I've never mentioned any of J. K. Rowling's wonderful characters
here so far, but my wife read the whole series to my kids, finishing
Deathly Hallows last March. Later, I would embark on the same journey
with our children. Having come through the first six, we've just begun Deathly Hallows.
After my wife finished Deathly Hallows last spring, she read the kids
The Hobbit. I would listen in when I could, and immediately noticed
the difference between it and the Potter books: The Potter books are written
with much more tenderness, whereas The Hobbit focuses chiefly on the quest.
I wondered for days why the difference was so stark. Having just finished listening to
Deathly Hallows, I was disappointed at the lack of engagement I found with The Hobbit.
At first I asked myself whether the difference could just be the authors' styles. Tolkien was a
brilliant author, no doubt, but perhaps his style just didn't appeal to me like Rowlings did.
Finally, I came to the conclusion that Harry Potter demands a more tender treatment,
because it is about children. As children, the characters aren't empowered
the way Tolkiens' characters are; instead, Harry, Ron and Hermione are forced to adapt
to a savvier adversary while still growing up. Their courage and sacrifice are amazing, but totally
believable: children are heartbreakingly able to face reality and give up things they love.
Tolkiens' characters, already desensitized by maturity, seem much less vulnerable.
Ron, at first, didn't appeal to me. He's the least talented of the main three, both magically
and also intellectually - or so I thought. However, Ron brings something else, something more
believable than what Harry or Hermione offer: he embodies that dogged determination to fight a losing battle
that we've all known in someone. That muted heroism - that wisdom to continue as the underdog when
logic would tell him to give up - is something that every cause needs in order to succeed. You could
point to dozens of great upsets that define history, and central to each one is a character like
Ron. You might present General George Washington as a great example (I think he had red hair, as well).
The Weasleys are like that: they're not glamorous, so they're easy to underestimate. However, their
brilliance lies in common sense. They have great self-awareness, which leads to self-confidence. Being
a very old family, they know they're tough - and that if they've always been around, they always will be,
however humble their position might be.
Ron, in the end, has been my greatest teacher. I hope to face my life problems with more dogged determination,
since I personally have found it's by far the most effective way to make real progress.
Wikipedia was a source for this article.