This was the word on the minds of thousands of people today as news broke of the death of actor Alan Rickman, who portrayed Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies. Though he was a talented actor and appeared in many films and plays, I only knew Rickman from his role in Harry Potter. Snape wasn’t my favourite character, but he was an intriguing one – and the way people have reacted to his death is a moving reminder of the strong influence of beloved fictional characters.
If anyone ever doubted the power that a fictional character holds, they need to look no further than any social media platform. Today my timelines were filled with people grieving not just the death of Alan Rickman, but the death of Snape too. It seems that, though (spoiler alert!) Snape died in the final Harry Potter installment – for both the book and movie – he lived on through the man who played him.
There is no shortage of compelling characters in the Harry Potter series, with characters like Luna Lovegood who searches for nargles in mistletoe (cue Cho Chang asking, “What’s a nargle?”) and even Voldemort (or He Who Shall Not Be Named, sorry Ron) with his past history as a student at Hogwarts. No character, however, has prompted as much discussion and debate as Snape has.
The scene I associate most with Snape is when he coolly greets Harry on his first day of Potions class by stating, in his signature stern tone, “Ah, yes. Harry Potter – our new celebrity.” Snape’s distaste for Harry only grows stronger as the series progresses; so it’s a big plot twist when it turns out that he was only trying to protect Harry because he loved Lily, Harry’s mother.
Snape’s love for Lily, and his iconic utterance of the word “Always” in response to being asked if, “after all this time,” he still cared about her, is part of what made Snape’s fan base so great. Some people still thought Snape was evil, though – even JK Rowling seemed conflicted on Snape’s intentions:
Fiction is, true to its name, not real; but as JK Rowling has said, “the stories we love best do live in us forever.” The Harry Potter series impacted so many people’s lives in meaningful ways that it’s as if Hogwarts really does exist. There might not be a castle where magic is taught, but there is a place in fan’s hearts where a magical happiness resides. As Dumbledore said, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
Alan Rickman – Severus Snape – was a light in the Harry Potter series, and in the lives of fans he impacted. I am sad to see his time on Earth cut short; but he will live on forever and always through the stories we tell.