H is for Hermione and Harry

HSo maybe you’ve heard about it, and maybe you haven’t, but recently Harry Potter series author J.K. Rowling did an interview saying that she thought that Hermione Granger and Harry Potter should have ended up together, instead of Hermione and Ron Weasley.

In keeping with our A to Z challenge, I will look a bit at why this doesn’t work for these characters, but I also want to look at the idea of an author making these sorts of declarations or changes after the fact. So it’s sort of a character study… hey, they both start with H, that has to count for something, right?

Would This Have Worked for the Characters?

Hermione is a great female character, don’t get me wrong. Strong, smart, brave. Gryffindor. But just because of those things, does she, what, deserve to be with the main character of the books? The hero?

In many ways, Hermione would not herself have ended up a heroine without Harry. Their friendship gave her a direction and purpose for her research and mind – otherwise, she would have been learning for learning’s sake, as she was at the beginning, or she would have found her own cause, like she did with S.P.E.W. which was either sadly or wisely cut from the films. She could have done anything she wanted to, really, but like many academic types, lacked some of the direction to herself decide what that “anything she wanted to” was going to be.

What I’m really trying to say is, if she had ended up with Harry in a relationship, then effectively all parts of who she was would have been wrapped up in who Harry is, and what he was about. Apart from him, there were other aspects to her life, which is good and realistic.

And what about Harry? Rowling’s point is that Ron and Hermione would have needed marriage counseling, but then, what about Harry? With everything he went through, I’m pretty sure he would have needed counseling too. I doubt he was suddenly, magically all better at the end of all of his ordeals. Not if the last scene tells us anything.

Would Hermione have put up with trying to put Harry Potter back together? Would she have had the patience, or would it have been a good use of her talents? I don’t know. I don’t think so.

And what would forcing this relationship have done to the books? Made this into another teen romance-adjacent series with a love triangle? Harry Potter does not need to be Twilight or The Hunger Games. Would poor Ron have ended up in the Friend Zone, to use that ridiculous new term? Or would it have just ended up as some Hollywood sort of relationship, with the two main players ending up romantically involved precisely because they are the two main players?

Rowling’s concern is that Hermione and Ron feels forced, but I think Hermione and Harry would have ended up as far more of a forced relationship.

Authors Changing Their Mind After the Fact

Rowling making these pronouncements after the book is out – not the first time, since she also said that Dumbledore was gay (which unlike the Harry/Hermione thing, I have no problem with on a story level) – is interesting in its own way. And annoying. When you get down to it, authors rarely get the chance to go back and change their works like this after the books are published. At that point, they kind of are what they are.

Here's one way you can change this dynamic up a bit - make the change in the movie, right? I think here we see Rowlings doubts. Image found on http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Horcrux

Here’s one way you can change this dynamic up a bit – make the change in the movie, right? I think here we see Rowlings doubts.
Image found on http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Horcrux

In the world of movies, you do see it occasionally – the Director’s Cut, or the Extended Cut. With these, the director gets to add the parts they always wanted in the film, or that were cut for time, or for artistic differences. And I feel like these are probably made for a variety of reasons. Fan service? I could see it. Just to make more money? Cynical, but possible. For the artistic reasons of the director? In some cases, most likely. Maybe all of the above for most.

The danger movies run in doing this is that they might become like the Star Wars remastered editions, which are generally disliked for all of the changes made, rather than beloved for the graphics updates. Is that the sort of landmine Rowling wants to get in to?

With fiction books, however, you rarely see a re-release. I know of a couple, but they were first novels or novellas that were returned to, like Stephen King with The Gunslinger and Peter David with Knight Life. And it doesn’t seem that Rowling is interested in re-writing the books and adding to them, at least not yet.

But without doing that, I don’t think that she gets to ret-con things in, like she did with Dumbledore (it made sense and fit, but if so, it really should have just ended up written in the books…), and she doesn’t get to ‘ship Harry and Hermione just because she wants to. She shouldn’t approach her own novels like she’s creating a fan fiction of them.

