Why wouldn’t people buy Hermione Granger and the Philosopher’s Stone?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.

This is an interesting argument, that Hermione might have been one of the more original aspects of Harry Potter, and perhaps its most tolerable aspect.

This is something that the Harry Potter fan community has been discussing for years: Hermione drives the story because she has her own story. No one in their right mind would trust 13-year-old Harry Potter with a Time Turner, but Hermione gets one and she deserves it. She dates a celebrity, and she outsmarts Rita Skeeter, and she does those things in the background of Harry’s story. She convinces Harry to be a figurehead in the fight against Voldemort, and she creates Dumbledore’s Army. She schedules the DA meetings, she creates the consequences for DA defectors, she creates the galleons that allow the DA to communicate in code. She researches horcruxes and how to destroy them. She rereads all of Hogwarts: A History. She shows up with the tools and the knowledge and prevents Harry and Ron from standing around looking perplexed while the world ends around them. She saves everyone’s bacon all the time by being smarter and better-prepared than anyone else. Those two boys would be dead a thousand times over without her intervention.

She gets her own story, if you know how to look for it. She has her own narrative that’s completely separate from Harry’s. But does that make her a hero?

…She’s relatable. She’s an overachiever who consistently stands in the shadow of The Hero. She pursues victory without ever receiving credit. She accomplishes and innovates constantly without recognition. She is expected to have the answers, and to provide emotional support, and to weather the foibles of others with maturity and grace. She is shouted at for daring to have her own pursuits and interests. She is shouted down for disagreeing with the person who has designated himself In Charge. She is never allowed to be tired or sad because everyone always needs something from her. She must be the best at all times, and she must never demand a reward for her efforts. She is a cypher for every ass-busting girl who has been shunted to the side of the stage while a man who yells at everyone receives a medal from the mentor who’s never seen fit to so much as meet with her.

Hermione is where women and people of color and especially, too often, women of color so frequently find themselves: pushed to the side and asked for patience.

Keith R.A. DeCandido sums up my own experience:

Unfortunately, Christopher, you have to get through all the books to get there. If you just read the first book, as I did, all you see is a hero who is wholly passive and does nothing actually heroic, is constantly told he’s the chosen one, and meanwhile there’s this girl who’s way more interesting and why isn’t the book about her?

It’s one of the many reasons why I never got past the first book, honestly.

And the real tragedy is that, if Rowling had tried to sell Hermione Granger and the Philosopher’s Stone, she’d just have a pile of rejection letters. *sigh*

—Keith R.A. DeCandido

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