In 2008, in a demonstration of the fact that she could virtually print money whenever she wanted to, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling jotted down about 800 words on a card and sold it for over $32,000.
By way of comparison, some of my posts are 800 words, and all I get are a few “LIKES” occasionally.
Granted, Ms. Rowling is a lot more famous than your average muggle, and millions of people anxiously await anything she writes, even if it’s just a reminder on a Post-it Note. (“Note to self: Write more notes to self. I can get several hundred pounds apiece.”)
Of course, the beloved Ms. Rowling would never write something just to add a few bucks to her own coffers. She would only do it for charity. And the $32,000 I mentioned earlier went to an organization called English Pen which promotes literacy, but only with British spellings. (In fact, it’s actually an organisation.)
I should point out that the 800 words she sold weren’t just any 800 words. They were a brief comic scene featuring Sirius Black and James Potter in their youth, and offered a rare glimpse of Harry’s father, who has previously been mostly dead.
Anyway, nine years after she wrote it, that card with the 800 words is back in the news, and not because it has been turned into a movie. It was recently stolen.
According to The Daily Prophet, I mean The New York Times, the card was taken last month, along with some inconsequential, non-Potter jewelry, during a burglary in Birmingham, England. The police are asking for the public’s help in recovering the work, but they may be doing so rather half-heartedly, since the scene Rowling wrote depicts Sirius and James making fools out of a couple of constables. Here’s a taste of it, picking up after a chase in which the two officers corner the young wizards in an alleyway:
“There was so little space between the car doors and the walls of the alley that (officers) Fisher and Anderson had difficulty extricating themselves from the vehicle. It injured their dignity to have to inch, crab-like, towards the miscreants. Fisher dragged his generous belly along the wall, tearing buttons off his shirt as he went, and finally snapping off the wing mirror with his backside.”
And this is before the two officers mistake the boys’ wands for drumsticks!
Rowling, perhaps, realizes that Britain’s police force may be less than enthusiastic about tracking down such an unflattering representation of the country’s law enforcement professionals (she’ll probably find herself penning a few words on behalf of retired police officers in the near future), so she took to Twitter to take matters into her own hands. Interestingly, however, her tweet was not directed at the culprits. Instead, she addressed anyone who might consider purchasing the hot manuscript. “PLEASE DON’T BUY THIS IF YOU’RE OFFERED IT,” she tweeted in all caps, “Originally auctioned for @englishpen, the owner supported writers’ freedoms by bidding for it.”
I’m a bit puzzled by the logic of this. After all, English Pen has its money, whether the stolen piece is sold on the Sirius Black market or not. And the owner need not lose out. I mean, it’s not like they’ve been robbed of an irreplaceable handwritten Shakespearian sonnet. Rowling can simply recreate the card word-for-word in her handwriting. This would be easy enough to do, since the entire text is available online. I know the owner would no longer have the only copy, but perhaps J.K. could date the replacement and add something about it being the only authorized one or something. “DO NOT BUY ANY OTHER VERSION OF THIS STORY,” she could write.
I think the real reason she doesn’t want you to buy the stolen card (and I know you’re interested), is because it would incentivize similar thefts in the future. That might make people reluctant to get into a bidding war over “Dumbledore’s Teenage Love Affair” when it is auctioned off to benefit the UK LGBT Consortium.
See you soon.