The Boy who Lived

The Harry Potter series consists of 7 best-selling novels by author J.K. Rowling. In this series, Rowling has created a world filled with the most unique and amazing fantasies- dark and light. Filled with magical beasts, birds, mirrors and everything else; this is among the most popular fantasy series ever written. Here are 10 of the best creations of this series:

10. Owl Post

We have heard of pigeons delivering letters. Even eagles and kites. But owls? That’s something new! Imagine waking up in the morning to have your post delivered by a parliament of owls. Snowy owl, barn owl, screech owl; anything will do! And they are fast as well. Imagine having a pet like Hedwig!

9. The Marauder’s Map

Prankster’s Delight

This might look like an empty piece of parchment at first glance, but speak the words ‘I solemnly swear I’m up to no good” and watch it reveal a full map of the Hogwarts castle along with people in it! Animagus disguises, Polyjuice Potion and Invisibility Cloaks cannot fool this map. This amazing map was created by James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew while they were students at Hogwarts.

8. Polyjuice Potion

A draught of this potion allows you to take the form of any person. Just add their essence. That’s some way of impersonating! Kills the need for disguises. Sherlock Holmes would be glad. Don’t use this for animal transformations though. It can cause nasty complications (as Hermione Granger discover to disastrous effect in The Chamber of Secrets).

7. Boggarts

There is one creature that can impersonate anyone (even creatures) without the Polyjuice Potion. That’s the Boggart. Shape-shifting creatures, they take the form of what the person before it fears the most. Wicked! No one knows what a Boggart looks like when it’s alone. Muggles can see them too! Beware.

6. Felix Felicis

Liquid Luck

This golden potion is the dream of everyone. Also called ‘liquid luck’, it makes the drinker lucky for a period of time during which everything he attempts will be successful. It’s highly toxic in large quantities though and its use is banned in all organized competitions like Quidditch. Guess their world has doping scandals too!

5. Quidditch

Undoubtedly the best sport ever created (albeit imaginary), it is played on flying broomsticks. The 2 teams consist of 7 players each (3 chasers, 2 beaters, 1 keeper and 1 seeker). This rough, fast-paced game has one catch. It goes on indefinitely until a seeker successfully catches the Golden Snitch. The longest game, according to Quidditch Through the Ages lasted 3 months. And we curse test matches!

4. The Mirror of Erised

‘Erised’ spelled backwards is ‘desire’. And that tells you what the mirror does. It shows people the innermost desire of their heart. The Mirror of Erised was the final protection given to the Philosopher’s Stone in the Philosopher’s Stone. Only a person who wanted to find but not use the Stone would be able to obtain it. You are the happiest person on the planet if you can see yourself in the mirror just the way you are.

(More about magical mirrors here)

3. Pensieve

Sieve for Thoughts

To quote Albus Dumbledore, “I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.” It acts as a ‘sieve’ for your excess thoughts. Useful during examinations, don’t you think?

2. Dementors

Feeds on Happiness


In the Prisoner of Azkaban, Remus Lupin calls them ‘among the foulest creatures that walk this earth’. And rightly so. Dementors are dark creatures. They feed off human happiness, and thus cause depression and despair to anyone near them (a living analogue of exams). They can also consume a person’s soul (called a ‘Dementor’s Kiss’), leaving their victims in a permanent vegetative state, and thus are often referred to as “soul-sucking fiends” and are known to leave a person as an ‘empty-shell’.


1. The Room of Requirement

A place of your dreams

This room beats all places on the planet. In Dobby, the house-elf’s words, “It is a room that a person can only enter when they have real need of it. Sometimes it is there, and sometimes it is not, but when it appears, it is always equipped for the seeker’s needs” It cannot create food though, as that is one of the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration. So don’t expect 5-star hotels. Still, a room to die for!

There are others that almost made the list- the Hand of Glory, thestrals, remembralls, omniculars and howlers. Not to forget the Sorting Hat. Create your own list! The magical world of Harry Potter is yours to explore! If only we lived there (albeit as muggles). Sigh!

To read more about fantasy literature, click here

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If magical mirrors bring spookiness to fantasy literature, it’s the beasts and birds that bring life to it. From centaurs to dragons, satyrs to unicorns, the A-Z of magical creatures is illustrious. Humans have revelled in creating creatures with powers that we only wish we had ourselves. From breathing fire to raining coins, there is no limit to what beasts and birds can do in our literature.

