Having just read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – and planning to podcast on it for Sunday – I thought back to this post originally from our 2014 A to Z Challenge. The original post sparked quite a bit of conversation so if you’re interested, definitely click through to read that. Even just reading my own thoughts here, it’s fascinating looking at what has since happened, in the form of a sequel story like Cursed Child. Anyway, hope you enjoy!
So 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.
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.