JK Rowling

by Riya Anand from San Diego, California in United States

Behind her world of magical spells, mysterious castles, and fantastic beasts, there is a woman with a pen. A woman who was able to take this pen and redraw her life through her sheer creativity. A woman named JK Rowling. Currently, Rowling is a millionaire. This is to no surprise, as she is the brains behind the magic of Harry Potter. However, if there were a spell that could reverse time and reveal the past, Rowling’s would have seemed to have belonged to another person. Surely, the past of an eccentric author who has a net worth of a billion dollars could not be of a single mother fighting poverty and struggling to find the means to survive. Yet this was exactly the reality for Rowling, and her story is often overshadowed by her success as a female author. As a single, poor mother, JK Rowling overcame her severe hardships through determination, made an astonishing rise from the bottom to the top with a pen in hand, and nobly used her newfound fame to provide for the less fortunate, thus making her a true hero to literature and humanity.

JK Rowling’s background was an important factor in her success as an author. Joanne Rowling was born near Bristol, England on July 31, 1965. As a child, Rowling and her family were always on the move, proving it hard for her to make real friends. Eventually, Rowling did make good friends with her neighbor Ian Potter, a boy who would be a model for her novels later on in life. Rowling described herself as a short, bossy girl with thick glasses who was “terrible at school” (Bethune). Ironically her self-image as a child matched up to the protagonist of the novels Rowling would later write: Harry Potter. As a student, Rowling found herself drifting away from math and sciences and into the role of the bookish nerd who loved to read and write. She continued to foster this love for reading and writing throughout her teens and into her young adulthood. After studying French at Exeter University, Rowling worked at a publishing firm to send out rejection letters to developing authors. When the idea of Harry Potter first struck Rowling, she was caught between college grad and pursuit of life's passions (Bethune). This meant that the idea of Harry Potter came to Rowling very early on, yet she hadn’t taken action upon it due to what seemed an endless amount of career paths to take. Thus, it seemed as if Rowling would have a promising future, yet it was just the beginning of several tragedies to come. 

138777Kings Cross, a train station that gave Rowling a lot of inspiration her adulthood, Rowling encountered many hardships that she was forced to overcome with determination and perseverance. Rowling was met with her first challenge fresh out of college when her mother passed away after years of fighting multiple sclerosis ("JK Rowling"). And unfortunately for Rowling, her troubles did not stop there. Determined to bury the painful passing, Rowling impulsively fled to Portugal, where she met her future husband. The couple suffered from an emotional miscarriage, but Rowling was set on having a family, and after a few months the couple gave birth to their daughter Jessica ("JK Rowling"). All seemed well until friends of the couple started raising suspicions about their relationship: “Friends of Rowling had concerns with Rowling and Arantes’s relationship. They were right as Arantes became increasingly abusive. In an ugly fight in 1993, Arantes slapped Rowling, and threw her out and kept Jessica. Later, Rowling came back and took custody of Jessica” (Ott). It was at this point that Rowling’s world shifted. The life she once knew was swept away after her mother's death, and the life she had rebuilt was broken due to the domestic violence she had suffered at the hands of her partner. Yet Rowling still had the willpower to stand up to Arantes and take back her child. Now a single mom to her infant daughter, Rowling left her life in Portugal and hopped on a flight to the UK, intent on creating a good life for Jessica. By the time she was on the plane, Rowling had her life in her luggage, along with the first three chapters of Harry Potter (Ott). This shows nothing but true strength from Rowling. Before her husband, Rowling had suffered the loss of her parent, and with Arantes, she suffered a miscarriage and abuse. But her true courage, grit, and determination aided her in leaving her toxic relationship and into starting a new life for her and her daughter. Rowling even went so far as to file a restraining order against Arantes, as a permanent reminder that he would never hurt her or Jessica again (Ott). Although it seemed as if things were looking up for Rowling, this time would mark the start of the darkest period in Rowling's life, a time filled with depression, extreme poverty, and suicidal thoughts (Ott). Rowling began to live off benefits through her extended family and was desperately trying to find a way to provide for her daughter. Despite this, she held her head up high, and motivated herself to seek help: “Harboring thoughts of suicide, Rowling realized she needed to get her act together, for the sake of her daughter, if no one else. Her outlook improved after therapy, and she set her sights on a one-year teaching training course, though there was still the matter of unfinished business with the boy wizard who flitted through her imagination” ("JK Rowling"). She began, as the JK Rowling Encyclopedia puts it, “... the long march through her manuscript.” And it was this “long march” that conveys the true resilience that Rowling carried. At that point in her life, she had absolutely nothing, except her daughter and her mind. When somebody has nothing, there is usually no motivation, no incentive to change life for the better. But Rowling, despite no self-reward, still mustered determination and persevered for her daughter. She was, in some ways, her daughter’s hero. The journey Rowling undertook to overcome her challenges was long and hard, yet it was only the beginning of a new chapter of life. 

