Jun 27 2011 4:01pm

The Boy Who Lived... With His Gran

Neville Longbottom is the manNeville Longbottom doesn’t have Ron’s loving family, Hermione’s brains and talent, or Harry’s prophecy, lightning bolt scar, money, athleticism or celebrity status. He’s not the center of the story. There will never be a book called Neville Longbottom and the Misplaced Toad. But none of that changes the fact that Neville, the Not-Quite-Chosen One, is the bravest and best hero of the Harry Potter series.

Who’s the cat that won’t cop out when there’s danger all about?


Right on.

Neville is second fiddle to no one. Oh, and if you haven’t read all the books, stop here. There are spoilers below. Also, bad words.

A while back I read Beowulf for the first time and decided that though I enjoyed the language and the epic epicness of it, I thought that Beowulf himself was pretty much a dick. He had power and might and majesty and beauty but—to paraphrase The Streets—he really is fit but, my gosh, don’t he just know it. Neville is not the opposite of Harry, but he is, in a way, the anti-Beowulf. He’s not innately powerful, nor is he boastful, and no one fears him. Few enough take him seriously at all. He’s clumsy, accident prone, and kind of crap in magic—his grandmother feared he was a squib until he was eight—nor is he particularly witty.

But you know what Neville’s got? Brass ones. He’s consistently brave, even in the face of self-doubt. He tells it like it is. He has a wonderful sense of justice, as is made clear when he tries to stop Harry, Ron and Hermione at the end of book one.

“I won’t let you do it,” he said, hurrying to stand in front of the portrait hole. “I’ll – I’ll fight you!”

Neville,” Ron exploded, “get away from that hole and don’t be an idiot—”

“Don’t you call me an idiot!” said Neville. “I don’t think you should be breaking any more rules! And you were the one who told me to stand up to people!”

“Yes, but not to us,” said Ron in exasperation. “Neville, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

He took a step forward and Neville dropped Trevor the toad, who leapt out of sight.

“Go on then, try and hit me!” said Neville, raising his fists. “I’m ready!”

And then? Hermione petrifies him. But does Neville go, “Well, fuck you, then!”? No. I would have, but he didn’t. He goes to Dumbledore, and if not for that, the trio could have been stuck for a long time. And let’s not forget who took Ginny to the Yule Ball, eh?

It’s due to Neville, incidentally, that I warmed up to Harry as a hero. Early on, I thought Harry was just okay. I enjoyed the story but wasn’t particularly sold on Harry himself. But when Draco bullied Neville, and Harry told Neville, “You’re worth twelve of Malfoy,” Harry went way, way up in my estimation. And of course I cheered when Neville told Draco, “I’m worth twelve of you.” And it’s too generous, really. Draco is far less than 1/12th of Neville.

As far as the reader knows, Neville doesn’t spend anywhere near the time Harry does feeling sorry for himself. No offense to Harry, of course. He’s a hero too, beyond a shadow of a doubt. He faced real pain and loss and responded bravely to peril. But with Harry we know of his pain pretty much from the get-go. We don’t find out about what happened to Neville’s parents until Order of the Phoenix. When we learn about his parents, Neville ceased to be just the goofy klutz; we see a boy who has endured something horrible.

Think of what happened to him. A strange infant defeats Voldemort. Everyone in the wizarding world is celebrating, more or less singing “Ding-dong the Dark Lord’s Dead.” Mr. And Mrs. Bad-Ass Auror, AKA Frank and Alice Longbottom, are out cleaning up the garbage—Voldemort’s various left-over Death Eaters—when four Death Eaters, including Draco’s Aunt Bellatrix, capture and torture the Longbottoms with the Cruciatus Curse. Their minds are just about destroyed. Baby Neville is raised by his stern, unpleasant grandmother while his parents spend the rest of their lives in an institution.

Neville, in other words, has every bit as much a reason to want to destroy Death Eaters, to protect the wizarding world, and all that, as Harry does. And he has just as much reason to get all moody about it, like Harry does so often.

But instead of giving you Emo Neville, the story punches a hole through your heart when Neville visits his parents for the holidays and his mother gives him a chewing gum wrapper for Christmas. And we cry our eyes out, because he keeps the gum wrapper. Of course he does, because he’s lovely and true and he’s Neville Fucking Longbottom and don’t you forget it. (Have I mentioned that J.K. Rowling is particularly talented at making me cry?)

In the movies, Matthew Lewis has done a commendable job playing Neville, but otherwise the screen adaptations have consistently fallen short where this character is concerned. Neville’s value as a character, as a hero, subtly but surely builds as the story goes on, seriously taking off after he learns of Bellatrix Lestrange’s escape from Azkaban. The movies skip almost all of his subtle heroic development.