Sorry this was a bit long for an A to Z Challenge post! I guess I went on a bit of a rant here. What do you think? Were Harry and Hermione a better fit? And more importantly, does Rowling as the author really get to make claims like this after the fact about her own works? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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35 responses to “H is for Hermione and Harry

  1. She can make claims, but I don’t think she should. After all, the series now breathes on its own. And I think Ron and Hermione are right for each other. Harry and Hermione are more like siblings to me.

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    • I was trying to keep it short so in the end I didn’t really end up talking about Ron (or for that matter Ginny) and how the existing relationships worked. And yeah, I think siblings works. Although also, it’s not crazy for a boy and a girl to be friends, right? Although with friends you’ve been through that much with… you tend to consider them siblings anyway. So there we go.

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  2. If you read the interview rather than articles about the interview, you’ll see she didn’t actually say she wants Harry & Hermione to be together, she just says they would have been ‘a better fit in some ways’. She didn’t say they would have worked as a couple, or that she wanted them to be a couple, and she’s certainly not retconning- she was just discussing the dynamics between the characters (ie that Ron & Hermione are quite abrasive, Harry & Hermione aren’t). She has always and still does ship Ron/Hermione and Harry/Ginny, she’s just acknowledging that Ron & Hermione’s relationship wouldn’t be plain sailing.

    And to answer your question, yes she should be able to discuss her own work in any way she wants to!

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    • I was actually having trouble finding access to the original interview, and the website for the magazine itself didn’t seem to have it (or just had a really bad search engine). And I had heard this as part of the defense of what she was saying, since of course the headline people ran with was a bit premature.

      That’s why I wanted to also focus on that second question: her talking about and changing meanings in her book after it’s already printed. Yes, for those of us around right now, we’re experiencing this, and rethinking the books. But what about kids picking up the books for the first time today? They may never know these things.

      So I guess some of my point is: she should be able to discuss her own work in any way she wants to, as you say. But what impact does it have? Are there precedents for other authors doing this? Will it be a lasting thing? And do we think she would actually go in and make these sorts of lasting changes for later printings?

      I should add I suppose that the Harry Potter books are some of my very favorites ever, and I deeply respect Jo Rowling. I’ve been to the Elephant House in Edinburgh where she worked on Philosopher’s Stone. So in many ways, her doing something so seemingly unprecedented is, to me, fascinating.

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      • As for precedents, one of the most notable is Tolkien’s retcon of Gollum. Originally, Gollum had been written as more impish and having freely given the ring to Bilbo. However to better tie the story to the Lord of the Rings, he rewrote Riddles in the Dark to reflect the ‘truth’ that Bilbo acquired the Ring by trickery and had to escape hidden by the ring’s power. Tolkien’s explanation is that The Hobbit is Bilbo’s actual Red Book account of things, and Bilbo had written himself in a more favorable light in the original account; the ‘new’ edition included a version that Bilbo had written but not included for fear of coming across as a jerk, a thief and a coward.

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        • Ah ha! And, notably, it was indeed republished to reflect this. Interesting! I had not known about this. However, it makes sense coming from Tolkien, who kept writing and creating more story for Middle Earth.

          As Rowling gets back into the magical world and writes more, it is entirely possible that she might do similar sorts of things!

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    • In all of that I forgot to say… thanks for commenting! And if you know of where I can find the full interview, I would love to read it!

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  3. I don’t know the Potter books to really comment on Hermione, but:

    1. I think it’s funny that you wrote about her under “H,” and Diana wrote about her under “G” yesterday.

    2. Han Solo fired first, dammit!!

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  4. I think there’s a bigger difference with Dumbledore’s being gay, in that I thought the way she put it was “it just never really came up”, and ” I wish I’d written that ending differently.” In the worst case scenario, she writes a sequel in which Potter divorces the Weasley girl and has an affair with Hermione.

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    • Yeah, with Dumbledore, it never really did come up and in some ways didn’t need to… except that in Deathly Hallows, there’s the big Dumbledore Expose book. Now on the one hand, it’s nice that this isn’t the big reveal of that book. On the other hand, there was certainly a vehicle for presenting this information if she had so chosen.

