In a weekly series, staff writer Katie Majka takes a look at some of our favorite witches and wizards, and how they fit into literary and social archetypes. This week: Remus Lupin
I have a confession to make, and that’s that I’m in love with Remus Lupin. Now, I’ll sail the Lupin/Tonks ship until the end of my days, but Werewolf McWerewolf (his etymological name, if you would believe it) is still my Harry Potter boyfriend of choice. Maybe it’s his professorship, maybe it’s the slightly graying hair—it’s certainly a coupling of those, but maybe it’s his quiet dignity and his noble (if a bit stupid) self-quarantine, too. Maybe it’s the way he atones for his mistakes or the fact that he just happens to have a bar of chocolate on him at the most convenient of times.
The old favorite “Mr. Moony presents his compliments to Professor Snape, and begs him to keep his abnormally large nose out of other people’s business” has something to do with it, I’m sure. Or maybe it’s the simple fact that whenever he happens to cross my mind, by some divine twist of fate, the Tavares’ “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel” is on autoplay in my head, and I tell you, you can’t deny love like that.
Whatever the exact origin of my infatuation, most of the qualities that make Remus Lupin so crushable are also what categorize him as the archetypal romantic. I’m not talking the hearts-and-flowers kind of romantic (that may be just as true, but the jury’s out), but rather the traditional, literary definition of the word—a hero who rejects convention and has himself been rejected by society, and therefore is the center of his own existence. As narcissistic as that may appear, the romantic himself isn’t as self-indulgent as this cursory definition suggests, and it’s in a deeper study of the romantic that we find Remus J. Lupin.
Remus’ rejections to and from society are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Remus’ lycanthropy is the cause of the general population of his world’s disdain for him, but it has little to nothing to do with his own rebellion in the first and second Wizarding wars. While Remus’ lycanthropy may have informed his political views in this case, I for one don’t think that society’s rejection of him is more than a small contributing factor in his Order of the Phoenix appointment.
However, it is likely that, as a werewolf, Remus understands the Muggles and Muggle-borns’ trials with more compassion and sympathy than most; he knows what it’s like to be an outcast, to be ashamed of who you are and frightened of how people will treat you as a result. He knows from personal experience the strife and pain such bigotry causes—Remus experiences these consequences differently than Muggles do theirs, but it all boils down to injustices that must be combated.
Due to this (assumed) profound understanding of others’ suffering and battles, it’s safe enough to bet that the self-centered aspect of the romantic is not quite so traditionally applied to Remus. Regardless, he does exhibit the quality to a certain extent. Because while it can certainly be argued that Remus’ isolation is inflicted by cultural norms and prejudice, and that he keeps himself at a distance from others for their safety, the fact of the matter remains that Remus does these things for his own perceived benefit, too. If he keeps himself at arm’s length, he can’t hurt anyone, and likewise they can’t hurt him with the rejection he so fears.
He allows himself a tremendous degree of inadequacy as if to convince himself and others that, werewolf or not, he’s not worthy of love or companionship. It’s why he refused Tonks for so long—because, as he says in Half-Blood Prince, she “deserves someone young and whole,” and he insists that he can’t give that to her. Of course, Remus has lost loved one after loved one, so it’s no small wonder that he would deny himself of more, but he uses his lycanthropy as the real leverage in this situation.
Remus’ indecision and likely inner turmoil over his relationship with Tonks adds another layer to his romantic cake—the long-suffering lover. The romantic is often coupled with this counterpart, who, in this case, manifests in one Nymphadora Tonks (and myself, if you want to cast the net wide enough to break the fourth wall, but I digress). Between her changing Patronus and “I’ve told you a million times”—both of which we see in HBP—Tonks is the picture of pining while she waits for Remus to get it together and realize that she loves him in spite of the flaws he sees in himself, and that he deserves to love her back.
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Generally, the romantic and his lover are connected by fate in a bond that is broken only by death and, since Remus and Tonks die together, we can easily say that their bond is never truly severed. Aside from the quintessentially romantic fashion in which this pair bites the dust, their relationship is perhaps the most passionate of those we see throughout the Harry Potter series. You have to admit, at least, that it’s not every day (or on every page) that you see a couple get together after a raw, honest display in the middle of a boarding school’s hospital wing, complete with commentary from the peanut gallery that is their friends, family, and band of rebels with whom they’re battling a corrupt social rule. It really doesn’t get more “literary romantic” than that.
The romantic does, however, tread paths that diverge at least somewhat from his love life. Before, during, or after the appearance of his lover, the romantic leads a rural, solitary life, usually due to wanderlust, personal dissatisfaction, or the dissatisfaction and overall dislike of other people. It’s clear that Remus’ reason is his own self-loathing, which segues into his self-awareness when he does wrong and then subsequently rights it.
In Deathly Hallows, he leaves Tonks when she’s pregnant because he can’t handle the responsibility of what he thinks their child might inherit from him. He claims that he’s no good for his family, but fails to realize that it’s his absence that would hurt them the most. When Harry smacks him upside the head with the truth he so needs to hear, Remus eventually comes to terms with his follies and begs forgiveness for them. He makes amends and stitches his family back together, and becomes a better man for it.
Because Remus is constantly at odds with himself, he remains in this state of change and growth throughout the entirety of his life—he’s always becoming the man he’s supposed to be, but never quite gets there. There is no point of self-actualization for Remus, and there’s something tremendously relatable in that (because if I remember anything from my college psych/sociology courses, it’s that self-actualization is the most elusive of beasts). No matter how content we are, or how well we may know ourselves, for many of us there’s always going to be some irreconcilable part of ourselves that we have to learn to live with.
Overall, no, I don’t recommend the life of a romantic—he always has his finer points but, at the end of the day, that life path is riddled with potholes that I imagine none of us want to encounter. But Remus Lupin offers a likeability to the trope, and while I once again can’t pinpoint the exact reason why, what I do know is that the guy offers us the opportunity to be just as introspective as he and any other romantic tends to be.
Remus Lupin taught us about fear, inner demons, and how to tackle it all. He taught us through both his wisdom and his mistakes that we don’t have to be alone. He taught us that no matter who we lose or why, there will always be people left who see the best in us, even if all we see is the worst. Through his admission of his own flaws, Remus taught us that we have to give people the opportunity to believe in us, and then we can believe in ourselves, too. He may have been the center of his own world for a long time, but Remus learned that his world isn’t the whole world, and in so doing, he taught us that we can come to accept ourselves through the love of others; and all we have to do to get there is know that we’re worthy of it.
Be sure to check out our other Harry Potter and the Order of Archetypes installments.
All art belongs to writer of the post, Katie Majka.