Symbol of Grace

Dragons are the eternal favourites. There is no magical beast that occurs more widely in fantasy literature. Gigantic reptiles with wings, scales and talons, dragons are the picture of power, strength and virility. Unicorns are no less. These single-horned white animals have the head, body, and tail of a horse and the hind legs of an antelope. Swift and beautiful, they are the symbols of purity and grace. Kappas are different. These water demons look like a green monkey but with a turtle shell.  They delight in drowning people, especially children! Fantasy has produced some interesting hybrids. A sphinx is a creature with a lion’s body and a man’s head (think pyramids). Satyrs are men with the legs of goats, and sometimes have the tail and ears of a horse or donkey. Chimaeras beat them all. They are frightening creatures with the front of a lion, the middle of a goat, the rear of a dragon, and the heads of all three creatures. The Chimaera is capable of breathing fire from its mouths, and its breath is like the fumes in a volcano. Keep safe distance!

Wings of Fire!

Coming to the birds, there’s nothing like the phoenix. This magnificent bird lives for thousands of years, then jumps into flames and is reborn from the ashes. The symbol of resurrection! The ziz is a giant bird that came from the chaos at the beginning of time. Its wingspan eclipses the sun. A raicho is a majestic bird that can mimic the sound of thunder!

Cockatrice and cock of dawn, daemons and demons, fauns and fauths and ogs and orcs; the pool of magical creatures is immense! There is no limit to imagination. And hence, no limits to what these creatures can do. Let the magical fauna amaze you!

For another aspect of fantasy literature, click here!

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“Mirror, mirror, on the wall!

Who’s the fairest of them all?”

Mirrors have been an eternal part of fantasy literature. Their spooky other-worldliness and eerie beauty have caused many fantasies and superstitions to arise about them.  From C.S. Lewis to J.K. Rowling, generations of authors have feasted upon the wide scope for imagination they provide.  It is no doubt justified, hence, to start this series on fantasy literature with some memorable magical mirrors in literature.

Mirrors, mirrors, magical all! Who’s the most famous of them all? Undoubtedly, the silver mirror of Snow White. Both the mirror that showed the queen the fairest face in the land and the epic lines by the Brothers Grimm will remain etched in our memories. In Through the Looking Glass by C.S. Lewis, Alice steps through a mirror into an alternate world. This is one of the best-loved uses of mirrors in literature. The text itself utilizes a narrative that mirrors that of its predecessor, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The “Mirror of Galadriel” in The Lord of the Rings can show the one who dares look upon it, his past, present or future! In Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray , a portrait serves as a magical mirror that reflects the true visage of the perpetually youthful protagonist, as well as the effect on his soul of each sinful act. There is an ancient story of Narcissus, who fell in love with and pined for his own reflection in a pool of water. Alfred Lord Tennyson, in his poem The Lady of Shalott, writes of a mirror that enables a character to look out on the people of Camelot, as she is under a curse that prevents her from seeing Camelot directly. J.K. Rowling has used magical mirrors in plentiful in her Harry Potter series. The “Mirror of Erised” is a classic example that’ll be remembered for a long time. It shows the person who looks upon it the innermost desires of his heart. Dumbledore, the ever-surprising man, remarks that he sees himself wearing a warm pair of socks! The series also has two way mirrors which consist of a pair of mirrors which allow their bearers to always see each other. Any place. Any time. Convenient!

Magic aside, mirrors also have an element of spookiness about them. In ancient Chinese mythology, there’s the story of the Mirror Kingdom, where creatures are bound by magic to sleep but will one day rise again to do battle with our world. Strange movements we see in mirrors out of the corners of our eyes are supposedly the first stirrings of this world as it wakes up. Mirrors are often connected to souls. Vampires, being soulless, show no reflection in a mirror (That’s how you identify them!). It is said that mirrors can trap dying souls. If you go to a mirror on New Year’s Eve with a candle in your hand and call out the name of a dead person in a loud voice, the power of the mirror will show you that person’s face. Spooky? Mirrors are more than mere reflectors of light!


To read about non-magical mirrors, click here!

