Madam Puddifoot’s: Shipping: To Let the Ship Choose the Reader, or the Reader Choose the Ship?
Ever since the dawn of Harry Potter, there have been shippers. After all, where there are teenage characters, relationships are sure to follow. Shipping can be quite an enjoyable experience, and especially rewarding if that pairing actually makes it into the books. But riddle me this: which is wiser, to let the ship choose the reader, or to let the reader choose the ship? And while we’re asking questions, what can come of shipping?
If the Ship Chooses the Reader
Congratulations! Unlike many other readers, your ship jumped out at you right away. Ships that seem to just come out of the book like magic are typically quite canon (most often Ron/Hermione, Harry/Ginny, and the like). Since they do jump out are you right away, these ‘natural’ ships also tend to be between principal characters. However, now that your ship has come to you, how do you know it’s worth it?
1) If your idea of a ship being ‘worth it’ is for the pairing to actually get together in the books, then make sure your ship is logical. Harry and a random girl from Durmstrang will likely never end up together; it just doesn’t make any sense within the novels. Logical pairings tend to be apparent within the books (like Ron/Hermione, Draco/Pansy, and Harry/Ginny). If your pairing doesn’t make sense and can’t be backed up with any real evidence, and you only want a ship that will work out in the novels, perhaps you’ll need to resort to handpicking your ship, which will be covered later.
2) If by now, your ship still seems to have chosen you but there is no chance in Hogwarts that it’ll ever happen, there’s no need to just throw it away. If you don’t mind being a bit disappointed that it will never work out in the books, go ahead and stick by your ship! Sometimes cheering for the underdog is fun. Besides, there is always fanfic! (Again, this will be covered later.)
3) If your ship makes complete sense and is backed up with real evidence in the books, congrats! It can be very rewarding to see your One True Pairing make it. This is the ideal goal of shippers, and if you have reached it, consider yourself lucky.
If the Reader chooses the Ship
Feel no shame! You obviously know what you want and go right for it. ‘Handpicked’ ships, although quite similar to ‘natural’ ships, tend to be more extreme and… unique (i.e., Celestina Warbeck and Ludo Bagman) as opposed to canon, like the ‘natural’ ones. However, the problem with handpicked ships is that usually the probability of them ever happening, or even seeing those characters again, is lower than the odds that Voldemort owns a stuffed, pink rabbit that he’s dressed in a ‘Weasley is our King’ t-shirt. Since having to cheer for the underdog happens much more frequently, you have to be pretty dedicated to stuck by a handpicked ship. Nevertheless, this also makes it easier to become disheartened. Fear not! There is still a land for all the improbable ships, where nothing is impossible! This land is known as the land of…
Fan fiction (a.k.a. fanfic, or What-Keeps-Fans-Alive-Between-Books) is wonderful for fans who are itching to express the love they have for their ships. In the world of fanfic, no holds are barred. It’s one giant free-for-all of characters, plots, and, of course, ships. Although all Harry Potter fanfics are based on the novels, the creativity in each story never ceases to amaze. The reason I bring up fanfic is that it’s where every ship is possible. Hundreds of ships exist here, and you’d be hard pressed to find a pairing that doesn’t already have a fic written about them. In this world, any pairing is welcome, canon or not. I personally love seeing the non-canon pairings, because they usually end up being the most amusing. In Fic-land, it is perfectly plausible that Ludo Bagman marries Celestina Warbeck, but not before briefly dating Narcissa Malfoy and Molly Weasley. As you can see, fanfic is the perfect place for unusual ships to come to life and canon ones to expand, making it perfect for any shipper.
So now we’ve covered some basic things about shipping. However, I suppose I should answer my question now. What is wiser, to let the ship choose the reader, or to let the reader choose the ship? Well, I think that that is a matter of personal preference for each reader. Whether you support Rowling’s choices or your own, it’s really up to you to be willing to stick by your decision (although after reading Emerson’s interview with J.K Rowling, I do wonder if he’ll come after me with a fork for encouraging this. I can already hear him yelling “Clearly delusional!” from here!). There are pros and cons to both, but in the end, it’s still shipping. Whichever you choose is perfectly fine, just as long as it works for you.