Previous Literary Ladies Cage Fight columns can be found here.
Hey, gal-pals! We have a super-duper amazing column for you this week…I literally cannot even.
Well, I “can even,” so it is with great pleasure that I announce to you a highly requested matchup: Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger versus The Hunger Games’s Katniss Everdeen!
I hardly need to introduce these two women, lionesses of the YA genre that they are. Young women all over the world revere and idolize this pair, and deservedly so. They are strong, complicated ladies who prove that you can be feminine AND badass, and that imperfections can be our strongest assets. Hang on to your hats, ladies…this one will be a doozy.
ROUND ONE: Sorting Hat
Well, this one’s easy! Hermione is a Gryffindor, and a fine Gryffindor to boot. She is smart enough to be a Ravenclaw and loyal enough to be a Hufflepuff, but she ends up a Gryffindor. Some cynics might say that JK Rowling didn’t want to bother with inter-house main characters, but to them I say no way! You don’t have to the be the star of the show to be a Gryffindor. Heck, Neville is a Gryffindor! You just have to know that when it’s time to step up, you better be ready. Hermione proves over and over again that she is ready to step up and save the day.
Katniss is a difficult one to place. She’s tough enough to be a Slytherin, strong enough to be a Gryffindor, and clever enough to be a Ravenclaw. But Katniss, ultimately, is a Hufflepuff. Her love and loyalty to her sister is what drives her entire story. She is the most reluctant of heroes: caught up in a game she never wanted to be a part of, a symbol for a movement she had no intention of joining. Part of what makes her so fantastic is her utter humanity—she’s not interested in being a hero, she is terrified and wants to save her sister. Before legions of readers cry foul and demand my head—remember the patron saint of Hufflepuffery—Cedric Diggory. School Champion, Rightful Winner of Tri-Wizard Tournament, and Object of Cho Chang’s Affection Whose Last Wish Was to Have His Body Returned to His Parents. Go ahead and tell me Hufflepuffs are weak or dorky or what have you. I dare you. In the name of Cedric, I dare you.
Winner: Hermione. Because when a Hufflepuff and a Gryffindor tie, Voldemort shows up and shit gets real.
(Let’s be honest—there are two Hermiones: the one JK wrote and the one Emma Watson played. Emma Watson is adored for her strength, power, and beauty, while JK’s Hermione is described as frizzy-haired, buck-toothed, and annoying. I wish — oh, how I wish — that the Hermione of our hearts was the Hermione of the page, and she was really the heroine of the story with Ron and Harry as her sidekicks, but it is just not so.)
Artie, have you been watching YouTube fan videos again? You can’t rewrite the books! Hermione is basically a sidekick to Harry—but a really amazing one. She helps him solve problems with her photographic recall of Hogwarts: A History and she is the smartest witch in school, no contest. She is always there for Harry, taking his side, cheering him on, and showing him the way. So she doesn’t have a sidekick, really, but she is such a wonderful one–the best kind, really—that I think she deserves points.
No can do, sister. Those aren’t the rules! Until my dreams become a reality, Hermione will be sidekick-less and thus ineligible for points. Now Katniss on the other hand, has many sidekicks. There’s Prim, her sweet sister who starts this whole journey off; Rue, of whom no more needs to be said. (Except to all the racists out there who said a black Rue ruined the movie…Artemis is displeased with you. Watch your back.) But her real sidekick, the one that makes all the others pale in comparison, is Cinna. Cinna is a stylist. Cinna is a revolutionary. Cinna uses beautiful clothes as political theater. Cinna, oh Cinna…when I find a fanfic that ends with you and Katniss together instead of her and Peeta, sometimes I don’t even mind, even though Everlark is my OTP.
Winner: Katniss. No contest.
ROUND THREE: Love Interest
Hermione’s true love is Ron Weasley, youngest Weasley boy. His cute red hair and charming manner—
(Can you even hear yourself? True love? Charming manner? Ron Weasley is about as charming as a pet rock. After he wins a game of wizard chess in Book 1, he is utterly useless for the rest of the series. In fact, I hereby change his name to Useless Ron. And Useless Ron isn’t anyone’s true love. Hermione should have done three things rather than marry Useless Ron: 1) marry Harry and rule the magical world justly but fairly as their King and Queen, 2) Marry Luna Lovegood and open up a vegan witch fair-trade bakery which doubles as a rehab/job skills program for liberated house elves, 3) take a cue from Emma Watson and be the Witch Ambassador to Muggle United Nations. Any of these options would have been vastly, vastly superior to Useless Ron. UR is the reason I am the Goddess of Chastity.)
