Transcript: J.K. Rowling’s Príncipe de Asturias Award Acceptance Speech

Transcribed by Katy Cartee Haile

Your majesty, your highness, all of the members of the authorities, ladies, and gentlemen, it was a great surprise, and an even greater honor, to be told I had been given the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord. I certainly didn’t set out to teach or preach to children. In fact, I believe that, with rare exceptions, works of juvenile fiction suffer if the author is more intent on instructing his or her readers than beguiling them with a story.

Nevertheless, I have always believed the Harry Potter books are highly moral. I wanted to depict the ambiguities of a society where bigotry, cruelty, hypocrisy, and corruption are rife, the better to show how truly heroic it is, whatever your age, to fight a battle that can never be won. And I also wanted to reflect the fact that life can be difficult and confusing between the ages of 11 and 17, even when armed with a wand.

I’ve been writing stories for 32 years and have never wanted to be anything other than an author. I lost myself in books as a child. They were essential to my existence, and my appreciation of their importance has only increased over time. Children need stories because they need to test their imaginations, try on other people’s ideas, inhabit other lives, send their minds where their bodies are not yet mature enough to go. No film, no television program, no computer or video game can ever duplicate the magic that occurs when the reader’s imagination meets the author’s to create a unique, private kingdom.

Thank you again for this extraordinary honor, which acknowledges that aspect of Harry Potter‘s success of which I am most proud: the fact that so many children, of such widely diverse backgrounds, have chosen to accompany Harry during his five years at Hogwarts. I think it fitting, therefore, in the spirit of the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, to donate my prize money to the International Reading Association’s Developing Countries Fund, which promotes literacy worldwide. Thank you very much.