Bookish Discussion: On Real Characters in Fantasy Stories


 A few days ago, hell broke loose on the internet when an excerpt of an interview by J.K. Rowling, where she explicitly announced that Hermione and Harry should’ve ended up married. And that Ron and Hermione would’ve need “relationship counselling”. My stand on the matter is not what this post is about. But I mention the incident because the reaction to it is what prompted this post about the importance of normal, real, human characters in books that are so detached from reality. 

 I’d never really thought before about what people thought of Ronald Weasley as a character. Focus of discussions between my friends and me were always about more controversial characters like Snape, Luna, and maybe even the Malfoy family. Hardly ever did we bring up the Golden Trio because everything about them was extensively and straightforwardly stated in the books –or so we thought back then anyway. Personally, I’ve always held some resentment for Harry, which I mention often, for reasons I’d rather not go into right now.

 This is why I was quite surprised when I saw some people’s reaction to the Harry/Hermione news. Apparently, some readers hate Ronald Weasley. They believed that he never deserved someone as brilliant and stunning like Hermione. And even though I never consciously thought about it, I found myself arguing on Twitter that I find Ron the “most human character” in Harry Potter. And that’s what I want to talk about.

 I understand that people hate characters. There are characters that are written to be hated –think Daisy Buchanan; other characters are written to just play with your emotions –think Heathcliffe and Snape and Dorian Gray. But hating a character like Ronald Weasley? I’d never heard of something as such until that frightful night


 It’s true many of us admire Harry Potter for being a series that is set in distant world that is so well-constructed and ten-times more magical, and therefore better, than ours. It sucks us out of a world that’s mundane to one that is full of faultless wonders and entangles us in adventures that make up the best web to get caught up in. But most importantly, and the element that made (and still makes) Harry Potter so wildly celebrated is how it also includes emotions that are easy to relate to and characters that we can look up to and figures that we learn how to destroy. Even though the series offers many characters as such, in my humble opinion, there was one that was flat out human in his every scene: and that’s Ronald Weasley. Maybe that’s why some hate him? Because he’s so… real? In all his faults and all his virtues? I respond to my own question with a shrug because I don’t know.

 Unlike Harry Potter who is destined for glory and Hermione who is wickedly smart, Fred and George who are reckless entertainers, and Severus Snape who has so many sides he should have polygon named after him, etc. , Ronald Weasley has no one adjective to sum him up. Which makes him more like most of us. No one sets out to be mediocre or not distinctively special in a particular craft or activity, but most of us end up so anyway. We’re sure special for one things or two in our little circle of friends and family and colleagues, but that mostly is it.  And in Ronald Weasley’s case, he was a reliable friend. 

 What he sees in the Mirror of Erised is the realest thing a person with so many special siblings would feel; how he reacts to Hermione dating other people in the sixth book is exactly what lots of guys do in real life –it may not be the right thing to do, but it does happen. He was afraid of spiders, for Merlin’s sake, how more real can one get?! And I know he’s a great Keeper, but do consider how long it took for his talent to be found out! I would go on but sadly, I haven’t revisited the series in a while. 

 What I’m trying to say is that each fantasy book needs this one character that is so ordinary to keep it grounded and easy to relate to somehow. The one character that proves that you don’t need to be special to be useful or successful or even admirable. For most of the series, he’s just Harry Potter’s friend, or just associated to the other Weasley’s who cast a shadow so thick it almost cloaked him, and so is case for so many of us in real life. And if we aren’t reading fiction as some sort of therapy, if we aren’t reading it to see figments of ourselves sprouting out in different places and realms and taking encouragement and inspiration from that, then what are we doing it for? 

 I haven’t read much fantasy other than Harry Potter, to be completely honest. And those that I have read, I certainly haven’t read as thoroughly to base any examples on. But if you agree with me, comment or write about it and link me up. If you don’t, I would love to engage in a bit of a literary squabble. This was just something I thought of and tried to articulate into words. So let me know what you
think about it all. Do I even make any sense? 


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