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Neville Longbottom: A Quiet Hero in the Face of Fear
We often identify ourselves with literary characters that are underestimated and overlooked. Why is this so? A character who demonstrates quiet strength rather than raucous noise is frequently overlooked, and often underestimated. In the Harry Potter books (Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1999), Neville Longbottom displays growth and courageous action in seemingly non-traditional ways, and is often underrated in their value to grand scheme of events in the Harry Potter books.
Neville is introduced as an awkward uncertain young man who is completely unaware of his abilities. On paper, he has all the makings of an outcast. Neville does not perform well in school, he is clumsy (he trips and then blows up potions in class, as his classmates shout “Ten points from Gryffindor!“). Most of all, he is fearful, which makes him an easy target for Draco Malfoy, a pure-blood wizard and the son of Death Eater.
Even Matthew Lewis, the actor who plays Neville Longbottom, says he “had so much to offer that people couldn’t see at face value.” They were inspiring characters that people thought nothing of at first and they stood up and stood their ground…” (Woerner, Meredith, 2011).
Throughout the Harry Potter books, the unlikely hero’s character gradually unfolds, as he demonstrates bravery, loyalty, kindness, and humility. Neville Longbottom’s progression from a mere Hufflepuff to a brave, confident Gryffindor is astounding, as he emerges a mere boy and grows into a brave and courageous young man. He stood up to Voldemort when all hope was lost, and he also pulled a sword out of a hat and killed a horcrux swiftly and seamlessly.
What truly sets Neville apart is the willingness to venture into the unknown and take action even when he is fearful out of his comfort zone. Neville also understands it is not about making grand gestures of bravado, but rather taking consistent small steps and standing up for what is right. He also understands that he hast a stand up for himself at the most crucial time. For instance, Neville’s transformation from an awkward bumbling eleven-year-old on the Hogwarts Express to the epitome of bravery and loyalty on the final battlefield gave him the courage and confidence to be an unlikely hero in the Deathly Hallows.
Neville stands for the outcast who is not only ignored, but also ridiculed. The first time Neville stood up for himself was when Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle taunted the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and Neville boldly and unexpectedly took on Crabbe and Goyle on by himself. No one could have ever predicted that Neville would possess such remarkable strength and boldness, because he did not conspicuously display those qualities frequently enough.
Neville’s quiet strength and a desire to solve problems and help his friends helped him push through his fears. Draco Malfoy bullied Neville simply because he was thought to be an easy target, as he was easy to embarrass. In his usual mean spirit, Draco put a curse on Neville, causing his legs to stick together so that he would have to awkwardly hop around instead of walk. Meanwhile, Harry gave Neville his chocolate frog. Neville then handed Harry Dumbeldore’s collectible card from the Chocolate Frog. As a result, Neville identified Nicolas Flamel and helped Harry, Ron, and Hermione on their first adventure.
In the Harry Potter books, most of Neville’s peers feel he should not be in Gryffindor. Even Neville didn’t think that he was brave enough to join their ranks of Gryffindor. Later, Neville proves to be more than worthy, when he earns a permanent membership to Dumbledore’s Army, wins the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, the Battle of the Astronomy Tower and the Battle of Hogwarts.
As Neville joined Dumbledore’s Army, his confidence was nourished within his friendship with Harry and his inner circle. Neville’s friends speak words of encouragement that give him strength to rise to the occasion. In the Sorcerer’s Stone, Ron exclaims, “You’ve got to stand up to him, Neville!” said Ron. “He’s used to walking all over people, but that’s no reason to lie down in front of him and make it easier.”
In the early years, not only did Neville not think that he was supposed to be in Gryffindor, but others also told him so. Once again, in the Sorcerer’s Stone, his friends give him the gentle nudge that needs to grow into a confident hero who stands up for himself and others. “You’re worth twelve of Malfoy,” Harry said. “The Sorting Hat chose you for Gryffindor, didn’t it?”
In the Sorcerer’s Stone, during a Quidditch match, in a haze of fear and newfound courage, Neville turns to Malfoy, and blurted out, “I’m worth twelve of you, Malfoy.” This is a pivotal moment for Neville. It is the end of their first year, and he has finally stood up to Malfoy after being bullied and tormented by him for months.
Surprisingly, Neville was greatly underestimated for his significance in the turn of events throughout the Harry Potter books. Without Neville, two of the major plots would never have come to fruition: the revelation of the Deathly Hallows (Rowling, J.K.. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York: Scholastic, 2007) and the identification of Nicolas Flamel. He was the second person mentioned in the prophecy regarding the child who would muster the power to defeat the Dark Lord.
Neville is the epitome of the unlikely hero as he overcomes his insecurities and fears to become a great leader. Neville’s courageous action allowed him to lead the Hogwarts rebellion in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Everyone has felt dismissed or underestimated, and problems faced by Neville are strikingly similar to what people face in their everyday lives.
While Neville forcefully but nervously stammers “I’m worth twelve of you, Malfoy,” fans everywhere think Neville is worth much more than that. Twelve “Malfoys” is still not enough to describe the tremendous hope that Neville brings to shy and awkward kids everywhere. Neville’s transformation documents the journey of a timid and uncertain young boy into a young man regarded as a hero.
In conclusion, Neville is one of the most underrated characters in the Harry Potter books because of the transformation he undergoes in his ability to face his fears and solve greater problems as a leader.
Rowling, J.K.. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”. New York: Scholastic, 2007.
