Ron’s Sacrifice

by Richard Jones

In a TV biography on A & E, JKR has said that death is a major theme of the series, perhaps the most important theme throughout the seven books, and when speaking about the Epilogue that she has already written she said more people will die — the Epilogue is about those who survive school. So, some more people close to Harry are going to die. And I think one of the big three will die. I think it will be Ron. Here is the summary of the theory I have gleaned from other sites (including an earlier editorial Die, Ron, Die here on MuggleNet) and from my thinking about the books.

(1) Galadriel Waters has a rule that Ron is always wrong except when he is telling a joke. And in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Chapter 31, he expresses his dislike of Divination by saying that he would not believe tea leaves even if they spelled out “Die, Ron, die” (718). Notice that JKR italicizes the phrase (so that we would catch it?) and surrounds “Ron” with two “die’s.” I don’t know how she could have highlighted it any more.

Ron is not always right in his jokes (Arthur is not going to become Minister of Magic, according to JKR), but it is still interesting that JKR brought up the topic of Ron’s death. He might be right this time.

It is also interesting that JKR repeats the joke in her “Fantastic Beasts” book: on the back of the first page, Harry and Ron are playing a game of Hangman when one of them writes: “You die Weasley.” (Okay, JKR would probably not put a clue to the septology in FBWFT, but it is still curious that the joke is there.)

(2) Another clue that lots of people have picked up on is the chess game at the end of PS/SS (ch. 16). Ron had already demonstrated his skill at Wizards’ Chess, and in the game at the end of the book, he commands the pieces and sacrifices himself so that Harry can get to the stone and defeat Voldemort. Ron says “It’s the only way . . . I’ve got to be taken.” I think in Book 7 this will be repeated for real: Ron will be a leader in the DA, and he will have to intentionally sacrifice himself so that Harry can get to Voldemort and defeat him. (Ron wouldn’t be a commander in the Order at his age, but he can be a leader in the DA. I’m not sure if the fact the Luna keeps singing “Weasley is our King” is significant here, but if loony Luna is a genuine seer, it might be significant.) There is no alternative for Ron – “it’s the only way.” And this time he will be killed for real. In Book 1, he obviously could not die, but there is no such restriction at the end of the story. (Granted, the chess game might only indicate Ron will get hurt seriously sacrificing himself – but in the configuration of other clues I think it suggests he will die, especially if death is to be a major theme in the series.)

Chess skills are not always transferable to the real world, since the game is so abstract and analytical, but JKR did say in Book 1, when Ron was teaching Harry how to play, that Wizards’ Chess was like regular chess “except that the figures were alive, which made it a lot like directing troops in battle” (PS/SS 12, p. 199). That it was like “directing troops in battle” shows what JKR thinks of the skill. He got his troops to trust him and to follow him without question (p. 199). Ron’s skill in Wizards’ Chess is repeated in all the books; so JKR keeps reminding us of it. Indeed, it is the only skill Ron apparently has until Quidditch halfway through Order of the Phoenix. (But Ron definitely still needs to develop this leadership skill, his fighting skills, and in general must mature; in Order of the Phoenix, he shirks his prefect duties and both Harry and Hermione seem much more mature.)

In chess, Knights are usually sacrificed. They seldom last to the end of the game. Why didn’t JKR make Ron the King or Queen where he would be relatively safe rather than a minor piece standing between his friends? (Of course, this all depends on how much JKR knows about the game of chess.) After all, he was commanding the pieces. That he took a lower-valued and more vulnerable piece between his friends must be symbolic. It is a foreshadowing of what is to come.

Also notice that PS/SS says that twice Ron only noticed just in time that Harry and Hermione were in danger – does that mean that Ron will save them in the nick of time twice over the next two books?

How much the PS/SS chess game can be worked out as a fuller analogy of what is to come is not clear; some fans see it as an elaborate, detailed code for the whole story. The faceless white pieces may represent the masked DE’s (like the masked DE’s in the graveyard in GoF), with the Queen (Bellatrix) being the one who kills Ron. (The DE’s are white because white always makes the first move in chess.) That other pieces are lost (“You’ve got to make sacrifices!”) suggests that other people of importance to Harry will also die. But it is Ron’s willing sacrifice to help Harry that is important point of the game analogy.

(Of course, we can still ask whether the chess game is really a clue at all. Is that the kind of thing JKR would do to foreshadow what is to come? Is there anything else in the series that is such an elaborate clue?)

(3) In PoA 17 (p.334), when the dog apparently is about to attack Harry, Ron pushes Harry aside and the dog’s jaws grabs Ron’s arm. (Really it is Sirius going for Peter.) Later, in the Shrieking Shack, Ron says that Sirius will have to kill all three of the trio if he is going to kill Harry (p. 339). This shows Ron’s willingness to sacrifice himself, and it reiterates the “sacrifice to the death” theme.

