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Is Ron Weasley a Judas Character?

November 21, 2010

The Weasley family has some of the central characters of the novels. Ron could be considered as the side-hero of the series. Not only Ron, but Ginny, Fred & George, Arthur Weasley and Molly Weasley are also very important characters who feature permanently throughout the series. Even Bill and Percy get more focus than many of the Hogwarts students.

Rowling has attributed the Weasleys with certain permanent characteristics, both physical and mental.  They are all red haired, fair skinned and freckly.

“She pointed at the last and youngest of her sons. He was tall, thin, and gangling, with freckles, big hands and feet, and a long nose.”[1]

They are also poor and have some typical characteristics of large, poor families. Ron always wears clothes passed on to him by his elder brothers. Like his clothes he uses his brothers’ books. He has a cheap broomstick and his other magical artifacts, necessary for his lessons are also minimal and cheap. He does not have a pocket allowance. When Harry buys some chocolates on his way to Hogwarts on the Hogwarts Express, Ron looks yearningly at him, as he himself cannot buy them. Harry offers him his own chocolates and Ron readily accepts.[2]

Apart from these physical and economical characteristics, the Weasleys have another common mental trait. Despite being, pure-blooded wizards, they are all loyal to Dumbledore and befriend both Muggle-borns and half-born wizards. This is a grave affront to the pure-blood hypocrites like the Malfoys and is a reason why Voldemort hates the Weasleys. Voldemort cherishes pure-blooded wizard families, and the Weasleys are one of the most pure-blooded of them. But they do not support Voldemort in his quest for eliminating Muggle-borns and half-bloods from Hogwarts and from the wizarding world. Instead they support Dumbledore and his cause.

The Weasleys do not confirm to Voldemort’s notion of pure-blooded behavior. They are condemned as traitors by the supporters of Voldemort. Besides poverty, this is one of the primary reasons that Ron and the other Weasley children suffer ridicule and discrimination at Hogwarts and elsewhere by the likes of Malfoy and other pure-blooded wizards and their supporters.

“You’d never know the Weasleys were purebloods, the way they behave.”[3]

There are many political issues in the Harry Potter series. Rowling feels for the oppressed and has taken up their cause in her life and work. She supports many charitable and humanitarian organizations like the charity One Parent Families[4] and the Society for the research of Cerebral Sclerosis.[5] The money raised by the hand-written Harry Potter prequel was donated in charity to such organizations. Her liberal commitments also make her feel for the downtrodden.

Her commitment becomes evident in her work too. Hermione is one of the characters, who continually raise the voices of the oppressed and the downtrodden. Her support for the goblins; her endeavors for the better treatment of house-elves shows this commitment of Rowling too. Hermione has even started a non-governmental organization – SPEW for the benefit of the house-elves. The actions of Hermione are true markers of the thinking of Rowling. Rowling has herself admitted that Hermione is somewhat based on her own teenage image.

“I did not set out to make Hermione like me but she is…she is an exaggeration of how I was when I was younger.”[6]

This draws our attention to the Weasleys. They are an oppressed group, but necessarily kind and good. They have the sympathy of the author and consequently the reader. As the reader sympathizes with the Weasleys, his sympathies also extend to their traits and characteristics. This makes him sympathize with the red-heads. This sympathy for the red-heads has two dimensions, as discussed: physical and mental. The physical aspect will be discussed first.

The prejudice shown against the Weasleys in the Harry Potter series has actually its roots in a deeply embedded social prejudice in Britain.  It is called Gingerism. Gingerism is defined as: “Prejudice or discrimination against people with red hairs”[7] by Wiktionary.

“The redheads are untrustworthy, fiery, unstable, hot-tempered, highly sexed, rare creatures is what passes for common knowledge today.”[8]

People with red hair are associated with fair skin and freckles. As we have seen, the Weasleys have precisely these features.