But Artie, don’t you think you’re being a little unfair? After all, he’s very kind and—
Okay, sorry. But can I at least do Katniss, since you did Hermione? Katniss has two hunky guys to choose from, the brooding revolutionary Gale and the sensitive baker’s son Peeta. PEETA. He is, besides his silly name that is also bread, a love interest for the ages. He makes Katniss stronger without overpowering her. He is skilled in places she lacks. Although he’s kind and loving, he’s not weak or effeminate. Peeta would die for Katniss and proves it multiple times. He lets Katniss shine without hiding himself under a bushel, which is like the greatest ever. Plus, he’s super cute and knows how to bake! Who could ask for anything more?
Winner: Katniss! Because Peeta can hold you when you cry AND bake you a cupcake afterwards.
Well, Hermione doesn’t believe in herself enough, I think. She’s super smart but regularly gets overshadowed by Ron and Harry. She doesn’t have any female friends really, and she’s always worried about what Ron and Harry are up to instead of worried about herself. She is so, so awesome and amazing and doesn’t celebrate that nearly enough! There’s a line between obnoxious bragging and justly being confident in yourself, and Hermione is SO on the wrong side. Is that good, Artie?
You forgot to mention her inexplicable attachment (and eventual marriage—Ugh!) to Useless Ron, but otherwise your analysis is good. Katniss’s biggest flaw is how long she takes to declare her agency. From the very beginning, she is somebody’s pawn; everyone is using her for their own agenda. Once District 12 falls, she is still a pawn, only now she is being used by President Coin. It’s not until she shoots Coin that she’s really able to make decisions for herself. And it’s a long way through two and a half books before she really comes into her own.
Winner: Hermione. Being saddled Til Death Do Us Part with Useless Ron is as tragic as it gets.
ROUND FIVE: Happy Ending
Hermione loses a lot of friends in the war. She also has to erase herself from her family’s memory (but most likely can give herself back once she survives the war). So she suffers a lot through the last few books, but ultimately she ends up married to Ron, sending her own kids off to Hogwarts. And that’s okay, Artie! Because some women want to get married and have kids and not work at the UN. And being a woman means we get to choose! So even though I know you’ll have something to say, I stand by it that Hermione’s ending is happy.
(Ugh. You are 100% right that having a family is COMPLETELY as valid as any career. And women are allowed to choose what they want and don’t want and should NEVER be bullied by other women for the choices they’ve made. BUT—there’s a difference between Hermione choosing a family and choosing Useless Ron’s family. You just know that Ron is going to hold her back from reaching her full potential. He doesn’t value her brains or her spirit. He doesn’t really love her, as I do.)
Katniss suffers even more than Hermione in her final battle. Her beloved sister, her impetus to get involved in this in the first place, is killed in battle. Katniss has a breakdown and her fate seems uncertain for a long time. In her epilogue, however, she and Peeta are raising a family and are, if not overjoyed, at least content. I think this is a good illustration of your point—because many readers felt that Katniss with babies was a total sellout of her character. I disagree. She grew up in a world that was unsafe and had no good futures. Her decision to marry and have children meant that she had, in some way, found hope for her world and the futures it contained. She was finally safe enough to let her guard down and let someone in. So I’d say, despite the haters, that Katniss’s ending is happy, too.
Winner: Draw. Both women find some version of happiness as adults, but the costs are high.
So in one of our closest fights ever, Katniss edges out Hermione! In a different world—a different book—Hermione might have been able to take her, but Katniss’s claim to fame is literally winning a game where she kills people, so it was going to be tough to defeat her in combat. But remember: in the battle for more quality literary heroines, EVERYONE WINS!
See you next time for our special Mother’s Day edition.
Laura Sook Duncombe lives in Alexandria, Virgina with her husband and a mutt named Indiana Bones, Jr. Musical theater, pirates, and Sherlock Holmes are a few of her favorite things. Her work can be found on the Toast, the Hairpin, Jezebel, and at her blog.