Ron and Hermione are perfect archetypes: they represent the two equal and opposite ways that someone can be a “best friend”. Which kind of best friend are you?
This idea struck me a while back, when I was re-watching the Harry Potter movies for the 378th time.
Throughout the series, Harry Potter has two best friends: Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Both are extremely important to Harry, and they both clearly care very deeply about him in return. Part of the brilliance of the writing in the book and movies is that you can tell in every action and in every word how strong these friendships are. Moreover, although Ron and Hermione develop a romantic relationship with each other, their relationships with Harry are both very clearly and unwaveringly best friend relationships.
What makes this interesting, however, is that although both Ron and Hermione are both best friends with Harry Potter… their behavior is actually completely the opposite from each other!
Ron is the unwavering supporter. Ron will always tell Harry that things will be OK. Of course you will win the competition, Harry! Of course you’ll figure out a way to stop the bad guys!
Hermione is the helper. Have you studied enough? Have you been working on the puzzle that you need to solve? Have you been practicing on your broom? Maybe we should go to the library and look stuff up together!
This contrast is especially stark in the fourth story of the series, The Goblet of Fire. In this story, Harry has been selected to be one of four “champions” in a life-and-death competition. Ron and Hermione are both trying to be best friends… but they give opposite advice! “Don’t worry, you’ll figure something out when you need to! You should relax!” says Ron. “You need to worry! You need to be researching and figuring out a plan!” says Hermione.
What I find interesting is that, even though they are reacting exactly the opposite from one another in these situations, they are both legitimately doing their best to be “best friends” with Harry. They are both trying to help, in the only way that they know how. As a reader, or a viewer of the movies, you can see it and feel it very clearly. They represent two equal-and-opposite archetypes of the “best friend” relationship.
Part of what makes these stories so engaging is that they are relateable. If you stopped and thought about it, you could probably immediately answer the question: is your best friend a Ron, or a Hermione?
When your friends turn to you for support, are you a Ron or a Hermione?
I’m a Hermione. Without a doubt. Whenever someone comes to me anxious and upset, I’m there ready to develop a 5-point plan on how to fix it, combat it, or explain it away.
In fact, I’ve even said outright to people: Look, if you’re just looking for someone to say “I understand” or “That must be rough” or “I know your pain”… then I’m probably not the guy you want to call first. I mean, I can do that. I try to do that, when my over-active logic sensors detect that it might be the correct thing to do.
But it doesn’t come naturally to me. What comes naturally to me is to be a Hermione. Have you done this? Have you done that? Let’s go to the library and look things up.
Luckily, there is no right and wrong answer. If anything, this is a lesson that the Harry Potter books teaches us. They are both completely valid ways of being a best friend… even if both can drive a person a little nutty at the wrong time or in the wrong situation.
So which one are you? Are you a Ron, or a Hermione?