The populations of northern and western Europe have a higher percentage of red-heads than anywhere else in the world. It is a common phenomenon among the Germanic and the Celtic. The people of Britain have both the Germanic and the Celtic ancestry. The United Kingdom and Ireland are particularly associated with the red hair phenomenon.[9] Hence it is not surprising that Gingerism is particularly rampant in the United Kingdom.[10] Inside the United Kingdom, Scotland has the highest percentage of the red-heads, in fact the highest percentage in the world – thirteen percent.[11]

Red haired people have been historically discriminated against.[12] Stereotyped as sexually aggressive, they are believed to be morally degenerated. Red hair is thought to be a mark of beastly sexual desire and moral degeneration. Redheads have also been satirized by such famous writers like Jonathan Swift in part four of Gulliver’s Travels, A Voyage to the country of the Houyhnhnms:

“It is observed that the red-haired of both sexes are more libidinous and mischievous than the rest, whom yet they much exceed in strength and activity.”[13]

Grimm brothers, noted for their Christian imagery described a savage red-haired man. Montague Summers, in his translation of the Malleus Maleficarum[14] notes that red hair and green eyes were thought to be the sign of a witch, a werewolf or a vampire during the Middle Ages;

“Those whose hair is red, of a certain peculiar shade, are unmistakably vampires. It is significant that in ancient Egypt, as Manetho tells us, human sacrifices were offered at the grave of Osiris, and the victims were red-haired men who were burned, their ashes being scattered far and wide by winnowing-fans. It is held by some authorities that this was done to fertilize the fields and produce a bounteous harvest, red-hair symbolizing the golden wealth of the corn. But these men were called Typhonians, and were representatives not of Osiris but of his evil rival Typhon, whose hair was red.”[15]

In the United Kingdom, the words ‘ginga’ and ‘ginger’ are used as slangs to describe the red-heads in a derogatory and pejorative manger. The name of Ginny Weasley perhaps hints to the word ‘ginga’ and ‘ginger’.

It is not just a coincidence that Rowling comes from Scotland and Hogwarts is supposedly set somewhere in the Scottish environs. By making the Weasleys red-heads, Rowling is making a social statement in favor of the red-heads and against the racist prejudice against the minority groups in her own country, as well as abroad. She is making a statement against Gingerism.

The mental aspect of the phenomenon is also very important. The phenomenon of Gingerism is not only social but also historical and religious. The prejudice of the British society against the red-heads has a historical and a religious precedence. It has its origin in the Old Testament. Esau, the twin brother of Jacob is portrayed in a bad light in the Bible. He is said to have sold his birthright to his twin brother Jacob, just for a mess of pottage, (lentils). This argument is used to justify the injustice done to him by the biblical prophet Jacob.

Esau is also called Edom, which means red. Genesis blames Esau for selling his birthright for ‘red lentil stew’.[16] It is also mentioned in the Bible that Esau was red when he emerged from the womb.[17] The land which was inhabited by his descendants, Edom, contains a great abundance of red rock. Genesis narrates Esau’s birth.[18] He emerges from the womb with Jacob grasping his heel. He is described as follows:

“Now the first came forth, red all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau.”[19]

This is the beginning of the prejudice against the red-heads. Gingerism is still justified on the religious basis, and the Bible and its Jacob-Esau story is held as a proof of the evil nature of the red-heads.

If the Old Testament has the seeds of the prejudice of Gingerism, the New Testament puts a stamp on this racist practice. Two very important characters of the New Testament, who have been shown in poor light, have red hair. One is Mary Magdalene and the other is Judas Iscariot.

As researched by scholars Michael Baigent, Mary Magdalene is a much maligned figure, slandered by the early Christians due to their prejudice against women.[20] The fact that she had red-hair, made the prejudice against the red-heads strong.

Similarly, Judas Iscariot is also red-haired, and he is perhaps the most maligned figure of the New Testament and the Bible. He is attributed the betrayal of Jesus Christ, thus committing the ultimate crime; of not only not believing in him, but betraying him to the enemies. Recently the role of Judas Iscariot has been reappraised due to the discovery of the gospel of Judas Iscariot.[21] This gospel of Judas tells a different story than that told by the four canonical gospels of the New Testament.

