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A Tale Of Two Potters

Harry Potter fans look out: Some new Muggles are coming to town. Or are they old ones?

The Legend of Rah and the Muggles, whose author is suing J.K. Rowling for stealing her ideas, will be reissued by Thurman House in May, the publisher announced Wednesday. The book was first published in 1984 and went out of print a few years later, long before the Potter series began.

Author Nancy Stouffer said in a recent interview she had a hard time finding a new publisher because some feared her book would be seen as ripping off the Potter stories.

"I have been accused of stealing; some children believe I am the one that followed J.K. Rowling," she said.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but several out-of-print Stouffer books are expected to come out by the end of 2002.

In Rah and the Muggles, which includes a character named Larry Potter, muggles are little people who care for two orphaned boys who magically turn their dark homeland into a happy place. In Rowling's books, "muggles" is the word wizards use for non-magical humans.

Stouffer's book has a character named Lilly Potter; Rowling's books have a Lily Potter. The Larry Potter book had characters identified as "Keeper of the Gardens;" Rowling's books have a "Keeper of the Keys."

In addition, Stouffer says the Rowling books use similar illustrations. At a press conference Wednesday, Stouffer and her publisher distributed illustrations of Larry Potter that the author said she designed in the 1980s. The pictures show at least a superficial resemblance: like Harry Potter, Stouffer's character has oversized glasses and wavy dark hair.

Stouffer is the author of 13 books, which she said were created with the idea of licensing the characters. Her original publisher, Ande, went bankrupt in 1987.

A Pennsylvania resident, Stouffer filed her lawsuit last March in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. The suit names Rowling and Scholastic Inc., the U.S. publisher of the Harry Potter books.

Also cited are Time Warner Entertainment Co., which owns the film rights to two of Rowling's Potter books, and Mattel and Hasbro, both of whom have licenses to create and market related merchandise.

Scholastic, Rowling, and Time Warner filed their own lawsuit in November, asking a judge to rule that the Harry Potter books do not violate Stouffer's trademark and copyright.

Thurman House is an affiliate of Ottenheimer Publishers Inc., a 110-year-old company based in Baltimore.

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