I have loved Ron Weasley since the early days of Harry Potter. Something about 12-year-old me just liked him. Maybe part of it is that I’m a total Hermione and was destined to love him always. On rereads of Sorcerer’s Stone, I learned to appreciate the scenes where Ron sees himself accomplishing something great in the Mirror of Erised and where he wins the giant game of Wizard’s Chess. Right from the beginning, JK Rowling establishes the depths of Ron’s fears and insecurities,showing he’s much more than just comic relief. Ron is incredibly complicated, and very few writers seem to get that enough to convey him accurately on the page.
I’m not the only one who thinks Steve Kloves (screenwriter for most of the Potter films) did Ron a huge disservice in the Harry Potter movies, and I’m not the only one who thinks his character in Cursed Child leaves something to be desired. But why is that? I’m a Ron fangirl, but I think saying that he’s better than he is in the movies or the play (which is true—he is) doesn’t quite get to the heart of it. Most of the Harry Potter fandom would write Ron off as one of the least complicated characters. I’ve run across plenty of people online who straight up hate him, think he’s worthless, and adds nothing to the trio. People have shipped Harry and Hermione since the beginning because they believe Ron is not worthy of Hermione. (JK Rowling’s statements only added fuel to that fire.)
To all those people: I call bullshit. Ron is a delightful, complicated mess, and his three-dimensional humanity should not be overlooked.
First, let’s consider his friendship with the Boy Who Lived and the layers it has. Ron and Harry become best friends for the reason all 11-year-old boys should become best friends: eating a bunch of junk food together. Ron knows who Harry Potter is, but getting near the most famous kid in all of Hogwarts is not his motivation. Ron likes Harry for being Harry. Sort of impressive if you consider the fact that the guy has five older brothers who are always constantly outshining him and giving him a pretty serious complex. Maybe it helps that Harry really likes Ron, too. These guys are besties for life, a fact that is constantly reinforced throughout all seven books. That’s why Ron is designated as Harry’s special person in the second task in Goblet of Fire. They totally rely on each other which the movies downplay to their detriment.
Not only are they best friends, but Ron is the reason Harry has a family and an example of loving relationships that are not marred by the emotional abuse his blood relations put him through. I’d make the argument that the Weasleys are Harry’s entire emotional base for a while, and Ron is incredibly important for Harry’s emotional stability and happiness. Hermione is amazing, but she’s the logical support. When Ron’s not around, Harry’s always a little bummed—either he has to go to the library too much or is sort of miserable reviewing Horcrux clues. Ron’s return in book seven has way more of an emotional climax than almost any other moment because Ron is Harry’s emotional center. That’s one of the things A Very Potter Musical and its sequel get so very right—despite their other absurdities.
Beyond Harry, though, Ron stands on his own merit. He’s more than a sidekick. Let’s first consider that he manages to beat a chess game designed by Minerva freaking McGonagall when he’s still in his first year. Professor McGonagall is undisputedly the most kickass of all Hogwarts professors (and half the inspiration for our website) and a 12-year-old boy figured out her chess game. You can’t deny he has to have some brains to accomplish this. Chess isn’t a game you win out of dumb luck. There’s some planning and cunning tucked inside Ron’s brain and one of my biggest disappointments in the series was that we never got to see that original spark of brilliance play out on a larger scale. One other thing to consider: in the wizarding world, the chess pieces are sentient and have to trust you. So one of the reasons Ron is so fabulous at chess is because he can inspire the people he’s leading. Also, he’s willing to get seriously whomped in the head for his friends.
His intelligence and value show up time and again in the fact that his knowledge of the wizarding world makes him an essential part of the trio. He’s a great reflection of the foibles and wonder and biases of the world he grew up in. Sure, Hermione actually knows more about wizarding history than he does, but Ron is the only one who can come from it organically. He grew up living a life Harry can only dream about and it makes a fantastic resource. There’s no way in hell they ever would have made it into the Ministry of Magic without him or know some of the weird places wizards and witches are coming from in their treatment of magical creatures. However infuriating this might be to an outsider, it’s always good to know what the society at large thinks of things you want to fight. How else could you bridge the gap?
Maybe it’s easy to overlook him because he’s the least impressive Weasley. But is he really the least talented one in a boisterous family? Is Ron the introvert in a family of extroverts? If so, this could make his complex legitimate. Everyone knows about all his brothers’ exploits and Ginny ends up being supremely talented. His feelings of guilt and being overlooked and underloved could be totally justified. Maybe he’s overreacting? I think the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, which makes the Weasley family a little more complicated than they seem on the surface—much like Ron himself. Whatever the case, his position in his family can make him both sympathetic and irrationally jealous.
Speaking of jealousy and behaving irrationally, it’s fair to say that he has a fairly pathetic history with the girls he likes, but what teenage guy has a great track record in that regard? He’s struggling to figure out things as much as Harry or Hermione are, and sure, Lavender Brown is not a great choice, but think about your own teenage years. Did you always pick girlfriends and boyfriends beyond their willingness to make out with you? Doesn’t his stumbling and confusion make him more relatable and more like us? And doesn’t him trying to figure out his feelings also make him something more than a dumb-boy-teenage-jerk? There were definitely moments where I wanted to shake him for not just telling Hermione he wanted to kiss her already, but it’s not like Hermione always made it easy for him.
One of the things I love about their relationship so much is that it’s so challenging for both of them. Hermione is constantly bringing up things about the world he never considered before and making him learn and grow as a result. His tendency to sometimes be a dick? Hermione points it out. His dismissal of house elves? She points that out, too. And here’s the thing: Ron actually listens to her. It might take him awhile, but it’s important to see someone fumbling with ideas that they might not have considered from their place of privilege before (this essay makes a fantastic point about Ron learning to grapple with his own bigotry). He also pushes Hermione in a good way. She has to think about where she’s coming from and how fair it is of her to judge Ron on certain things. Consider the moment that finally seals the deal: Ron brings up the well-being of the house elves and Hermione is the one who finally breaks down the wall. It’s the moment where they finally come to an understanding, where she realizes that he’s grown as a person. Also, I’m sorry, but if your soul didn’t die a little bit in Deathly Hallows at the reveal that Ron is still convinced Hermione is going to leave him for Harry, then you probably don’t have one.
You may not like him and you may want Harry to get with Hermione, but if you write Ron simply as stupid, as not necessary to the trio, as not worthy of Hermione, as comic relief, or as a dumb teenager, you’re not presenting him in his full Ron-ness. He’s all that stuff rolled into one. While you can write a scene where Harry makes a brave-but-stupid decision or a scene where Hermione rolls her eyes because someone doesn’t know the full contents of Hogwarts, a History, Ron is more difficult to pin down with a single action. In an effort to get him across at all, a lot of people have to resort to the basics, and it never quite does the trick. (I’m still looking at at you, Cursed Child.) I don’t know that any other character has been screwed up so thoroughly by so many people, and I think this speaks to Ron’s complexity and his value.
Maybe the guy we all thought was simple comic relief is actually the most difficult to write of them all.
Featured image via WB.