Honoring the Heroine: Luna Lovegood

I really looked forward to this article. Not so much because of the book, but because of the character. Book five is the first time JKR fails to create a compelling mystery. She tries by giving hints of something the Order of the Phoenix is up to, but other than Umbridge being a tyrant, there is really not much going on at Hogwarts itself.

The book kind of makes up for it by creating a convincing oppressive mood in Hogwarts and then breaking it up with a lot of humour by describing how out of her depth Umbridge eventually is. But in the other books the climax feels earned. Here Umbridge is just a giant distraction, the true battle happens in Harry’s mind, and there is nothing really unexpected about it. Which makes the trio kind of useless. In the other books they investigate, they plan, they figure things out, but here they are more fighting against the ministry than Voldemort and the only thing they can do is founding the DA and giving interviews.

I still like the book overall, but I am missing the mystery in it. Everything in it is just way too obvious. What the book does really well, though, is building up the tension and giving the reader a taste of what is about to come. Because what the ministry tries to do – controlling Hogwarts – is what Voldemort will do in book seven with the whole wizard world. Book five basically examines the dynamic involved when a tyranny is set up, how the rules are tightened step by step, how some people see an opportunity to get power under the new regime while others bow to it out of fear, all this is shown in a small scale before it is repeated on a bigger scale.

A good example of how some things can escalate if they are not nipped in the bud from the get go is in the way how the press is portrayed. In the first book it is a source of reliable information. In the second book we see Lockhard using the press for his own gain. It is still pretty harmless, but it shows how the truth can be distorted. In the third book the information Harry gets from the press are plain wrong because the reporters are working off information they got from the ministry files. In the fourth book we see in Rita Skeeter a reporter who is deliberately telling half-truths and is ready to ruin people who speak up against her with petty articles painting them in a negative light. In this book the press is following the party-line of a corrupt ministry, and by being the mouthpiece of the government, it will soon be nothing more than a propaganda tool and finally a propaganda tool for mass murder.

In a lot of ways book five is the tipping point, not just for the wizard world which falls into Voldemort hands for a large part because it rather looks in the other direction, but also for Harry, who in the end decides to accept his own destiny to fight Voldemort.

The movie does pretty well when it comes to creating the oppressive atmosphere. But, as I already pointed out in my articles about Cho Chang and Ginny Weasley, it goes totally wrong when it comes to portraying romance. In addition Sirius death is really, really rushed, and the omission of the mirror as well as Bill’s role causes problems down the line. There is one small change I really like, though. In the book Fred and George are caught when they create a distraction for Harry, which results in them leaving Hogwarts. In the movie though they deliberately create mayhem because they feel that Umbridge went to far. I like the idea that they deliberately set a sign against oppression better than them simply getting caught by one of their pranks.

Banner-HP-Luna

The best new addition in both book and movie is Luna Lovegood though. She is a really kooky and therefore memorable character, with a lot of memorable moments.

Book 5: Luna is searching for her stuff

In the book: A grieving Harry encounters Luna, who is busy hanging up notes, because she wants her property back, which was stolen by other Ravenclaws.

In the movie: The scene is missing, though snippets of their talk, like the other Ravenclaws stealing Luna’s things, are added elsewhere.

Why I like it: If you have ever gotten bullied, you know how helpless it makes you. There really isn’t much you can do. You can naturally protest whenever it goes too far, but that doesn’t change the social isolation. Luna hanging up requests to get her stuff back summons up pretty well that the only thing you can do is rolling with the punches. But while Luna isn’t able to fight her abusers, she doesn’t allow them to hurt her either. She is above worrying over their petty little pranks.

Book 6: Luna at Slughorn’s party

In the Book:  Luna accompanies Harry to Slughorn’s party.

In the movie: The scene is there, but with a few important changes.

Why I like it: I totally admit, I mostly like the scene in which Harry meets up with Luna. What is missing in the movie is that there are other Rawenclaws around which don’t believe that Luna really has a date with Harry and tease her. It is such a satisfaction when Harry turns up. But it also sends an important message. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, or if your dress fits the norm. What is important is that you make friends who like you just the way you are.

Book 7: The description of Luna’s room

In the Book: When the trio visits the home of the Lovegoods, they notice a self-painted mural in Luna’s room featuring them.

In the movie: The part of the scene is missing.

Why I like it: From the moment Luna turned up, Harry, Ron and Hermione have constantly judged her. For her beliefs, for the way she dresses, for her strange laugh, for her habit to tell uncomfortable truths, for everything which seemed odd to them. They all grew out of their initial judgemental phase, though. While Harry is still ashamed to be seen with her in book five because she is not cool enough, he tells off people who look down on her in book six. And yet none of the trio is ever truly close to her. They are so wrapped up in each other that they barely notice how good of a friend she is. I like that the book doesn’t shy away from displaying the fact that sometimes you don’t give the people in your life the attention of credit they deserve.

Final thoughts: In fanfictions, Luna is often portrayed as the “more perspective” one. I don’t like this take on her. Yes, she is open-minded and that is very much a good thing. It makes her more tolerant and ready to accept new ideas. But it is also the opposite extreme of Hermione. While Hermione learns to question book-knowledge and authority figures during the story, Luna needs to learn that just because something can’t be disproven it doesn’t necessarily have to be true.

The best part of Luna is that she truly doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. At the same time, though, the book never hides the cost which comes with marching to your own tune. It shows the social isolation Luna experiences, and it also shows that not only the bullies are to blame for the situation, but also the people who simply overlook Luna just because she is different. And that includes Harry, Ron and Hermione until they manage to look deeper.

Just like Ginny, Luna is a heroine of another story. The story of a little child which lost its mother way too early. Of someone who got bullied for being different. And then went to fight against the biggest bully of them all, risking her own life in the process.

Quote: “Don’t worry. You’re just as sane as I am.”

Currently the movie “Fantastic Beasts and where to find them” is in the works. As every Potterhead knows, it will be about Newt Scamander who is the grandfather of Rolf Scamander who will eventually marry Luna and have twins with her, Lorcan and Lysander. I can naturally not know how good the movie will be. But I am very much looking forward to it, and as soon as I have seen it, I will leave my thoughts here.

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3 thoughts on “Honoring the Heroine: Luna Lovegood

  1. Interesting. I found the 5th book to be a bit of a downer but I do like the JK Rowling is willing to let her heroes be unlikable. Luna is fine in the book and movie. I like her.

  2. Luna and Tonks are two great additions to the HP “family”, which we don’t get to know before book 5. They manage to bring some humor and warmth into an otherwise very bleak story.

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