On Harry Potter Fanfiction, Pt 3

Part Three: Two Faces of Luna Lovegood


I shall now leave Interwoven behind to continue my argument that a work of Potter alternate POV fanfiction has offered a compelling interpretation of the text, which stands up to later books, and may even be said to surpass them. The Three-Year Summer ended eventually, and in its aftermath, Tim M took on the task of retelling the longest and most difficult book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, from the perspective of eccentric second-tier character Luna Lovegood, with his novel-length fanfiction, Mind’s Eye, Soul’s Reflection: A Luna Lovegood story.

Evanna Lynch, who played Luna Lovegood in the Warner Bros. film adaptations.

Evanna Lynch, who played Luna Lovegood in the Warner Bros. film adaptations.

Luna Lovegood is a character resplendent in symbolism. Her given name, Luna, ties her to the oceans of symbolism surrounding the moon – the giver of dreams, guide of feminine wisdom, master of the unconscious and the uncertain forces, the giver of light in darkness. Despite her initial appearance, where her baffling habit of reading a questionable newspaper upside-down contributes to her “aura of distinct dottiness,” she eventually shows significant depths (Phoenix 185). It is only Luna’s words to Harry in chapter thirty-eight of Phoenix that provide any consolation to him after the shattering loss of his godfather and revelation of the prophecy (864). Luna emanates serenity and peaceful joy. Her eventual career as a magical zoologist ties her with the Virgin Huntress, Artemis, goddess of the moon and protector of all wild animals. Even her Patronus, a hare, connotes the lunar goddess, Hecate (Cirlot). Rowling clearly enjoyed connecting Luna to as much moon symbolism as possible, and not even having to worry about it being coherent – for the character herself appears incoherent, and the fandom loves her for her bizarre pronouncements and perceptions.[1]

Fanfiction attempting to understand this enigmatic and popular character is a monumental effort, but Tim M (also known as MysteriousMuggle) undertook the task between Phoenix and Prince. His Luna, as rendered in Mind’s Eye, Soul’s Reflection, is intensely introspective. Friendless, she measures out and studies the world around her, turning inward for the kind of commentary that Harry receives from Ron and Hermione. Far from her apparent canonical aimlessness, Luna is driven in her quest for truth, to understand herself, the world, and the people around her – battling with her own inner demons and the tyranny of Professor Umbridge. In an event shared by canon and fanfiction, she relates the story of her mother’s death to Harry, saying “I still feel very sad about it sometimes. But […] it’s not as though I’ll never see Mum again, is it?” (Phoenix 863, Mind’s Eye ch. 22, “Home”). Having read Mind’s Eye, one realizes that this simple statement is the culmination of a year’s endeavor to work through her own wracking despair, loneliness, trauma, and faith. 

Like Interwoven, Mind’s Eye retells an entire book. Unlike Katinka’s fanfiction, Mind’s Eye is set within Hogwarts, setting it closer to Harry’s social circle and connecting it to many more events within the book. Tim M has the chance, then, to explore many characters from a new point of view. Seen through Luna’s eyes, Cho Chang, Harry’s disastrous first girlfriend, is more than a pretty and unstable girl who keeps bursting into tears. Luna sees her isolated grieving process over her previous boyfriend, and her desperate search for a way to give his death some meaning. To Harry, Hermione is his steadiest friend, the planner and brains of his operation, who reveals a surprising ruthless streak in Phoenix. Luna, however, meets a Hermione who is bossy, unpleasant, and narrow-minded. Harry’s narration of Phoenix is characterized by anger, paranoia, and disturbing dreams, as he looks for answers that no one will give him. Luna’s narration of the same year bears marked parallels. She, too, suffers disturbing dreams. She, too, searches for the truth. But what that means, she cannot divine. Tim M does not gloss over the fact that Luna believes in ridiculous creatures and conspiracies. She has, in fact, “long given up wondering what was real and what wasn’t,” but this is not due to mere defying convention. (ch. 15, “Consequences”). Luna is legitimately psychologically damaged, and a part of her knows that. But to her, what is more important that she accepts any new information as a contribution in her quest for truth.

Mind’s Eye makes it clear that Luna Lovegood inherited her passionate curiosity from her mother. Gradually, through flashbacks, Tim M reveals a backstory wherein Pandora Lovegood[2] was an Unspeakable, working in the Department of Mysteries, who helped to create the Veil that ended Sirius Black’s life. This would make her unique among the canonical Unspeakables, who are all male. Luna herself has been deeply affected by not only witnessing the death of her mother at the age of nine, but by the magical nature of the accident that took her life. As with many objects in Harry Potter, the distinction between a magical object and a state of mind is hard to discern. Dumbledore talks over Luna’s mother’s death with her, playing the same role of wise, kind Headmaster as he does in canon. When he says, “To see death, to witness it and feel its effects, that is something that deeply affects any human being,” it is hard to tell whether he is speaking about the Veil as a created object, or Death as an experience – a far more profound mystery (ch. 21, “Truth”).

