An International Academic Conference Exploring the Cultural Influence of the Harry Potter Books and Films
Hosted by the University of Limerick Department of Sociology in collaboration with the UL Interaction Design Centre, Dept. of Computer Science and Information Systems.

Dear Mr. Potter (s)

Dear Mr. Potter:
I have many reasons to thank you. Well, you and my 7 year old nephew who introduced me to you in 2001 when we went together to watch ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ in Spanish and we were hooked to your story since then. I remember clearly walking back to my brother’s house, hand in hand with him along the long wide avenue and I asked him:
-       Do you believe in magic?
-       Yeah – he acknowledged with a generous amount of embarrassment.
-       I think you are magical – I added.
-       You too – he giggled and blushed even more generously.
Since then, reading your books became our own second language. It brought him closer to books and English in general, but most importantly for an introverted child like he was at the time, your books gave us a common ground, an open space in which we could talk openly about issues that he was challenged with but would not manage to get out of his entangled guts. The need to know more about your adventures and those of your friends, - please send our regards to the Weasley family in general, especially to George, who we both admire deeply and to Teddy, who we would have both loved to get to know better – strengthened our bond and I became his personal translator between the publication of the book in English and the official Spanish version. His comments about both translations guided me into a MA programme that I enjoyed so much in NUIG and fuelled my research on translation of humour and character voice. So, I guess that’s how I became so well acquainted with your community inside and outside of the books.
My nephew as well is to be blamed for the proposal I want to submit to ‘Magic is Might 2012’. A few days after the sudden unexpected loss of his mother, at 13, only a few weeks after the publication of Deathly Hallows, I found my nephew reading this book in his room. I found it interesting that he would have the peace of mind to sit down and read a book populated with death of characters we had both developed emotional bonds with as well and I asked him. His answer triggered my presentation:
-       It kinda helps.
How much more can it be said and asked from a book? A teenager finds solace in reading, after one of the biggest blows of his life so far – he’s 17 now-. I cannot be more grateful.
You have not only helped us with issues as hard as this. You have also enriched my life with new communities of friends all over the world. I have not only become my nephew’s sidekick through sharing these reading and imagining experiences, but I have also met amazing people from all corners of the world thanks to the internet, that have become lifetime friends because of you, to name but a few because I owe them: Maayan from Israel, Josh from the States, Sadaf from Iran, Amber from Canada… and many many more. We have invented and dissected together the world you inhabit and open up new passageways into further creative realms.
Send my regards to your wife and three little rascals who I am sure are giving you and Mrs. Potter enough to do at the moment,
Pilar Alderete,
Hufflepuff all the way


Oh yeah, now I teach your stories in our new BA Connect - Children Studies in first year at NUIG and I learn from my students on topics such as strategies to listen to kids (Is Draco such a bad guy?), relationships that kids establish with adults and peers  (You and your adult community) & undermining authority (You, Fred and George)'.

Thanks again



Dear Mr. Potter,
When I turned fifteen, I received a book of fantasy artwork from my mother. Engrossed as I was in the beautiful illustrations, it was some time before I noticed the inscription she had written on the inside cover – "Never stop believing in magic". All these years later, her advice has never left me. 
My love affair with all things magical did not start with you, Harry, by any means. By the time I was thrust into the world of Hogwarts at the age of nine I was already well acquainted with wizards and hobbits, fauns and magical faraway trees. But as I turned the first few pages of The Philosopher's Stone, something inside of me just lit up and instinctively I knew that I had happened across something very special. Your story reached out and touched me Harry, and as your tale unfolded I realised that I felt closer to a character in a book than I had ever thought possible.
For some of our journey you were slightly older than me - a hero for me to look up to. Then, for a short period of time, we were of an age and I would spend my days flicking through the pages of your books and imagine meeting you and becoming your friend. I can't tell you how many times I would lie in bed wishing that there had been a terrible mistake and my Hogwarts letter had merely been mislaid (sometimes I still wish this). When I eventually overtook you in age (I was already nineteen when you turned seventeen) I came to view you as I would a younger brother - I worried for your safety (as well as for your choice in girlfriends!). 
I don't think you will ever really know what you have meant to me and to so many others Harry. You introduced countless young people to the world of books and imagination and, in a world where more and more children have given up on reading, that alone makes you worthy of praise. For millions of adults too you have reminded them of what it is to dream and your story has proven beyond a doubt that there is a part of all of us that still clings to that childhood belief in magic.
As I think back on our time together, I remember the advice of my mother and I know that, as long as there are stories like yours out there to discover, I will always, always believe in magic.
Alex Dunne, age 23 and most definitely a Ravenclaw!


