In Praise of Neville Longbottom

For What’s Up Wednesday, I always share some of the small doings of my life. Last night, I went to the Harry Potter movie and came away with some writerly insights.

In my characterization workshop, I talk about archetypes and how enduring character templates keep recurring in literature. There are mentors and threshold guardians, heralds and shadows. And of course, there are heroes! I like to think of all these types as masks which different characters can wear as the story progresses, exchanging the function of the type as the tale unfolds. For example, I’m always fascinated when a hero slips on a shadow’s mask and behaves in a less than exemplary manner. Or when a secondary character takes up the hero’s mask.

Young Neville LongbottomThat’s why I was so happy with the final installment of the Harry Potter books. Neville Longbottom, one of my favorite secondary characters, gets to walk the hero’s path and he does it with grit and dogged determination. Let’s take a minute to explore why we love Neville.

He’s not the most attractive of the youngsters at the outset of the HP saga. If anyone’s broom malfunctions, it’ll be his. He frequently ends up in an embarrassing situation saying, “Why is it always me?” But we empathize with him when he admits to fearing Professor Snape and laugh with him as Neville imagines his nemesis dressed in his grandmother’s dubious fashions. We smile when he learns to dance and are grateful when he acts as an information planter, providing Harry with gilly-weed right when he needs it.

Neville Longbottom and the Sword of GriffindoreNow in the last movie, Neville has grown up and unlike Harry and Ron, who still seem very juvenile to me, Neville is a man. He’s not out gallivanting about having adventures. He’s standing on the rubble of Hogwarts, defending what he holds dear even when it seems hopeless.

He may be battered and limping, but his spirit is indomitable. Dumbledore says “Help will always come to those who deserve it.” None deserve it so much as Neville, yet he’s the one who gives aid to Harry at the crucial moment. I literally cheered when Neville wielded the sword of Gryffindore. It was made for just such an unlikely hero’s hand.

Neville LongbottomAll told, JK Rowling tied up every lose story thread and crafted one of the most satisfying story endings I’ve ever experienced. And I’m so glad she didn’t limit herself to her main protagonists.  It cheered my soul to watch Neville grow into himself and at a time when all around him seemed to lose heart, step forward and defend the right against insurmountable odds.

There can never be too many heroes.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have a favorite HP character?

11 thoughts on “In Praise of Neville Longbottom

  1. Barbara Britton says:

    Hi Mia,

    I just saw Harry Potter today. Had to loop my purse on my arm or it would have flipped into the other seat. I needed a few Kleenex for the Snape/Lily flashback.
    I like Luna Lovegood. She is never afraid to be herself. I would have liked to see her and Neville kiss in this movie since Neville says he likes her.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Agreed, Barbara. That was a missed moment, but I guess they didn’t want to take away from Ron and Hermione’s big lip lock.

  2. Marcy W says:

    I haven’t seen the new movie yet, but am even more eager to by Mia’s comments about Neville. — My favorite character was Dumbledore — I always like an older, in-charge, man, I guess. And I love Hagrid, a truly splendid secondary character (and so well acted in the movies). It seems that I often enjoy secondary characters more than the heroes, which is one reason (of many) I love Mia’s books … her secondaries are always fun and integral to moving the story forward. I do often wish they could have books of their own, though! :-)

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Of all the professors, I’ll have to admit to a fascination with Severus, even when he surrounds himself with bad company. Mostly, that’s due to Alan Rickman and his whisky voice. I don’t want to be a spoiler, but let’s just say my faith in Alan was rewarded.

  3. Cindy holby says:

    I always loved Neville and his characters arc. Going to see HP7-2 tomorrow. Btw have you seen Neville lately? He’s grown into quite a handsome young man. I predict lots of great roles for me him the future.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Yes, indeed, the years have been kind to Matthew Lewis, the actor who plays Neville. Not every child star makes the transition to adult roles. Unless I miss my guess, that’s a career walking there.

  4. Mia, glad you liked the movie. I agree, it was a fantastic and completely satisfying way to wrap up the series–just like the book it was based on!

    I kind of adore the character of Lupin; even more so after seeing David Thewlis’s wry, worn-out characterization in the films. He’s brilliant, he’s good-hearted, he’s tortured by his “furry little secret.” What’s not to love?

    Of the main three, I always liked Hermione. She can be a little pedantic, but she’s so clever and talented. She saves everyone’s booty time and again.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Lupin is a good example of a tortured hero. We love him for his self-loathing.

      Hermione does represent the very best in “girl power!”

  5. Nynke says:

    I <3 Neville! I guess if I had to pick a favourite, It'd be him. His younger self did get on my nerves a bit, but underdogs growing into heroes always get to me. In some way, they seem to be extra-heroic!

    There are 2 typos in your post, by the way: Snapes for Snape and Griffindore for Gryffindor.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Thanks, Nynke. I appreciate you keeping me gramatically and typographically correct. Will pop over to fix them.

      I’ve been a Neville fan since he had the courage to stand up not just to his enemies, but to his friends in one of the earlier books/movies.

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