When I joined the Harry Potter online fandom two years ago, I noticed that many characters received intense symbolic study from the fans. Are Harry and/or Dumbledore Christ figures? Is Snape a Machiavellian Prince? Is Hermione symbolic of alchemical Mercury/Hermes? Who or what, then, is Ron? Ron gets most of his attention in fan fiction where, on one extreme, he is busy snogging Hermione, or lurking in the margins of other fan stories as a betraying villain so foul that even Lord Voldemort is impressed. So, I decided Ron deserved his esoteric day in the sunshine and a light shone upon his possibilities. I collected symbols surrounding Ron and also gathered together some of the lore about the creation of the character. I then created "what if" scenarios for the final book that utilize the symbols and lore. Why do all this? Because even though I love the humorous aspects of Ron, I don't see him limited to amusing purposes only. I think Ron is the Ace-Up-the-Rowling sleeve. For fun, why wouldn't J.K. Rowling have a red herring with red hair? For more fun, she has him hidden in plain sight. Some fans dismiss Ron as a simple comic relief character. So iRONnically, I suggest that J. K. Rowling uses slug spewing, funny looking dress robes, and canary attacks as purposeful distractions from her Ace.
How "Best Friend" Can You Get?
Sean Harris, Ronald Ridley, and Jack Russell (Terrier, That Is)
There are three real life connections between J.K. Rowling and her character, Ron. The first to consider is that the second book of her series is dedicated to Sean Harris and she noted that Ron owed a lot to Sean.1
Another real-life connection comes into play because Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is in memory of a man named Mr. Ridley.2 There is only one more reference to Ridley in Harry Potter fandom that I could find. Rowling signed a copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for her father. He then sold the book at a Sotheby's auction, and this is the inscription in the book:
"Dear Dad, If I had said Ronald Ridley, they would have tracked the poor bloke down... but that's why Ron's called Ron, of course!" 3
The third real life connection was brought forth in her interview with Mugglenet and Leaky Cauldron in 2005, when Rowling said that Ron's Patronus is a Jack Russell Terrier.4 As an amazing coincidence, her own pet dog is a Jack Russell.
So Ron relates to a living person, Sean Harris; a dead person, Ronald Ridley; and a Jack Russell, the very type of dog living at J.K. Rowling's home. So what have we learned? Ron either lives, dies, or plays fetch? The lesson I learned is that Ron is a composite character of people and pooch appreciated and loved by Rowling. Therefore, Ron is a character much valued by Rowling and not at all likely to come down with a bad case of Villain at the eleventh hour.
Jack Russell Terriers are a breed of hunting dog. The Jack Russell Terrier Club states: "It is said that the courage of the Jack Russell is never in doubt; surely a true statement, as they have often been known to take on an adversary twice (or more) their size. They require firm, consistent, responsible handling; they are very intelligent, determined and bold." 5 So perhaps Harry's quest for the Horcruxes may be greatly aided by having a best friend who is a natural hunter with intelligence, courage, and boldness; with, in other words, Ace potential. If, say, the Ravenclaw Horcrux is a Frisbee, Harry is really in luck. (Also, I think we can count on Hermione to provide Ron with firm, consistent, responsible handling.) After hunting and fetching the Horcruxes for Harry, Ron sends his Jack Russell Patronus to bite the ankles of every dementor in sight. (Do they have ankles? With the black gown, it is hard to say.) Or perhaps the Terrier Patronus just grows to giant size and uses the dementors as chew toys (just kidding! You can't be a serious Ron fan without a sense of humor in case there is a joke dancing naked in front of you...)!
Speaking of dogs, the Greeks had Cerberus, the three-headed dog who is a guardian for the gates of Hades. Fluffy, no doubt, is of Cerberus pedigree. When you stop and think about it, Fluffy was simply a bad keeper. Just play a song for him, and he goes to sleep and lets three first year Quaffles through the trap-door, not to mention Quirrellmort.
In contrast, play a song for Ron and, after a very rough start, eventually he works his way up to being a good keeper. A keeper is a guardian and protector of the Quidditch goalposts. Ron's dog-like protective nature will most likely be featured in some guardian role in the final book.
