In Harry Potter’s magical world – and how it almost didn’t happen 25 years ago


It’s been 25 years since the bestseller Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone marked the beginning of a global phenomenon.

Conjuring up her young wizard and the world of Hogwarts while stuck on a train, author JK Rowling fought to get her novel accepted by publishers before it became a billion-pound franchise.

It was rejected 12 times before Bloomsbury finally released it to the world in 1997. Rowling wrote a further six Harry Potter books, which have since been translated into 80 languages.

Each book also has its own film adaptation, which launched the careers of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint – and made Rowling a household name.

Here we look back at how it all began…

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JK Rowling publishes the fourth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


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A magical way to make money

JK Rowling, 56, is one of the richest and most famous authors in the world with a net worth of £850million.

She conjured up the idea for her fantasy books while stuck on a delayed train, and they’ve since sold more than 500 million copies worldwide – and grossed around £6.2 billion.

Further profits were made when the books were adapted for the big screen, with the films grossing a further £6.2bn. The final film in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, is the tenth highest-grossing film of all time.

The three friends at the heart of the Harry Potter stories were played by Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson



A valuable first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone



The franchise also made the fortunes of the three actors who played the heroic schoolmates. Daniel Radcliffe, who starred as Harry Potter, earned £89million; Emma Watson earned £40million as Hermione Granger and Rupert Grint – who played Ron Weasley – pocketed around £40million.

Only 500 first editions of the first book were ever made, making them very valuable. In fact, copies can sell for up to £40,000.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – the latest addition to the series – also brought in £77million in royalties for Rowling. And after opening as a London theater show in 2016, it has cost more than £110million.

Many fans visit London’s King’s Cross station to have their picture taken with a trolley at “Platform 9 3/4”. And those wanting a behind-the-scenes look at the magical films have also helped the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden, Herts, earn £47.5million.

Fans can take a Harry Potter-themed journey on the Hogwarts Express steam train


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The Warner Bros. attraction, where visitors can sample butterbeer and wander through reconstructed sets, was a huge hit.

In total, the Harry Potter franchise is estimated to be worth around £32.5 billion.

A global franchise

Before the Harry Potter films were made, JK Rowling was adamant that their wizard boy remain British.

She wouldn’t accept actors of other nationalities for leading roles and even turned down Hollywood star Robin Williams when he offered to play Lupine or Hagrid.

Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets


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That didn’t deter fans, however. Rowling’s books have been published in 200 countries and reprinted in 80 languages. And Harry was voted the most popular film franchise in the US, Canada, Brazil and most of Europe.

Australians and New Zealanders are Harry’s biggest overseas fans, having bought 5.5 million copies of the books. In fact, they’re twice as popular Down Under as they are in the US, with one in ten Americans having bought a Harry Potter book compared to one in five Australians.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been recreated in theme parks around the world


Getty Images/500px Plus)

Theme parks dedicated to the young magician have been built in Orlando, Hollywood, Japan and Beijing. Although set in China, fake versions of the books were created to place the characters in settings more familiar to Chinese readers.

Translators around the world have had the difficult task of making Rowling’s invented words and names – many of which are distinctly British – more accessible to readers in their own country. But the author gave permission for extensive reinterpretations, and in many cases the translators are now famous themselves.

The superstars

Three of Britain’s most famous actors began their careers in 2000 on the set of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were just 12, 11 and 13 respectively when they first arrived at Leavesden Film Studios in Hertfordshire. The trio starred in all eight Harry Potter films and continued to have success after filming wrapped in 2010.

The final film in the original series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2


Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Radcliffe, now 32, starred in the 2012 film adaptation of The Woman in Black and played poet Allen Ginsberg in 2013’s Kill Your Darlings.

Watson, meanwhile, has become a global women’s rights activist, appearing in films such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower and a live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.

The 32-year-old helped found Times Up UK in 2018 and was appointed to a G7 advisory body on women’s rights in 2019.

Tom Felton, Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Matthew Lewis at the premiere of the final Harry Potter film


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Grint, 33, has also continued his acting career, playing Julian Pearce on the Apple TV+ series Servant since 2019. He will appear in a series of shows on Netflix later this year.

Other recognizable faces from the films are Robert Pattinson – who played the hapless Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire but later rose to fame in the Twilight films – and Emma Thompson, who played Prof Sybill Trelawney.

Helena Bonham Carter also appeared in the franchise as the evil Bellatrix Lestrange, while the late Alan Rickman portrayed complicated teacher Severus Snape.

Dame Maggie Smith played Hogwarts professor Minerva McGonagall and Robbie Coltrane played the lovable giant Hagrid.

The goods

Mega-fans dressed up as their favorite witch or wizard used to queue for hours to pick up the latest Harry Potter book – sales started at midnight on the day of release.

A total of seven books were written between 1997 and 2007 and sold worldwide. But it wasn’t just the books that made money, as the cult following they garnered quickly wanted more.

Fans can buy a 5,500-piece Lego set of Diagon Alley and many other goods



A range of collectibles were soon created to capitalize on the Potter phenomenon. Fans could buy Lego sets, stationery and clothing from Primark, which had its own Harry Potter collection.

An online store called House of Spells was also devoted to the franchise, giving fans the ability to purchase candy, spells, potions, and even their own wand.

Wealthy film lovers have also bid on items that have fetched thousands of pounds at auction. A linen coat belonging to Harry Potter’s uncle Sirius Black and worn by Gary Oldman in the third film sold for £13,000 in 2007.

In 2015 one of Harry’s famous round glasses sold for £15,224 and in 2016 a Hogwarts acceptance letter used in the first film sold for £7,000.

However, the most expensive Potter item ever sold was one of seven manuscript copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Each version was handwritten and illustrated by JK Rowling – and one fetched £368,750 at auction in 2007.

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