      And that worst case scenario is something I could actually see happening. Certainly, when it comes to the last scene, that is the sort that you do as a writer have in mind for the whole run… it was contentious in the book, and downright ridiculous in the movie (that was the worst aging makeup I’ve ever seen). Maybe the thing to do would have been to just leave it open… and if she had so chosen, she definitely could have returned to it later. Tons of authors do with worlds like that. However, as the Doctor might say, once it’s written and has been read, it has happened in time.

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  5. I always saw Hermione and Ron together. To me they were never as well developed as I hoped – really Rowling kept the focus strictly on Harry. So to have Hermione and Harry together would be like Harry getting together with his clone. That is to say that Hermione herself is really there in the story to reflect things about Harry. That’s why in the movies her role had to be changed and massaged so the actress would stay in the part. That said, I wasn’t really fond of Harry with Ginny either.

    If you read articles/twitter about authors there is a trend for them to say ridiculous things. I think they forget this is going to print at best or at worst they are trying to be sensational as any news is good publicity. So for the most part I don’t take author interviews too seriously. A writer for the most part is flexible. They are trying to get the story as a whole to work, not just the love lives of two characters. I believe Rowling was just musing thoughts out loud, thoughts a writer has every time they go to work with their characters.

    Is that bad? Should writers? Such subjective questions can only be answered by the individual and there really are no wrong answers.

    Ultimately what stands the test of time isn’t in the author articles or the tweets…it’s in the work, the story and in how we as individuals feel about the characters. Cheers 🙂

    BTW loved how you presented your case for the no-no of another teen love triangle! I totally agree.

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    • That’s probably some of it – this probably happens a lot, authors sharing thoughts on their written story, but we don’t hear about it. But when an author as big as J.K. Rowling says something like this, it’s a big international story.

      Or, for instance, Stephanie Meyers’ story about someone leaking her draft for another Twilight book, which had her step away from that series. Whatever you think of the series, it is still popular enough that we heard about this story – but something similar is probably happening all the time to other writers.

      I guess my other thought is, like you said, what stands the test of time is what’s written. If Rowling thinks she could now craft a better story, she should write it! She’s had some pretty great success in her last couple of books, as she moved away from Harry Potter. She can write another story and have the relationships go the way she thinks that they ought.

      And maybe that’s another reason we don’t hear about this quite as much – a writer who learns something like this, about storytelling, and what they think would be more believable, is probably a writer who turns around and writes that in another book!

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      • I’ve read about authors in niche markets making off the wall comments. So I guess I’m a little more well read in that way (I have family who likes different reading from me so they follow that news too). I know reading some of Rowling – she’s a little like George Lucas. They never expected the hugeness of their popularity and while they don’t regret it they sort of want to get away from that world. Yet fans won’t let them and criticize them for their other choices. I think if we are true fans we will accept that they might not want to return to their world. They might want to create new, less popular and totally different characters and worlds. Cheers. Yay! I love a post that creates such discussions.

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        • I agree, and think that Rowling’s decision to step away from the Harry Potter world was a good and logical one. I still really want to read The Cuckoo’s Calling, and I love all of the reviews on this before people found out it was written by Rowling. I do love her writing and want to continue following her career, wherever it takes her.

          So I guess some of my point is that Rowling can write another book with a relationship that goes the way she feels the relationships in Harry Potter should have gone – and that this hypothetical book need not be in the Harry Potter universe!

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  6. I always felt Rowling’s opinion did a disservice to Harry and Ginny’s relationship, a point in the series that grows and has fun with the ups and downs of teen romance. Good article.

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    • That’s some of it. The arc for a lot of characters would end up having to be very different for Harry and Hermione to end up together. Not the least of which is Ginny and Hermione’s relationship, based in part on the fact that Hermione is helping her to gain Harry’s attention.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. I always liked the fact that Hermione didn’t end up with Harry. Made it less stereotypical. I never really felt the connection between Ginny and Harry though.

    Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption
    Minion, Capt. Alex’s Ninja Minion Army
    The 2014 Blogging from A-Z Challenge

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    • I think some of it, and maybe this is me reading into it a bit, but some of it is that no one else understands what Harry has been through nearly as much as Ginny. The connection she had to Tom Riddle, through the diary Horcrux, makes her one of the foremost experts on him, along with Harry and Dumbledore.