(4) In the Christmas scene in PoA 11 (228), Trelawney brings up the old superstition that when 13 people sit down to dine, the first one to get up dies. Together Harry and Ron are the first to get up (p. 230) – and that must have been deliberate on JKR’s part so that we do not know who got up first.

If it had been simply one of Trelawney’s loony predictions, it could be dismissed, but she does not go into one of her trances – JKR simply had her repeating an old superstition and then had Harry and Ron be the first to get up.

Twice in the books we see 13 dining at one table. In the Yule Ball dinner in GoF (419), there are 13 at the head table, but Dumbledore is the first to get up. In Order of the Phoenix (90), Sirius is the first to get up from a table of 13 at Grimmauld Place, but he sits down again, and Ginny is the first one to actually get up and leave. But JKR does not highlight the old superstition in these two instances as she does in the PoA case – you actually have to count up the people at the tables. So I’m not sure if she meant them to be cases of 13 at a table and so they may not be counterexamples.

(5) The HP Lexicon, under “Wands,” notes that Ron, like Cedric, has a wand with a unicorn hair. (The wand in question is actually Ron’s second — the one he gets in PoA.) In PS/SS, Hagrid says a unicorn is hurt to which the centaur Ronan replies that “Always the innocent are the first victims.” The Lexicon then asks if Ron is next. Ron and Cedric’s are only the only wands mentioned with unicorn hairs and we know what happened to Cedric.

A willow tree in Britain is a sign of death (e.g. being planted in graveyards). (We don’t know if JKR is aware of this symbolism.) In CoS, Harry yells “Mind the Willow!” when Ron is driving the car and crashing into the trees, and in PoA Ron is dragged under the Whomping Willow by Sirius (who also died). That Ron’s wand is made of willow can’t be good. The HP Lexicon only mentions Lily as having a willow wand.

Of course, we don’t know how many people have willow wands or how many of those wands have unicorn hair cores; I can’t see this as a forecast of a massacre, but it is curious that JKR only mentions a unicorn core and willow wands in connection with Ron and two people who were killed by LV.

(6) Other things indirectly support this idea. At the end of Books 1, 3, and 5, Ron gets hurt badly. If this pattern continues, he is safe in Book 6 (and away from the action at the end), but in danger at the end of Book 7. Since there is no Book 8, he may not survive this time. (But does JKR really deal with such patterns? What happens to Ron at the end of HBP should be a clue.)

Even forgetting about the pattern idea, just notice that Ron helped along the way but he is never in the action at the very end of any of the books. (Hermione is in the action at the end of Book 3 and lasts longer than Ron in Books 1 and 5.) That could be a foreshadowing of his absence at the end of the series.

(7) JKR also seems to be preparing Molly Weasley for the death of at least one of her children by the boggart scene in Chapter 9 of Order of the Phoenix.

(8) In Order of the Phoenix, Harry hears some whispering behind the Veil and thinks it is Ron (774). In GoF, we know from the second task that Ron would be the person Harry would “most sorely miss” (463). Also in Order of the Phoenix, when Ron and Hermione are off at the prefects’ meeting, Harry has “an odd sense of loss” (184) because he had never ridden the Hogwarts Express without Ron. All this could be a foreshadowing of Ron’s death. At least it creates that old, creepy sense of foreboding.

(9) JKR’s response to the question about a job for Ron in her March 2004 interview is interesting. She has earlier responded to questions about Harry’s future life with amusement by saying “That assumes he is going to be alive.” This time she didn’t do that for Harry and seemed to be suggesting that Harry will survive. But now she used that cutesy answer for Ron. Is this new answer just a trick to keep us guessing about Ron, or is it a real hesitancy not to give away an important part of the plot? It might be the latter because why else introduce this type of answer now after using it for Harry for so long?

On the other side, there is a JKR quote from an early Time Magazine interview: “It’s great to hear feedback from the kids. Mostly they are really worried about Ron. As if I’m going to kill Harry’s best friend. What I find interesting is only once has anyone said to me, ‘Don’t kill Hermione,’ and that was after a reading when I said no one’s ever worried about her.” But why didn’t she state it so unambiguously in her March 2004 interview? Why did she move from an unambiguous statement to one that is ambiguous? And even in the Time interview she may be just trying to get us to stop thinking about Ron dying, not denying it will occur.

I hope all this is just one elaborate red herring. But there are an awful lot of clues and an awful lot of effort on JKR’s part. Nobody wants Ron to die. He is not just another stereotypical goofy sidekick who always gets killed off in the movies. (I’m talking about the Ron in the books, not the one in the movies.) His death would be even more of tragic if he gets the things he wanted from the Mirror of Erised scene in PS/SS (ch. 12): Quidditch captain and Head Boy, and then dies. He is now a prefect and a Quidditch champion and is already outshining his brothers in one respect: he got an award for special service to Hogwarts in CoS. But maybe only something as traumatic as Ron’s death could be the final impetus Harry needs to get the strength finally to be able to cast the Avada Kedavra spell or whatever he does to “vanquish” LV.