The Sorting of Luna Lovegood

I love that I can share my love of Harry Potter with my mom, but she’s never read the books, and sometimes, she gets things so, so wrong. Like the other day, when she said that Luna Lovegood should be a Hufflepuff. I’m sorry, mom, but no; the sorting hat was definitely right about Luna, although I can see how someone who has only seen the movies might think otherwise. So today, I’m going to talk about Luna and why I’m convinced she really is a Ravenclaw.

First of all, Rowena Ravenclaw has been described as “wise”, valued “wit and learning”, and preferred students with “a ready mind”. I’ll admit that doesn’t sound much like Luna at first glance. She’s eccentric, weird, and prone to believing all sorts of nonsensical things. But what most defines Luna is her wide-open mind and unstoppable hunger to know things.

She believes all kinds of nonsense, but she’s often right when everyone else is wrong. She’s one of the few who believes Harry when he says that Voldemort has returned, and she also believes that Sirius Black is innocent, although she’s under the impression that he’s secretly musical sensation Stubby Boardman. She’s right not to believe the lies the Daily Prophet prints, and her father’s magazine, while wrong about the existence of nargles and crumple-horned snorkacks, provides a voice of truth in contrast to the Prophet’s polished lies. In the final book, her father introduces Harry, Ron, and Hermione to the Deathly Hallows, which Luna presumably also believes in. The Deathly Hallows prove critical to the plot and enable Harry to defeat Voldemort. And, finally, she is the only one who realizes Helena Ravenclaw’s ghost might be able to help them find the lost diadem. If no one alive has seen it, they need to talk to someone who is dead, but although there are ghosts at Hogwarts, it still takes a creative mind to come to that conclusion.

You might say that a stopped clock is right twice a day. But I would also say that it’s through exploring every possibility that one finds the right answer. In the creative process, that’s called brainstorming. In the world of Harry Potter, it’s called reading The Quibbler.

Luna wants to know everything. She’s not a stereotypical nerd, but she’s curious about everything from magical creatures to divination to her father’s conspiracy theories, and she seems to soak in new knowledge (or misinformation) like a sponge. She has a sharp mind in the sense that – at least in the books – she is not just the weird girl who believes in nargles for no reason. She seems to thoroughly understand the creatures and ideas she believes in. She’s wrong, for example, about the rotfang conspiracy, which claims that the aurors are planning to take over the Ministry of Magic using dark magic and … gum disease? But she understands the theory well enough to talk about it endlessly at Slughorn’s Christmas party, and she’s definitely right that there’s corruption in the Ministry.

She’s also smart enough to know when she’s being lied to. I think the only reason she believes all that nonsense is because her father and the other people who write for The Quibbler honestly believe it; the moment the Ministry starts spreading its propaganda, she figures it out and cheerfully ignores it.

Another thing I want to mention is that – while we don’t see her in class, since she’s a year younger than Harry – she seems concerned with the quality of her education. Along with joining Dumbledore’s Army, which started out as a way of learning what Umbridge refused to teach them, she is also the one of the few positive characters to ever criticize Hagrid. She claims he “isn’t a very good teacher”, while the main trio also realize this but stand by him resolutely because he’s their friend. Being more interested in whether a teacher teaches well than whether he’s likable seems like a Ravenclaw sort of attitude, and one that, to be perfectly honest, I can see myself taking if I were in Hagrid’s class.

After leaving Hogwarts, Luna goes on to become a magizoologist. In order to have a real career in that field, she would presumably have to come to terms with the fact that most of her fantasy creatures just don’t exist (although I like to think she eventually discovers one or two of them, because like I said before, she is wrong so often that people don’t notice how often she’s also right).