      I remember Rowling saying, as the later books were coming out and especially book 6, that there were important things that happened in Chamber of Secrets that were going to come back up in a big way. I think some of that is Ginny, as the person who gets Harry, gets that he’s broken, gets that he’s had Voldemort in his head. Because so has she.

      I guess I thought that their relationship worked, but maybe not for expressly stated reasons. Though I did like some of the writing about their brief time together in book six. Hey look, found a quote…

      “Harry looked around; there was Ginny running toward him; she had a hard blazing look in her face as she threw her arms around him. And without thinking, without planning it, without worrying about the fact that fifty people were watching, Harry kissed her. After several long moments, or it might have been half an hour-or possibly several sunlit days- they broke apart.”
      -https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/64379-harry-looked-around-there-was-ginny-running-toward-him-she

      Sorry, long reply! Thanks for stopping by! And I agree, yes: Harry and Hermione would have been very stereotypical.

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  8. I have to admit I pretty much ignored that declaration. I love the books just the way they are – and really liked Harry with Ginny and Ron with Hermione. I liked that Ron stepped up a bit more in the end to deserve her. I like to think that he had to keep stepping up for that very reason. I like that Hermione, an only child married into the big, loving Weasley family. And I have obviously put way too much thought into this 😉

    Hello from a fellow A to Z challenger. You might like my H for Harry Potter post and my E for Emma post.

    Have a great month! Hope to see you around

    🙂

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  9. When I started reading the books, I thought, yeah, okay, Harry’s going to end up killing Voldemort and riding off into the sunset with Hermione, yeah, right, ho hum. When it was obvious that wasn’t going to happen, I thought it made for a better series. We didn’t end up with the hero, the girl, and the goofy friend. I don’t think I would have read past Order of the Phoenix if that were the case.

    Dropping by to say hello to another abecedarian… Except neither one of us is writing poetry…

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  12. I can’t say I actually shipped anyone at the time when I read the books (I know, right?) until I fell into The Shoebox Project (actual fanfiction set in the Marauders era that sounds JUST like JKR wrote it: Mark Oshiro read it all here for Mark Reads: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6C8E15379B57BD4A).

    Mainly, my issue with the epilogue was that so many people ended up with Hogwarts-sweetharts. Does life end at 17 in the Wizarding World? I can understand not wanting to write in a bunch of random characters to be spouses with the main cast, but why not have Harry, Hermione, and Ron doing badass things at work there instead of or in addition to seeing the kids off the school?

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  15. The interview was made by Emma Watson, who apparently put some of the words out of context/reinterpreted them the way she wanted. JKR has denied to have said that Hermione would have been the right one for Harry (it would have contradicted everything she said beforehand about the topic, too).
    The movies always very blatantly shipped Hermione/Harry from the third movie onward…which is really annoying. It ruined three characters in the movieverse for me. For one Ron, because all his best lines were just given Hermione (hell, some of Harry’s lines ended up Hermione’s) making him some kind of idiot he definitely is not in the books, Hermione because she became a very unbearable Mary Sue in my eyes, and Ginny who was just shoved aside.
    Despite what other people claim, I think Ginny’s relationship with Harry was built up quite nicely…it is too bad that a lot of character development for Ginny happens “off-screen”, but when she emerges as confident young woman, she makes so much sense for Harry. There are a lot of small moments they share in book five which are really important for book six.

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    • I would have to agree, the movies ran away with a Harry/Hermione relationship, which plays out well into the seventh film, with Harry and Hermione dancing, and then with the Horcrux scene as Ron returns. It makes some level of sense: it really would be very Hollywood for them to end up together.

      But my favorite relationship in the books is Harry and Ginny. I really like your comments about her!

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      • I like Harry/Ginny too…I didn’t think I would because it’s the obvious pairing, but I think the story how Ginny got over her crush by dating and getting to know Harry worked really well for me. Plus, there are a lot of subtle hints why Ginny is the right one for Harry. For example, Harry hates crying, and Ginny is not prone to crying. Harry hates manipulation (a tool Hermione likes to use) and Ginny is as straightforward as it gets. Harry has a very cynical sense for humour which Ginny shares (Hermione doesn’t).

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