It’s rare for an author to publicly admit that something was outright wrong with one of their famed books, but this weekend JK Rowling did just that, and made me very happy in the process. Speaking to Wonderland, Rowling admitted that the screwed up with her pairing of Ron/Hermoine and Harry/Ginny.
“I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment,” she says. “That’s how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron.”
“I know, I’m sorry,” she continued, “I can hear the rage and fury it might cause some fans, 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. Am I breaking people’s hearts by saying this? I hope not.”
This is a really interesting case, as Rowling admits she essentially refused to adapt to her own story. The entire series always felt like it was building to an eventual Harry and Hermoine pairing, and the sudden forcing together or Harry and Ginny and Ron and Hermoine never, ever felt right, and for me, was the biggest, most obvious problem with the series. Kind of a big deal because the epilogue has them all growing up and having kids together.
Ron and Hermione always fought, almost coming to blows at times, and I can see how that might be interpreted as a “hair pulling on the playground” sort of thing that would eventually draw them to each other once they hit puberty. And it’s not like the two relationships came completely out of nowhere. They were hinted at in a few of the later books before blossoming fully before the finale, but that doesn’t make them right.
Ginny was simply nothing in any of the stories. She was Ron’s sister and Ron’s sister only. She grew up and Harry simply accepted her ever-growing crush on him. She’s cute, she’s harmless, she’s perfect, right? Wrong, you can’t make the ultimate love interest of a character you’ve spent seven books developing someone so completely flat and one-dimensional. Ginny tags along to one or two adventures near the end of the books, but even Harry’s relationship with Cho Chang felt deeper than what suddenly developed out of nowhere with Ginny. At the end of the books, they barely even seem like they’re dating, then they end up married? It’s a happy ending plot device if I’ve ever seen one.
In reality, it was always Hermione who was Harry’s counter and equal, using her smarts to save the day even as he had all his “chosen one” prophecies to fulfill. The most interesting parts of the final films were the implied bits of jealously between Ron and Harry, as both presented some level of affection for Hermione, something that wasn’t really as present in the book. Obviously the movies didn’t go so far as to outright change one of the biggest decisions in the books, but the tension was there, and it felt right. It would have been a good development for Ron and Harry to legitimately spar over Hermione (not lashing out at each other purely because of some horcrux curse), with Harry ultimately emerging the victor, but Rowling simply didn’t want to go down that road. I’m not saying a love story needs a triangle to be effective, but it would have made sense for the characters given how they’d come up together as this tight little group.
I can understand the mechanical reasons Rowling would want that kind of ending. Harry essentially gets to be a brother to Ron, and both Heromione and Ron end up (supposedly) happy. Because after all, if Harry ended up with Hermione, what would have happened to poor Ron? The answer is who cares, and you don’t need everyone to have a perfect happy ending so long as you stay true to the direction of the story, which was always Harry and Hermione. I may sound like a fanfiction loving weirdo here, but given how important this series is in our pop culture lexicon, I’ve always thought this was a pretty big deal, and I’m really hoping these comments weren’t fabricated.
Harry and Hermione would have been one of pop literature’s great couples, but Rowling mishandled their story to the point where she was forced to abandon even the very idea of them ever being together to serve some old version of the series she still imagined in her head. At least she can now admit her mistakes, but what’s done is done.