Though I’m sure many readers are familiar with Harry Potter, just in case you aren’t, potential spoilers ahead.
As the season turns colder and the days turn darker and more mysterious, the holiday spirit begins to stir. And while more hardcore fans may disagree, for me at least, winter is the best (and most socially acceptable) time of year to engage in a Harry Potter movie marathon.
Thus I found myself a few nights ago watching the second movie in the saga, The Chamber of Secrets, with my family. I wasn’t really watching, mind, I have to confess to being much more engrossed in online Christmas shopping. But one scene in particular held my attention, and lead to this blog post.
In the scene, Harry and his friend Ron travel deep into the Forbidden Forest on a mission to find out what happened at Hogwarts fifty years ago when the Chamber of Secrets was opened, and who is responsible for opening it now. Their path leads them to the dwelling of the giant spider Aragog. Harry begins to interrogate Aragog, and while major plot points are being revealed through the dialogue, Harry’s friend Ron repeatedly interrupts him, making frightened noises. Irritated, Harry finally turns to Ron to see what he wants, only to discover that while they were chatting, the other spiders of the hollow have been creeping steadily closer.
Taken at face value, this scene shows Harry (the hero) getting the job done, while Ron (his blubbering sidekick) merely makes a nuisance of himself. Right?
Perhaps it was the fervor of my reckless spending spree that induced such a spurt of abstract thought, but suddenly I wasn’t watching two kids on a crazy adventure in a magical forest. When I thought about that scene, I was seeing a medieval warrior in the hall of his enemy, under an uneasy flag of truce, while his trusted right-hand man scans the crowds of restless enemies pressing ever closer, hands on their weapons.
I’ll get back to that thought. But while Ron is not always my favorite character, he is undoubtedly an important one, and, I think, a tad underrated.
Ron gets a bit of a bad rap through the series for being a bit of a scaredy-cat. Much of this (in the movies, especially) is for the benefit of providing some comic relief. But I’m ready to make the argument that despite appearances, Ron’s role in the scene with the spiders (the film version, anyway) was actually critically important to the success of the mission.
During the scene, Harry’s attention was completely monopolized by Aragog, who revealed that Hagrid was framed, while also dropping some hints about the true nature of the creature currently stalking the halls of Hogwarts. Short put, Harry just doesn’t have time for anything else but what Aragog is saying – the welfare of his friend Hagrid, and the safety of the entire school, depends upon it.
But while Harry is busy listening, he’s let his guard down. Now Harry’s welfare depends upon the fact that Ron is watching his back. And when you’re face-to-face with spiders the size of cars, that’s a pretty big responsibility. In short, while Harry was accomplishing the mission, Ron was busy making sure that they survived the mission long enough for it to mean something.
Because discovering what’s in the Chamber of Secrets doesn’t mean a darn thing if you immediately get eaten by a giant spider upon learning it.
Another thing I’d like to point out is that Ron hates spiders more than anything. Which means that following a trail of spiders into a dark and creepy forest in order to go find MORE spiders would probably be his worst nightmare. But you know something? He went anyway. That takes some serious guts.
The moral of this story is that every hero needs a friend to guard their weak side, and that weak side could be any number of things depending on the situation. Whether you’re a medieval feudal lord embroiled in a bitter border war (which is where I went with the analogy, surprise surprise) or a young teenage wizard fighting the baddest man on the planet, a hero needs a friend, and initiative, courage, and heroism come in a variety of guises.
Another takeaway? Don’t let your guard down around giant talking spiders.
You might just get eaten.
I’ll close with this pearl of wisdom from my father. While we were watching Harry and Ron escape back through the forest with a horde of spiders hot on their trail, I was struck by the urgency of their situation.
Me: *struggling to find the right words* They’ve been outflanked!
Dad: When you’ve been outflanked enough, it’s called being surrounded.
Thanks dad. Glad you’ve always got my back!