On J.K. Rowling and the "Book Boyfriend" Wars
@ Stuck In Books
Whoever is doing J.K. Rowling's publicity should be earning his weight and then some in Gringotts galleons. That latest promo of an interview in which she says she regrets not having let two of her main characters end up together has got Potterheads newly buzzed, and everyone just has to toss his two knuts into the pot. In my opinion, no one will top my friend Otepoti's analysis that Rowling may be "projecting issues around her own failed first marriage onto her fictional creations," but that just takes the pressure off me as I write my own post on the matter.
These opening paragraphs are very vague, just because I'm conscientious--even scrupulous--about spoilers; but I do let them all rip after the jump, so if you haven't read the entire series yet, consider this your last warning! =)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
by J.K. Rowling
. . . Harry liked Hermione very much, but she just wasn't the same as Ron. There was much less laughter and a lot more hanging out in the library when Hermione was your best friend . . .
Viktor Krum was in the library an awful lot, too . . . Hermione often complained about Krum being there--not that he ever bothered them--but because groups of giggling girls often turned up to spy on him from behind bookshelves, and Hermione found the noise distracting.
"He's not even good-looking," she muttered angrily, glaring at Krum's sharp profile. "They only like him because he's famous! They wouldn't look twice at him if he couldn't do the Wonky-Faint thing--"
"Wronsky Feint," said Harry through gritted teeth . . .
Hermione Granger and Viktor Krum aren't exactly a predictable couple. He may be a world-famous Quidditch star, but she can't even be bothered to get Quidditch terminology right. Still, as any girl can tell you, it's really something when a guy who could successfully ask out all the other girls in your school wants to spend time with you--especially after three years of apathy (at best) from the boys in your school.
What Rowling is trying to do here is obvious. The girl best friend who gets overlooked by her closest buddy, until a romantic rival's presence lets him see what is right before his eyes, is a common enough trope. And both of Hermione's buddies have been dragging their feet for a while. What Rowling actually accomplishes, however, is a bit more than she was prepared to follow up on. Because something extra significant happens when Viktor steps up to do what both Ron and Harry haven't even realised was a possibility for over three years: he helps Hermione to turn into a swan.
. . . she didn't look like Hermione at all. She had done something with her hair; it was no longer bushy, but sleek and shiny, and twisted up into an elegant knot at the back of her head. She was wearing robes made of a floaty periwinkle-blue material, and she was holding herself differently, somehow--or maybe it was merely the absence of the twenty or so books she usually had slung over her back. She was also smiling--rather nervously, it was true--but the reduction in the size of her front teeth was more noticeable than ever; Harry couldn't understand how he hadn't spotted it before.
. . . Ron, however, walked right past Hermione without looking at her.
If all Rowling had wanted to do was to develop Harry, Ron and Hermione's friendship, then she should have brought in a different sort of rival. Maybe a nice Ravenclaw boy, one year older than they, whom Hermione also gets to know through the library, because they both keep checking the same books out. If Harry and Ron must be especially riled by him, the rival could even be on Ravenclaw's Quidditch team. (Yes, I do write FF, but not HP FF.) Instead, Rowling uses one of the youngest professional Quidditch players of all time, who also happened to have caught the Quaffle at the last World Cup final--someone whom girls (and boys--LOL!) from all over the world are fawning over, but who needs a few weeks of hanging around the library to work up the courage to ask her out!!!
Not only is the effect more romantic than Ron and Harry have ever been with Hermione, but it is also more magical, in the sense that Viktor's interest in her is the amorous equivalent of a Hogwarts letter. For just as a place at Hogwarts showed Hermione that her destiny could lie beyond her family and the entire non-magical world, a possible relationship with Viktor hints that it could also lie beyond her school, her country, and yes, even her current circle of friends.
Incidentally, this fits my theory that modern-day Cinderellas wish they could go to school. Of course, in that case, Harry and Ron would be the disgruntled stepsisters. (ROTFLMAO!) Anyway, I don't know if Rowling fully grasped what I'm saying here while she was writing The Goblet of Fire, but the way she dealt with it was the second lamest trick in the book.
Hermione was now teaching Krum to say her name properly; he kept calling her "Hermy-own."
"Her-my-oh-nee," she said slowly and clearly.
"Close enough," she said, catching Harry's eye and grinning.
Read between the lines: it's not the obvious thickness of his accent that's so off-putting, but the implied thickness of his head. And sure enough, after this point in the novel, Viktor always comes across as a big, dumb lug. While that's plausible for a professional athlete, it's also damning to Hermione's eventual romantic arc. For what disqualifies Viktor as a possible love interest for Hermione is his being
As for the general issue of Rowling's regrets . . . I think most authors can look back at their writing with clear eyes and see things they could have written differently; but there's something too jarring when one says so after making half a billion pounds in royalties. The least that authors can do is to be authoritative. But if they won't, then it is left to us readers to stick up for ourselves and to say that What Has Been Written will always have more dignity than What Shall Always Be Regretted. In short, if she's not going to kill this particular darling in a rewrite, then she's not going to be allowed to say it's dead.
Image Source: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling