The new play script being released tonight at midnight is sure to cause some stir, good or bad.
With this in mind, I have some words for the Harry Potter fan community to consider for the inevitable emotional upheavals that will (and have already) occur.
This script wasn’t written directly by JK Rowling
If you look carefully at the cover, you’ll see that JK Rowling is credited with having created the “Original Story,” along with two others, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. Jack Thorne is credited as having written the actual script. So while Rowling played a huge part, huger even than in the movies, the words themselves, unlike her work for the Fantastic Beasts film later this year, are not really her own.
So, though I’m sure Thorne did the best he could to capture the feel of her words and her world, it might not feel quite the same for some readers.
The idea for the project was NOT JK Rowling’s.
Producers Sonia Friedman and Colin Calendar are credited with presenting Rowling with the idea for a straight play dealing with Harry as a father. Before this, I’m sure Rowling was content to leave the ending as it was. Though Rowling had gotten stage offers for Harry before – huge spectacles and musicals. This one she vetted because it was more intimate and character-based.
So just to keep in mind – this is not a cash grab. Rowling would not have worked on this project if she didn’t think it fit the world, but it wasn’t her idea to do this.
The work was written for the stage
You remember trying to read Shakespeare to yourself for a school assignment and maybe having a difficult time envisioning certain things?
While plays should definitely be considered literature, and I’m glad this is being distributed widely in response to the fears of alienating worldwide Potter fans, we must keep in mind that unlike other Potter works, this is a work meant to be performed and said aloud. It may be difficult to envision how actors would inflect certain phrases.
So you might want to find a quiet room and read aloud to yourself if having trouble (or ask your friends and make it a full-cast reading! Why not?).
The published script is NOT the final version of the story.
As a “Special Rehearsal Edition,” the version of Cursed Child being distributed is not quite the version that will premiere live in London on the same date. Production constraints simply wouldn’t make it possible. But between the last dress rehearsal, previews, and the premiere, certain lines could have been changed, whole scenes cut.
It is really awesome that Bloomsbury and Scholastic managed to pull off this publication so quickly, but I’m hoping we see a final version script published at some point, to get the most developed version.
JK Rowling – and authors in general – are allowed to question their own work.
Cursed Child is, in essence, questioning the ending and perhaps other elements of the earlier series. Fans have gotten angry and confused when Rowling would say something, completely conversational, that she maybe regretted or could have done differently.
But, haven’t we all looked back on things we’ve done or made and wondered if we could have done them differently? Time changes perspective on many things. And sometimes, those perspectives do make their way into an official work.
Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, last year, was actually written prior to To Kill a Mockingbird. Clearly, she rethought her original idea, and it resulted in one of the greatest classics of all time.
Lois Lowry’s The Giver was originally meant to be a standalone, but she created three more stories within the world, one of which may take away the mystery of The Giver’s vague ending. Even Ray Bradbury, when creating a stage version of Fahrenheit 451, altered the original ending to reveal the survival of a character who was originally thought to have died, because he realized the possibility had been left open.
Authors are allowed to re-explore the worlds they created, to go deeper, add details, some of which may shift readers perspective. They may go a different direction than you would have, but that’s why we’re all individuals. If done for reasons of creativity and not for money, there is nothing wrong with this exploration, even if we as consumers may not agree. So let’s let authors be authors and agree to disagree.
Rowling and the others did not set out to ruin any childhood imaginings of yours, only to satisfy a natural curiosity, and ask: “what if?“
It may be the eighth story, but it’s not the eighth book.
I don’t love how the marketers are really trying to spin this as a sort of “eighth book,” what with the midnight releases and all. But I get it – why wouldn’t you milk the opportunity for all it’s worth?
Still, let’s keep in mind – Cursed Child will never really be part of the seven-book series that is Harry Potter. It won’t be sold alongside the others in a boxset, or have a matching cover. This is a sequel, an addition, a companion. it may be canon, but the Potter series still stands as a complete work. It’s the Legend of Korra to Avatar the Last Airbender – the works are certainly connected, but you don’t need one to love the other. They are each their own thing.
There’s more than one definition of “well.”
“All was well.” That is how JK Rowling chose to end the seventh book, and it is this point that she chooses to engage with, along with the other two writers, in this play.
But, what does “well” mean?
I can say my life is well. I have lovely family and friends who love me and care for me. I went to a good school, and I’m generally a happy person.
But does that mean there aren’t things in my past that I struggle with? Or that relationships don’t hit snags? Does it mean I don’t worry about the future?
Clearly, Cursed Child is going to deal with Harry’s life and his family’s. And it’s going to challenge the definition of “well” for many readers. But for this reader, “well” can mean a lot of things. “Well,” to me, is about finding balance and building and maintaining resilience. It’s about never giving in to despair. For survivors of a war, that is a challenge, but not an impossible one.
It reminds me of a scene from Legend of Korra. In the second season, the grown children of Aang, the protagonist of the prequel series Avatar the Last Airbender, reunite in a… not-so-harmonious-way.
After a whole two episodes of clashing personalities, dishing out the past, and accusations of favoritism, all of which cast the beloved (and deceased, within LOK) Aang in an unfavorable light. But in the end, the siblings can look at a childhood family photo and say, honestly, “That’s one happy family.”
Family is hard. And for someone who never had a traditional family, I can imagine it’s a little harder for Harry, as it was for nomadic Aang after the events of Avatar the Last Airbender to raise the family that comes to squabble in Legend of Korra. But love was there. And whatever hurt feelings existed, doesn’t mean things weren’t, in general, “well.”
Tolstoy once said, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” But to me that suggests that “happy” equals “perfect,“ which is simply not true. The Weasley family was certainly happy most of the time, but it wasn’t perfect. Stressed parents, children who sometimes felt overlooked, struggles with money, all played a part in the Weasleys’ lives. But Weasleys were happy. They loved each other, they persevered with or eventually sorted out what problems came up, and had enough love to extend to others, like Harry and Hermione. The Weasleys had problems, but they were “well,” at the end of the day.
“Well” was never meant to mean “perfect.” But it does mean, I think, appreciating what you have. Harry Potter can, in the moment we left him on the platform at Kings Cross, feel that “All was well,” even if overworked, even if struggling in everyday life, even if there are more struggles with his children to come. Because he isn’t doing any of this alone anymore.
And for Harry, considering where he began? That’s pretty amazing.
So, how are you guys feeling about the script? Going to a midnight release party? Discuss below!