What Rowling Did Wrong

Last month J. K. Rowling started a hullabaloo when she questioned the suitability and long-term viability of Ron and Hermione’s relationship.

I personally wasn’t fazed by the whole who-should-be-with-who argument. What did concern me was that Rowling had overstepped her bounds as an author by casting doubt on a storyline she had already finished. 

The Harry Potter series had (and still has) a huge impact on the literary world, which means that Rowling has a huge impact on the literary world. She is currently the most well-known example of what it means to be a writer—and that’s why her comment irks me. It disrespects the relationship between writer and reader.

I know some of you disagree with me. You say that Rowling clearly identifies with Hermione and is more musing on her own life than on the lives of her characters. But here’s the thing:

You’re absolutely right.

The Potter characters obviously mean a great deal to Rowling. In a 2012 interview with Oprah, she said:

When [Harry Potter] ended, I was in a slight state of shock. Initially I was elated, but then there came a point [when] I cried as I’ve only cried once before in my life and that was when my mother died. It was uncontrollable . . . For 17 years I’d had [these books], through some very tumultuous times in my personal life, and I’d always had that. It was an escape for all these children; you can imagine what it had been for me.

And when Oprah said, “But you know what happens ever after,” Rowling replied:

Yeah, I do. I couldn’t stop. I don’t think you can stop when you’ve been that involved with characters for that long. It’s still all in there. They’re all in my head still. I mean, I could definitely write an eighth, ninth, tenth [book].

Let me clarify.

I’m not saying that Rowling doesn’t have the right to portray her characters as she sees fit or that she doesn’t have the right to vicariously portray herself through her characters. I would’ve had no problem with Rowling’s Ron/Hermione comment if she had written those ideas in an eighth, ninth, or tenth book.

But once a writer puts down her pen, she’s handed over the imaginative rights of her story to her readers, and it’s disrespectful to take that back and say, No, this is actually what happens, no matter how you imagined it.

Just after finishing the final Potter book, Rowling said:

It gives me a certain satisfaction to say what I thought happened and to tell other people that, because I would like my version to be the official version still even though I haven’t written it in a book. Because it’s my world.

Part of me agrees with her. She did spend years writing Harry Potter and it is her world . . . but then there’s another part of me that says, Isn’t that selfish, though?

Rowling insists she’s done with Potter, yet she won’t allow her readers to keep the story alive in their own imaginations and in their own ways.

In the end this argument boils down to one simple question: where does a writer draw the line between her rights as creator and her responsibility to readers?

I firmly believe that the best books come from writers who have the utmost respect for their readers; they’re driven to create better stories, better characters, and better worlds because they have too much respect for their readers to give anything less.

And yes, Rowling has done that in so many ways . . . I just have to disagree with her on this one.

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One thought on “What Rowling Did Wrong

  1. I 100% agree with you. I don’t think it’s fair for Rowling to continuously retcon things after the fact. If it didn’t happen in the books, don’t tell me and let me imagine things on my own.

    Like

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