Harry Potter: Text vs. Author


Despite the fact that the Harry Potter book series wrapped up back in ’07, the headline dominating my Twitter feed this morning was JK Rowling’s admission that Ron and Hermione were a mistake. It should have been Harry and Hermione happily ever after, apparently.

But how much does it matter?

My issue with this rather late confession is less with the plot idea (although was it not a positive thing that the relationship between Harry and Hermione celebrated male/female friendship?), but the idea that, as author, Rowling has the commanding voice over all readings of the books. If Harry and Hermione were meant to be, the fans would have read that in the text. And many did.

Telling the whole world that canon events were a mistake just leaves you feeling uneasy. I always felt that the epilogue was a mistake, firstly for being overly saccharine but also for removing the option to imagine various other directions for the characters. It’s an author’s final attempt to retain control of her world. I feel the same way about The West Wing‘s flash-forward (re: CJ). I hate the airtight conclusions, not allowing the reader’s imagination the freedom that is more than earned after seven long books. But now to tell them that the ending was actually a mistake? It makes you imagine that while the characters had those resolutions, they were never happy in them. As an invested reader, it’s hard to accept that it turns out that the epilogue wasn’t saccharine but instead was kind of tragic.

This is not the first time Rowling has thrown out a headline-making revelation about the world of Potter. While the news of Dumbledore’s homosexuality didn’t contradict canon events, it always felt rather hollow considering the lack of explicit evidence in the text. I have no issue with Dumbledore being gay, but I find it an odd move for Rowling to throw it out into the world as though proof of representation. I’m not invalidating authorial intent entirely, but I feel that the control and intent of the author begins and ends in the text they create. They can do anything within their story, and then once it has been put out into the world, people should be allowed to read whatever they want into those words. I am not into the idea of authors deciding, years later, that my reading of a novel is invalid.

It’s sad, too, because one of the most enjoyable aspects of Harry Potter is its exclusion of a love triangle. The main trio are bonded by friendship. It was refreshing that the lead female character wasn’t the hero’s prize. Rowling’s revelation tarnishes this, and also removes the focus from Hermione’s brilliance, her intelligence and her compassion. Whether you ship H/Hr or R/Hr, we can all agree on that, right?

Sidenote: I really feel like if JK Rowling should take issue with anything in her own book series, it should be the pretence that Snape turned out to be a standup bloke. Dude terrorised 11 year old son of woman who rejected him in high school. He also bullied Hermione about her teeth (which she later has permanently changed because of the insecurity) and inexplicably punishes her for being brilliant. But yes, it absolutely makes sense that older Harry would give his son the middle name of Severus. Wha-what?

Leave a comment


  1. Don’t forget Snape’s treatment of Neville, also delightful.

    • Poor, precious Neville. What a darling. Yep, so true. I’ve never understood the Snape love. I understand liking a story where a character presumed evil turns out to be good (I love me some Sirius Black for e.g.), but that’s not the case with Snape – nothing excuses the way he treats those kids.

  2. Yeah I agree – I especially agree with your point that it was nice that the main characters were not in the middle of a love triangle at any point (except maybe for a second when Ron was jealous, but that doesn’t count).


  3. Anna

     /  February 2, 2014

    Severus makes more sense for a middle name than Albus for a first. Albus was a conniving old man who I feel didn’t truly care for Harry. Snape atleast was pushing Harry Away to keep him safe. I don’t condone his treatment of his students. But JK expects me to believe that Harry didn’t name on if his children Sirius? really?

  4. I absolutely love your take on things. I think you captured it quite rightly, not to mention the fact that I feel she delivered her statement with very little tact.


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