The movies have one last chance to get it right, though. It’s in the very last book that he is shown to be pure hardcore. While Harry, Ron and Hermione are out horcrux-hunting and sleeping in tents and—in the movie—inexplicably dancing to Nick Cave, Neville is at Hogwarts, straight up running shit for the good guys. At Howarts, it should be remembered, Severus Snape—who bullied Neville for years—had become headmaster. But Neville becomes Guerrilla Generalissimo of the Dumbledarmy and Bad Motherfucker in Residence. He stands up to cruel teachers, helps defeat Fenrir Greyback, tells Voldemort to get bent, holds the sword of Godric Gryffindor at the final battle, and kills Nagini with it.

And if the film messes this up, I will fly to England with the intent to break my foot off in many an ass. Because Neville is worth twelve movies.

Despite being popular, gorgeous, and talented at everything, Jason Henninger identifies with Neville more than a little.  

This article is part of Potterpalooza on ‹ previous | index | next ›
Dr. Thanatos
1. Dr. Thanatos
No question about it. Neville is the hero that Harry aspired to be. He stood up to everyone, including Voldy---all without having a prophecy backing him up. Neville had no reason to think he might succeed. He didn't have personal coaching from Dumbledore, he got private tutoring from Barty F-ing 10th Doctor Crouch. He was the butt of every joke. And he still organized the students, became the only one who truly knew how the Room of Requirement worked, and sliced off You-Know-Who's You-Know-What Substitute. All without any reason to think that he might survive.

He also went out with both Ginny and Luna. Sure, Harry did this too but we didn't see Neville go back to the dorm room afterwards and take a cold shower like Harry did...

Neville. My man!
Sydo Zandstra
2. Fiddler
I agree on Neville's coolness. :D

However, I seem to recall having seen a shot in one of the movie teasers last year where it is Ron who is charging Nagini bearing the Sword of Gryffindor...

I do hope I am wrong...

I loved how Harry and Ron were out of their league when it came to dancing in GoF, and Neville outshone them. :D
Dr. Thanatos
3. Nalwin
I always hoped when reading the early books that Neville would become more badass as the series went along.

I didn't realise just how awesome he would get!

His bravery always stood out to me more because he was useless at magic and ... well everything bar herbology pretty much... but even so he never backed down and never gave in, he has stones like watermelons
Dr. Thanatos
4. BeVibe
Don't forget - Neville gave Harry the Gillyweed so he could breathe underwater. Neville is one handy dude to have around!

I love it that, at the end of the final book, Neville is revealed to become the Professor of Herbology at Hogwarts.
Dr. Thanatos
5. Stefan Jones
Neville seemed to turned a corner in Book . . . argh, Dr. Thanatos mentions it right there, the one with Dumbledore's Army vs. the nasty headmistress. Training and confidence bring out the stolid, solid trooper in him.

He was also one of the two possibilities to fit the prophecy about Voldemort's demise. I was surprised that that was never followed up on.
Ashe Armstrong
6. AsheSaoirse
Chuck Norris' boggart is Neville Longbottom.
Ozzy Osbourne bites the heads off of bats. Neville Longbottom bites the heads off of Hippogriffs.
Neville is one-eigth centaur. This has nothing to do with bloodline; he once ate an entire centaur.
Neville Longbottom sold his soul to the devil for his rugged good looks
and unparalleled bad-ass wizarding ability. Shortly after the transaction was finalized, Neville Expelliarmus'd the devil's ass and took his soul back. The devil, who appreciates irony, couldn't stay madand admitted he should have seen it coming. They now play Exploding Snapevery second Wednesday of the month.
The Sorting Hat is no longer used at Hogwarts; students are sorted based on how long it takes them to cry in the presence of Neville Longbottom.

These are 100% true and hilarious to boot.
Barry T
7. blindillusion
That, sir, is all too true.

Support Neville Longbottom, the real Hogwarts champion!.... Potter Stinks!

Oh, and BeVibe, Dobby gave Harry the gillyweed because Moody aka Crouch Jr. directed him to.
Dr. Thanatos
8. laurene
(There are spoilers in this comment, fyi)
I think #5 makes a great point about Neville being one option in the prophecy. If things had gone differently, _he_ would have been the one to face Voldy directly. Neville struggles, but bless him he has what it takes (I think) to have taken on Voldemort--the prophecy points to that.
I love how he is able to shine more in the later books, and I love that he is the one who did stand up to Voldemort in the end (when people thought Harry was dead).
I mean, imagine that! The Chosen One who is supposedly the only one who can defeat Voldemort just died (apparently) and did Neville despair? No, he still stood up to Voldemort despite what was their only hope being snuffed out. That takes bravery.
Dr. Thanatos
9. Liesel
I, for one, would wait in line at midnight to buy Neville Longbottom and the Misplaced Toad. Neville really is the unsung hero of the series - especially when he and Ginny are fighting their guerilla war inside Hogwarts off-screen during book 7. (I'd buy that story in a heartbeat too!)
Joe Vondracek
10. joev
I've always felt that Neville was the true object of the prophecy, and Dumbledork used that Potter kid to distract Voldemort. It all just plays a lot better that way.
James Goetsch
11. Jedikalos
"He’s lovely and true and he’s Neville Fucking Longbottom"

