I’ve written before about the misconception that fantasy is just an escape and has nothing to do with real life. My own experience proves otherwise. When I made a Sirius Black doll based on a moment in a Harry Potter book, I didn’t realize at the time that I was copying a moment that resonated with me because it reminded me of my divorce.
In 2004, my art doll club decided to make literary characters for a library show. I knew at once what I would make: Sirius Black in his tattered robes, reading the newspaper. In The Prisoner of Azkaban (POA), Sirius tells the others that he broke out of prison because he recognized the traitor Peter Pettigrew (in his rat form) in a photo of the Weasleys. Peter would be at Hogwarts where his godson Harry was, and Sirius was determined to protect the boy.
What I didn’t realize at the time was why this moment, mentioned in passing, mattered so much to me. POA is my favorite Harry Potter book, full of amazing moments, characters, and ideas. There are hippogriffs, time turners, and werewolves. Why did I latch onto an imprisoned wizard reading a newspaper?
The answer came to me after the work was completed. Sirius Black was falsely accused and slowly dying in prison, but the newspaper photo inspired him to break out. Like Sirius, I spent nearly a decade feeling trapped. My first marriage was a mistake and the signs were there early on. But it took me years to find the courage to get out.
I spent a long time in the dark. I was in a deep depression for several years, a mental prison. We moved and I got a new job. I began to see that I was stuck. I needed to move on, but it took me a long time to accept that I would get a divorce. It would mean being on my own, giving up on my dream of having children, and living at a much lower income level for a while.
I’d already been single for five years by the time I read POA, so the book didn’t inspire me to change my life. But reading POA helped me appreciate what I had done. Sirius Black’s escape from prison gave me a new metaphor for thinking about what had happened and what I had done to save myself.
I’ve always been drawn to fantasy. I want to live in a world full of magic, and Harry Potter is one of the ways I do so. But fantasy stories also give me much more — a way to look at the challenges of life through a new lens. They provide metaphorical meanings and dramatic images to help us deal with real life. I suppose a literary novel about a divorce might provide me with comfort, too, but I prefer the magic and imagery of Harry Potter.
What about you? Has a scene in a fantasy novel ever reminded you of an event in your life?