It’s a story often used to uplift the hearts of aspiring authors looking for their big break: if you ever feel like giving up, just remember, J.K. Rowling was rejected by not one, not two, but twelve publishers before Bloomsbury decided to take a chance on the young boy wizard and the unknown author who’d created him.
That’s right. Twelve. Imagine being one of those guys.
Harry Potter Original Synopsis
Now, twenty years since the publication of The Sorcerer’s Stone, it’s impossible to imagine a world without Harry Potter. To celebrate the anniversary, the original synopsis Rowling had sent to publishers back in 1995 is being displayed at the British Library as part of its “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” exhibit. You can read a piece of it for yourself here, and try not to cry:
Harry Potter lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin because his parents died in a car-crash — or so he has been told. The Dursleys don’t like Harry asking questions; in fact, they don’t seem to like anything about him, especially the very odd things that keep happening around him (which Harry himself can’t explain).
The Dursleys’ greatest fear is that Harry will discover the truth about himself, so when letters start arriving for him near his eleventh birthday, he isn’t allowed to read them. However, the Dursleys aren’t dealing with an ordinary postman, and at midnight on Harry’s birthday the gigantic Rubeus Hagrid breaks down the door to make sure Harry gets to read his post at last. Ignoring the horrified Dursleys, Hagrid informs Harry that he is a wizard, and the letter he gives Harry explains that he is expected at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a month’s time.
To the Dursleys’ fury, Hagrid also reveals the truth about Harry’s past. Harry did not receive the scar on his forehead in a car-crash; it is really the mark of the great dark sorcerer Voldemort, who killed Harry’s mother and father but mysteriously couldn’t kill him, even though he was a baby at the time. Harry is famous among the witches and wizards who live in secret all over the country because Harry’s miraculous survival marked Voldemort’s downfall.
So Harry, who has never had friends or family worth the name, sets off for a new life in the wizarding world. He takes a trip to London with Hagrid to buy his Hogwarts equipment (robes, wand, cauldron, beginners’ draft and potion kit) and shortly afterwards, sets off for Hogwarts from Kings Cross Station (platform nine and three quarters) to follow in his parents’ footsteps.
Harry makes friends with Ronald Weasley (sixth in his family to go to Hogwarts and tired of having to use second-hand spellbooks) and Hermione Granger (cleverest girl in the year and the only person in the class to know all the uses of dragon’s blood). Together, they have their first lessons in magic — astronomy up on the tallest tower at two in the morning, herbology out in the greenhouses where the
Fans of the series will immediately recognize the details—young Harry Potter lives with horrible aunt and uncle before Hagrid whisks him away to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he meets best friends Ron and Hermione, magical antics ensue, etc.
The synopsis, in all its type-faced, wrinkled glory, is weirdly endearing, humbling, an intimate look at Rowling’s process—you can almost see her sitting down in front of her computer, hear the clicking of the keys that would ultimately change the world. That may sound like an overstatement, but the influence of Harry Potter can’t be denied, and it’s incredible to think that, thanks to twelve publishers, the entire series was almost lost. Thank goodness for Bloomsbury.