138774The Elephant house where Rowling spent her time writing her books was simply trying to make ends meet with her writing, but to the surprise of both her and the world of literature, she was on the unexpected climb to success. Putting ideas on paper, Rowling began drafting the first book in what would eventually become the Harry Potter series. Hunched over local cafes in Scotland, Rowling sacrificed time, self-needs, and, frankly, hand pain, “...she wrote the drafts of her book in longhand because she could not afford a used typewriter, much less a computer” (Bethune). Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has a total of 352 pages, meaning that Rowling, in her drafts, committed to a 352-page journey solely by hand. This dedication is a sign that she truly was on a path to a better life. When one has hit rock bottom, the only place for them is to go up, and go up indeed is what Rowling did, through determination and perseverance. As a result of her hard work, Rowling was granted £8,000 from the Scottish Arts Council, enabling her to make a final copy of her drafts (Ott). The rest follows like a fairytale; Rowling eventually published her first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. At this point, Rowling had a fortune which surpassed 150 million, and her financial success did not stop there; by the time Rowling released her fourth book, as Brian Bethune put it, “It sold an unheard-of three million copies in the first 48 hours--the fastest-selling book in publishing history. The novel also became the best-selling book of 2000, selling seven million copies in hardcover.” This woman who had nothing was able to turn her ideas into something. This “something” meant that in just over a decade, Rowling wrote her way out of poverty, and into the first person to become a billionaire through writing. One of the most infamous quotes in the Harry Potter series is, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times if only one remembers to turn on the light” (Rowling, 187). Rowling weaving this quote in throughout the series also connects to her own life, and how she was able to overcome her depression by finding the light in her own morale. Rowling furthered this idea of her finding her positivity and what got her through her depression: “I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. My greatest fears had been realized and I was still alive and I still had a daughter whom I adored. And I had an old typewriter and a big idea” ("JK Rowling"). Fueled by the positives in her life, Rowling was able to climb out of her hole of fear and insecurity and into becoming a successful author. Rowling’s ability to see the good things, although they were hidden, is what individualizes her as a hero. Not only did her writing carry benefits for her, but Rowling’s writing took the world by storm, and captured the hearts of “potter-heads” all over the globe. Especially Bridget, who explained what Rowling meant to her at the 5th Harry Potter book release, “Bridget said she's read each of the four previous novels 11 times, and planned to read the new book to her parents on the drive home--’if I don't finish it tonight’” (Jones). Bethany is one of many, but it is her true excitement that conveys how much this series means to her, how much Rowling has touched this teen's heart through writing. Only a true hero of literature, like Rowling, could be credited for reviving the children's market for books, says Brian Bethune. This Harry Potter series was a breath of fresh air because it was new and inventive. People all around the world partook in the “Pottermania”, because the books were simply too good. The woman in the cafe was no longer just a woman. She was JK Rowling, the famous author, and billionaire. 