What's In a Name?
From an interview between Stephen Fry and J.K. Rowling:
SF: "Now, one of the rather charming things that adults in particular I suppose get out of the books is that there are little ’ you know, not cryptic puzzles exactly, but the names ’ you are very careful in choosing names. I mean, Malfoy, for example, is "bad faith".
JKR: "Exactly, yes." 6
Therefore, it might be useful to review the meanings of Ron's full name:
Ron = Song, joy; Ronald= Ruler of decision, judgment, power7
Ronald = Rules with counsel; Ron= Mighty or powerful8
Ronald = Old Norse RÃ¶gnvaldr: "Having the Gods' Power" 9
"Weasley is our King" 10 is a song and "music is a power beyond any at Hogwarts." 11 Song, Royalty, Power ¦ hmmm. So the name "Ronald" may be simply in homage to a family friend. Or perhaps "Ronald" was chosen in homage to a family friend who happened to have a name jam-packed with powerful meanings which indicate Ace potential.
Ron's middle name is Bilius. Per the Harry Potter Lexicon: "Bilius=bilious, one of the four Medieval "humors" (temperaments), indicating anger and peevishness. Ron takes his middle name from his Uncle Bilius." 12
Certainly, Ron can be bilious sometimes. However, it is worth noting that Rowling does use Celtic references from time to time as noted by Emerald in her excellent essay "A Celtic Solution to Harry's Conundrum." 13 "Bilius" may also relate to a Celtic god named Bile (or Bili pronounced "Bee-lay").
Bile [¦] is either the first male ancestor of both gods and mortals and therefore a kind of Lord of the Dead, or that, because of his name (which means "tree"), he represents the World Tree that is the axis of the universe and of any ritually consecrated area.14
King Brigus' son was named Bile, and he was also a Celtic King of Spain. Several Pictish Kings were also called Bile or Bili, including its most famous King, the destroyer of the Angles at Dunnichen in 685 A.D. The name Bile is of high interest also to students of Celtic mythology [¦] "In British tradition he was called Bel or Belinus, but in Irish he was Bile [¦] The fires of Beltane were lit to mark his recognized feast." 15
Will Ron have to sacrifice his life, become a "Lord of the Dead' to aid Harry's final battle against Lord Voldemort? After all, quotes like "Die, Ron, Die' 16 in a Rowling book definitely makes a character look peaky even to the most optimistic.
(People may scoff at my pondering about Bili and kings. That's OK, but just don't be bilious about it.)
Weasels, Rue, and Basilisks
Does Weasley mean like a weasel?
JKR: "In Britain and Ireland the weasel has a bad reputation as an unfortunate, even malevolent, animal. However, since childhood I have had a great fondness for the Family Mustelidae; not so much malignant as maligned, in my opinion." 17
Harry Potter, Hermione (Ermine) and Ron Weasel-y: The Three Mustelidaes! (Mustelidaes being the name for the grouping of animals including otters, ermines, weasels, and ferrets.)
So J.K. Rowling sticks up for weasels. I'll go you one further, I think Rowling assigned some positive traits of weasels to the Weasleys. "Mustelids are generally proficient hunters; some weasels can take prey larger than themselves." 18 Shades of Jack Russell, we are on the hunt again! Note also that Bill Weasley is a hunter of treasures and Charlie Weasley takes on dragons everyday. The whole family lives in a Burrow. The Weasel-y twins introduce Harry to the joy of tunnels.
Weasels were included in Medieval bestiaries. Now the reason why most of the ancient bestiaries came about was to sort out the meaning of creation. Back in those days, weasels did not have such a bad reputation like they do now.
