Welcome to this guest series on Harry Potter written by my colleague Dr. Priscilla Hobbs. In this series, Dr. Hobbs explores each of the twelve archetypes identified in the PMAI®. She illuminates the ways in which these archetypal energies find narrative form in Potter-verse characters. Keep a watchful eye out for a perspective that offers a balance between archetypal analysis and strong cultural critique. We hope you enjoy this collaboration. Please get in touch with any questions or feedback. Let’s conjure a magical conversation.
By Priscilla Hobbs, Ph.D.
In the first book of the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone to non-American readers), Neville Longbottom, an anxious and clumsy kid, unpopular, and struggling with magic, confronts Harry, Ron, and Hermione one evening as they are about to leave the Gryffindor common room to investigate the trap door guarded by the three-headed Cerberus, Fluffy. Harry and his friends had managed to lose several points for Gryffindor throughout the school year, and Neville believed that they were about to get into more trouble, thus costing their house more points. They outsmart him with a full-body petrifaction charm, apologizing as they step over his body to continue their mission.
This is the first indicator in the series of Neville as a Realist. While he isn’t the strongest wizard, he firmly believes in the power of a group when they all work together. Although he struggles with self-confidence, Neville is a problem-solver and a collaborator, committed to a greater good that he’s barely able to articulate. Like Harry’s, Neville’s parents were victims of Voldemort’s Death Eaters. Rather than facing death, they were tortured into incurable madness, leaving Neville to be brought up by his strict, albeit well-intentioned, grandmother. It’s not explicitly stated throughout the series, but it’s likely that much of his struggles with magic and self-confidence are rooted in the early traumas he encountered with the loss of parents whom he visits regularly at the St. Mungo’s hospital for magical maladies, yet have no idea who he is.
Neville’s journey is parallel to Harry’s in that the prophecy that set Voldemort’s events into action could easily have applied to Neville. They share the same birthday, and his parents were frequent opponents of Voldemort’s Death Eaters, which makes for an interesting retcon among the fans. However, Neville was protected from the effects of this prophecy, thus setting him on a different yet intersecting journey with Harry.
In the same year that Harry experiences his significant turning point—Year Four, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire—through the lived trauma of the Tri-Wizard Tournament and the death of Cedric Diggory, Neville also received his. As a struggling student, many of the teachers would be kind to Neville but did not provide him an encouraging environment to develop his potential. The only teacher who did, Professor Remus Lupin, gave Neville a way of facing his fears in his third year by making them something to laugh at. In Neville’s fourth year, Professor Mad-Eye Moody took him aside and helped him find his strength, which turned out to be Herbology and the study of magical plants. Though Moody’s intentions weren’t for Neville (he was an imposter manipulating the Tri-Wizard Tournament to make sure Harry won), his small act of encouragement helped Neville immensely.
When faced with the greatest problem of them all, the takeover of Hogwarts by Death Eaters while Harry and his friends were off hunting Horcruxes, Neville took charge of Dumbledore’s Army, and helped shelter Hogwarts students from the abuses of the Death Eaters. His efforts also helped keep Muggle students concealed from a world ever-hostile toward them by helping to sneak them into the Room of Requirement, magically fashioned as a camp with a connection to the Hoghead’s Pub run by Dumbledore’s brother.
During the Battle of Hogwarts, he was given the critical task of killing Voldemort’s pet snake, Nagini, whom he had turned into a Horcrux and was keeping close as he realized someone (Harry) was destroying them. Neville picks up the Sword of Godric Gryffindor, and with it kills Nagini. The Sword of Gryffindor is an artifact that becomes the sigil of the house, representing courage in the face of danger. In this moment, Neville faces the reality of his courage and enters his archetypal strength as a Realist.
Because Neville’s journey is bumpy and he genuinely struggles with his identity, Neville’s heroic arc into the Realist is one that is full of empathy for all people, regardless of their abilities and identities. Though Harry has friends who could also fulfill Realist roles, it is Neville who serves as an anchor, a steady constant, that ultimately enables the students of Hogwarts to bring a final end to Voldemort.
Dr. Priscilla Hobbs is a senior associate dean at Southern New Hampshire University. She is the author of Harry Potter and the Myth of Millennials: Identity, Reception, and Politics. Her work takes an interdisciplinary view of Harry Potter, as a series and as a phenomenon, to uncover how the appeal of Harry became a lifestyle, a moral compass, and a guiding light in an era fraught with turbulence and disharmony. She argues that this prepared an entire generation for the chaotic present marked by the 2016 election and 2020 pandemic by shaping the political attitudes of its readers, many of whom were developing their political identities alongside Harry. Her analysis focuses on both the novels themselves and the ways in which fans connect globally through the Internet to discuss the books, commiserate about the events swirling around them, and answer calls to action through Harry Potter inspired activism. In short, the book examines how Harry Potter became a generation’s defining mythology of love, unity, and transformation. Her recent TEDx talk focuses on transformation and the American Dream.
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