J.K. Rowling’s latest revelation about the Harry Potter series, which came in the form of an interview conducted by Emma Watson for “Wonderland” magazine (February/March 2014 issue), has re-awakened the long-slumbering Potter Shipping Wars of old. It seems that everyone has written something about the topic, from a very insightful analysis of love in the series, to a passionate defense of Ron, to suggestions for other ships.
I’m on the crew of the HMS Orange Crush (Harry/Ginny) myself, so Rowling’s confession bothered me, especially how it was first reported: that Jo regrets writing that Ron and Hermione ended up together and that she should have married Harry. I told myself I would wait for the full interview to be released before commenting because, more often than not, people tended to misinterpret or to put words into Jo’s mouth.
Nowhere in the interview did she say that she “regrets” writing Ron/Hermione. Emma asked her if she had a new perspective on Hermione, and she replied:
What I will say is that I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That’s how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione [ended up] with Ron.
I know, I’m sorry, I can hear the rage and fury it might cause some fans, but if I’m absolutely honest, distance has given me perspective on that. It was a choice I made for very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility. Am I breaking people’s hearts by saying this? I hope not.
It was a young relationship. I think the attraction itself is plausible but the combative side of it… I’m not sure you could have got over that in an adult relationship, there was too much fundamental incompatibility. I can’t believe we are saying all of this – this is Potter heresy!
[Later, she adds]
Oh, maybe she and Ron will be alright with a bit of counseling, you know. I wonder what happens at wizard marriage counseling? They’ll probably be fine. He needs to work on his self-esteem issues and she needs to work on being a little less critical.
When “Deathly Hallows” was published, I felt that the Epilogue seemed out of place. I knew from following every single interview that Rowling gave (I am on the staff!) that she had been writing toward a particular ending and even a particular last word (“scar”) for a long time. Maybe this has blinded her to how her characters evolved as she wrote them, and how they may not fit that ending anymore. If she just left out that Epilogue, then there wouldn’t be this much hullaballoo over what could have beens.
The troubled Ron/Hermione relationship differs a bit from her other post-Potter reveals (e.g. Dumbledore is gay) in that she does not seem to be insinuating that this is Canon. It’s understandable that she now has a different perspective on the relationships of the Trio. Whether or not it was prudent of her to have revealed what she thought is another story, but I want to look at this as a glass half-full: at least she didn’t say “Ron/Hermione shouldn’t be together”, and the Canon remains unchanged.
For the record, I agree that Ron and Hermione would have had difficulties in their relationship, and that if they worked on it, they would eventually be okay.
As for Harry/Hermione…
In some ways Hermione and Harry are a better fit and I’ll tell you something very strange. When I wrote Hallows, I felt this quite strongly when I had Hermione and Harry together in the tent! I hadn’t told [Steve] Kloves that and when he wrote the script he felt exactly the same thing at exactly the same point.
And actually I liked that scene in the film, because it was articulating something I hadn’t said but I had felt. I really liked it and I thought that it was right. I think you do feel the ghost of what could have been in that scene.
I’ve always hated the way Steve Kloves kept putting in those Harmonian moments when there weren’t supposed to be any, and how that undermined a lot of Ron’s contributions and importance in the series as it is portrayed in the movies.
I do think the tent scenes, as they were written in the book, were okay, and that maybe the “ghost of what could have been” may have been present, but I never felt any strong romantic vibes there. And if Rowling says she felt something there, then she either did her characters a great disservice by not letting things go where they should, or what she felt so strongly wasn’t powerful enough to make her deviate from the ending she was writing towards.
I also agree that Hermione and Harry are a good fit–and I concede, better than Ron/Hermione–in many ways, but that doesn’t mean they should be in love or would fall in love or get married. Why can’t they have a perfect friendship and why should Harry and Ron be Hermione’s only choices?
I’ve long thought that it was weird that Rowling married Luna off to someone we didn’t know from the 7 books; I even secretly thought it was cute if she had married Neville, after all, everyone was marrying their childhood sweethearts already. But on hindsight, I now like that Luna married someone else and that she met other people outside of their Hogwarts circle. So why not Hermione?
All this says something very powerful about the character of Hermione as well. Hermione was the one that stuck with Harry all the way through that last installment, that very last part of the adventure. It wasn’t Ron, which also says something very powerful about Ron. He was injured in a way, in his self-esteem, from the start of the series. He always knew he came second to fourth best, and then had to make friends with the hero of it all and that’s a hell of a position to be in, eternally overshadowed. So Ron had to act out in that way at some point.
But Hermione’s always there for Harry. I remember you sent me a note after you read Hallows and before you started shooting, and said something about that, because it was Hermione’s journey as much as Harry’s at the end.
Yes, her sacrifice was massive, completely. A very calculated act of bravery. That is not an ‘in the moment’ act of bravery where emotion carries you through, that is a deliberate choice.
Of course it was Hermione’s journey as much as Harry’s…as much as Ron’s, Voldemort’s, Dumbledore’s, Snape’s…it was EVERYONE’S journey. Maybe it was more personal for Harry, but everyone had a stake in the battle. And while we cannot belittle Hermione’s “calculated act of bravery”, we should not reduce it to an impetus for a romantic relationship either. From the tone of their conversation, Rowling seems to be highlighting this as a plus factor for Harry/Hermione (or I could be wrong.) Anyway, we must also not forget that Dumbledore’s and Snape’s sacrifices were just as calculated, and that they have even lost their lives.
And, finally, was it prudent for Rowling to share all these post-Potter revelations? Personally, I think people should stop asking all those “what ifs”; the Potter world, as it is, is difficult enough to keep up with! Rowling has to answer when she’s asked, and she has always been very honest and forthcoming about Potter, which is good. And of course she has the right to add new things to her world and comment on aspects of it (I actually appreciate that about her), but I think she should be careful about what else she reveals. I suppose that as long as she doesn’t change Canon, it’ll be okay. But while she owes readers nothing, really, it is a fact that fans have dissected and new readers do dissect the series to the tiniest detail. How I read Dumbledore before is likely going to be different from how my nephew would read him knowing that Dumbledore was gay. Maybe it will be an interesting literary exercise to compare how different generations interpret it.
Those subtext-shattering revelations are part of why I am excited but scared of what the “Encyclopedia” she never published contained, and why I approach every new thing that pops up on Pottermore as if they are radioactive. She had 7 books and 3 booklets to put in the most important things about Harry’s and the Wizarding World’s stories. Ultimately, it’s what’s in the books that’s important. I believe that’s how it should be.
The ships have sailed; it’s time to move on.