“Childhood ruined!” cry thousands of Harry Potter fans upon reading JK Rowling confessing her retrospective view that perhaps Ron and Hermione shouldn’t have become a couple and Harry instead should have ended up with our favourite geek. The disdain is understandable – a defining narrative we grew up with has been undermined, and a shadow has been cast over the iconic trio we all thought we knew and loved. There have been many contentious issues around Harry Potter in the past – Dumbledore’s death in particular – but this statement from Rowling has sparked more debate than any other.
Readers of the HP books (which is pretty much everyone) are protective about the way the story ‘should’ be because we feel connected to the characters. People of our age in particular grew up as the books were being released and so in a sense grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione like fictional friends. If JK really does believe Harry and Hermione ought to have ended up together, she certainly had the opportunity in seven books to assess her motivations for avoiding the pairing and put the two together. So why announce it now?
Many have dubbed the statement as nothing but a bid for publicity. Whether or not this is the case we can’t determine, but clearly it was a risky way to get it. But is this all an over-reaction? Since being at uni, I along with many others have come to agree more and more with the no-censorship, free speech standpoint that many advocate as intellectually ethical.
I think of myself as agreeing with Barthes’ ‘death of the author’ theory that once a text enters the public sphere it is open to interpretation and can be effectively re-written by any reader through this process of interpretation.
Fan fiction is the perfect example of this. Some is brilliant; some is brilliantly awful (read “My Immortal” for a bit of indulgence). There is rarely an argument over whether amateur writers ought to be allowed to change the plot of published novels as they wish. But should this reflective creative license extend to the original author?
It seems my supposedly liberal view of literature is challenged when it comes to a book with as much sentimental value as Harry Potter. I don’t like the idea that what I read as a child is not the definitive version. It’s like when you watch a film adaptation that you feel hasn’t lived up to the books, but without the comfort of knowing the book itself will remain unchanged.
Personally, I don’t think Harry and Hermione would have worked – they seemed too much like siblings. And admittedly, as JK joked, Ron and Hermione probably would have needed relationship counselling, but at least they seemed to have a genuine connection, unlike Ginny and Harry whose bond the books never really explored in substantial depth. Did Hermione really need to end up with either of the male characters at all?
Of course JK is within her rights to reflect on the story she spent so many years creating, but it seems fans want her to maintain one opinion. It’s bad enough knowing there’s no more to come from the wizarding world without doubting the content of what’s already been written!
Ultimately, I don’t think it matters what JK thinks she should have changed. We all read the story in our own way and come to our own conclusions. However, I do suggest that if JK has any worries about how Harry Potter ended up, instead of confusing her fans with sudden reassessments, we would be more than happy for her to write another sequel…
Emma Thomasbookmark me