First Harry Potter Book Was Renamed In The US Because They Didn’t Think Americans Would Understand It

JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was renamed in the US over fears that Americans wouldn't understand the title.
Credit: Warner Bros.

JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was renamed in the US over fears that Americans wouldn’t understand the title.

Nowadays, everyone in the world knows about ‘the boy who lived’.

The Harry Potter books sold millions of copies all over the world and the stories were turned into eight blockbuster films starring Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson.

But not everyone was confident in the first book’s success, and that led to a big change in the novel’s original title across the pond.

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Prior to the UK release of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ in June 1997, nobody could have predicted the global phenomenon the fantasy series would soon become. 

The book was an immediate commercial success in the UK – but before it hit shelves in the US, publishers felt it required some tweaks.

That meant an overhaul of the title, something Rowling now regrets.

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The title was changed in the US as the publisher, Scholastic, feared Americans wouldn’t associate the word ‘philosopher’ with magic.

Instead, Rowling helped come up with a different name.

The author explained: “They changed the title, but with my consent.

“To be honest, I wish I hadn’t agreed now, but it was my first book, and I was so grateful that anyone was publishing me I wanted to keep them happy.”

JK Rowling
JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was renamed in the US over fears that Americans wouldn’t understand the title. Credit: Alamy

And with that, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ became ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ for the US market.

It’s easy to see how Rowling and Scholastic came up with the reworked title.

The official definition of the word ‘philosopher’ is ‘learned in philosophy as an academic discipline’, while a sorcerer is simply a ‘wizard’. 

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However, Scholastic’s former chief Arthur A. Levine actually wanted to make the title even more obvious.

He also suggested ‘Harry Potter and the School of Magic’.

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter.
JK Rowling has now said she now regrets changing the name. Credit: Warner Bros.

Thankfully, Rowling was having none of it.

“Levine noted that he needed a title that said ‘magic’ more overtly to American readers,” Philip W. Errington explains in his bibliography of Rowling’s works.

Scholastic chief Levine explains: “So the title that I had suggested to me, and which I then turned to Jo, was ‘Harry Potter and the School of Magic’.

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“Jo very thoughtfully said, ‘No, that doesn’t feel right to me’.”

Rowling apparently said that there were other ‘objects’ she wanted to feature in the title before eventually settling on ‘Sorcerer’s Stone’. 

Interestingly, the ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ is an actual real-life legend from the Middle Ages.

People believed that it was able to make them immortal.

However, the Sorcerer’s Stone is completely made up.

This is another reason why Rowling probably regrets renaming her book.

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