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The Pleasure of Reading

Any self-confessed book-lover will tell you what an immensely enriching experience it is to read a good book. Books are the ultimate refuge, a place far removed from the cares and worries of the world. They transport you to a magical place, a place which holds you within its grasp and threatens to never let go. It’s difficult to put in words just how much a book can affect you. The tear-stained pages of ‘Little Women’, the worn-out pages of ‘The Lord of The Rings’-they all mean something. Starting young is the key here. Once you get started, it becomes a habit hard to break. It’s not an addiction, but a refreshing liberation. Through reading, you broaden your outlook and gain a greater insight into life and its various shades. You grow as you read and I’ll take the liberty here to declare that there is nothing quite as nostalgic as reading a book from the past again.

Great reading experiences have an immense impact on you. The adrenaline rush on dashing across alleys with Bourne,rooting for Harry and sighing over Jane Austen’s heroine are all indelible memories that you can look back on and smile. They change you, one book at a time. Personally, I learnt a lot more about tolerance and equality in the society by reading Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ than I did during all the moral science classes in school.  I was so taken in with the book that I spent hours thinking over all of the author’s deliberations. Oh, and yes, Harper Lee continues to remain, to this day, my inspiration. The more you read, the harder it is to let go of reading. More than anything, reading is a privilege and a pleasure. This is an ode to all the John Grishams and the Tom Clancys without whom my life would have been miraculously dull.


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Unfinished Letters

The fledgling hours of slumber sees the mind being lead onto a flying carpet of dreams and further contemplation. It is that brief period of time as one introspects whilst being bombarded by a flurry of ideas and thoughts of how things could’ve otherwise been, rather dizzying enough to be quietly lulled to sleep. Dreams that delve into one’s own bits of surrealism and psychedelia. And dreams, with their own interpretations - of happiness, of wealth and of course, eventually of personal completion, a rarity in itself.

This path to completion is probably most profound in the life of a writer - A very common sight being a messy desk full of papers containing what was once a plethora of exciting ideas, now left stale and stagnant. Characters and plots that surfaced from a creative explosion now left unfinished in the confines of dead imagination.

A writer’s mind - A messy desk

Achieving completion is futile. Dealing with in-completion, on the other hand, makes a lot more sense.

Penning an idea is, in many ways, like a relationship - Mysterious and full of passion in it’s consummation. But, in due course of time, the appeal and novelty decays. As the idea takes it’s shape and becomes ever stronger, the writer is increasingly bombarded with a continual furor of new ideas, new plotlines, new protagonists and new antagonists. Eventually, one bond breaks, incompleted, as a new one begins to blossom.

A new, shiny idea is always more attractive than the old one which has eventually found it’s way to become something of a difficulty. Being human, it is a completely natural phenomenon, and one could argue that there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. The only problem arises if the work at hand is thought to be self-sustaining, which it never will be.

As long as one is inclined with an idea, it should be continually worked on, redressed ad reshaped. The idea becomes a part of the writer’s life. This is when it gains personality, a tangible entity. No matter how arduous the project would’ve been, the toils eventually translate itself into the reader who will leaf through it with great excitement. The same fervor that the writer once had.

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I am Malala

Malala Yousafzai has become a symbol for restoring the right to education for every child in this world. She sums up her cause when she says “I want to tell my story, but it will also be the story of 61 million children who can’t get education. I want it to be part of the campaign to give every boy and girl the right to go to school. It is their basic right.”

And Malala has signed up a 3 million dollar deal to do just that - to tell her story. The book, which is to be published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson in Commonwealth countries and by Little, Brown elsewhere, is titled “I am Malala”. It will release by the end of 2013.

Malala Yousafzai reading a book

Malala Yousafzai

A 15-year old girl bagging 3 million dollars to tell her story isn’t something that happens every other day. Many may wonder whether her story is so significant so as to be so mightily priced. But not everyone gets shot in the head by the Taliban and then makes a dream-like recovery only to challenge them again. Malala’s story is not just a fairytale that happened to become real. It is a story of gut, will and determination. It is a story of truth.

Whether Malala’s story deserves 3 million dollars or not is a different question. But every child must know her story. Every child must know what it takes, in certain parts of the world, to educate oneself. The book talks about how girls in Pakistan struggle against the whims of the society, to earn education for themselves. Not every child knows of Malala’s story. But they must. It is time children all over the world realise the value of education - which has somehow come into their hands very easily.

That which is achieved with ease is seldom given due respect. Education is no different. Malala’s story presents the truth about education and the society’s take on it. It wouldn’t be a bad thing to know for all those who enjoy a different side of the truth.

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