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'Harry Potter' real-world appeal: quidditch leagues and rock cake recipes

The parallel universe of the Harry Potter books has launched real-life offshoots: A quidditch league is among the most visible, but the books' values are inspiring many others.

By Staff writer / November 17, 2010

The 2009 International Quidditch Association World Cup took place in Middlebury, Vt. This year's, held last week, drew 700 participants.

Kate Olen/Courtesy of Alex Benepe/IQA

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Los Angeles

As leaked bits of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1“ throw online morsels to hungry fans, devotees of the Boy Who Lived and his pals know that though the books and films may conclude, the life inspired by J.K. Rowling’s magical characters lives on.

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Whether it’s in fan fiction, quidditch leagues, or searching the galaxy for the perfect – and actually edible – recipe for rock cakes, the legions of Harry Potter lovers have taken that world to heart and pushed it back out into their own worlds.

This is due, in part, to the very particular sort of fantasy fiction the Potter books are, says Cecilia Konchar Farr, a professor of English at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn. She uses the seven Potter books to teach literary theory.

“They are fantasy, but they do not create so much an alternate world as a parallel world,” she says. This gives readers a sense that Harry and all his friends palpably exist right around them in their present world, she says. “This is not an escapist world, as perhaps the Narnia or even Lord of the Rings series are,” she notes. Her students report that the books teach them “how to live in a world with terrorism, for instance,” she says.

Take sports. Only a true Harry Potter-inspired fan would understand that a game based on soaring broomsticks and a golden, winged, flying ball must be transportable to the real world. When a buddy proposed it to the now 23-year-old Alex Benepe, Commissioner of the International Quidditch Association (IQA), five years ago, he didn’t bat a quaffle.

“It was just a matter of adapting the rules to the things we can do,” he says matter-of-factly. Now the just-incorporated, nonprofit league, having wrapped its second annual world cup event this past week, has launched a membership drive. Some 55 dues-paying members ($200 for colleges, $100 for high schools) help it look forward to a long – and potentially profitable – future.

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