Today I have at last succumbed to a full-blown cold. It’s amazing how such a trivial thing can knock you out completely. A friend just posted on Facebook that she has malaria – in comparison, my little cold seems hardly worth mentioning. One of the consequences of this cold, however, is that I am now snuggled up on my sofa watching the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings. I’ve watched it so many times, and yet I never grow tired of it.
I do love wizards, magic, and parallel worlds. The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy was one of my favourite books when I was little. When I read Roald Dahl’s Matilda, I used to imagine that I could move objects with my mind as well. Then there were the Narnia stories, which I came to love thanks largely to the fabulous BBC series in the late 1980s. I must admit that I was very reluctant to start reading Harry Potter, as I felt that J. K. Rowling had copied so much from those other books that I knew and loved. Since then I’ve been drawn into the world that exists beyond Platform 9¾ along with the millions of other Harry Potter fans. Before Christmas, my mum and I spent four hours at the Warner Bros studio tour outside London. I left the tour in possession of a photo of myself on a broomstick wearing the school cloak (in the colours of Gryffindor, of course, “where dwell the brave of heart”), and Hermione’s time turner necklace…
It’s rather ironic that witches have become so popular in today’s culture. In fact I’ve recently discovered that I’m descended, on my mother’s side, from not one but two women who were burned at the stake in 17th century rural Sweden. As many as 71 people, 6 men and 65 women, were beheaded and then burned in the village of Torsåker, in the biggest witch trial in Swedish history. We joke about it, of course – my dad says it explains a lot – but what an appalling part of our history it is. Human nature makes us suspicious of that which we cannot understand. I may not live in the wonderful magical world of Narnia or of Middle Earth, but I can count myself lucky to be living in a place and time where I have had the opportunity to go to school and university, and the choice of believing or not believing in whatever I want.
“All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.”
– Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring