Today, we’re bringing in another Honorable Mention piece from Sonja Livingston’s Queen of the Fall Essay Contest!
In “Woman, Witch, Warrior”, Jillian Bond proves that the person who inspires you the most doesn’t necessarily have to be real, as she speaks about identifying with, and learning from, Hermoine Granger of the world-famous Harry Potter book series.
Woman, Witch, Warrior
Author: Jillian Bond
I was nine years old when my hazel eyes and soft finger tips brushed the spine of a book that would eventually alter and change my life. The name of that book was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I know what you may be thinking, how could that conventional book series that thousands, if not millions, have already read, mean that much to me? How could a series about a magical world and problematic teenage wizard who always happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, really change my life? How could some lifeless words splattered across a page, actually influence a living, breathing, existence? Here is where I must hold myself back from exploding with Harry Potter knowledge, feelings, and trivia I have gathered for many years, and break it down to the main reason, my scientific hypothesis, behind why this series greatly affected me. It wasn’t until I was re-reading the books for the second or third time through when it hit me with why I was so gravitated to such a long and in-depth fantasy series. Sure there was magic and wizards, owls and a sport on broomsticks, potions class and a whole crew of phenomenal characters; but there was something, someone, that just made that series become more than a name on a list of books I read as kid. There was a spark among the glowing lights of the written collection, an illumination sharply radiating amidst the shining wands of the characters. A light brighter than all the others that just seemed to call out and guide me, and that shining spark was the 15 letter name Hermione Granger.
To people who haven’t been sucked into the deep, dark, endless hole of the Harry Potter fandom, Hermione Granger is simply a fictional character in a long book series, who was portrayed by the actress Emma Watson in the films. To the average fan, she is part of the brilliant trio that makes up the main characters of the books. The group who show their own unique skills and are all needed in order to overcome the rising issues that they consistently faced. To the more avid fan, Hermione is the geeky warrior that represents so much more than just the bookworm, female, love interest of Ron. She is the glue that holds the characters together, and ultimately keeps them all alive. She is the ice-cream on apple pie, you can take the cream away, but then what exactly is the point of the dessert? But to me she is far more than those things. She isn’t just some girl in a book, she isn’t simply part of a small group of magical teenagers, and she isn’t merely a bookworm warrior who kept the characters, plotline, and series together. Hermione was who I aspired to be,
who I looked up to, and ultimately someone I often saw as a mirrored image of myself. We aren’t identical, but similar to the point where I found myself relating to a fictional character in ways I had never found possible in any living human. Hermione was my Superman, my G.I. Joe, my Cinderella, my Miley Cyrus, and a version of myself how I wished to truly be.
I was homeschooled, in a single parent home, with several half siblings at least 14 years older than me, and a social life almost as nonexistent as Regulus Black’s storyline in the Harry Potter films. Needless to say I often felt like I was stuck within a bubble excluded from family, friends, and life. Not to mention my gender, family situations, personality, and the fact that I was years ahead of others my age when it came to school, made it hard to actually fit in anywhere. I remember being eight and trying to talk politics with some kids – but let me tell you right now, eight year old girls don’t want to be talking about politics, and eight year old boys don’t want to be talking to a girl. So what does this have to do with Hermione granger? She had two parents, no siblings, went to a normal school (well as normal as a magic school can get), and had many friends. Although our life ingredients are different the combination created the same end result, the need to prove oneself. People tend to see Hermione as a goody-two-shoes, bookworm that needs to always be right. But I often think that those people are overlooking a key part to her storyline. Hermione was born to non-magical parents, making her known to many in the school of Hogwarts as a “mudblood.” A magical term equivalent to one of the many on the profanity list our society tries to keep away from youth. Due to this label she was born with and had no control over, she had to work harder than the other students to be accepted. Hermione pushed herself to take as many classes as she could, get the best grades possible, become the perfect student, so then she could prove that she really should be a witch. I could relate to this on the first day I opened a Harry Potter book and even to this very second. I learned early in life that existing and breathing doesn’t get one noticed or accepted. As I got older I realized how hard it was to be taken seriously in life. When you start college at the age of 15 there is a lot of pressure to prove to family, friends, professors, and society that yes, you should be there, and yes, you will fight to be taken seriously. I used to look up to the fictional character for this very reason. She showed me how to fight for my place, how if I did I would be seen as more than just a number, and more importantly that time should not be wasted thinking about the bad ingredients you were given in life, but how to mix those ingredients into something people have never seen before.
