We are all huge Harry Potter fans around this house. We have read all the books and watched all the movies. Several of us (myself and The Girl) to be precise are full fledged HP geeks, reading just about everything to do with the world of Hogwarts (though I draw the line at the fan fiction my daughter buries herself in. )
I could say a great deal about all the things that make the Wizarding World so fascinating, but I want to talk about one in particular today, one that links it to my other favorite fantasy series of all time-The Lord of the Rings, and that is back story.
One of the things that makes the Lord of the Rings feel so real is that J R R Tolkien so carefully created the entire story of Middle Earth. He didn't just say the story was one of many, he wrote the many stories, not necessarily for publication but for his own satisfaction. Since his death in the mid 70's his son has edited for publication many of these stories, which give background to the already published work, and insight into the complexities of his universe.
J K Rowling has done much the same thing with the Harry Potter world and again it shows. The many throwaway references to past wizards and their adventures makes if clear that she has given much thought to the whole history of Hogwarts. She mentions the name of the occasional past headmaster, we are sure she has a list of all of them written down. One feels that Harry is created for Hogwarts, and not the other way around.
The amount of back story Ms Rowling has created became even clearer in 2001 when she publish two small books titled Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The books were being published to benefit British Charities, and to date have raised more that 17 million pounds.
Both books are among those mentioned in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Quidditch is in the school Library, while Fantastic Beasts is one of Harry's textbooks.
Quidditch Through the Ages is a history of the favorite wizarding sport. It tells of many famous players and games of the past, some of which reflect on events in the Harry Potter stories. Fantastic Beasts is designed to actually look like Harry's Textbook, with notes written in the margin by Harry, Ron and Hermione. Entries in this book reflect even more directly on the Harry Potter stories, especially the chapters on giant spiders and various kinds of dragons. Both books feature forwards from "Albus Dumbledore" discussing Britain's Comic Relief, and also cautioning Muggles are in fact totally fictional and none of this exists at all.
I should mention that J K Rowling has written yet another supplemental work, with proceeds to charity: Tales of Beedle the Bard, a book that figures prominently in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. One can only hope that Ms Rowling will eventually publish "Hogwarts: A History" and give us even more glimpses into the Wizarding World as a whole.