Sunday, February 2, 2014

J.K. Rowling, belated Harry/Hermione shipper

My friend John Granger clued me into a story about an interview with J.K. Rowling and how these revelations are burning up the internet and being posted and re-posted as news.

Now, I readily admit that this story isn't hard news.   It does not impact the world economy, ameliorate climate change or make any movement toward establishing world peace.

Nope. It is simply a human interest story, and there is a lot of interest in it. I believe this story is more important than detailing the legal troubles of Justin Bieber (My thoughts: deport Bieber) or anything having to do with anyone with the last name of Kardashian.

I feel this story about an author's change of heart in regard to the romantic pairings of her fictional characters *is* newsworthy, if for no other reason than due to the sheer popularity of the series.

The Harry Potter series is one of the most popular series in literature with millions of copies sold worldwide in many different languages. (I don't even want to take the time to verify what the current numbers are, but I know it is mind boggling how many copies sold which made her a billionaire.)

The series served as a refuge and escape for me back in the early 2000s. I began reading the Harry Potter novels in November of 2001 at the time that the first movie was released. I was impressed by the intricate world and bizarre cast of characters in the Potterverse.

I read the first four novels in a short span of time, then began re-reading them and then searching the internet to find out more information. That is when I discovered the online fandom.

The attacks on September 11, 2001 were recent and I found news from the real world to be painful and hard to bear. It was a nice diversion from news about world terrorism to instead attempt to decipher clues with other adults in the Harry Potter series.

I became a member of the Harry Potter for Grown Ups (HPfGUs) list serv and engaged in discussions looking at the smallest turn of phrase that might be helpful in predicting where the series was going and which characters were EverSoEvil! or ESE! Literary criticism with other nerdz was fun. I enjoyed reading wild and inventive theories and spinning my own with others who loved the series as much as I did.

I started reading Harry Potter fan fiction and became inspired to try my own hand at writing in order to flesh out my own wacky theories. It was in the process of writing my fifth year fic that I started really questioning the characters' motivations and I came to believe that Hermione was in love with Harry. That she was devoted to him, but knew he didn't feel the same way about her. So she kept her feelings to herself lest he begin to feel uncomfortable about her hanging around him all the time. "Eww, I don't like you in that way. I want to just be friends, but..."

She might get frozen out of being a part of the Trio and then it would just be Harry and Ron on the grand adventures.

So Hermione loved Harry, but kept her feelings close to her vest. That's what I thought. That's what I wrote and had a fic where at the end of the fifth year the two characters became a couple.

After finishing my fic, I began posting on the HPfGUs list serv again. This time I posted my thoughts on shipping. I made what I thought was a simple post about Hermione and Krum showing how it was pro Harry/Hermione or H/Hr. That post wound up being noticed by other shippers and after a request to reprint portions of my post on a debate thread on, I found myself being lured into the great H/Hr vs. Ron/Hermione (R/Hr) shipping debate.

Later, I wound up participating in the only live H/Hr and R/Hr shipping debate which was held at the first Harry Potter Symposium in Orlando, Florida in 2003.

The Shipping Debates were a big deal. JKR didn't know it at the time, she learned about it later. She was shaken by the intensity of the arguments when she stumbled upon the online debate threads.

Then she toyed with the fandom by making posts on her website that mentioned shipping and teased her fans about it. Then after the publication of the sixth book she invited two well known people from the fandom to interview her. That was when she unequivocally stated that the romantic pairings were Harry/Ginny and Ron/Hermione. The tone of that interview was not what I had hoped. There was laughter and mirth about the shipping choices and the word "delusional" was used to describe Harry/Hermione shippers. My full thoughts on that interview as well as quotes from JKR on her website about shipping can be found here. 

 (JKR's website has been revamped and those shipping quotes from 2006 and 2007 are no longer online, but they are in my blog post.)

The last volume was published in 2007 and many of her new fans have no idea of the debates that raged when the series was incomplete.

