Original piece written on July 1st, 2019.
I can finally see the thestrals.
Even though I was an avid lover of the Harry Potter series throughout my early childhood and teenage years, I never gave thestrals, the characters they concerned, nor the implications of their attributes much serious thought…
That is, until today, when I watched my grandmother pass away before my very eyes.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with thestrals, they are fictional, mythical creatures from the Harry Potter book [and movie] series, first introduced in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. J.K. Rowling wrote them such that a person can only see them once they’ve watched someone else die.
These creatures are portrayed as being “spooky” and “grotesque” in aesthetic, yet kind and gentle in nature. More importantly, Rowling conceptualized “the thestral” with the intent of it existing as a living, breathing, beautiful, and mythological symbol of Death.
Despite the fact that I’ve had my issues with her in recent years (both with her behavior as an author and a human being), even I have to acknowledge that she accomplished something pretty spectacular here with her invention of the thestrals.
You see, I realize now that with a few clever flicks of her quill, J.K. Rowling fashioned a species whose magic and importance extends beyond the pages of her books, and deep into the real world of her readers.
In the same way her fictional characters could only see thestrals after witnessing Death firsthand, Rowling’s readers can only truly understand them after experiencing that same, painful phenomenon.