The Phoenix Files #7: Nymphadora Tonks

By Christopher Stephen

Hey everyone! Thanks so much for the awesome McGonagall submissions—I had a tough time choosing who got published, let me tell you! I have a feeling it’s only going to get tougher…especially as I close McGonagall’s folder and open that of Albus Dumbledore. I need all your submissions by Friday, April 29th at 11:59 pm. Remember to send them to me at christopherstephened at hotmail dot com. Now, start writing! 🙂

Now, Nymphadora Tonks. This was a tough character to analyze because we had never heard of her until the fifth book. With so little information to work with, this is what I drew up (more or less in chronological order in Book Five):

The first time we hear of Tonks is Chapter Three, “The Advance Guard.” If you can recall, Harry, locked in his room, hears a “crash in the kitchen below.” Yep, that’s our Tonks. And don’t you dare think for a second we’ve heard the last of our favorite metamorphmagus’s clumsiness (more on that later).

Tonks is the first to notice Harry’s rendezvous with Moody and Lupin is taking place in the dark. She uses the lumos charm to shed some light—in my opinion, a very intelligent move. This shows us Tonks is observant and doesn’t get so caught up in meeting Harry that she forgets to use her brain. This trait could come into use later in the series, and there are multiple examples of her demonstrating it (remember, when JKR repeats something, she wants us to remember it). When we first meet Tonks, she has a “pale, heart-shaped face” and short, spiky, “violent” violet hair. She also rolls her eyes at Moody’s buttock comment (“Don’t put your wand there, boy!”), emphasizing her youth. A few people have wondered about Tonks’s greeting (“Wotcher, Harry”), and you can correct me if I’m wrong here, but it’s nothing but a figure of speech, meaning “hey there” or something similar. More than a few fans have tried to interpret this as a death clue for Harry, but I do not find this to be supporting canon evidence. As Harry Potter fans, we have to be careful to use exegesis (pronounced ex-uh-gee-sis) when reading texts, as my theology professor would say. Exegesis is getting the meaning straight from the text, instead of attempting to read the meaning you want into the words. JK Rowling has put in plenty of clues for us; it is unnecessary for us to attempt to create more.

After Moody and Lupin, Tonks seems to be the next-most-important character in the Advance Guard sent to retrieve Harry. She “lured” the Dursleys out of the way with her clever All-England Best-Kept Suburban Lawn Competition, again emphasizing her ingenuity and observation skills. She is obviously a valuable asset to the Order.

There’s more in the episode where Lupin is introducing the unknown characters both to us, the readers, and Harry. He introduces Tonks by her full name, “Nymphadora Tonks,” but she quickly corrects him with a shudder. After Lupin explains she likes to be known by her surname only, Tonks’s quote is, “So would you if your fool of a mother had called you ‘Nymphadora.'” This is very important, and is in fact a clue to the storyline plot. Tonks shows she totally rejects her mother (and, thus, her family) in this short, unremarkable sentence. Who else has been shown to totally reject his family? Well, for starters, there is Tom Riddle, who talks about being given his “filthy, Mudblood father’s name” in CoS. When JKR reinforces something, she means it, so when reading Books Six and Seven, we need to be especially alert if a character openly denounces his or her family (especially familial name) in public. This is uncommon in the wizarding world, especially among pureblood families, and Tonks gives us this first hint that her family may not have held dear many of the same values she did. Tonks notes that her dad was Muggle-born and is a “slob,” unlike the Dursleys (but she likes things a little messy). Still more hatred for her family, still more clues.

We get to know Tonks even better after she volunteers to help Harry pack up his trunk. There, as we all know, Tonks reveals she’s a Metamorphmagus, a wizard who can change appearance, stating she got top marks in Concealment and Disguise during Auror training without any study at all. 🙂 Interestingly, she can not only change her face and hair, but also her height (she is a tall woman as she escorts Harry back to school after Christmas). Tonks is a newly qualified Auror, just one year ago, so Kingsley Shacklebolt’s a “lot higher up” than she is, but Harry, as a possible future Auror, doesn’t seem to mind. We also learn that Metamorphmagi are born, not made. I have a feeling this is another important comment. Who else in the series could be a Metamorphmagus? I will bet you loads of money there have been tons of clues already set into place, and that Tonks will NOT be the only Metamorphmagus in the series. I could be wrong, of course, but JKR normally doesn’t just introduce these things for fun. So, return to the question: who else could have the ability to change his or her appearance so easily? Someone in the Order? A Death Eater? (Galadriel Waters seems to imply it could be Harry…remember how his hair grew back so quickly after Aunt Petunia cut it in Book One? Yet he has wanted that scar to go away loads of times, but it sticks with him.) Check your books for slightly changing appearances that could be clues.

Packing with Tonks is fun. She tells Harry, “Don’t be stupid, it’ll be much quicker if I—pack!” With that, all Harry’s stuff goes flying into his trunk. Note: another example of her using her brains while others aren’t. Tonks says her mother has a “thing” for making everything nice and neat, even getting the socks to fold themselves. This is interesting, because we find out later who her mom is on the Black family tapestry. Her mother was Andromeda Black who married the Muggle-born Ted Tonks (Galadriel Waters points out that Ted was the name of the weatherman on the TV in Book One…interesting coincidence. A MuggleNet visitor also wrote a brief editorial on this point). Andromeda was the sister to Bellatrix (Black) Lestrange and Narcissa (Black) Malfoy. I find it interesting that Andromeda is still alive (from the use of the word has instead of had)—you would think that Bellatrix would have been after her by now, after she defiled the family by marrying a Muggle-born. What has Andromeda been up to lately??