Question: "What, for instance, has God to teach us through the basilisk?" 19
Answer: "The Basilisk [¦] is the king of serpents. People who see it run for their lives, because it can kill them merely by its smell. Even if it looks at a man, it destroys him. Nevertheless, basilisks are conquered by weasels [¦] God never makes anything without a remedy." 20
From Bulfinch's Mythology:
But what was to attack this terrible and unapproachable monster? There is an old saying that ˜everything has its enemy' - and the basilisk quailed before the weasel. The basilisk might look daggers, the weasel cared not, but advanced boldly to the conflict. When bitten, the weasel retired for a moment to eat some rue, which was the only plant the basilisks could not wither, returned with renewed strength and soundness to the charge, and never left the enemy till he was stretched dead on the plain.21
Here is a picture of a weasel taking on a basilisk:22
Other sources note that basilisks also had a weakness to mirrors.23 Also:
It was formerly believed that if [a basilisk was] killed by a spear from on horseback the power of the poison conducted through the weapon killed, not only the rider, but the horse also.24
In Arthurian legend, "Ron" is the name of King Arthur's trusty spear. The name is derived from Rhongomynyad.25 (Try saying that three times fast!)
Isn't it interesting that J.K. Rowling, who obviously studied mythology and, Merlin's Beard, also Arthurian legends, mentioned only the rooster and the mirror in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? She neglected to mention that a weasel, if it eats the herb rue, also called the Herb of Grace,26 can defeat the King of Serpents (a basilisk) and that knights with spears can kill a basilisk. Are we to believe that she completely missed the basilisk's mythological relationship to weasels and just coincidentally put in an entire family with the name Weasley?
Well, the answer to that question is in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Ron Weasel-y was poisoned, saved by Harry's bezoar, and later dosed with rue by Madame Pomfrey.27 So J.K. Rowling didn't miss the weasel/rue connection.
Nagini and the Acromantulas (Not a Rock and Roll Band)
Many Harry Potter sleuths, including Dumbledore himself,28 have Nagini on their inventory of "Things Likely to be Horcruxes." If so, then Nagini must be eliminated, vanquished, and possibly made into snakeskin boots and a purse.
Now for some basilisk metaphor math:
Since King of Serpents equals basilisk per mythology, if King of Serpents (Slytherins) equals Voldemort, then Voldemort equals Basilisk. (Again metaphorically speaking)
Just add in one seventh of Voldemort's soul inside Nagini, and she also equals a metaphorical basilisk. (We can let her be Queen of Serpents seeing what a ladylike snake she has been thus far.)
Arthur Weasley was guarding the prophecy when Nagini (and her fangs) came to visit in Order of the Phoenix.29 Ron, perhaps in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will be guarding Harry, the harvest of the prophecy. He could avenge the attack upon his father and protect Harry by destroying Nagini. In Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone, Voldemort is represented by the White King in the chess game and the White Queen defeats Ron.30 If Nagini is like a queen to Lord Voldemort, maybe we will see a reverse in the final book. Perhaps this time Ron defeats the queen.
We know that when Nagini, Voldemort's henchsnake, bites someone, she creates poisoned wounds where the victim can bleed to death. Speaking of poisons, what about that bezoar Harry shoved into Ron's mouth during Half Blood Prince? Not to be too crude about it, but ¦ er¦ what if it never passed out of Ron's system? Could it still be lodged inside of him, still working on poison control? Bezoars come from goats, and well, you have to admit that Ron does eat like a goat. Perhaps the rue and bezoar will combine to give Ron an edge in fighting Nagini's poison.
On another note, as Fluffy was guarding something, what if the basilisk was too? What if the Chamber of Secrets has more secrets to be revealed? It looks like a dandy place to hide Horcruxes. One of my many pet theories is that the spider hollow and the Chamber of Secrets are connected via some kind of tunnel and that the spiders never came inside of Hogwarts because they were afraid of the basilisk. Also, if Godric's Hollow is important, then why wouldn't an opposite, a Slytherin spider hollow, be important? After all, if Tom Riddle hadn't decided to frame Aragog, he wouldn't have run off and the Acromantula hollow would not have been established.
If a major character, like Ron, has a spider phobia, and since this phobia is mentioned several times, doesn't it seem likely that said character will have to wade hip deep through spiders and defeat them soundly? Wouldn't he perceive that Acromantula nest as a deathly hollow? Then after fighting all these big spiders, Ron may have to smite Nagini, too. Bloody hell, the hard work you have to do to rate "ace-up-sleeve" in fantasy fiction these days.