Therefore, as a recovering Harry Potter fandom addict, I welcomed learning that J.K. Rowling now feels that Hermione should have been paired with Harry Potter over Ron Weasley. Check out these quotes:

"I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That's how it was conceived, really," Rowling says in the interview. "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," she adds. "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."

Those quotes make me feel that I and my shipmates did not deserve being called "delusional."

Rowling also says that Ron and Hermione would have needed “relationship counseling.” 

Counseling. Ron and Hermione would have needed counseling.


Yeah. I didn't think the manner in which Ron taunted Hermione showed a depth of compassion, but instead a manner of trying to control her.

I wrote a post which detailed my dislike of this relationship and described how unhealthy I thought it would be due to Ron's underlying disrespect for Hermione. It reminded me of emotionally abusive relationships.

It was my reaction to the text and explaining why I did not need to see quotes from the books repeated on the bulletin boards again. I knew them, I had read them, and having someone reiterate the same points wouldn't make me stop and go "You're right. There is something's going on there." I could tell that Ron was possessive toward Hermione, but I didn't see that she had a similar interest in him. Instead the possessiveness and cutting insults (including Hermione's insults toward Ron) made me feel uncomfortable if a romantic relationship came from that dynamic.

My post became known as the Abusive!Ron theory, but it wasn't a theory at all. It was a lengthy discussion about my response to the interactions between Ron and Hermione in the text and why I thought it would be unhealthy basis of a romantic relationship if Ron didn't change his behavior toward her.

I felt that the politics of house-elves best demonstrated the problem of the Ron/Hermione relationship. I had also written an extensive post on the politics of house-elves and why Ron needed to change his underlying attitude toward the oppressed magical species or there would never be a chance for Ron and Hermione to be a successful couple.

As it turned out, Ron and Hermione finally became a couple when Ron made a mention in the thick of defending Hogwarts Castle by mentioning the welfare of the elves at the end of Book 7.

That plot point helped me feel somewhat vindicated, but these articles showing teaser quotes from the full interview (and I will want to read the full interview!), makes me feel even better.

Yes, I will admit there were anvil-sized clues pointing to R/Hr in the series, but I was a careful reader and saw subtle hints to Hermione caring for Harry. Maybe it was JKR's subconscious inclusion of the Harry/Hermione loyalty dynamic that led me to think H/Hr was a better romantic fit.

The problem was H/Hr went against JKR's the planned symbolic following of literary alchemical formulas.  Here is where we go deep into symbolism, and I credit John Granger's numerous writings on literary alchemy:

Ron represented elemental sulfur and Hermione represented mercury. Both are necessary in creating gold through alchemy. 

Yeah, I know how weird that sounds, but that was what JKR was doing. Harry's girlfriends had the following hair colors: black (Cho), white (one date with Luna), then red (Ginny) which correspond with three stages of alchemy: nigredo, albedo, rubedo. There was no room for a brown haired girl for Harry. Yet JKR subconsciously wrote Harry/Hermione as a relationship based on trust, loyalty and devotion. I was hoping that Jo while using alchemy as her underlying plot structure would not feel totally constrained to have follow it completely. I was hoping she might alter it to fit her own dramatic needs and have Harry/Hermione as the final romantic pairing and not Harry/Ginny with Ron/Hermione.

Now in retrospect, she is looking back at her story and the characters as they evolved during her story telling and she admits that Harry/Hermione would have been a better way to go!

It would have been emotionally satisfying to have her hero become romantically involved with his best friend who had been by his side from the beginning of his magical adventure, but it would have made Ron and Ginny jealous. There would have been a big love triangle within the Trio, and many, many Ron/Hermione shippers simply couldn't bear to think of Harry hurting Ron in that manner.

Yeah, and Jo thought of killing Ron. 

Had she done that, I think Ginny as a romantic partner for Harry would have disappeared altogether.

Anyway, I feel vindicated by this admission by Jo Rowling. Perhaps the Ron/Hermione shippers who gloated when they did their victory lap might remember some of the arguments that I and my shipmates posted years ago and consider we weren't  as wrong, wrong, WRONG as they thought we were at the time.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts on this human interest story.


Linda AKA Pallas Athena

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