If you’re a living, breathing human being, you’ve heard what happened this weekend. No, I’m not talking about the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory. I’m referring to author J.K. Rowling’s sudden admission that she mixed up her ‘ships in the Harry Potter series.
Not only did she basically say that she thinks Harry and Hermione should have ended up together, but she acted as if it were an illogical decision to match up Hermione and Ron. The Sunday Timesinterview has not been fully released in the U.S. but the snippets shared online have dominated the Internet over the last few days.
Presumably answering a question by her interviewer, actress Emma Watson, Rowling shared, “I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That’s how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with my clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron.”
And with that, the Harry/Hermione ‘shippers that have long been dormant awoke…
Source: Tumblr/Harry Potter Daily
Rowling and Watson agreed that Harry/Hermione are a “better match,” and Rowling added that Ron and Hermione likely would’ve needed marriage counseling. This kind of talk only egged on the “Harmony” ‘shippers, especially when Watson added, “I think there are fans out there who know that, too, and who wonder whether Ron would have really been able to make her happy.”
Immediately, the Ron/Hermione ‘shippers stood up to defend the canon pairing. “They have probably the most realistic relationship in children’s literature. I like that they’re not perfect,” reader Meg shared on Bookish’s Facebook.
Source: Tumblr/Quills and Parchment
What makes this development especially unsettling is that Rowling herself seemed to be a staunch Hermione/Ron ‘shipper while writing the series. In a 2005 interview with Mugglenet, Rowling said of Harry/Hermione ‘shippers, “I think anyone who is still ‘shipping Harry/Hermione after [ Half-Blood Prince]… they need to go back and re-read, I think.”
This is not the first time that Rowling has retroactively dropped a bomb about the characters of her novels. In a 2007 live interview with fans, Rowling revealed that Headmaster Albus Dumbledore was gay. At the time, she joked, “You needed something to keep you going for the next 10 years!” To that end, some sources are citing this new information as a plug for the author to remain relevant. “This starts to look like publicity seeking after a while,” reader Teri added to our Facebook wall.
No matter which side of the ‘ship you fall on, the issue that I struggle with is that Rowling (or any author) can continue to rewrite their books after they have been published and put into the universe. Imagine the teen fury that would be unleashed if Stephenie Meyer revealed that Jacob, not Edward, was meant to be with Bella. If Jane Austen decided that Elizabeth belonged with Mr. Collins, not Mr. Darcy. I don’t feel dramatic in saying that it does entirely change the reading experience—regardless of how the book actually reads.
“I can hear the rage and fury it might cause some fans,” Rowling said in the interview. “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.”
Rowling has every right to her own honesty and truths. I’m sure there are many things about the series that she’s thought differently over throughout the years. But, have readers been asking for that revised edition? Does she not have an obligation to us to uphold canon—at least in appearances?
“Am I breaking people’s hearts by saying this?” Rowling wondered. No, J.K., my heart is not broken. But I’m feeling as though this were an unnecessary revision coming seven years too late. Rowling continues to give fans information they desperately do want: backstories of characters on Pottermore, hints of where characters end up in interviews. She crossed the line, however, when she began revising actual canon.
While Harmony ‘shippers rejoice, other readers feel as though the rug has been pulled out from under them. Readers who have been kind, loyal, passionate, and were not asking for this new information. These readers aren’t, as some might argue, Ron/Hermione ‘shippers who can’t see the light. Their ‘ship was canon until they woke up one morning and the author had decided to change her mind. Seven books of foreshadowing, a legendary kiss—all erased in a few words.
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This may not sway my opinion of who Harry or Hermione belong with, but it does sour the reading experience to know that the author wants to take it all back. J.K.—as a woman who gave me so much—I try to respect you, but I’m failing to do so when I think you’re overstepping your bounds by adding a book-altering element of canon. Dumbledore being gay changes nothing: There is no wife or children who disappear, or dates he goes on that would not exist. But, reworking two of the most essential couples in the series (Ron/Hermione, and by extension Harry/Ginny) clearly would influence the actual narrative—and that is what I have a problem with.
Rowling may not have actually rewritten the books, but it certainly affects the type of conversations fans have about the series now. Could Snape/Lily actually be canon? Sirius/Remus? Does she regret not really killing Harry?
I’d like to ask Rowling to stop tickling the sleeping dragon. As humorous as she was, her readers do not “need” something to get us through the next 10 years. We don’t need something to remember her by; we don’t need reasons to think of Harry Potter. We always remember. Our bodies are tattooed with memories, our fanfiction continues to sail ‘ships, our imaginations run wild with spells and dreams of Hogwarts. Every birthday that I spot an owl makes me grin, thinking of my belated Hogwarts letter. I don’t need the shrapnel of lost ideas or sudden revisions to keep the passion alive for me. Hogwarts is and always will be there to welcome me home.
YA author John Green beautifully states, “Books belong to their readers.” Once printed, published, and released into the world, that book is finished for the author and belongs to the readers. I hope that Rowling takes her own advice, given through the immortal voice of Dumbledore: it does not do to dwell on dreams of what could have been.