Her father, Samuel Lovegood, is “a decidedly average-looking man” who is still grieving deeply for his wife, four years after his death, and his daughter, whose mind has reacted in a way that he cannot understand (Mind’s Eye, ch. 1, “Introspection”). He is equal parts skeptic and believer. Samuel knows that his publication is more or less a sham, though he tries to run it with integrity and standards. His founding of The Quibbler is partially an act of rebellion against The Daily Prophet, the wizarding mainstream media, and partially an attempt to reconcile with his daughter’s altered perception of the world. It’s the best way he sees to try and deal with their loss. Luna, who doesn’t let herself remember very much from before her mother’s accident, reflects on how the house is “still a shade too big for only two people” (ch. 1).

Luna, Samuel, and the absence of Pandora together carry out the theme of family as an important but not always harmonious force in the Potter books. Specifically, the Lovegoods mirror the two dysfunctional families revealed at that point in canon: the Longbottoms, also torn apart by mental trauma, and the Crouches, whose sad story highlights the worst that both the Death Eaters and the whited sepulcher of the Ministry of Magic has to offer. Emotionally and mentally, the Lovegoods are in better shape, as Samuel and Luna are close friends in addition to family members.

However, their bond of love fails to help Luna when she goes off to school. Luna is ostracized daily by her peers, and dubbed “Loony.” She feels at times almost painfully disconnected with the people around her, seeing them as though through a glass darkly, “so that they seemed impossible. Surely they couldn’t exist? But then, if they weren’t real, what was?” (ch. 14, “Exposition”). Though even she questions the reality of her vision, she still applies every thought of hers to rigorous study and examination, trying to find the truth that lies behind everything. Through logical inquiry, and an abiding skepticism in the mainstream media, she comes to a position to support Harry from very early in the year.

And here Tim M is able to explore the consequences of this decision. One of the most striking images of Phoenix was that of Harry being forced to carve “I must not tell lies” into the back of his own hand while using his blood for ink on a parchment, under the saccharine smile of Dolores Umbridge. She punishes him for repeating the iconoclastic fact that Lord Voldemort has returned (Phoenix 266). Harry views it as important that he suffer this punishment alone. But in Mind’s Eye, Luna Lovegood – who seems in-canon too delicate, too ephemeral, for such things – is given the same punishment. She enabled Harry to publish his testimony in The Quibbler. It is perfectly consistent with canon’s depiction of Dolores Umbridge. It is also one of Luna’s darkest hours, where, waking, she must confront the instability of her own perception, and she begins to flash back to her mother’s accident. Umbridge only lets Luna go when she collapses, her forehead hitting the parchment. The nightmare isn’t over yet, though. When Luna retreats to the bathroom to recover, this is what the truth-seeker sees:

“The crooked, bloody words that stained her forehead would have been backwards, but in the mirror they read just as easily as they had on the page.

I must not tell lies.

Luna spent almost an hour scrubbing at her forehead, still going long after the mocking words had faded to nothingness.”

(Mind’s Eye, Soul’s Reflection, ch. 15, “Consequences”)

At the end of Mind’s Eye, Dumbledore holds a conversation with Luna at the Department of Mysteries, which just precedes his parallel conversation with Harry at the end of Phoenix. By this point in the story, Luna has grown stronger as a character, having faced many of her fears, reached out to others, and learned to accept her own vision of the world, as well as come to some closure with the death of her mother. In fact, their dialogue, and one of the main themes of Mind’s Eye, can be summed up by the canonical Dumbledore of Hallows: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” (Hallows 723) Thus Mind’s Eye inadvertently foreshadows one of the principal themes of the seventh book: the triumph of the Ideal world of transcendent truth over our mean physical world. John Granger, in his book Harry Potter’s Bookshelf, expands on this. He quotes Rowling’s declaration that “that dialogue is the key” and explains how, in fact, all seven books have been a lesson on the “union or conjunction between ‘what is real’ and ‘what is happening in our heads’ beyond sense perception,” using Harry, the “de facto materialist,” as a stand-in for the audience (Granger 274, 275). So far, Mind’s Eye and Deathly Hallows are in perfect harmony. But the ways in which they illustrate this truth, through the family Lovegood, wildly differ. How do the Lovegoods of Deathly Hallows compare to the Lovegoods of Mind’s Eye?