According to this gospel, Judas is no longer the traitor, but the true follower of the Christ. Scholars surmise that this is one of the many versions of the story of Christ, existing during the start of the first millennium. At that time there was no one Christianity, agreed upon by various scholars and communities. There were many local Christianities, called as Lost Christianites by Bart Ehrman.[22] It is only natural that a story is understood and interpreted in many different ways by many individual and many cultures. But belief is central to the monotheistic religion of Christianity and literal truth is as necessary as the essence of the message.

The Christian truth is not symbolic, but literal, although the Christian apologists claim all sort of symbolism when it seems beneficial to them to do so. Due to this literal emphasis on belief, it was intolerable for the early Church fathers that different versions of Christianity existed. It seemed nothing short of heresy for them.[23] And indeed it was lethal to the basic premise of Christianity, as most of the claims of Christianity are earthly and this-worldly and these claims are made on the basis that Christianity has a historical truth at its core, which is not so with other religions. Existence of different accounts of the literally true story of Jesus would defeat the very purpose of Christianity. Hence, the intolerance of Christian theologians like St. Augustine is very understandable.

It was in the council of Nicea, that the Christian group which had captured power under the Emperor Constantine managed to declare four gospels confirming to their story as the official versions of the story of Jesus: that of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.[24] Although they have enough discrepancies and internal inconsistencies of their own, they manage to concur on some points like on the evil of the character of Judas Iscariot and the sinfulness of Mary Magdalene.[25]

The new archaeological discoveries throw whole new light on the Biblical ‘truth’. It portrays Judas in a good light and the Biblical good characters like Peter, in a bad one. Fundamentalist Christians stick to the official version of the Bible and continue to hate the red-heads, as their tribute to the hatred of Judas. But those who agree with science and do not deny facts, are curious about the gospel of Judas and are prepared to believe that Judas can be good too.

The red-heads of Weasleys, the traditional discrimination against them and Rowling’s voice against the barbaric tradition and a call for an end to the discrimination shows us that the Weasleys actually portray the story of Judas Iscariot.

Rowling may or may not have done this consciously, but her voice for the red-heads extends to the cause of Judas and against the Biblical story of Jesus.

[1] Rowling, J K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic Inc. 1997. p. 93.

[2] Rowling, J K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic Inc. 1997. p. 101-102.

[3] Rowling, J K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic Inc. 1999. p. 222.

[8] Roach, Marion. The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning, and Sexual Power of Red Hair. New York: Bloomsbury USA. 2006. p. 15

[9] Hooton, Earnest A. (1940). “Stature, head form, and pigmentation of adult male Irish”. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Volume 26, Issue 1, pages 229–249, March 1940.

[10] Sunderland E (May 1956). “Hair-color variation in the United Kingdom”. Annals of Human Genetics Volume 20, Issue 4, pages 312–330, May 1955.

[13] Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels. London: Penguin Classics. 2003. p. 244.

[14] Summers, Montague. The Hammer of Witches: A Complete Translation of the Malleus Maleficarum. London: Cambridge University Press. 2009.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Good News Bible. New York: American Bible Society. 2001. Genesis 25:30

[17] Ibid. Genesis 25:25

[18] Ibid. Genesis 25:19-25

[19] Ibid.

[20] Baigent, Michael, Leigh, Richard and Lincoln, Henry. Holy Blood, Holy Grail. New York: Dell; Later Printing edition. 2004.

[21] Ehrman, D Bart. The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed. New York: Oxford University Press USA. 2008.

[22] Ehrman, D Bart. Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. New York: Oxford University Press USA. 2005.

[23] Ehrman, D Bart. Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press USA. 2005.

[24] Goel, Sita Ram. Jesus Christ: An Artifice for Aggression. New Delhi: Voice of India. 1991.

[25] Meyer, Marvin and Boer, Esther A. De. The Gospels of Mary: The Secret Tradition of Mary Magdalene, the Companion of Jesus. New York: HarperOne. 2006.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Elle permalink
    August 2, 2011 12:10 AM

    If anyone is a Judas character in the series, I think it would be Snape.

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