I said earlier that I wanted to come back to Neville after having re-read further into the books. I never made it to the end of the series with my posts last time so I didn’t get to his shining moment at the end of the series. Now I want to come back and explore how he grows from the toad-less boy in book one to Voldemort-defying BAMF in book seven.
Note: I’ll stick to Neville as characterized in the books for this post although I should note that I’m as pleased as anyone that the movie characterization finally allowed Neville to grow from walking punch line to the Sword-of-Gryffindor-wielding hero we knew him to be. It hasn’t hurt at all that the actor who plays him, Matthew Lewis, is a great candidate for Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile Award these days either.
Neville is so great!
Unfailingly kind. Determined. Adorably self effacing. Morally upstanding. Loyal. Nerdily enthusiastic. I could wax poetic on the subject – is my crush showing? Neville doesn’t always see the value in himself but he is quite capable of making friends who see it for him. I love the moment at the opening of Order of the Phoenix when he meets Luna:
‘And I don’t know who you are.’
‘I’m nobody,’ said Neville hurriedly.
‘No, you’re not,’ said Ginny sharply. ‘Neville Longbottom – Luna Lovegood…’
The DA (part the first)
“Nor had he said anything on the subject of Bellatrix and her fellow torturers’ escape; in fact, he barely spoke during D.A. meetings anymore, but worked relentlessly on every new jinx and counter curse Harry taught them, his plump face screwed up in concentration, apparently indifferent to injuries or accidents, working harder than anyone else in the room. He was improving so fast it was unnerving and when Harry taught them the Shield Charm, a means of deflecting minor jinxes so that they rebounded upon the attacker, only Hermione mastered the charm faster than Neville.”
Neville is determined. He insists that he, Luna and Ginny go with Harry to the Ministry at the end of Order of the Phoenix reminding Harry that its not all about him – they all have lives and loved ones at stake in this war. He’s also the last man standing with Harry at the end in the department of mysteries and defiant to the last despite a broken nose and wand.
And then … a new wand.
Ok, Wizarding World, WTF! Its explained ad nauseum in the books that “the wand chooses the wizard” and Harry can’t be the only person who has ever had to work with another person’s wand and found it doesn’t do the trick for him. Why are these wizarding parents setting their kids up for failure by sending them off to Hogwarts with poorly matched wands?
Its always been clear to me that part of Ron’s difficulty with school comes from spending two years with the wrong wand. No wonder Neville thinks he’s a squib when he did his first five years of magical education with someone else’s wand. Poor kid. I think getting his own wand finally would be instrumental to his re-birth as a confident Gryffindor and leader of men (and women). Its fine that he keeps his dad’s fugly sweater collection though – that’s quite sweet.
The DA (part the second)
“It helps to stand up to people. I noticed that when you used to do it.”
There’s relatively little of Neville in the seventh book compared to what we are told he’s been up to but even what little there is shows how much he’s changed. Its not clear when that happens. Suddenly he’s (still self effacingly) leading an army of child soldiers and acting as guardian angel of the whole school. Since no one (or at least not Harry) was paying much attention to him during all that time, it’s unclear when he made the transformation from Round-faced Toad Loser to Understated Underground Resistance Leader.
It was there all along.
But has he really changed? Sure he’s grown up, stutters less, knows more spells, has a new wand. But I think he’s largely the same person all along. Still slightly self-effacing but ultimately ready to get the job done. JK Rowling in an 2007 interview:
“And he really was The Boy It Could’ve Been, because as you know, as I made clear, he was born hours before Harry, he was born on the 30th of July, Voldemort singled him out as the other possibility. But the great thing about Neville’s story for me, the over-arching story about Neville, is that he proves himself to be a boy who could’ve done it too.”
I couldn’t agree more. Three cheers for Neville Longbottom. Hip hip, hooray!!!!