Today, we celebrate the birthday of Ron Weasley. As tribute, I will explain in this post where this often overshadowed character finds greatness.
The first time we encounter Ron, he immediately expresses his feelings of inadequacy. Talking to Harry aboard the Hogwarts Express, he says:
“I’m the sixth in our family to go to Hogwarts. You could say I got a lot to live up to. Bill and Charlie have already left – Bill was Head Boy and Charlie was captain of Quidditch. Now Percy’s a prefect. Fred and George mess around a lot, but they still get really good marks and everyone thinks they’re really funny. Everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it’s no big deal, because they did it first.”
As the quote reveals, Ron believes that he will not be noticed even if he performs well in school because his brothers have already achieved the feats first. As he says, his achievements will not be novel enough for his family to celebrate or to heap praises on him.
As if the joke is really on him, the youngest Weasley boy befriends Harry Potter, the chosen one, and Hermione Granger, the best witch of their age. Once more, he finds himself overshadowed. Having ‘defeated’ Voldemort as a baby, Harry is treated like a star. Meanwhile, Hermione is always noticed for her intelligence and exemplary performance in school. The popularity of Ron’s friends get really emphasized in ‘Half Blood Prince’ when Professor Slughorn invites both Harry and Hermione to the Slug Club but ignores Ron.
Is Ron really that talentless? No. He was not as awkward as Neville when he entered Hogwarts. Ron was surely far from being a squib. He is skilled in Wizard Chess. He can ride a broom well and can be a decent keeper. He is qualified to be a prefect. Yet when placed beside his friends, or even his brothers, his achievements seem to pale in comparison to the deeds of the others. Not being the best while not being the worst, Ron finds himself in the average category.
The many years of being overshadowed affected Ron’s personality. Many a times did we see him doubting his talents or feeling envious of his friends. He felt unsure of his skill as Keeper. He felt cheated when Harry was chosen for the Triwizard Tournament. He was very jealous when boys began to notice Hermione.
Fortunately, in book seven, Ron seemed to have discovered his purpose in life. He knew he needed to go with Harry in the hunt for Voldemort’s horcruxes. Though he would still sometimes err, Ron significantly improved his confidence and expressed his capabilities as a wizard in ‘Deathly Hallows’.
But what was Ron really doing in the 7th book?
He was standing by Harry, his bestfriend whose fame overshadows him, in the fight against dark forces. When Ron reappears in the chapter about the Silver Doe, Ron saves Harry from the dark trick of the cursed locket. Ron displays greatness in this moment, but the root of his action is choosing to stand by his friend.
For me, it seems that Ron was already completely comfortable with his role as Harry’s sidekick by the time he rejoins his friends in the hunt for the horcruxes. Indeed, when the cursed locket attempts to fuel his insecurity and jealousy, Ron survives the ordeal and successfully destroys the horcrux.
Having discussed this pivotal moment in Ron’s characterization, allow me to review his best moments in the whole series. Interestingly, it is not in the events where Ron becomes singled out as best, such as being appointed as prefect or as keeper, which contribute to his legacy in the wizarding world. Instead, Ron becomes featured in Chocolate Frogs due to the deeds he has accomplished while helping the chosen one – the moments when Ron forgets about his dream of being first and prioritizes simply being there for his friends, the moments when he forgets his selfish ambitions and prioritizes the greater good.
It may sound ironic but when Ron dismisses thoughts of showing off in order to help others, his talent suddenly comes out. Such is the case when he sacrificed himself as a game piece in the giant chess to allow Harry to secure the philosopher’s stone, when he came to rescue Harry from being drowned by the cursed locket, when he tagged along Harry to the Acromantula’s lair.
True, Ron is the sidekick of the hero, not the hero himself. But this loyal, brave, and supportive best friend deserves merit. His path presents an alternative route to greatness. From him, we can learn that one does not always have to be the first at something. One does not always have to be the leader. One does not have to always be the star. Not being first does not mean being inferior. There is still space for one to grow and be great in a supporting role.
It may seem ironic, but, in embracing his role as second mate, Ron has become the greatest among the Weasley brothers. In a way, Dumbledore’s interpretation of what Ron sees in the Mirror of Erised has come true:
“Ronald Weasley, who has always been overshadowed by his brothers, sees himself standing alone, the best of all of them.”
Thus, Ron, the last of the Weasley brothers, has achieved his heart’s deepest desire.