We’ve all heard the story of how J.K. Rowling had her pitch denied repeatedly when she shopped the idea for Harry Potter around.
Now, 20 years after the first book was published, we get to see the synopsis that so many publishers passed on as part of a display in the British Library’s “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” exhibition through February.
“Over a period of nigh on a year, the book was turned down by more or less every major publishing house in the U.K.,” Rowling’s original agent, Christopher Little, HuffPost. “Various reasons were given including the story being too long, the fact that a story set in a children’s boarding school might feel too ‘exclusive’ to many readers, etc.”
The synopsis reads, in part:
The Dursleys’ greatest fear is that Harry will discover the truth about himself, so when letters start arriving for him near his eleventh birthday, he isn’t allowed to read them. However, the Dursleys aren’t dealing with an ordinary postman, and at midnight on Harry’s birthday the gigantic Rubeus Hagrid breaks down the door to make sure Harry gets to read his post at last. Ignoring the horrified Dursleys, Hagrid informs Harry that he is a wizard, and the letter he gives Harry explains that he is expected at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a month’s time.
To the Dursleys’ fury, Hagrid also reveals the truth about Harry’s past. Harry did not receive the scar on his forehead in a car-crash; it is really the mark of the great dark sorcerer Voldemort, who killed Harry’s mother and father but mysteriously couldn’t kill him, even though he was a baby at the time. Harry is famous among the witches and wizards who live in secret all over the country because Harry’s miraculous survival marked Voldemort’s downfall.
So Harry, who has never had friends or family worth the name, sets off for a new life in the wizarding world. He takes a trip to London with Hagrid to buy his Hogwarts equipment (robes, wand, cauldron, beginners’ draft and potion kit) and shortly afterwards, sets off for Hogwarts from Kings Cross Station (platform nine and three quarters) to follow in his parents’ footsteps.
Harry, Ron and Hermione discover the schoool’s secret passageways, learn how to deal with Peeves the poltergeist and how to tackle an angry mountain troll: best of all, Harry becomes a star player at Quidditch (wizard football played on broomsticks).
The synopsis is also included in the new book, Harry Potter: A Journey Through A History of Magic.
You can read the whole thing here.