Dear Mr. Potter,

I am writing this as a contribution to a conference blog about you. A conference! About you! Who would have thought when I started reading about magic and Muggles, broomsticks and spells, Quidditch and dragons that so much of my work and thinking would be affected by you and your story? But the years have flown very fast, and it has been a crescendo of excitement and attachment to everything about you, Mr. Potter.

At first, I was charmed by that very special type of attention to detail that often signals a job well done, by the humour and irony in the lines of your story and the pull of a universe full of wonder and surprise. As the tale grew more intricate and deep, I actually could not bear to leave it. I should have guessed that your story would take me to depths I could not imagine long before, when in the very first book I read about a child character confronting loss, despair and the irrevocability of death. Even that beginning had little of the innocence of a children's book - but it had all the makings of a great book, one of those that speak to all ages, to all ways of life.
At different moments in life, we have all felt he pain of unrequited love, the sting of loss and jealousy, the jolt of fear, the tug of solitude, anger, despair. We have all experienced the warmth of friendship and passion, the strength of belonging, the embracing balminess of hope and courage. In your story, all these very human things are told to us through unforgettable and complex characters, memorable places and vivid language. Just to take my favourite book of the 7, the "Half Blood Prince", every time I cannot help but weep at Slughorn's remorse and fear, Snape's icy desperation, Dumbledore's steeliness, Ginny's strength, Harry's jealousy, Ron's smugness, Hermione's pride. Anyone and everyone can recognise themselves in your story, with all their qualities and flaws.

I discovered soon that I wasn't the only adult woman eagerly waiting for the next book release when I joined the online groups discussing the books, and the wonderfully excited waiting lines in front of bookshops at Midnight. Everyone was in those queues: from grannies wearing wooly caps to toddlers with marker-drawn scars on their foreheads, everyone talking, discussing predictions, laughing at some crazy theory, hugging the book on the way out of the shop.
Each of those millions of people have different reasons to love you and to have made you part of their life. If I have to pick the one fundamental reason that made me do it, I think that it is the overall message that your story tells about the power of human choice: no one is truly a predestinate, even prophecies are made real only by human acts, people have to live with the consequences of their actions, and, in the end, what triumphs is the strength of heart that it takes to make such important decisions for oneself. "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities" says my favourite character in a famous passage. To me, Mr. Potter, it is this deeply human character that makes your story precious and meaningful. I do treasure my knowledge of it as I treasure a friend, or a memorable moment, or a beloved place: it will stay with me forever and remind me of the power of human imagination and will.

Luigina Ciolfi
Age 36
(and of course you can tell I'm a Ravenclaw)

Dear Mr. Potter,

To say that we have been on a journey together, would truly under estimate the time we have spent together. Growing up with you, I feel like I know you as well as I know myself. I regret the time, the months you spent on my shelf, gathering dust because to the 10 year old me, wizards just weren’t cool enough. But you waited patiently for me to finally give in to the draw of your front cover, the curiosity of where that train went. And where didn’t it take us.
                I have always said, I feel nothing but pity for those pessimists who refuse to read you, because you are ‘just a kid’s series’. Even more so, I pity those who have stepped so far away from their childhood, from the excitement of imagination, the thrill that magic could, even just for those moments, be real. They couldn’t believe it, and they couldn’t enjoy you, and gave up after one or two books. I feel so sorry for them. How could anyone get so far from the children they were? Didn’t they, like I, declare that they never wanted to grow up? Didn’t they follow Peter Pan to Neverland, chase the rabbit down the rabbit hole, discover the chocolate factory and, wait with baited breath on their 11th birthday, for the owl to bring their Hogwarts letter?
                I am a Slytherin. Proudly, I recognise my ambition as being my most defining quality, as well as the importance of friendship. I recognize we probably wouldn’t have been friends for that reason, but I would have been a good few years behind you in school anyway.
I have cheered you on, been nervous for you, sympathised with you, mourned with you, prayed for you, feared for you, in ways I have never felt for the real people in my life. You have transcended the barriers between fiction and real, and the loss and joy you felt, was felt by me on with every turn of the page.
   Just like I have been there with you, through the dark times of your life, you have been there with me through the dark times of mine. The tear blots on the pages are partly from your story, partly from mine. It was wonderful, to escape into that world, when the Muggle world was too hard, and reality too sharp to face alone.
      The waiting was always the best part. The wonder of what ‘might’ happen. Holding on to every news article, every snippet of information.  Terror that something might happen, that you might not get finished. And then, to stand for hours in the rain, surrounded by others, who like me, could not wait a second more than they had to. And the conflict. The rush to finish, without wanting it to end.
       Dear Mr. Potter, you have changed my life, given me the power to hold onto my youth, and a desire to create for other children what you created for me. There is no better gift then that for me. Thank you so much.

Love Always
GrĂ¡inne O’Brien, age 24.