First, let me establish that I know more about Harry Potter than you. I’ve seen all the movies (most of them multiple times) and I’ve listened to about half of the audio-books. I understand that there’s also “books” with “writing” and the like involved in this mythology as well. I also hear that these “books” have been out for a while now giving some people a chance to read, re-read, and seriously contemplate matters of the literature. These are all lies so we can move past that now.
During my most recent re-viewings of the movies, in preparation for seeing the final installment I realized that the story of Harry Potter has a true hero in it…and it’s NOT Harry Potter.
The Big Three
Don’t get me wrong, Harry’s alright. He does some good things, he’s loyal, kind, and generally selfless. But he’s the “chosen one”. The whole world knows who he is, wants him to be successful, and totally has his back..even when he’s a big jerk, which he is on occasion (he’s a teenager…it’s to be expected).
Hermione and Ron are loyal friends…at least by the end of each year. But they’re not exactly super-awesome-heroic sorts either. Ron picks a fight with his “best friends” almost every year. Goes all loner, and then comes back to help them in the end anyway. It’s a bit tiresome. Plus he’s about as smart as a bag of chocolate frogs.
Hermione spends most of the books not really giving a crap about anyone but herself. She’s all about proving herself, showing that she’s smarter and making sure everyone else knows about it. Being a self-serving braggart, even if only on occasion and even if she still comes around to doing the right thing eventually, is not quite as heroic as she could be. For example, if she hadn’t been running off researching on her own during the Chamber of Secrets incident she wouldn’t have been paralyzed. And if she hadn’t felt the need to take the glory of a great discovery for herself there wouldn’t be any reason for her to be by herself. No, until the end of the series (definitely by Deathly Hallows) when she’s finally matured, she’s waay to into herself to be the real hero here.
So if not one of the “big three” of the story who is the real hero of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?
Dumbledore? His time has passed.
Some other member of the Order of the Phoenix? Hell no. We didn’t even know most of those people for the majority of the stories. Not even eligible.
Draco? Please…don’t make me laugh. He’s the least heroic person in the whole thing excepting, perhaps, his father.
McGonagall? She’s a bit of a tool, isn’t she? And she almost never actually sticks her neck out to do anything other than judge others (although she’s often a pretty fair judge…not always, but often).
Hagrid? Now here’s an interesting case. Is he flawed? Sure (love of creatures, lack of care of others, gullible, etc.) but he’s got a lot of heart and is always trying to do the right thing. He’s overcome some serious hardships from his past. My only problem, though, is that he’s riding the coattails of Dumbledore. He doesn’t really stick his neck out when it REALLY matters.
The Snape Contingency
When I announced that I had sorted out the real hero of Harry Potter publicly there were many loud, outspoken, and strong supporters for Snape. These people are wrong. Utterly and completely wrong.
Snape’s no hero, he’s a love-sick man-child who pleasures in the abuse of a kid out of anger at a father that he knew when he was, himself, a teenager. I know, in the end he “does the right thing”. But you have to realize that he spends a LOT of time prior to that doing a lot of wrong things.
“But he did them for the right reasons.” I hear you out there. Shut up.
Snape is the archetype of a character who does the wrong things for the right reasons. A real “ends justify the means” sort of fellow. But a true hero doesn’t have to justify their actions…because they’re doing the right thing. By that justification I could claim many heroes in the world and in literature who are only villains based on the fact that they lost (even Voldemort himself thought he was making the world a better place).
Nope, Snape’s an anti-hero at best and a sniveling little man who never really got over the BS that he went through in high school at worst. Grow up, little man…oh, that’s right you can’t because you’re dead and all we have left of you is your magic tears that continue to prove that well into your adult years you still can’t get over being picked on and you only do good things out of a sense of puppy love that you never moved past.
Snape is the hero of Harry Potter…please, not even close!
Would the Real Hero Please Step Up?
Over and over and over again. Every year of the stories, every fight to be had the real hero of Harry Potter stepped up and did the right thing for no reason other than it was the right thing to do.
And I was pleased to see that my theory about Neville proved true all the way through to the end of the series.
Neville was a hero all the way back to the beginning. He stood up to his friends because it was the right thing to do. He helped Harry in the Tri-Wizard Tournament because it was the right thing to do. He continued to fight back against the Death Eaters in Hogwarts after everyone else had abandoned the place, at serious personal risk and hardship because it was the right thing to do. He ultimately made the fall of Voldemort possible when he killed Nagini because it was the right thing to do (even when Hermione and Ron were big failures in this regard…although not for lack of trying).
So Neville always did the right thing, even if it wasn’t the popular thing, in every instance where we see him.
He’s not flawless, however, and that’s worth noting because no real hero is. After all, if you have no flaws or weaknesses then being heroic is easy…which isn’t very heroic. What makes Neville’s flaws fantastic, though, is that a) he overcomes them through determination and on his own and b) his flaws make him more relatable to us.
He’s socially awkward, he’s not a great student, he’s not popular, and is often overlooked. True or not EVERY SINGLE PERSON who’s ever been in high school has felt like this as well. As a former teenager and a current teacher of teenagers I can tell you this is absolute fact.
He moves past those flaws, however. He does what’s right even when it’s not popular, indicating that he’s matured far beyond most teens in knowing that doing the right thing is more important than social acceptance.
He’s not a strong student. So what does he do? He finds something he really likes (herbology) and he works really hard at it. He studies, he does his work, and he goes above and beyond what is expected of him. It’s an inspiration to us all.
And while, sure, Harry has the hardship of his parents being killed, Neville’s parents were driven stark raving mad…which might be worse than dead. While Harry is driven for a need for justice, perhaps revenge, over the whole thing Neville just wants to do right by his parent’s memories. He’s not out looking for trouble but he does the right thing when trouble comes his way.
Neville is NOT the “chosen one”. He doesn’t have the ENTIRE WORLD looking out for him, wanting him to succeed. He doesn’t easily come by bravery or heroics. He’s not the smartest, most powerful, luckiest, and most protected wizard-student in the world. He’s not motivated by proving himself, being accepted, being more powerful, or meeting expectations.
Neville Longbottom is you and me with all our faults and our insecurities but he’s our better in that hee wants nothing more from life than to work hard and do the right thing at every possible opportunity.
Neville Longbottom…the REAL hero of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
[tags] harry potter, movie, greatest ever, hero [/tags]