Recently, JK Rowling admitted in an interview with Emma Watson that she sometimes regrets putting Ron and Hermione together romantically. Like the rest of us, she wonders whether bumbling, incompetent, lazy Ron could really have made the industrious and brilliant Hermione happy.
That made me really sad. Because the last couple times reading through the series, I’ve been paying attention to Ronald Weasley, and I’ve realized something:
Yes, Ron is lazy. Yes, Ron buggers off on Harry twice. Yes, Ron has inferiority problems. Yes, Ron is flawed.
But Ron is also the most underestimated character in the series.
Ron is continually underestimated by Hermione, by Harry, by his family… he even underestimates himself.
If you actually WATCH Ron, you start to notice things.
Ron Is Smart
We all remember how Ron saved the day in the first book by winning the game of chess against McGonnagle’s giant chess set. If you think about it, that’s pretty impressive, since the artificial intelligence of the opposing side was meant to defeat adults.
Maybe you, like me, dismissed this as an out-of-character moment, since Ron’s supposed brilliance at chess never really comes up again.
Except it does.
When I started paying attention to Ron, I noticed that he never stopped winning at chess. Hermione is always interrupting Harry and Ron at games of chess throughout the books, and Ron never appears to be losing.
Now, if Ron is good enough at chess to win so consistently, he’s not the dimwit that so many of us tend to think he is. If anything, he is a good out-of-the-box thinker who keeps his cool in stressful situations. It is Ron who suggests Felix Felicis as a way for Harry to get Slughorn to cooperate in Half Blood Prince. It is Ron who thinks of fetching Basilisk fangs in Deathly Hallows.
Furthermore, while we all tend to think of Ron as a poor student, he was one of only twelve students to take NEWT level Potions. In fact, he does well enough to attend NEWT level Transfiguration, Charms, Defense Against The Dark Arts, and Herbology.
That means he got Exceeds Expectations on all of those OWLS. So, while he may not be the top of the class, he’s a B-level student at least, which is nothing to be ashamed of.
Ron Is Good At Magic
Grades don’t necessarily equal practical abilities, of course. Look at Fred and George, who barely got any OWLs at all but invent all sorts of cool magical items, which Hermione herself describes as “extraordinary magic”.
Ron may be bad at the more academic classes, like History of Magic, and he may have failed his first Apparition test (“just barely”, as Hermione points out in his defense). But he’s not actually all that bad at magic, especially in emergency situations. Don’t forget that he’s the one who knocked out the troll in his first year. In his second year, he cast a non-verbal Slug Vomiting Charm at Draco Malfoy and it worked. Unfortunately, it backfired on him because of his broken wand. But it WORKED.
He picks up Defense Against the Dark Arts quickly – maybe more quickly than Hermione was willing to admit.
Did you see me disarm Hermione, Harry?”
“Only once” said Hermione, stung. “I got you loads more then you got me—”
“I did not only get you once, I got you at least three times—
He acquits himself well in battle, earning praise from Tonks, the Auror who rode with him in the Battle of Seven Potters.
Ron was great. Wonderful. Stunned one of the Death Eaters, straight to the head, and when you’re aiming at a moving target from a flying broom —
“You did?” said Hermione, gazing up at Ron with her arms still around his neck.
“Always the tone of surprise,” he said grumpily, breaking free.
Always-underestimated Ron disarms Bellatrix Lestrange, saving Hermione, at Malfoy Manor, and helps to bring down Fenrir Greyback in the Battle of Hogwarts.
Ron is no bumbler, and no liability to his friends in a fight.
Ron Is Brave
Ron is a true Gryffindor. The only thing that he fears is his own personal failures. Well, that and spiders. But Ron faces down an entire nest of giant spiders for the sake of a friend. Ron never hesitates to throw himself into danger to save the people he loves.
A lot of this got edited out of the movies, where Ron was portrayed in a much more cowardly manner.
In the movie version, Ron panics while Hermione coolly saves him from the Devil’s Snare. In reality, it was Hermione who panicked and Ron who snapped her out of it. In the movie version of Prisoner of Azkaban, Ron whimpers on the floor with his broken leg while Hermione throws herself in front of Harry. In the book, Ron was the one who stood up with a broken leg and put himself between Sirius Black and Harry.
“If you want to kill Harry, you’ll have to kill us, too!” he said fiercely, though the effort of standing up had drained him of still more colour, and he swayed slightly as he spoke.
Something flickered in Black’s shadowed eyes.
“Lie down,” he said quietly to Ron. “You will damage that leg even more.”