138776The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a book Rowling originally sold for LUMOS charity profits soon as Rowling hit billionaire status, she knew that she had to use her newfound success to the advantage of the less fortunate, showing her true nobility and kindness. Within days of reaching the billionaire checkpoint, Rowling actually lost that title due to her donating almost 160 million dollars worth of her profits to various charities (Bethune). The kindness here can be seen in the time frame of donation. Rowling lost her billionaire status in days, not weeks, not months, but days. The complete lack of hesitation shows Rowling’s true character, a woman who had endured so much, yet was still willing to give back. For her mother Anne, Rowling donated 10 million to research on multiple sclerosis ("JK Rowling"). It was this habit of donations that sparked an idea in Rowling. For a while now, Rowling had been known as this hero of literature, the first billionaire through writing, and the successful, eccentric author. But only Rowling knew the sacrifices and hardships that she had to endure to get to such an honorable status. The personal significance behind Rowling’s donations was because of Jessica. Rowling had known what it was like to be a parent who wanted to give their child the world but simply could not. This is what motivated Rowling to found Lumos, a charity that protects child welfare, and provides money to needy families in order to keep their children out of institutions (Bethune). Rowling never forgot where she came from, and how still so many others could be suffering like she did previously. Her ability to act upon this realization, and actually take the time out of her career to devote an organization to help these people, truly shows how noble and kind she is. Rowling would also write for Lumos. Like in her Tales of Beedle the Bard, all of the proceeds earned from the sales would go directly to Lumos, in addition to her signed copy that was bought for 1.95 million dollars (Bethune). This money could have easily made its way to Rowling’s bank account, yet Rowling made the decision to donate it to those in need. Rowling, although still being a heroic mom, and a heroic author, is a heroic human, because of her complete willingness to use her platform for the better. 

When she had nothing, Rowling fought through her battles with perseverance and determination, wrote her way out of poverty to the surprise of all, and did not hesitate to kindly share her money with the less fortunate. When her story is laid out so simply, its magnificence shows the world who Rowling really is. With just her mind and her superb brainpower, Rowling transformed herself from the woman hunched over in Scottish cafes to a woman known all throughout the world.

JK Rowling, practically the mother of magic, is a figure who inspired me as a young girl. When I was in third grade, I found myself drifting away from school, specifically the literature aspect. I hated to write, I disliked reading, and it felt like there wasn’t a single book that seemed even remotely interesting. But when I found the Harry Potter series, I began to fall in love with reading again, and I could not wait to get time to read my book! Rowling has been my hero for a long time now, and it still amazes me that she was able to renew so many people's passion for literature and give back to the world. So, who is JK Rowling? Well, she’s the writer behind the magic, the story behind the story, and the hero behind the hero. That’s JK Rowling. 

Works Cited Page

Bethune, Brian. "What could J.K. Rowling possibly know about failure? A lot, it turns out." Maclean's, 20 Apr. 2015, p. 45. Gale In Context: Biography, Accessed 3 Dec. 2019.

"J. K. Rowling." Encyclopedia of World Biography Online, vol. 25, Gale, 2005. Gale In Context: Biography, Accessed 3 Dec. 2019

 Jones, Malcolm. "Her Magic Moment: J. K. Rowling has a new husband, a new baby--and a great new 'Harry Potter.' A rare, candid interview in Edinburgh." Newsweek, 30 June 2003, p. 50. Gale In Context: Biography, Accessed 5 Dec. 2019.

Ott, Tim. “J.K. Rowling's Incredible Rags to Riches Story.”, A&E Networks Television, 21 June 2019,

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Bloomsbury, 2015.

Page created on 2/12/2020 4:14:42 AM

Last edited 2/28/2020 2:50:41 AM

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Related Links

Lumos Charity - This is the charity that Rowling helped to create, in order to keep kids out of institutions.
Pottermore - Because of the global love for Harry Potter, Rowling expanded to other platforms, and created a digital wizarding world that all fans could enjoy.