliest interview which we cite on the Lexicon as a canon source comes from the Electronic Telegraph, 25 July 1998. Rowling was interviewed in London by Helena de Bertodano and the interview was published with the title “Harry Potter Charms a Nation.”
There’s actually no new canon in the interview, but we include it in our Lexicon source collection because of several of Rowling’s comments about her sources of inspiration and her take on writing literature. For example, she says about C.S. Lewis’ books, “Even now, if I was in a room with one of the Narnia books I would pick it up like a shot and re-read it.” She talks about her own books in this way: “I think it’s wrong to think of adult books as ‘real literature’. Real literature can be for people of nine and that’s what I’m trying to write.”
It is interesting that she claims that the stories absolutely will end after Harry’s last year of school. She says, “There will be no Harry Potter’s midlife crisis or Harry Potter as an old wizard.” Cursed Child definitely didn’t fit into the concept of her overall story back then … and many fans don’t think it fits in now either.
But my favorite quote from the interview is this one, about writing down to kids: “People have said the humour is very adult, but I do think they underestimate children. Certainly, some of the kids I’ve met have got every joke and even if they haven’t, it doesn’t actually matter. It annoys me that people think you have to dumb down for children.”
As I watch second and third graders in my school discovering these amazing stories every day, I couldn’t agree more.
In the Harry Potter Lexicon Minute podcast you’ll hear the voices of our editors sharing some of the many little things which delight us about the Wizarding World. In each podcast, just a couple of minutes in length, we’ll talk about anything from cool trivia and interesting canon passages to the latest Wizarding World news. We hope you’ll join us! And we’d love to hear from you as well. Feel free to use the comment section on the blogpost for each podcast to post your thoughts.
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Music: "Winter Chimes" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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