“Did you hear me?” Ron said weakly, though he was clinging painfully to Harry to stand upright, “You’ll have to kill all three of us!”
Ron sacrifices himself a lot. He lets himself get attacked by a giant stone statue so that his friends can save the Philosopher’s Stone. He throws himself in front of Harry’s would-be murderer. He disguises himself as Harry in the Battle of Seven Potters. He dives into an icy lake to save Harry and pull out Gryffindor’s Sword. He begs Bellatrix Lestrange to torture him in Hermione’s place.
Ron may have his flaws, but he is no coward.
Ron Is Hilarious
Ron serves as the comic relief throughout the books. But the only one who ever gives him credit for this is the perceptive Luna Lovegood.
He says very funny things sometimes, doesn’t he?
Yes, yes he does. He brings light heartedness and wit to Harry and Hermione, who are far too gloomy when left to their own devices.
Of all the trees we could’ve hit, we had to get one that hits back.
Percy wouldn’t recognize a joke if it danced naked in front of him wearing Dobby’s tea cozy.”
Can I have a look at Uranus too, Lavender?
From now on, I don’t care if my tea leaves spell ‘Die, Ron, Die,’ I’m chucking them in the bin where they belong.
A brutal triple murder by the bridegroom’s mother might put a bit of a damper on the wedding.
I don’t know how to break this to you, but I think they might have noticed we broke into Gringotts.
IF WE DIE FOR THEM, I’LL KILL YOU, HARRY!
This is one of the reasons why Hermione and Harry need Ron.
There was much less laughter, and a lot more hanging around the library when Hermione was your best friend.
When Ron leaves Harry and Hermione alone for months in Deathly Hallows, the playful banter that we see between the friends throughout the series disappears.
There were loads of nights where we didn’t even speak to each other. With you gone…” He could not finish; it was only now that Ron was here again that Harry fully realized how much his absence had cost them.
Ron balances Hermione. He tends to serves as a comic foil to Hermione’s know-it-all seriousness, and he forms most of the punch lines in their interactions.
I suppose we’re doing the right thing…I think….aren’t we?”
Harry and Ron looked at each other.
“Well, that clears that up,” said Ron. “It would have been really annoying if you hadn’t explained yourself properly.
“What’s that?” said Ron, pointing at a large dish of some sort of shellfish stew that stood beside a large steak-and-kidney pudding.
“Bouillabaisse,” said Hermione.
“Bless you,” said Ron.
Excuse me, I don’t like people just because they’re handsome!” said Hermione indignantly.
Ron gave a loud false cough, which sounded oddly like ‘Lockhart!’
Maybe we assume that the comic relief shouldn’t be taken seriously, but for a character like Hermione, who desperately needs to be reminded to lighten up now and then, and someone like Harry, who broods far too much, Ron is vital to their mental health.
Ron Has A Talent For Imitation
Through most of the series, Ron’s tendency to imitate people just seems like part of his general wit.
You can pretend to be waiting Professor Flitwick, you know.” He put on a high voice, “‘Oh, Professor Flitwick, I’m so worried, I think I got question fourteen b wrong…
Aaaah,” said Ron, imitating Professor Trelawney’s mystical whisper, “when two Neptunes appear in the sky, it is a sure sign that a midget in glasses is being born, Harry…
I’ll make Goyle do lines, he hates writing,” said Ron happily. He lowered his voice to Goyle’s low grunt, mimed writing in midair. “I…must…not…look…like…a…baboon’s…backside.”
Ron’s impressions are not only funny, they’re genuinely well done. In Half Blood Prince he temporarily damages his friendship with Hermione by perpetrating a “cruel but accurate impression of Hermione jumping up and down in her seat every time Professor McGonagall asked a question”.
But still, what use is that skill?
As it turns out, It’s REALLY USEFUL.
In Deathly Hallows, while Harry grapples with Wormtail, Lucius Malfoy nearly comes down to investigate.
“What is it, Wormtail?” called Lucius Malfoy from above.
“Nothing,” Ron called back in a passable imitation of Wormtail’s wheezy voice, “All fine!”
If Ron hadn’t pulled off a good Wormtail impression, they wouldn’t have been able to escape and run upstairs with Wormtail’s wand to save Hermione.
But his ability to imitate is put to the ultimate test when he and Hermione break into the Chamber of Secrets, which can only be opened by someone who speaks Parseltongue. Ron pulls off an imitation of Harry hissing to Slytherin’s locket that is so convincing, it actually works.
He was AMAZING,” Hermione said, “Amazing!
