For the Birds Radio Program: Harry Potter
I’m writing this on July 19, 2007, the night before the day before the final volume of the Harry Potter series is legally available in bookstores. At midnight on the 21st, books will finally be out there and we can find out what happens to our favorite wizards, muggles, squibs, and owls. I’m of course most focused on those owls. Will poor Errol, the Weasley family’s ancient, clumsy Great Gray Owl survive? How about the tiny, animated little Pigwigeon, Ron’s scops owl? How about Malfoy’s Eagle Owl? That one seems to have a thankless job—but in the end, will Malfoy turn into a good wizard and lose that Slitherin mean streak that probably affected his owl as much as his Griffindor foes. I’m of course hoping that Percy will have a sudden change of heart, save his family, and that his Screech Owl will play a major role in his turning away from the dark side. And of course I’m most concerned about Harry’s every faithful and dignified Snowy owl, Hedwig. She’s been such a part of Harry’s life that it would be heartbreaking to imagine him losing her. In the wild, Snowy Owls have lived to be over 16 years old. In the world of Harry Potter, owls get along with one another, including owls of other species, surprisingly well compared to wild owls, but are lugged about in cages which put them at dire risk when they’re popped into a magical car that ends up crashing into a whomping willow tree—so far Hedwig has survived these dangerous situations, and I’m sure hoping she’ll continue to do so in the seventh book.
Some ornithologists and conservationists decry the Harry Potter books for their focus on caged, captive owls, fearing children and even adults will be inspired to want an owl of their own after reading the series. That has never seemed to me to be a significant danger—in the United States, most laws protecting wild birds aren’t as well enforced as they should be, but virtually everyone knows keeping owls as pets is illegal and catching and taming a wild owl isn’t really a possibility for hardly anyone anyway. So I’ve never found that a realistic concern. And on the contrary, I find J.K. Rowling’s use of owls to have inspired millions of children to learn more about these exquisite creatures. Ever since the first book came out, I’ve had an easy time presenting programs about owls for children—they always recognize the species instantly, not because the books describe them but because the kids research anything to do with Harry Potter. And anything that gets kids interested in the natural world is a good thing.
I’ll be picking up my book at midnight at Northern Lights Bookstore’s Harry Potter Party to be held at Duluth’s Depot. For the very last time, I’ll be dressed as Professor McGonagowl, and Archimedes will accompany me—he’ll be doing some cross-species acting as Pigwigeon, since the mere thought of pretending to be Percy’s screech owl completely wigs him out. The moment the party’s over, I’ll hunker down and start reading, and won’t stop till I’ve finished the book. Unless a real Snowy Owl starts hooting outside my window.