Rowan Szpieg finds a whimsical escape within the world of Harry Potter

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Rowan Szpieg

Rowan began reading Harry Potter in second grade and hasn’t stopped since.

Over the holiday break of her second-grade year, freshman Rowan Szpieg was sitting down to watch the first Harry Potter film alongside her family.

Yet, unbeknownst to them, Rowan was holding onto a critical tidbit of information: she had yet to finish the book.

With only a few chapters left to go, she had secretly broken the “novel to movie” rule that she valued so highly, fudging the details a bit so that she could participate in family movie night. However, this makeshift plan soon went awry when the conclusion rolled around, and Rowan was completely dumbfounded by one of the biggest plot twists in the entire franchise.

“I had no clue what would happen when [Professor Quirrel] took off the turban,” Rowan said. “That freaked me out.”

Despite this absolute blow to her experience with the series, Rowan persisted. And now, after years of devotion to Harry Potter, she is still reading, watching, and ruminating on the ins and outs of this eminently immersive universe.

As she enters her second semester of high school during a year far different than how she imagined it, Rowan holds onto Harry Potter as not only an escape from the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic but also the day-to-day struggles of her freshman year.

It sounds silly, but it fascinates me seeing the way these people have completely changed generations moving forward. I couldn’t live without it.”

— Rowan Szpieg

“Especially after the third book and movie, [the plot] took a twist,” said Rowan, who sees herself within the many different characters and themes detailed within the series. “It focused more on the teenagers, changing aspects of it for all these different [stages].”

Furthermore, this intrinsic impact has radiated from the collection itself and the pivotal people tasked with portraying the characters on screen. For Rowan—and thousands of other fans—Harry Potter is far more than just a story—it is a family, a security system, and a cast of familiar faces waiting to greet people with each reread or rewatch.

“[This series] has taught me so many things, and not even just the movies and books,” Rowan said. “The actors have played such a huge role in my life, making me who I am.”

Even though the Harry Potter novels and films are shrouded in fantasy and fiction, depth lay beyond each cover, a fact that has continued to and will forever draw people in.

Whether it be the profoundly relatable characters or their ability to tell a story far more extensive than magic, Rowan recognizes that part of her adoration for the series will always be tied to its timelessness. 

“Especially [with] books like [this], that either go into the future or into the past, it’s really cool to see other people’s perspectives,” Rowan said. “We don’t get that a lot. It’s usually just ‘this is what happened’ [and not] experiences from people.”

With any passion comes a group willing to shame people for loving what they love, something Rowan knows plenty about. Yet, she continues to stress that no matter what your qualm with Harry Potter is, the personas represented within and the many different interpretations of the plot are not only valid but broadly welcomed.

Moreover, getting together to talk about a piece of literature and ponder its purpose is an opportunity Rowan would never turn down, and one that she sees as the heart at the center of the Harry Potter universe. 

“I’ve gotten made fun of before for liking Harry Potter, but I know adults who love [it], and they tell me all the time [to]  ‘just be yourself,'” Rowan said. “Do what makes you happy and express that, because that’s who you are, and you can’t change that.”

Growing up alongside this franchise has played a pivotal role in who Rowan has become. From her first second-grade spoiler until now, she has held onto it as an example of who she’d like to be—something she hopes to continue doing as she navigates this next chapter in her life. 

“I can’t go a day without watching something related to Harry Potter,” Rowan said. “It sounds silly, but it fascinates me seeing the way these people have completely changed generations moving forward. I couldn’t live without it.”