Weasel King vs. the Serpent Queen? A King Weasel aided by Rue (Grace) can take on a great evil Serpent soul remnant. So, J.K. Rowling, are you going to end this series with Ron providing us an example of Grace defeating evil by letting him defeat giant spiders and then go kick Nagini's asp?
The King Knight's Gambit
Throughout the books, Hermione helps Harry with schoolwork, while Ron encourages Harry to play Quidditch and chess. To be ultimately successful, Harry can't be an "All Work, No Play" guy, nor an "All Play" person - a balance is needed. Hermione's contribution to Harry is easily seen and validated. Ron's contribution, hidden ace that he is, is not so readily seen. But Harry needed to learn strategy with Ron via chess to be prepared to defeat Voldemort. To be a proper leader in the final battle, Harry needed to learn teamwork via Quidditch, and how to captain a troubled player, like Ron.
Harry does not rename himself, but he is given the title of "the Chosen One" which certainly is a very Big Deal. There is quite the Big Deal made of how Tom Marvolo Riddle changed his name to "Lord Voldemort." Also, it is a Big Deal that Snape declares himself to be a "Half-Blood Prince." Ron also is given a title, "King' a title sung in mockery by Slytherins and later adopted, in a positive manner, by the Gryffindors.
I think that the "King" title is a Big Deal, too. It is a clue that easily slides under the radar screen because it is so easy to focus on Ron's Keeper insecurities than on the fact that Rowling gave him such a title complete with its own theme song. Rowling is too savvy a writer to haphazardly label a character "King' especially with other major characters acquiring titles that are pertinent.
However, the king title is confusing because Ron was clearly a knight in the chess game in the first book. So, not being a chess player myself, I wondered if terminology from that game would shed some light on the king vs. knight question. I hit the jackpot, even though I was studying chess and not the lottery.
Did you know that "howler" is a chess term for a bad move?31 So Rowling sends her chess master, Ron, a Howler. "To hang" is another chess term meaning to be exposed to capture.32 In chess, "The King's Knight Gambit is the most common [gambit]." 33 You "hang" the knight and leave him exposed to capture. This is what happened in Sorcerer's Stone when Ron was struck by the White Queen.34 Many fans have speculated that in Deathly Hallows, Ron, once again, may risk capture to help Harry win the ultimate game with Voldemort. Or perhaps he Engorgios his chess set into life size warriors and leads them into battle.
Hanging in There
There are many references to hanging in Harry Potter (Little Hangleton, for example). Fans have noted that "Gallows" rhymes with "Hallows" and that "Hallows" is one letter away from Hollow, as in Godric's Hollow or the spider hollow.
Levicorpus hangs a person upside down. The Hanged Man Tarot card is the martyr card. Snape created Levicorpus and was hung upside down with his own spell by James, and Ron was hung upside down with the same spell accidentally by Harry.35 So, in my opinion, Snape and Ron are both candidates in the competition for Hanged Man of the Rowling series. You could say they were neck and neck.
If the King still remains in chess, then you have not won the game. This gives me hope that whatever kind of "hang" or "check" King Ron is in, he will survive and not be checkmated. After all, the good guys have got to win the game.
Dragon' s Blood
In the excellent essay found on the Harry Potter Lexicon "The Grail Hallows and Harry Potter" 36 by Bandersnatch, we find that one of the Grail Hallows is a spear. The Grail Hallows are protected by a keeper, often called a Fisher King. Ron is a Pisces (the fishes), he is a Keeper, he has the title "King' and has a "Spear" name as was noted earlier in the essay.