Rowling, J.K.. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”. New York: Scholastic, 1999.
Woerner, Meredith. “Neville Longbottom, the Real Hero of the Harry Potter Franchise, Speaks Out”. I09, July 13, 2011. http://io9.gizmodo.com/5821034/neville-longbottom-the-real-hero-of-the-harry-potter-franchise-speaks-out. Accessed 27 March 2016.
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What do the origins and parts of the names reveal about their characters? Consider the names of Lucius Malfoy, Albus Dumbledore, and Voldemort.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second book in the Harry Potter series written by J. K. Rowling. This book is immensely popular amongst not only children and juveniles, but amongst adults as well. One of the most interesting and distinctive features of J. K. Rowling’s book is the proper names that she used. Some units are proper English names and some are made up by the author, but each and every name has its own meaning within the paradigm of the book.
The onomastics of English language is built in such a way, that each name bears not only nominative meaning, but also hidden shades and labels that are to be explored in order to fully understand their place within the paradigm. The names used in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets always have a hidden meaning behind them – they represent certain characteristics, cultural associations and describe each personality (Brøndsteda, & Dollerupa, 2004). While working on the book, J.K. Rowling filled it with names taken from Greek and Roman mythologies, popular children literature, and allegories from other literature works. Names in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets are often alliterative, adding more poetics to the writing by using associations and phonetics, depicting characters and implying that something else is hidden there – Snape snipes from time to time, Albus is a good wizard, Malfoys are of a bad faith, etc (Brøndsteda, & Dollerupa, 2004).
While working on the book and creating appropriate proper names, J.K. Rowling not only took into consideration the etymology of each name, but also filled them with intertextual and cultural meanings. Names of the characters in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets are mostly British, but there are the ones that have French, Irish, Scottish, German, South European, Greek and Latin etymology. However, the etymology of a name in the book does not necessary indicates the place of origin of the character, but rather the root features of personality (Brøndsteda, & Dollerupa, 2004). There are many intertextual echoes within the book as well – for example, Longbottom was borrowed from the Lord of the Rings, Hermione was taken from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, Marvolo from Twelfth Night and many more. In addition, many names in the book were taken from Greek and Latin mythology like Argus, Minerva, Hippogriff, Phoenix. Furthermore, while creating the onomastics space in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets J.K. Rowling included many references to British history and folklore. There are characters named after the heroes of Arthurian legends – Arthur, Ronald and Percival Weasley. Albus Dumbledore’s phoenix is called Fawkes – after the well-known Guy Fawkes, who wanted to blow up the British parliament. Therefore, the image conveyed by this name is the one of the fire.
In order to gain a deeper understanding of all the methods used by J.K. Rowling, it is necessary to analyze the names of some characters of the book – Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore, Lord Voldemort, and Lucius Malfoy. Potter, Harry – a young magician, the protagonist of the novel. Surname derives from the word potter that means “the one, who sells pottery,” a common British surname. Name derives from the name Henry, also a widespread name in English, which means to plunder (Harper, 2014). J.K. Rowling herself often stated that she is fond of the name Harry (MuggleNet, 2014). However, regarding the fact that the combination Harry Potter is widely spread in English language, one can presume that she used this particular name to highlight that the protagonist is an ordinary person capable of great deeds.
Albus Dumbledore – the headmaster of Hogwarts. The name itself derives from the Latin word albus – white. The name in this case is used to denote firstly, that he is old and has gray hair and beard, and secondly, as a symbol of morality, purity and resistance to the dark forces. Surname derives from Anglo-Saxon word dumbledore – humblebee. J.K. Rowling uses the word Dumbledore (Humblebee) to single out headmaster’s habit to walk and humble different songs quietly (MuggleNet, 2014). Lord Voldemort – the dark magician, former student of Hogwarts. Considering his original name – Tom Marvolo Riddle, it is obvious that it is symbolic as well. Tom – to identify his non-magic origin, Marvolo – from Shakespearean Twelfth Night character Malviolo, who was narcissistic and dreamt of greatness and power, and Riddle – that in English means ‘a thing that is difficult to understand or explain’ (MuggleNet, 2014). Therefore, one might conclude that these units are definitive and descriptive concerning this particular character.
The name Lord Voldemort is an anagram of the original name and derives from the French phrase vol de mort – flight of death, flight from death, and this is also descriptive considering the facts that the character is seeking immortality, and is able to actually fly in the air (MuggleNet, 2014). Lucius Malfoy – one of the main antagonists in the book, father to Draco Malfoy. His name comes from Latin name Lucian that means “light” (Harper, 2014). The name might be connected to the word Lucifer – to denote the evil and malicious character. The surname Malfoy can be divided into two parts mal and foy. Mal from French means bad, evil and foi means faith. This way, J.K. Rowling implies that this character has bad intentions and is not a good person.
To conclude, the names in the book Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets bear more than
just a nominative meaning. Using various methods, J.K. Rowling manages to convey the basic traits of each character in their name. She filled the book with names that come from English folklore, Greek and Roman mythology, British cultural heritage, thus making them more meaningful and comprehensible.
Brøndsteda, K. & Dollerupa, C. (2004). The Names in Harry Potter. Perspectives: Studies in Translatology, 12 (1), 56-72.
Harper, D. (2014). The Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.etymonline.com/
MuggleNet. (2014). Name Origins. Retrieved from http://www.mugglenet.com/books/name_origins_characters.shtml
Rowling, J.K. (2013). Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic Inc.
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