Harry Potter and the Importance of Family
Today is the International Day of Families, and it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the role of family in Harry Potter and the role that J.K Rowling’s charity, Lumos, is currently playing in reuniting families around the world.
— Lumos (@lumos) May 15, 2017
Lumos was set up by Rowling in 2005 – then known as the Children’s High Level Group – in order to end the institutionalization of children. Globally, institutionalization is an issue that affects over eight million children, and it often happens in spite of the fact that many of these children have living family members who are unable to care for them because of barriers such as poverty or a lack of social services.
Since its inception, Lumos has spread its work across the world, launched a US branch, held worldwide campaigns and gala events, fundraised for a special education unit in Moldova, worked in Haiti, lit up the Empire State Building, and much more.
Most importantly, Rowling has stressed that the institutionalization of children is a solvable problem and that we can solve this problem in our lifetimes.
The importance of the message that Lumos delivers is one that we, as Harry Potter readers, are aware of. Through the Harry Potter novels, Rowling explores the importance of family and its role in a child’s life, a message that she has taken over to the work done by Lumos. We see in the series how not having a loving family around him affects Harry’s character, and how – throughout the whole series – his one true desire is for a family. He finds this by the end, but we’re aware of how he is affected and how he feels different from his peers because of it.
We also see characters who are affected by family in different ways – Draco and his bullying father, Snape and his difficult childhood, Dumbledore and his guilt, Neville and his parents – there is barely a character who doesn’t have some sort of difficulty in their family life. In fact, in Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore himself remarks on the pain through which he put Harry by placing him with the Dursleys:
Five years ago you arrived at Hogwarts, Harry, safe and whole, as I had planned and intended. Well — not quite whole. You had suffered. I knew you would when I left you on your aunt and uncle’s doorstep. I knew I was condemning you to ten dark and difficult years (835).
There are positive depictions of family, too, including Harry’s perception of the Weasleys in Chamber of Secrets:
What Harry found most unusual about life at Ron’s, however, wasn’t the talking mirror or the clanking ghoul: It was the fact that everybody there seemed to like him (42).
At the Cursed Child gala speech in 2016, Rowling spoke about how this role of family in the book series affected her later work:
The original seven Harry Potter books told a story about love, the absence of it and the need for it. Through the work I’ve been privileged to do with Lumos over the past decade, I’ve come to have a new understanding of why those of us with imperfect families have far better chances of surviving this difficult world than those who don’t.
In a web chat last year, Rowling spoke about how pleased she was that the fandom had taken up the call to action:
They are extraordinary. I’ve never heard of a fandom that’s so engaged, and they are a real activist fandom. I’m immensely proud of them.
The Harry Potter fandom is certainly a dedicated and active one, helped – we’re sure – by the strong messages explored in the series. Our understanding of the world around us was, for many of us, first shaped by Rowling’s words. It is thanks to these words and these characters that we are more likely to show empathy, as shown in recent research.
— Lumos (@lumos) May 15, 2017
But what still needs to be done?
Lumos’s work is nowhere near done, and, sadly, it doesn’t seem like it will be anytime soon. On this international day of family, we can reflect on the great strides that Lumos has made towards ending institutionalization in countries across the world. In working to ensure that no child has to grow up without a family, Lumos is able to bring the same feelings of belonging that Harry felt to those who need it most.
Pledge your support and find out how to get involved with Lumos here.