Lovely, Wonderful, Loony Luna Lovegood Appreciation Post
Oh, Luna Lovegood, who goes nowhere without her butterbeer cork necklace and cares not a whit about fitting in.
JKR’s female characters are wonderful: They’re not just strong, but they’re also smart, passionate, and defiant. Luna’s introduced right when the books go dark, the perfect foil for an emotionally compromised Harry. She’s extraordinary: Ravenclaw-clever, fought in every battle of the Second Wizarding War, and survived imprisonment in the Malfoys’ dungeon. Furthermore, she helped Harry bury Dobby, protected a Confunded Ron and injured Ginny amidst an ongoing battle, took care of Ollivander while they were both held captive, and co-reinstated the DA during the fall of Hogwarts.
And that’s just the tip of the Luna appreciation iceberg. Onward!
(N.B. Diehard fan Evanna Lynch is wonderful, but this is going to be strictly about book-Luna.)
Harry first meets Luna after he’s temporarily lost the stability of the Trio (Ron and Hermione have gone off prefect-ing), and he’s taken a bit aback. Luna’s quirkiness is made clear:
She had straggly, waist-length, dirty-blond hair, very pale eyebrows, and protuberant eyes that gave her a permanently surprised look… The girl gave off an aura of distinct dottiness. Perhaps it was the fact that she had stuck her wand behind her left ear for safekeeping, or that she had chosen to wear a necklace of butterbeer caps, or that she was reading a magazine upside down.”
OotP, Chapter 10
Add to that her dreamy speech, blunt honesty, special event hats, an unwavering belief in Harry – in any other medium, Luna would’ve been a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
(Quick pop culture lesson: The term was coined by Nathan Rabin to describe Kirsten Dunst’s ethereal character in Elizabethtown. She seemed to exist solely to take a miserable Orlando Bloom on a transformative discovery of self. Here’s the original essay, one on how the term became a trope itself, and its TV Tropes entry. Unfortunately, it assumes any female character with MPDG elements has no autonomy, existing solely to support a male character.)
However. JKR deftly avoids this one-dimensional idealization, instead producing one of her most fascinating characters. Luna is fiercely protective of her friends, tactful when necessary, and doesn’t need anyone’s approval.
Luna is nobody’s love interest, not Harry’s, Neville’s, Dean’s, or Ginny’s. Sure, movie canon implies she and Neville heart each other, and JKR revealed Luna marries Rolf Scamander and gestates quirkily named twins. However, in OotP, HBP, and DH, Luna doesn’t have – correction, doesn’t need – a romantic plotline. In a book that meticulously recounts the romantic entanglements of the Hogwarts students, Luna stays out of those webs: She only observes mistletoe as Nargles’ breeding ground and beams when Harry asks her to be his platonic date to Slughorn’s party.
Luna’s relationship with Harry is so very different than anyone else’s. It’s rooted in rumination about death, not in shared adversary. Luna lost her mother when she was nine, in an experiment gone awry. She’s in the unique position of guide for Harry; she has Harry face the literal manifestation of loss, a.k.a. Thestrals. Throughout the rest of the series, she’s always there, snapping him out of his martyring or helping gather his wits.
While Harry feels a mixture of pity and anger when he finds Luna tracking down her things, Luna is more than able to stand up for herself: She frostily admonishes Hermione for slighting the Quibbler, and she doesn’t tolerate Ron’s mocking. Luna’s greatest weapon is her ability to simultaneously unnerve and observe. She wields both very effectively. She garners strength from being an outcast, and that strength draws people to her.
One of the most Luna things about her is her view on death. For Harry, death is an all-consuming fixture – he alternates between fearing death and exhaustively welcoming it. Luna, however, doesn’t see it as the absolute end. She matter-of-factly tells Harry that the dead lurk just out of sight behind the tattered veil in the Department of Mysteries. If she was right about Thestrals, why shouldn’t she be right about this? Besides, it’s much more comforting to think that they visit there, much like the subjects of wizard paintings move from frame to frame, rather than the alternative: stuck on earth, in limbo, as ghosts.
I shall conclude with her spectacular Quidditch commentary in HBP. JKR wisely used Luna to breathe in some much-needed lightheartedness and worry-free action into the books’ heightening tensions. Let’s pick out the best bits of this commentary, shall we?
And that’s Smith of Hufflepuff with the Quaffle,” said a dreamy voice, echoing over the grounds. “He did the commentary last time, of course, and Ginny Weasley flew into him, I think probably on purpose, it looked like. Smith was being quite rude about Gryffindor; I expect he regrets that now he’s playing them – oh, look, he’s lost the Quaffle; Ginny took it from him. I do like her; she’s very nice…”
There’s so much to unpack here. Ginny is the one who introduced Neville and Harry to Luna back in Book 5. She considers Luna a friend and is the first to scowl at you if you call her “Loony.” Likewise, Luna has absolutely no reason to censor her thoughts about anyone, much less Zacharias, who didn’t abide by the “united as one” ideal that the Sorting Hat had stressed in OotP.
Luna did not seem to have noticed; she appeared singularly uninterested in such mundane things as the score and kept attempting to draw the crowd’s attention to such things as interestingly shaped clouds and the possibility that Zacharias Smith, who had so far failed to maintain possession of the Quaffle for longer than a minute, was suffering from something called ‘Loser’s Lurgy.’
Hermione’s lack of knowledge when it comes to Quidditch is well documented, and she’s been poked fun for it, largely because she’s friends with two active Quidditch players; Luna doesn’t have the same burden so is free to be oblivious to the game’s minutiae. She’s far more interested in diagnosing Zacharias’s condition, anyway. (Next thing I want from JKR: a classification index, written by Luna the magizoologist.)