Wednesday, July 25, 2007

for a while there: postscript to a phenomenon

SO IT WAS TOLD: In the ancient times, Celtic druids who lived in what is now called Scotland were handy with wands.

Called a "man with the wisdom of the woods," a druid deemed the trees in the forest as magical and sacred: The cedar is the womb of energy, life-giving. An ash tree is useful for healing. The strong elm tree can enrich the power of a spell. A burning birch bark is a potent love potion.

Nowadays, the druid might as well be in the realms of the dead in the wake of trees massacred to make paper.

But when paper are transfigured with the existence of text, reincarnated in the shades of bookstores and libraries, I believe the druids are waving their wands again. So that the stardust of insight and enchantment, revelation and transformation will be upon us. And the world will be breezy again, brighter with the reverb of green, green, green.

* * *

"It's really the wand that chooses the wizard, of course." So explains Mr. Ollivander, the moon-eyed manufacturer and merchandiser of wands along Diagon Alley in J.K. Rowling's phenomenal series.

Of all Rowling's characters, Ollivander (played by John Hurt in the movies) is the one who intrigued me the most. To begin with, his first name has never been revealed, as far as I can remember. Never mind if he is renowned as the best wandmaker in the enchanted part of Britain.

No one, it seems, has bothered to ask his first name though his popularity has preceded him for never forgetting every wand he has ever sold, greeting people by rattling off the specifications of their magical sticks.

Come to think of it, there would be no Hogwarts school of wizardry and witchcraft, no epic battle between Harry Potter and Voldemort without Ollivander's wands.

I've been fascinated, too, of the fantastic effort it possibly took for him to secure the core materials to make those wands: the heartstring of a dragon, the feather of a phoenix, the tail hair of the unicorn. Wow!

He obviously had so much power in his hands, and yet he remained at the background--like God--throughout the seven-book series. Yes, he was called upon to perform the "weighing of the wands" at the Triwizard Tournament, but always he just faded out and away from the thick of things .

Truth to tell, I wished there was more of him in those books, the way Zeus often made his presence felt in mythology.

Because I wanted so much to honor how he loomed large in my imagination, I chose to name my eldest child after him and an archangel.

Wish my son Gabriel Ollivan will discover, too, how the wand of words can spring a forest of possibilities.


Writers rock the world. And if my children would deem me nutty in the future--if books would become extinct, God forbid--for daring such a declaration, I will tell them this bit of history when reading hooked children and adults alike:

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final volume of J.K. Rowling's all-conquering fantasy series, sold a mountainous 8.3 million copies in its first 24 hours on sale in the United States, according to Scholastic Inc.

No other book, not even any of the six previous Potters, has been so desired, so quickly. Deathly Hallows averaged more than 300,000 copies in sales per hour — more than 5,000 a minute. The $34.99 book, even allowing for discounts, generated far more revenue than the opening weekend of the latest Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which came out July 10.

"The excitement, anticipation, and just plain hysteria that came over the entire country this weekend was a bit like the Beatles' first visit to the U.S.," Scholastic president Lisa Holton said.

That news, of course, would be enough a last laugh of, if not a lullabye for, a druid.

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