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Luna’s whole world is made up of thoughts and ideas, some of them right some of them laughably mistaken. And while she does process things a little differently, she’s much more intelligent and perceptive than other people give her credit for. Ravenclaws don’t have to be studious and logical; in fact, according to Pottermore, many are individual and even eccentric, although Luna takes that to an extreme. What defines Ravenclaw most, I think, is their love of knowledge and sharp minds, and while that looks different in Luna than in someone like Hermione, it’s still very much there.

The Unlikely Heroes of Harry Potter

One thing that I love about the Harry Potter series is how easy it is to identify with the characters. They jump off the page as if they were real people, with real personalities, problems, and quirks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who sometimes thinks of Hermione, Ron, Neville, and the rest of them as if they were old friends instead of fictional characters. And one thing that makes them seem so lifelike is that they aren’t superheroes. They live in a magical world, perform larger-than-life heroic actions, and that’s part of the escapism of Harry Potter, but the best part is that they’re flawed humans like the rest of us. It’s easy to imagine being in their world, at Hogwarts because it’s easy to put ourselves in the shoes of the characters, or imagine standing among them.

Neville starts out as a clumsy, forgetful boy who keeps losing his pet toad and can barely keep from tripping over his own feet, let alone fly on a broom or cast complicated spells. Luna is a weird outcast with no friends, frequently bullied by her classmates. Ron and Ginny are the youngest in a big family, with hand-me-down clothes and five older brothers’ achievements to live up to. Hermione is a nerdy, bossy girl whose parents are both muggles. And Harry himself had nothing before he came to Hogwarts. He was literally sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs and barely tolerated by his family. All of them grow up to be so much more than that. All of them grow up to be heroes.

It means a lot more to me to see where they begin, see them struggle, and see them grow into the heroes they become, than it would to simply have them be amazing from the start. Part of the magic of the Harry Potter series is that it takes awkward, misfit kids who anyone can relate to and slowly transforms them into the best versions of themselves.

Wand of the Week: Luna Lovegood

Last night, I was poking around on Pottermore, googling Harry Potter characters to see what their wands were made of and then looking up the wood to see what Ollivander has to say about it. But when I looked for Luna’s, I was shocked to see “unknown” come up. Granted, Luna is one of my favorites, so I had wondered before why I couldn’t remember. The same is true of countless other major characters such as Sirius Black and Professor Snape: the specific wands they use were simply never mentioned. So, of course, being someone who loves to overanalyze Harry Potter, I decided to figure out for myself what kind of wands I think these characters would use. I’m going to be doing one every week, at least until I run out of characters – and given the sheer number of Harry Potter characters, only a tiny fraction of whose wands are described in the books, that could be a long time.

So, let’s start with Luna. Both of Luna’s wands that she uses in the movies are very light-colored, almost white, but I think the wood whose Pottermore description matches her best is ebony. Here’s what “Ollivander” has to say about it:

This jet-black wand wood has an impressive appearance and reputation, being highly suited to all manner of combative magic, and to Transfiguration. Ebony is happiest in the hand of those with the courage to be themselves. Frequently non-conformist, highly individual or comfortable with the status of outsider, ebony wand owners have been found both among the ranks of the Order of the Phoenix and among the Death Eaters. In my experience the ebony wand’s perfect match is one who will hold fast to his or her beliefs, no matter what the external pressure, and will not be swayed lightly from their purpose.

This is basically Luna in a nutshell: she refuses to let others’ judgment pressure her into conforming. Rather than shaping her own beliefs and personality to fit with what her peers see as “normal”, Luna is never anything but herself. The things she believes in may be nonsensical at times, but they matter to her and she doesn’t change her mind just because no one else agrees with her. She understands that any true friend will not judge her for being different and that other people’s opinions aren’t that important. And, in fitting with the description above, Luna is as much of a fighter as any of her fellow DA members and can hold her own in battle, even against powerful adult wizards.

As for the core, I think it might be phoenix feather. Phoenix wands are supposed to inherit the independence and detachment of the bird they come from, and while “their allegiance is usually hard-won”, they would be suited to someone with Luna’s free-spirited personality.