In a weekly series, staff writer Katie Majka takes a look at some of our favorite witches and wizards, and how they fit into literary and social archetypes. This week: Ron Weasley.
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Ron gets a bad rep, and I for one don’t know where it comes from. Since when did we start hating on the funny best friend with a heart of gold? He’s accessible when the hero is too broody—rightfully so or otherwise—for us to stomach. He’s grounded and relatable, whereas none of us can really boast about our experience as the Chosen One, and he lightens the heaviest of situations so they seem a little less foreboding and therefore easier to tackle.
Naturally I’m inclined to blame the films, as their portrayal of Ron plays upon all of book-Ron’s insecurities—his fear of inadequacy, of being shoved in the background, of being good for nothing but a joke here and there. Sure, Ron’s got the jokes, but he’s got the inside scoop on the Wizardkind, too. He always steps in to clear up the tension as well as any questions Harry or Hermione have on wizard customs and history. Ron never fails to lend a helping hand, and it’s in this way that he is the quintessential sidekick.
The sidekick’s function is to aid the hero in acting as his loyal friend and confidante. The sidekick offers humor and insight, which Ron does for Harry from the beginning. Throughout the series, even when Harry is more comfortably acquainted with the Wizarding world, he turns to Ron whenever he hits an unfamiliar wall. Having grown up in the world to which Harry belongs, Ron is a fountain of knowledge, and he freely shares that without making Harry feel foolish for his ignorance.
He is excited to share his knowledge of and experience in the Wizarding world, and it’s this first exchange that sets the tone for their relationship: Harry learns about his world from Ron, and Ron continuously helps Harry in saving it.
Ron has his own flaws with which he must contest, but he helps Harry through his darkest moments, too. As Hermione says in Sorcerer’s Stone, “there are more important things” than what you would think on the surface—cleverness and quick-thinking, whatever books can teach you when you study hard enough. It’s less about being a skilled wizard, and more about what sort of person you are. While this was said to and about Harry, it applies even more so to Ron.
Maybe he’s not the quickest or the cleverest, and maybe he doesn’t tend to think outside the box as much as his friends do. But isn’t that what’s relatable about Ron? He’s not the Chosen One, and he’s not the brightest witch of their age—he’s the everyman and a bit of an underachiever, but he’s there for his friends through it all. Yes, he leaves Harry and Hermione when the Horcruxes prove too much for him, but he ultimately does so because of his family, as demonstrated by his fight with Harry prior to his leaving.
“Didn’t you hear what they said about my sister? But you don’t give a rat’s fart, do you, it’s only the Forbidden Forest, Harry I’ve-Faced-Worse Potter doesn’t care what happens to her in here — well, I do, all right, giant spiders and mental stuff —”
“I was only saying — she was with the others, they were with Hagrid —”
“Yeah, I get it, you don’t care! And what about the rest of my family, ‘the Weasleys don’t need another kid injured,’ did you hear that?”
“Yeah, I —”
“Not bothered what it meant, though?”
While Ron’s accusations that Harry doesn’t care aren’t as justified as he thinks in this moment, his frustration is. There is no steady or reliable stream of news while the trio hunts for Horcruxes, and as such there’s no way for Ron to know if his family is safe or dead or on the run. There is nothing cowardly in his decision to leave—there is nothing cowardly in frustration and worry, in disappointment and impatience. They’re in the midst of a war that encompasses the entirety of their world, and while Harry is saddled with the mission to end it, Ron can’t focus the same way. Generally speaking, Harry is more emotionally detached, and in this case that works in his favor to eliminate distractions.
Ron, meanwhile, has dealt with the repercussions of befriending Harry Potter from the beginning. In their first three years alone, Ron is beaten senseless by oversized chess pieces, he totals his dad’s car, his sister faces death, he walks into a nest of spiders despite his arachnophobia, and his own leg is broken. While none of these deeds are committed by Harry (nor can he be blamed for them), they are instigated because of him, and as such Ron could have saved himself a lot of damage by keeping out of Harry’s inner circle.
But that’s not Ron’s nature. He offers his friendship to Harry altruistically, without a thought to Harry’s fame and how it could personally benefit him. And when Harry’s celebrity proves to be more daunting and dangerous than it is glamorous, Ron faces that challenge head-on along with Harry.
He isn’t perfect in his devotion to Harry—he has his foibles, as we all do, but he always comes back, a characteristic that J.K. Rowling plays heavily upon within the narrative. When asked why Dumbledore left his Deluminator to Ron in Deathly Hallows, Rowling said, “Dumbledore understood Ron’s importance in the trio. He wasn’t the most skilled, or the most intelligent, but he held them together; his humor and his good heart were essential.”
Point of fact is, Ron isn’t the crème de la crème of wizards (but really, when you’re set against acknowledged top-of-the-class Hermione, who is?). He has his failings as a regular Joe, too, when in both Goblet of Fire and Deathly Hallows he falters in his loyalty to Harry, but who among us hasn’t at some point felt inadequate compared to a friend, and resentful because of the insecurity that incites? On each of these occasions, Rowling makes it a point to showcase Ron’s shame over his desertion once he’s back at Harry’s side.
“He knew what he was doing when he gave me the Deluminator, didn’t he? He — well,” Ron’s ears turned bright red and he became engrossed in a tuft of grass at his feet, which he prodded with his toe, “he must’ve known I’d run out on you.”
“No,” Harry corrected him. “He must’ve known you’d always want to come back.”
And that, ultimately, is what makes Ron the most human sort of sidekick, and the reason why so many people can relate to the best friend more than the hero—because despite his own flaws and misgivings, and no matter how often he falls victim to them, his loyalty to the hero and his cause always bring him back.
I’ll make a safe bet here and say that few of us can claim savior-of-the-world status, but we’re all somebody’s best friend. But what Ron’s flaws teach us is that we can’t just be somebody’s best friend—we have to be our own person, the hero of our own story as well as sidekick in someone else’s. When we know who we are to ourselves, we know who we can be to someone else, too. And that’s when we can put our pride aside to off a Horcrux and hug it out with the guy who dragged us off to destroy the things in the first place.
Be sure to check out our other Harry Potter and the Order of Archetypes installments.
All artwork belongs to writer of the post, Katie Majka.