In a world where Superman, Spiderman, and Batman dominate the superhero industry, all sporting the same surname of gender inequality, Hermione broke the social norm. Although one may not consider her much of a superhero, she is more qualified than half the names that make up the lists of men and few women that are said to protect cities of the evil lurking behind the bright lights. I’m a very passionate reader and have yet to come across many books with a female character as strong as Hermione. From what I have read, most authors of books, as well as writers of TV shows and movies, struggle with the creation and consistency in powerful female subjects. The issue I see, is that when making a strong female character, they give them many masculine qualities, turning them into a male character in a female body. This isn’t the case with Hermione. One of the things I find so compelling about the character is that she is smart, logical, strong-willed, quick-witted, no-nonsense, and brave, all while being female. She isn’t the prissy rich girl in pink, she isn’t the geeky girl with glasses and lack of good looks, and she isn’t a jock who is scared of pink and wants nothing more than a good sports game. She defied stereotypes and social norms in the most graceful and well-balanced way. Miss Granger truly did show what it’s like for a girl, a woman, to be strong, powerful, brave, and confident, all while still being compassionate, endearing, and showing emotion. Growing up you are thrown into what society tells you is correct for men and women, and you’re expected to understand and follow those gender roles. Young children watch princesses in big dresses get a happily-ever-after thanks to a prince who saves them. Preteens watch shows filled with the ideas that girls need to be overly sensitive and ultimately become saved and happy because of the teenage boy that they daydream about. Teenagers read romance novels filled with the idea that all will be fine when the girl is finally with the guy. But while everyone else my age was being brained washed with these ideas, I had my nose in a book, obsessed with a character that defied these standards. Hermione truly did show young, naïve me, that it is a good thing for a girl to be powerful, strong, and in control of herself. But more importantly she taught me that it’s best to just be who I am and not to follow society’s expectations.
I would like to think that I’m not one to follow the crowd nor one to settle for things I don’t hold to be right. These concepts that I strongly believe in are one of the ways I feel connected with the fictional character, as well as one of the ways I think this fictional character has affected me. Hermione is a no-nonsense type of person. She has shown just how strong she will be and how
little she will put up with when it comes to things she holds to be right or wrong. I remember the first time I read the scene where she punches Draco Malfoy in the face because he was insulting a teacher. I was shocked that Hermione would do such a thing, but quickly grew to love this more powerful side that came out more with every passing chapter. Later in the series she fights for the freedom of house-elves, despite the discouraging comments from other students. And in the final book of the series, she commits the arguably bravest act in the whole series – wiping her parent’s memory of her to keep them safe. Looking back I see how much this side of the character affected me. Hermione’s ways showed me that it’s more than alright to stand up for what you believe in and that it will make you well-respected in the end. She taught me that your own morals, wellbeing, and friends are more important than the possible negative consequences of standing up for yourself, something that I continue to remind myself.
At the end of the day, some will still ask what all that should have to do with me? What should an arrangement of letters that create a name, a combination of adjectives that create a charisma, a set of pages that create a character, a storyline, a person that although may not exist physically, has a mental place – have to do with me? And I will simply say that to me those 26 letters that are arranged to produce this character, are more than 26 letters. They rearrange into meanings, reasons, motivations, and ultimately make me who I am today. To me Hermione was a representation of myself in a world I would have killed to be in. A world that I felt more comfortable in than America’s reality. Hogwarts was home and Hermione a sister, a friend, a guide for life. She showed me what it means to be a hero, how important it is to fight for who you are, and never to settle for things you don’t believe in. There is so much I could say about this character and how these books and movies have affected me growing up, and continue to inspire me. But the one thing that I want to be understood, is that Hermione may just be a name to some, or a fictional character to others, but to me she is a mental state, a concept that I hold deep within me, something that I can turn back to in times of doubt. A person that although I have never physically met, has been there for me when no one else understood me. Because sometimes, 26 letters splattered across some pages can mean more than beating hearts and spoken words, and fill the seemingly empty bubble of one’s life with a comfortable haze of peace and meaning.