Tonks also has a great sense of humor. She gives the Order, which is comprised mainly of older members, a lot of youthful spunk. She is, in a word, cool. As Mad-Eye is wanting to go through clouds and double back, Tonks once again uses her common sense, saying they’ll get soaked going through the clouds and that they’re already freezing without doubling back. Her ability to think quickly on her feet (or, apparently, on her broom) in a calm, cool manner is quite a possibility for future character development. She is one of the first characters (other than Hermione and Dumbledore) to show this sort of collectedness under pressure.

Tonks also has a very close relationship with Ginny. Repeat: Tonks has a very close relationship with Ginny. This is probably Tonks’s most important function in the series. This is the first person we’ve really seen to take Ginny “under their wing,” so to speak. This is obvious many times at Sirius’s, but the first example we have is when Ginny says Tonks told her how to find out if there’s been an Imperturbable Charm on doors. Ginny also seems to look up to her eldest brother, Bill, in the same manner. Often, who our role models are helps to shape us as we grow, and it is important to keep an eye on Ginny—she is obviously a powerful witch, as demonstrated with the Bat-Bogey Hex on Draco.

But this File is about Tonks, and she slams into the troll-leg umbrella stand at the base of the stairs in Twelve Grimmauld Place, sending Sirius’s mum into demonic shrieks. (Once again, if JKR reinforces something…) She then accidentally knocks a candle onto a piece of parchment, setting it on fire. One of my favorite scenes is Mrs. Weasley attempting to decline Tonks’s enthusiastic offer of helping to prepare dinner as she knocks over a chair in the process. Tonks, as an intelligent witch with a great education, becomes a perfect role model for Hermione and Ginny. She befriends them quite nicely, and entertains them at dinners with her metamorphmagus abilities. Interestingly, Tonks was “up all night” doing night duty the day of Harry’s hearing. JKR wants us to realize what an integral part of the Order she is. Not only that, but she’s a fantastic person, too. Just after Ron gets his prefect badge, Tonks knows just what to say to Harry. “I was never a prefect myself, my Head of House said I lacked certain necessary qualities, like the ability to behave myself.” Too bad she didn’t say who her Head of House was. Even more important, however, is JKR’s description of Tonks this day: “Her hair was tomato-red and waist length today; she looked like Ginny’s older sister.” Can you say hint? This is the exact role she is playing in the series, just as Sirius is playing the father figure for Harry. Tonks is filling in for the older sister Ginny never had.

On the way to Hogwarts, Tonks is part of the Guard that ensures Harry’s safe passage onto the train at Platform 9¾. She looks like an old woman this time, with gray curly hair. Tonks is also extremely interested in Harry’s story after Mr. Weasley is attacked, asking Harry if he has any Seer blood in his family. Just a passing comment? I think not. This was a storyline clue to inform us about the power of prophecy and the eventual importance of the Department of Mysteries. Tonks also is the one to let them into the “Muggle entrance” to St. Mungo’s. She is also thoughtful, allowing Mrs. Weasley and the other Weasleys to go first, while she and Alastor hang behind (although this could also be because she wanted to convey some information to Arthur). I also love how she threatens to curse Stan Shunpike “into oblivion” as she accompanies Harry on the Knight Bus on his way back to Hogwarts.

However, we receive a less promising omen while in the Department of Mysteries. As she duels with her aunt, Bellatrix Lestrange, Tonks topples from halfway up the stone steps, bouncing from stone seat to stone seat. Was it really Bellatrix who cursed her, or did her clumsiness come into play? Could she have just tripped and fallen?

Finally, we see Tonks wearing a Weird Sisters T-shirt (again demonstrating her youthful coolness) as she is once again part of the Guard that comes to make sure Harry disembarks from the Hogwarts Express safely.

Now the fun part: Tonks’s future in the series. She’s obviously going to play another big role in Book Six. Her importance in the Order and job as an Auror will come in handy, but will her clumsiness prove to be an extremely major hindrance, even to the point of a character’s (possibly even her own) death? Think of the effect that would have on Ginny. Nevertheless, Tonks will continue to have a great influence on both Hermione and Ginny by teaching them about “girl power” in the wizarding world; but especially the youngest Weasley, who is proving herself to be more and more useful to the Trio/DA. In short, Nympha—I mean Tonks, is sure to play an even larger role in Books Six and Seven. As long as she’s around, I look for both Hermione and Ginny to become more independent and more competent in their magical abilities. If Tonks is ever incapacitated, however (and I see her with a target on her back because of her clumsiness), look for devastation to ensue, especially with regards to Ginny.

In closing, I see Tonks as being introduced into the series for two, maybe three, main reasons. First, she acts as a big sister figure to Ginny (and even Hermione), educating them (and us, the readers) about female roles in the wizarding world. Second, she introduces us to Metamorphmagi, somewhat similar to how the Polyjuice Potion was introduced to us in CoS for its major future plot-use in GoF. Finally, she (along with Bill) brings a youthfulness, spunk, and coolness to the Order so Harry and the rest of the gang can better relate to it. She also brings these qualities to the occupation of Auror for the same reasons. I hope you can now see the important role Tonks plays in Book Five and the potential she has to play even more important roles in the final two books (sniff).

Thanks for reading! Remember to send your comments to christopherstephened at hotmail dot com and look out for when we open up the eighth folder by request, the folder of Neville Longbottom!!