In anticipation of the last Harry Potter movie’s release, I have been rereading the books. While they are quite strongly male, there is a decent collection of female characters scattered throughout the books, none of whom I would mind having with me in a fight (except Bellatrix LeStrange). I’ve given a summary of these woman, as they appear from books 1-7. (To qualify, they may come into their own in later books, but I cite them as they appear.) B=book. So b1=book1. And obviously, spoilers for Harry Potter littered through the article. I don’t directly refer to events in the last book, although I expect it will come up in the comments, so maybe give this article a miss if you want to remain spoiler free.
Hermione Granger (b1). One of the main characters. A muggle-born witch (meaning someone with no family history of magic who turns out to have a talent), she turns out to be, well, bloody talented. She has both excellent reflexes when it comes to hexing and jinxing the school bullies as well as performing some hard-core spells against the villains. Hermione spans the whole series, and is a central part to Harry’s successes. And despite the reams of fanfiction out there pairing her with either Harry or Ron (and, I’m sure, pretty much every significant male character in the series) her romantic subplot(s) are given very little ink.
Professor Minerva McGonagall (b1). A recurring character who spans all seven books and plays a major part in many storylines. Harry’s form headmistress, a tough-but-fair woman who, like Granger, is one of the few characters to make it through all seven books.
Molly Weasley. (b1) Mother of seven children, including Harry’s best friend, Ron, and Ron’s sister Ginny. One of half a dozen characters who lasts the whole seven books. She’s a total mama bear, and I would not want to be the one stupid enough to stand between her and who she considers her ‘kids’.
Ginerva ‘Ginny’ Weasley. (b1) The youngest of Molly’s seven children. Gets a brief mention in book one, and comes into her own in the second book. And OK, she spends most of that book being manipulated by one of Voldemort’s alter egos, but from four onwards she proves herself to be a very capable witch, like Hermione having the talent and reflexes to perform both petty revenge and serious magic. And yes, she ends up one of Harry’s love interests, but in all fairness, they got all the way to six of seven books before going that route, and she’s not exactly pining for Harry in the meantime. Hero-worshiping, maybe, but so is a fair chunk of the book’s initial characters, so that doesn’t count.
Fleur Delacour. (b4) Part-enchantress, she doesn’t do a lot in the forth book, other than prove she has a bit more depth than being a gorgeous woman. But in the sixth book, when her fiancee Bill Weasley is bitten by a werewolf and Mrs. Wesley assumes the marriage is off now that he’s not ‘normal’, Fleur has a go at her for assuming she is so shallow and wouldn’t love Bill anyway. Mrs. Wesley backs off, realising her mistake in assuming that a gorgeous woman automatically didn’t know what words like ‘love’ and ‘loyalty’ mean; she and Fleur end up having a good relationship.
Olympie Maxine (b4) fairly minor character but a part-Giantess who forms a friendship with main character Hagrid, who is part-Giant. She’s Hagrid’s companion in finding giants to fight their fight, and while she barely gets a mention past book four, I still thought she was worth a mention here.
Bellatrix LeStrange (b4) Actually one of the bad guys, and doesn’t come into her own until book five, but man, she does well as an unrepentant bad guy. She’s completely crazy from spending years in prison – and probably wasn’t completely sane before that, either – and has killed God-knows-who many people, including the parents of one of our main good guys. She plagues the good guys, mainly Harry and the people he’s attached to, for most of three books. Given I was complaining that there are no ‘bad women’ in Underbelly, it’s nice to see such a woman span four books in Harry Potter.
Nymphadora Tonks – ‘Tonks’ (b5). Tonks is a passionate woman who is also a highly talented witch, with various talents such as being able to change her image and sense betrayers. She’s part of the Order of the Phoenix, basically the Secret Society Against Voldemort, and plays a major part in the last three books. I had an issue with some of her book seven storyline, but I’ll leave that to you to discuss.
Luna Lovegood (b5). She’s a conspiracy theorist, very flighty, but has moments of absolute clarity and insight. She is a loyal friend and a very talented witch, nonetheless, and plays a major part in the last book. Of the six students to go on a (failed) rescue mission towards the end of book five, she makes up one of the three girls.
Harry Potter is, of course, predominantly Harry’s story. Nonetheless, by my count it still contains at least nine strong, capable recurring female characters, including one kick-ass villain. And for me, that’s the ultimate role of good writing, that a story can be predominantly about one gender or another while still featuring a decent range of strong, capable characters of a different gender.