Ron Is Underestimated
So, it comes down to this: Ron is brilliant at chess, witty, not bad at school, a force to be reckoned with in battle, selfless, brave, with a handy ability to mimic others.
…but everyone, including his friends, family, even his own author, thinks of him as being slightly useless.
Ron Is Disadvantaged
Let’s be honest about it – the Weasley family are basically considered to be the wizarding version of white trash – at least, by the other wizards.
My father told me all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles, and more children than they can afford.
Racism works along different lines in the wizarding world. No one seems to care particularly if you’re black or white. Instead they care about how “magical” your family is.
The Weasleys are considered to be “pure-bloods”, which makes them the wizard equivalent of Aryan. But they are also considered to be “blood traitors” and are scorned by the wizarding elite.
It’s Arthur’s fondness for Muggles that has held him back at the Ministry all these years. Fudge thinks he lacks proper wizarding pride.
Nor do the Weasleys have a pile of inherited wealth like most of the other pure bloods in the books. Harry’s parents lived off of his father’s inheritance – they never held actual employment. Lucius Malfoy doesn’t seem to have an actual job, either. He’s just rich. He probably owns a lot of land and lives off of the rents.
By contrast, Arthur Weasley works at a low-level government job, and supports his large family with a lot of scrimping and hand-me-downs. Ron, as one of the youngest children, is therefore also the most disadvantaged.
I’ve got Bill’s old robes, Charlie’s old wand, and Percy’s old rat.
Unlike Harry or Hermione, who get brand new wands that are specially matched to them and their abilities, Ron is handed an old wand that his brother didn’t want any more. That’s a huge disadvantage at school.
First of all, it is stated many times in the series that while a wizard can make magic with any wand, a wand will never work as well for someone who is not its rightful owner.
Unless Ron won that wand in a duel with his brother – which is unlikely – Charlie’s wand probably never worked properly for him, even before it got broken in second year.
Furthermore, the wand must have been pretty damaged for Charlie to want a new one. Ron says himself that the unicorn hair inside is showing.
Then, once the wand was snapped by the Whomping Willow, Ron is forced to keep using it for the rest of the school year, even though it simply doesn’t work. It backfires constantly, injuring Ron, Professor Flitwick, some unfortunate beetles, Seamus, and finally Gilderoy Lockhart. Sometimes it smokes for no reason.
No wonder Ron did badly in class when he was younger.
Ron Is Humble
The Weasleys are a humble family in general, tending to think of others before themselves. But Ron takes his humility into the depths of an inferiority complex, and who can blame him?
Everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it’s no big deal, because they did it first.
Ron comes into Hogwarts with a “why try” attitude that he doesn’t really outgrow until the last chapters of the last book.
Can you blame him?
He spent his childhood being teased by Fred and George, the youngest and therefore most incompetent of the Weasley boys. His successes are compared to those of his older brothers, but his mother uses her older children’s successes to shame her younger children when they come up short.
Ron stands there with his smoking, broken, hand-me-down wand while brilliant Hermione succeeds at everything and famous Harry gets all the attention. His own conviction that he’s useless at everything tends to create self-fulfilling prophecies.
“Has Ron saved a goal yet?” asked Hermione, peering over the top of Magical Hieroglyphs and Logograms.
“Well, he can do it if he doesn’t think anyone’s watching him,” said Fred, rolling his eyes. “So all we have to do is ask the crowd to turn their backs and talk among themselves every time the Quaffle goes up his end on Saturday.”
A lot of people in Ron’s position would try to minimize the successes of those around them. They would turn into bullies like Malfoy who make themselves feel bigger by putting others down.
But Ron is always the first person to tell Hermione how smart she is, or to congratulate Harry when he does well.
Harry glanced down at Ron’s grades. There were no ‘Outstandings’ there…
“Knew you’d be top in Defence Against The Dark Arts,” said Ron, punching Harry in the shoulder.
And that’s Ron all over. Harry outshines him, and he just accepts it.
The one time it became too much for him, he was back at Harry’s side the moment he came out of his funk and realized that Harry was in danger.
Hermione constantly does brilliant things and Ron is right there, clapping his hands, admiring her.
How do you remember stuff like that?” asked Ron, looking at her in admiration.
“I listen, Ron,” said Hermione with a touch of asperity.
We do try,” said Ron. “We just haven’t got your brains or your memory or your concentration – you’re just cleverer than we are, is it nice to rub it in?
And yet, with all this, people don’t think Ron and Hermione belonged together? They’re perfect for each other, and I’ll explain exactly why next time…
If you haven’t already, you might also like to check out some of my other Harry Potter rants.