I’ve seen a lot of stuff on the internet about pulling your head out of your ass and finding out that Hermione Granger is the hero of the Harry Potter series, or Ron, or that kid that swung the sword around at the end. I’m not a scholar of the Harry Potter series. I read a couple of the books and watched the movies, and that’s it. However, I do know a great deal about storytelling, so I can say with some amount of confidence that Harry Potter is in fact the hero of the Harry Potter series.
How can I say something so utterly unenlightened and completely uninteresting? I’ll lay out my points.
ONE. Harry is a rebel, and heroes have a very wide rebellious streak. In the beginning, when Harry is coming up with outlandish plots and batshit shenanigans, Hermione and Ron almost always argue against him (rational arguments from Hermione and outright cowardice from Ron). The general trend of any and every story ever told is that you can’t save the day by following the rules. You have to break the law to save civilization. Sounds counterintuitive, but that’s the way heroes think.
TWO. It doesn’t matter that Harry was a jock and Hermione was a brilliant nerd. That point only matters to bookish internet types. Having high “stats” in multiple areas, like a really good role-playing game character, only makes you better able to handle various situations. It doesn’t necessarily make you the hero of the narrative you’re working within. See point one for further explanation.
THREE. Just because neither Hermione nor Ron nor the kid who swung the sword around at the end were the main hero does not rob them of their importance. You don’t have to be the hero in order to be important. It’s egomaniacal to think so. That sort of thinking leads to the production of corporate pamphlets and posters that say things like, “THE SCENERY ONLY CHANGES IF YOU’RE THE LEAD DOG!” Just because Hermione wasn’t the hero doesn’t mean she will be rewarded with looking at an asshole for the duration of the series.
FOUR. Harry Potter endures a death and rebirth ritual. This is another counterintuitive point, but all heroes must die and be reborn. This is symbolic of the fact that as we go through life, our ego must “die”, or be diminished, so that we can grow. Problems can’t be solved by the same mode of thought that created them, you have to lose yourself to find yourself, et cetera and all that.
FIVE. “But Harry’s dad was an asshole and Harry didn’t do anything to deserve being the hero!” Doesn’t matter; life isn’t fair, and heroes usually need more than a drop or two of cruelty in them anyway. True heroes have to go beyond concepts like “good” and “evil” and embody all sorts of elements in themselves, even elements that make normal people uncomfortable, in order to accomplish something beyond rational devising.