Wednesday, October 30

thank you, j.k. rowling [harry potter lovers link-up]

When I found out that Kalyn from Geez, Louise was hosting a Harry Potter Lovers Link-Up today, I was like:

Harry Potter has been such a huge part of my life since I was in high school.  Recently, one of my college friends posted the Facebook status, "Am I the only 20-something who doesn't care to enter the world of Hogwarts?"  When someone pointed out how much Harry Potter books have done for children's literacy, she said, "I agree it got kids excited about reading, but I also think it potentially lowered the reading levels of a lot of adults."  To which one of her friends replied, "I know a lot of well-read people who read them but still read actual literature."

Um, what?

Aside from the fact that it is impossible for someone's reading level to get lower (seriously, I could read a Magic Tree House book right now and it wouldn't make me less intelligent, it would just be boring), I would argue against anyone who suggests that Rowling's books aren't "real" literature.  Hopefully in a more mature way than saying, "Who are you, the literature police?"  The Harry Potter books begin with a fairy tale and end with philosophy.  They include allusions to the Bible, Shakespeare, Greek and Western mythology, and classic texts like Dr. Faustus.  The Harry Potter books can be used to make connections to historical issues from slavery to caste systems to antisemitism to terrorism.  Into Joseph Campbell's monomyth theory?  Harry Potter goes on a seven-book hero's journey.  As an English teacher, I really appreciate J.K. Rowling's use of foreshadowing, flashback, and symbolism in the books!  She deserves to be recognized alongside C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Madeleine L'Engle as one of the greatest children's fantasy authors of all time.  As an aspiring writer myself, I'm blown away by her world-building, which includes four generations of characters, a government, an organized sport, and a school system!

If you're clicking on a link in Harry Potter Lovers link-up, though, you probably don't need any convincing about the books' merits.  Instead, I want to tell you about my favorite HP supporting characters.

"A wizard, o'course," said Hagrid, sitting back down on the sofa, which groaned and sank even lower, "an' a thumpin' good'un, I'd say, once yeh've been trained up a bit. With a mum an' dad like yours, what else would yeh be?"  - Hagrid in Sorcerer's Stone

Looking back now, it makes perfect sense to me that my favorite Hogwarts teacher is the one who is way too emotionally invested in his students' lives.  Rubeus Hagrid is Harry's first link to the wizarding world.  He's hardworking, encouraging, protective, and fiercely loyal - all traits Harry himself exhibits over time as well.  I'm pretty sure I would not enjoy being a student in Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class - I'm not big on potentially dying during a lesson - but I'd love being able to retreat to his cozy hut the way Harry, Ron, and Hermione do often in the books, knowing that inside I'd be respected and treated like family.  From Hagrid, young readers can learn to not judge people based on their appearances, or on the judgments of other people - to get to know a person for his or her own merits.

“I think I'll just go down and have some pudding and wait for it all to turn up - 
it always does in the end.”  - Luna in Order of the Phoenix

It's Evanna Lynch's portrayal of Luna Lovegood in the films that really makes me love this character.  To say that Luna Lovegood is socially awkward is an understatement, and she's a prime target for bullying.  Somehow, J.K. Rowling manages to make everything about her, from her bottlecap necklace to her crush on Ron Weasley, totally adorable.  Being included in Dumbledore's Army means the world to her, and as a result, she'll do anything for her friends.  

“Anything's possible if you've got enough nerve.” - Ginny in Order of the Phoenix

Let's talk about the real Ginny Weasley, shall we?  When we meet her in the books, she's a tiny red-haired girl who is desperate to go to Hogwarts after growing up in a houseful of older brothers who have come home with stories about their hijinks at school every year.  She gets a schoolgirl crush on Harry (remember those?  And how the objects of those crushes could seemingly do no wrong even though they probably ate paste and acted like goobers just like everyone else?).  In Prizoner of Azkaban, Ginny's compassionate personality starts to show when she goes to the Yule Ball with Neville Longbottom, and in Order of the Phoenix she befriends Luna Lovegood.  I really love how stubborn and feisty Ginny is, and that her magical talent is with defensive hexes, charms, and curses.  She's got a sense of humor and can be really blunt with Harry, which is usually exactly what he needs.  She's a badass, and I wish the movies had done a better job of showing that.

“We’re all going to keep fighting, Harry. You know that?” - Neville in Deathly Hallows

I think J.K. Rowling's genius really comes through in her characterization of Neville Longbottom - in the first books, we take pity on him because Harry does, and every time catastrophe befalls him we kind of just go, "Oh, Neville!"  Snape bullies Neville at every opportunity, and that makes readers take Neville's side even more.  We're proud of him every time his Gryffindor bravery peeks through his downtrodden exterior, like when he defeats the boggart in Professor Lupin's DADA class.  I'm pretty sure I cheered out loud in the theater during Deathly Hallows Part 2 when he got his crowning moment of awesomeness.  For me, Neville represents the idea that courage isn't about being tough or strong, it's about doing what needs to be done in a crisis even when you're scared to death - when the cause is worth fighting for.

Harry Potter link-up  


  1. I am totally enjoying all of the Harry Potter stories, thanks for bringing these characters to the forefront

  2. I get so upset when people say that HP isn't "real" literature! I think it will go down as one of the greatest series of our generation. I think Hagrid was definitely my favorite supporting character, and the actor who played him did a brilliant job. Thank you for linking up!

    1. What gets me is that the people who deride Harry Potter are usually people who would never dream of saying The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or The Hobbit aren't real literature. Harry Potter comes from that same tradition of great British fantasy!

      Robbie Coltrane is so lovable as Hagrid - I read somewhere that when J.K. Rowling was asked if she had any casting preference he was the first one she expressed to the producers.