Hermione Granger and the Deathly Hallows

Via Jason Kottke, Sady Doyle imagines an alternate universe:

So, before she goes away for good, let us sing the praises of Hermione. A generation could not have asked for a better role model. Looking back over the series — from Hermione Granger and the Philosopher’s Stone through to Hermione Granger and the Deathly Hallows — the startling thing about it is how original it is. It’s what inspires your respect for Rowling: She could only have written the Hermione Granger by refusing to take the easy way out.

For starters, she gave us a female lead. As difficult as it is to imagine, Rowling was pressured to revise her initial drafts to make the lead wizard male. "More universal," they said. "Nobody’s going to follow a female character for 4,000 pages," they said. "Girls don’t buy books," they said, "and boys won’t buy books about them." But Rowling proved them wrong. She was even asked to hide her own gender, and to publish her books under a pen name, so that children wouldn’t run screaming at the thought of reading something by a lady. But Joanne Rowling never bowed to the forces of crass commercialism. She will forever be "Joanne Rowling," and the Hermione Granger series will always be Hermione’s show.

The problem, really, is that nobody knew how to pronounce Hermione’s name until the movies came out.

Can anyone think of a young adult fantasy series with a female heroine that’s done remarkably well in recent years?

I can. I can think of other speculative fiction hits with girl leads as well.

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the editor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.


  1. I don’t know who the main character of A Song of Ice and Fire is, but Dany and Arya are both total badasses.

    • I thought it was hair-me-own until Victor is mocked for saying it that way in Goblet of Fire. Made for an awkward moment as I was reading it to my kids.

      • No other Music Man or Upstairs , Downstairs fans among us?

  2. For Hermione to be the lead wizard, she’d have had to be changed to to the point that only the name remained the same. In the books, she’s presented as a Lisa Simpson type: someone who “loves learning,” in the sense of always reading whatever’s assigned to her and assuming that the authority figure behind the desk is the best judge of what’s important to learn.

      • Kevin, I think you hit the nail on the head with the Lisa Simpson analogy. Smart kids, boys and girls, identified with Lisa Simpson from very early on, even as Bart and Homer proved to be more consistently amusing.

        Hermione never concealed her intelligence or her work ethic — and she launched a crusade to liberate House Elves from slavery, which proved to be a pivotal point in the ultimate battle and a tangible (well, tangible within the Potterverse) vindication of the idea that the morally good can triumph over the powers of evil.

    • It’s really interesting to see how that plays out in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Eliezer Yudkowsky’s version of Potter is much more intelligent than the canon version, but still not even slightly conformist. Potter’s rivalry (plus Quirrell’s teaching) results in a Hermionie who’s more confident and more willing to strike out on her own.

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