Now to layer in yet even more Arthurian legend, in addition to spears, Grail Hallows, and Fisher Kings, King Arthur has the last name Pendragon, which means "head of the dragon." 37 Note that "Caput Draconis' is the very first password to the Gryffindor common room, and the term is Latin for "dragon's head." 38
But Draco is the guy with the dragon-y name so why drag dragons and King Arthur into a Ron essay? What is so doggone dragon about Ron? Well, when Ron was helping Hagrid with Norbert, his hand was bitten. It swelled and turned green due to dragon poison, and he ended up in the infirmary.39 I suggest that Ron's blood may have been changed due to the dragon bite. Anti-venom is created by having a poisonous animal bite a subject under controlled conditions. The subject then develops anti-bodies in their blood. The anti-bodies are extracted from the subject and the anti-venom can be created. Does Ron now have a human equivalent to dragon's blood? We know that there are twelve uses of dragon's blood. Rowling won't tell us what the uses are yet, only that Dumbledore discovered them.40
Red and White Dragons
In Arthurian legend, King Vortigen was having building troubles; his tower keeps falling down. Merlin tells him that a red dragon and a white dragon are battling under the tower causing the problems. Merlin then tells Vortigen that the Red Dragon wins. Soon thereafter, Pendragon, King Arthur's father, shows up. Pendragon has a Red Dragon standard and Vortigen has a White Dragon standard. Pendragon defeats White King Voldemort, I mean White King Vortigen.41
To relate this story to the Harry Potter universe, is the red dragon Ron and white dragon Draco? Those two pure-blood wizard youths are a microcosm of the wizarding world when you stop and think about it. If they face off against each other, the winner isn't going to be the pure-blood Nazi-like supremacist. Just like when Harry battles Voldemort, the winner isn't going to be the one that upholds subjugation and prejudice.
Dumbledore and Ron's Family
When we first meet Dumbledore in the Sorcerer's Stone, we find a tall man with a long nose. He has lemon drops and a very funky watch.42 A few chapters later, we meet Ron. He is a tall boy who loves sweets, who is marked on his long nose. Those sweets include chocolate frogs that have Dumbledore's picture on the cards.
As the books progress, we find that Dumbledore also had reddish hair when he was younger and that Ron receives a funky watch similar to Dumbledore's when he gets older.43
I think the Weasleys and Dumbledore are related, not an unlikely theory when you realize that wizards swim in a very small genetic pool. When discussing the Black family tapestry,44 Sirius mentions, oh so casually, that Molly is not a blood cousin. The good money bet is that the link from Weasley to Dumbledore comes from Molly's side of the family, the Prewetts.
Is it possible that Ron favors a young Albus Dumbledore because they are related? If so, what would happen if he took a lot of aging potion? Well, he would then look like an older Dumbledore, the one we have all come to know and love and the one that Voldemort has come to know and fear. The image of Dumbledore showing up as Harry battles Voldemort could shock old snake-nose at a critical moment and create a useful diversion.
Speaking of family, Ron has hand-me-down items from his brothers: Bill's uniform, Charlie's wand, and Percy's rat.45 He has Quidditch Captain Oliver Wood's uniform as well. Harry himself has garbed Ron from head to foot: Chudley Cannon hat, dress robes, keeper mitts, and socks with lucky potion in them.46 Clothing frees the house elves and Harry specifically frees Dobby with a sock.47 Harry, Ron's captain, has clothed his best friend, his second in a wizard duel, and gave him lucky potion as well.48
We all know how Harry was chosen by Voldemort and marked with a scar and how important that is. Why is it that only Voldemort gets to do all the important choosing? Doesn't it seem significant who Harry chooses as friend? The chosen friend is the boy marked on the nose that was friendly to him on the Hogwarts Express. After all, only three persons have received the award for "Special Services to the School." Tom Riddle, Jr., Harry, and Ron. This could mean that Ron plays a major role in the downfall of Lord Voldemort.
Ace Potentials of Ronald Weasley
In a Rowling universe where happy memories produce powerful Patronus Charms that can save your very soul, where the Riddikulus spell can defeat your darkest fears, and where chocolate helps, there is good reason to speculate that the "comic relief" chocolate-eating character can be a source of power. The archetypes of King, Knight, Keeper, Spear, Red Dragon, not to mention feisty weasels and Jack Russell Terriers touch upon the character. I have time for just three more possibilities about the Ace Potentials of Ronald Weasley:
1. Aragorn, I mean Ron, creates a big diversion so Harry can break through to Mount Doom, I mean, break through the hordes of evil minions to defeat Voldemort;
2. Gandalf, I mean Ron, guards a passage and shouts things like "You Shall Not Pass!" when the bad guys are chasing Harry;
3. Ron studied law with Hermione for Buckbeak's trial in Prisoner of Azkaban. As Harry faces off against Voldemort in the final battle, Harry says these words, "Take that, and that, and that! And, just so you know, my two best friends are LAWYERS!" And then Voldemort keels over, totally vanquished.
