Can you believe Harry Potter has been in our lives for 20 years? That’s right: J.K. Rowling’s first novel, The Philosopher’s Stone, hit shelves a whole two decades ago.
Fast forward to today, and she's one of the most famous and influential writers of our time—and worth a pretty penny too. So it’s hard to believe that her original Harry Potter pitch was turned down by 12 publishers before it was picked up by Bloomsbury. Crazy, right?
To celebrate HP’s 20th anniversary, Rowling’s original pitch has gone on display at the new Harry Potter: A History Of Magic exhibition at London’s British Library.
The first page sets up the story of Harry living with those bastards, the Dursleys. It’s pretty similar to the version that ended up in the book.
“Harry Potter lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin because his parents died in a car-crash—or so he has been told. The Dursleys don't like Harry asking questions; in fact, they don't seem to like anything about him, especially the very odd things that keep happening around him (which Harry himself can't explain)."
“The Dursleys' greatest fear is that Harry will discover the truth about himself, so when letters start arriving for him near his 11th birthday, he isn't allowed to read them. However, the Dursleys aren't dealing with an ordinary postman, and at midnight on Harry's birthday the gigantic Rubeus Hagrid breaks down the door to make sure Harry gets to read his post at last. Ignoring the horrified Dursleys, Hagrid informs Harry that he is a wizard, and the letter he gives Harry explains that he is expected at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a month's time."
“To the Dursleys' fury, Hagrid also reveals the truth about Harry's past. Harry did not receive the scar on his forehead in a car-crash; it is really the mark of the great dark sorcerer Voldemort, who killed Harry's mother and father but mysteriously couldn't kill him, even though he was a baby at the time. Harry is famous among the witches and wizards who live in secret all over the country because Harry's miraculous survival marked Voldemort's downfall."
“So Harry, who has never had friends or family worth the name, sets off for a new life in the wizarding world. He takes a trip to London with Hagrid to buy his Hogwarts equipment (robes, wand, cauldron, beginners' draft and potion kit) and shortly afterwards, sets off for Hogwarts from Kings Cross Station (platform nine and three quarters) to follow in his parents' footsteps.
“Harry makes friends with Ronald Weasley (sixth in his family to go to Hogwarts and tired of having to use second-hand spellbooks) and Hermione Granger (cleverest girl in the year and the only person in the class to know all the uses of dragon's blood). Together, they have their first lessons in magic—astronomy up on the tallest tower at two in the morning, herbology out in the greenhouses where the...”
And that’s it. It’s good though, isn’t it?
Harry Potter: A History of Magic runs from October 20 to February 28. Tickets cost £16 adults, £8 students.