We mentioned that the death of her mother deeply affects Luna in Mind’s Eye. In Deathly Hallows, the absence of Mrs. Lovegood is barely noticeable, which might be due to the fact that Luna’s absence in her own home is far more evident and important to the plot. But overall, in that house, the lack of Mrs. Lovegood is as incidental and tangential as the anecdote of her death was in Phoenix, a mere curiosity. This illustrates one place where Rowling’s gender equality fails. When it comes to parents, father figures tend to be more significant than mothers. Ask Mr. Crouch, Albus Dumbledore, Sirius, Remus Lupin, and James Potter, who is far more of a day-to-day role-model than Lily. The Malfoys and Weasleys are equally balanced, but they are also the two most developed families. The sway of balance is tipped heavily in favor of the fathers. For Luna’s mother, Rowling suggests that she was the sanitizing influence – as Harry notices that Luna “looked rather better-groomed” in the photograph with her mother. Luna’s father – the well-named Xenophilius, “lover of the strange” – is far more eccentric and seems less stable than Samuel Lovegood. As opposed to a small office on Diagon Alley, he runs the Quibbler out of his own house and seems to be the primary writer. His chief role in the plot is to introduce the characters to the Tale of the Three Brothers. Rowling says it “maybe” was influenced by Chaucer’s “The Pardoner’s Tale,” one of The Canterbury Tales (Leaky Cauldron interview). Xenophilius Lovegood seems himself based on the Pardoner – compare the Pardoner’s hair, shoulder-length, which lies smooth and flat as “a strike of flax;” and Xenophilius’, of the same length and compared to “candyfloss” (Prologue line 678-680, Hallows 139). Both men wear a “cap,” and both sport religious symbols – the Pardoner covers himself with relics he intends to sell, and Xenophilius wears the sign of the Deathly Hallows, which, as he describes it, sounds like the glyph of a mystic cult. The Pardoner reborn as a doting father is an odd choice, considering that the Pardoner of Chaucer is a greedy, cynical con man who only cares about himself and money.

Most unsettlingly, in Hallows, Luna’s voice and presence become almost entirely absorbed by those of her father. His third line, to Ron, makes mention of “my” Luna, and on the next page, she is rattling off his beliefs and his accomplishments (Hallows 141). The diminutive “my Luna” is perfectly acceptable from a father to a daughter, but one rather misses Samuel Lovegood’s name for her, “Moonbeam,” suggesting she has her own light. In Hallows, Luna acts mostly as a light to guide Harry to others. At Luna’s home, her father delivers exposition about the Deathly Hallows to the visiting main trio. Later, at the Battle of Hogwarts, she guides Harry to the ghost of the Grey Lady, who delivers more exposition about the diadem Horcrux to Harry. Luna in this book directs Harry towards where he can find more information, but she herself is never a source of it. She contemplates. She advises. Unlike Mind’s Eye Luna, who looks forward to one day working at The Quibbler, Luna “is denied the autonomy – the subjectivity – that the pen represents” (“The Madwoman in the Attic,” Gilbert and Gubar 814). In the process of Hallows, Luna loses her own voice. She has no quest for her own truth. She becomes the Angel in Ravenclaw House, a feminine “ideal of contemplative purity,” who, whether in the dungeons of Malfoy Manor or the halls of Hogwarts, gives “advice and consolation” to “those involved in feeling and action” (Gilbert 815). Rowling shows that Luna’s uniqueness is not the stamp of individual conviction, but of conformation to her father’s worldview. Thus, Luna’s voice becomes not that of a young woman who has learned much through suffering, but the unthinking repetition of a child.

Having read both versions of the Lovegood family, the reader of both Mind’s Eye and Deathly Hallows has the choice of which one to prefer. Perhaps it is the reader’s prerogative to determine which Lovegood family rings more true with their personal experience and interpretation of the text.  Or the reader can attempt to exist in a state of Orwellian “doublethink,” where they acknowledge that each version of the Lovegoods is equally true – that is to say, not true at all – and can therefore coexist happily. Does one fictional father really have precedence over another simply by grace of his creator? Isn’t it possible to find truth and beauty in an interpretation of Potter that is not Rowling’s own? After all, to quote a friend, “Of course it is happening inside your head… but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

[1] When I reread fanfic from before Phoenix, even the absolute cream of the crop is missing something—Harry and his friends aren’t complete, even if the story doesn’t know it yet. It’s like Hogwarts was always just waiting for Luna to step onto the page.

[2] Tim M was right on the money with this—years after Phoenix, Rowling revealed on Pottermore that Luna’s mother’s name is, canonically, Pandora.