So I hope you now think there is some merit to the idea that Ron is Rowling's Ace-Up-The-Sleeve as "Weasley is our King ¦ Weasley can save anything." 49 And while some of you may still be scoffing at my essay and saying things like, "Ron, important to the Harry Potter conclusion? That will be the day ¦ When Pigs Fly!" Scoff further and note that Luna believes in unlikely things every day and she is intrigued by Ronald.
But ¦ er ¦ Pig does fly. So, Ron as the Ace-Up-The-Rowling-Sleeve ¦
"That's Really ’ Unexpected." 50
To conclude, I quote Ron himself: "I never thought it would be me¦." 51
1. Rowling, Chamber of Secrets, 4; BBC "Harry Potter and Me."
2. Rowling, Goblet of Fire, 5.
3. Lexicon, "Inscription in Goblet of Fire."
4. Anelli and Spartz, "TLC/MN interview Part Three."
5. Jack Russell Terrier Club of America, "Breed Information."
6. Fry, "Launch Day interview."
7. What to Expect.com, "Baby Name Finder."
8. Parenthood.com, "Baby Name Search."
9. Lexicon, s.v. "Wizards: Ronald Bilius Weasley."
10. Rowling, Order of Phoenix, 404.
11. Ibid., Sorcerer's Stone, 128.
12. Lexicon, s.v. "Wizards: Ronald Bilius Weasley."
13. Emerald, "Celtic Solution to Harry's Conundrum."
14. Kondraatiev, "Danu and Bile: The Primordial Parents?"
15. Spain and Scotland: The Ancient Connections.
16. Rowling, Order of Phoenix, 718.
17. Lexicon, s.v. "Wizards: Ronald Bilius Weasley."
18. Animal Diversity Web, "Mustelidae."
19. Wilson-Dickson, The Story of Christian Music, 38’40.
20. White, The Book of Beasts, 168.
21. Bulfinch, Bulfinch's Mythology, chapter 36 (online edition).
22. Medieval Bestiary. "Basilisk Gallery: Kongelige Bibliotek, Gl. kgl. S. 1633 4Âº, Folio 51r."
23. Wikipedia, s.v. "Basilisk."
24. Bulfinch, Bulfinch's Mythology, chapter 36 (online edition).
25. Wild, "Arthur's Weapons Etc."
26. Botanical.com: A Modern Herbal, "Rue."
27. Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 397.
28. Ibid., 506.
29. Ibid., Order of Phoenix, 463.
30. Ibid., Sorcerer's Stone, 281’84.
31. Logical Chess Glossary of Chess Terminology, s.v. "Howler."
32. Chess Poster.Com Chess Glossary, s.v. "Hang."
33. Wikipedia, s.v. "King's Gambit."
34. Rowling, Sorcerer's Stone, 283.
35. Ibid., Order of Phoenix, 646; Half-Blood Prince, 239.
36. Bandersnatch, "The Grail Hallows and Harry Potter."
37. Encarta Dictionary, s.v. "Pen-Dragon Leader of Ancient Britons."
38. Rowling, Sorcerer's Stone, 130; Lexicon, s.v. "Caput draconis."
39. Rowling, Sorcerer's Stone, 237.
40. Ibid., 103.
41. King Arthur, the legend of Camelot, "King Vortigern."
42. Rowling, Sorcerer's Stone, 10.
43. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 245; Half-Blood Prince, 390.
44. Ibid., Order of Phoenix, 113.
45. Ibid., Sorcerer's Stone, 100.
46. Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 409, 733; Half-Blood Prince, 390, 552.
47. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 338.
48. Ibid., Sorcerer's Stone, 153; Half-Blood Prince, 552.
49. Ibid., Order of Phoenix, 701.
50. Ibid., 162.
51. Ibid., 167.
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