Stephen Fry is a British comedy legend and television personality known for his sharp wit and breadth of knowledge, as well as being THE voice of the Harry Potter audiobooks. Many Potter fans only know Stephen from his work with the Harry Potter franchise and his smooth, warm tones reading aloud their favourite books- but do they know what hard work went into recording the stories?
Fry began his work with JK Rowling’s magical book series back in the late 1990s, before the franchise had become the worldwide sensation that it is today. At first he was happy enough to record the audio for a book about a boy wizard and his friends but soon stumbled on a sentence his mouth just couldn’t manage. Thinking perhaps he could ask the author, JK Rowling, if she would mind him altering one or two words so he could read without stumbling however, Rowling was adamant that the book must be read as it is written in the books to help children read along as they listen.
Watch the video below and listen as Stephen Fry explains how JK Rowling found ways to troll poor Stephen through the years while he recorded her stories.
The inimitable Stephen Fry tells the Hay Festival about a hilarious moment while recording the audiobook for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. #HayFestival2019
Posted by BBC Arts on Monday, 27 May 2019
Fry, speaking to festival goers at Hay Festival in 2019, explained how one particular phrase tripped him up so badly that he asked the author to change it… However she did just the opposite and put the same phrase in every subsequent book, purely to tease Stephen Fry and test his narrating skills!
Stephen explained to the crowd:
“There was one phrase that tripped me up, it was just three words, and I couldn’t say it. The three words were ‘Harry pocketed-ed it’… See? I still can’t say it! ‘Harry pocketed-ed-ed it’! See- I can say ‘Harry’, I can say ‘pocketed’, and I can say ‘it’, but I can’t say ‘Harry pocketed-ed-ed it’.”
“Everyone started laughing, the engineer in the studio, and I said ‘Look can we come back to ‘Harry pocketed-ed-ed it’ maybe, at the end of the day I’ll just try it.’ So at lunch time I call up Jo Rowling… Now she had very wisely, from the beginning when it was just one book, she wanted the audio book to be complete, unabridged, not condensed in any way as some audiobooks are, because she felt that if children are reading it and listening at the same time they would be annoyed if it was different. So it was very important that we got it exactly right.”
“So I called her up and said ‘Look do you mind- I can’t say ‘Harry pocketed-ed-ed it’ would it be ok if I said ‘Harry put it in his pocket’? There was a big pause at the end of the line and then she said ‘No.’ in her best witch’s voice. I could hear the smile in her voice when she said it.”
“So I managed to get it out, but- and this is the mark of the woman- the phrase ‘Harry pocketed it’ appears in every subsequent book!”