Words for the ages.
Dr. Thanatos
13. lor
Dr. Thanatos
14. Rowanmdm
I agree heartily with all of the comments. I LOVE Neville and I hope we do get to see him in guerilla mode in the final movie. I will be mightily dispointed if we don't get that.
Dr. Thanatos
15. Lysana
The image of Neville Longbottom that is used for the promotional posters for the last movie show him with a very Gryffindor-esque sword and a rather mussed-up appearance. I think Jo would've smacked them if they'd changed who kills off Nagini!
Dr. Thanatos
16. DragonRose
This makes me so happy, Neville was my favorite character right from the start and I always thought he and Hermione should have got together.
Dr. Thanatos
17. elleth
I'm with Lysana @15 - those promo photos seem to indicate Neville gets his BAMF moment. In the same vein, I am hopeful we also get to see/hear Molly's moment.
Dr. Thanatos
18. Aduiavas
I have to agree here, Neville is totally awesome! He fights back even when it all looks down, but he don't expect respect or really any sort of feedback for it. He just does what needs to be done.
Dr. Thanatos
19. CaitieCat
Totally agree. I get teary just thinking about him leading the guerrilla against the Death Eaters at Hogwarts, while Our Great Bloody Heroes are off swanning about the UK on a camping holiday.

And when he comes up FREAKIN' AWESOME at the Battle of Hogwarts, and even that bit you quoted about defying them in the very first book, because it was (to his information) the Right Thing to do...gah. I don't go much for the whole 'shipping thing, but Neville's about as close to it as I get.

Colour me one of those hoping he gets his long-overdue Moment of Awesome in the second half of the final film (I'm sorry, it's NOT two films, it's one bloody long film, bugger the marketing choices).
Dr. Thanatos
20. Cork
Neville v Nagini was definitely my favorite scene from the series. Come to think of it, Eowyn v Witch King was my favorite scene from LotR. I guess there is just something about overshadowed/underused characters being the key player in major plot turns that resonates with me.
Dr. Thanatos
21. Dr. Thanatos

Please, please, tell me that this does not mean you really liked where Jar-Jar Binks was the deciding vote to turn the Galactic Republic over to Palpitine...
Dr. Thanatos
22. Cork
Not at all. I would even go so far as to say that that character was both undershadowed and overused, if my memory of the prequels are still reliable after the thorough scrubbing of my mind's eye that ensued after watching them.

OTOH, I don't find it entirely inappropriate that the most idiotic character in the history of science fiction was responsible for the rise of the Empire.

But for the record, I was speaking of books and not movies. I haven't actually read any Star Wars novels, and if He Who Should Never Have Been Named is actually featured in them, I don't see any reason that should change.
Matthew B
23. MatthewB
Neville fans - i hope you already know about this.
Dr. Thanatos
24. Dr. Thanatos
Mrburack, those shirts are way cool!

Cork, I agree with you. I did read the novelization and I think that J-J had vanished into the Abyss of Eternal Annoyance rather than commit another appearance.
Dr. Thanatos
25. Homeschool
We're right there with you, Jason. Of all the tales told in the final book, the three moments which reached me strongest were Dobby's death, Molly's battle... and Neville, hero of Hogwarts.

He deserves this triumphant resolution of his rise to power; an achievement not earned by a lucky transferrance of power or an innate skill, but by hard work, dedication, and courage. If any character in the stories deserved to be in Gryffindor, it's Neville.
Dr. Thanatos
26. Suburbanbanshee
Neville is everynerd.

For a Norse prince, Beowulf is astoundingly modest. To keep up his side as a visiting ally and in order to be taken seriously as a hero, he has to be ready to present his bona fides at all times.

If you want an arrogant Norse hero, Hervor the shieldmaid is it. "Gimme that magic cursed sword, dear dead Daddy! I can handle it!" But she did, more or less....
Dr. Thanatos
27. Bev Kodak
I've been saying it all along- Neville rocks my socks, and Matt Lewis is a delightful, level-headed, all around nice guy. We're actually doing a panel on this exact topic at Dragon*Con this year, too.

Thanks for a great article!
Max Espensen
28. Andvari
The Neville-Nagani bit is clearly awesome but the bit with his mum and the wrapper in the words. Every fucking time....just wow.
Nick Rogers
29. BookGoblin
I just wanted to say that I was thinking of this post the whole time I was watching DH Part 2; I cheered out loud at "that moment" and I was not the only one.
Dr. Thanatos
30. ElicBxn
I always thought that the movies treated Neville better than the books in some ways. After all, Neville found the Room of Requirement, not Dobby, Neville got the gillyweed not Dobby...

Yeah, it might've been to save $$ and streamline the story, but it still happened and I thought it was SO much better than the "Elf Liberation Front" nonsense!

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