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Harry Potter Lexicon Minute

Hermione’s Ethnicity

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Hermione’s Ethnicity

When the casting for the Cursed Child came out many people were surprised that they chose a black woman to play Hermione. After all, Emma Watson, a white person, played her in the movies and that was the representation people were used to. J.K. Rowling never specified the race of many characters so people assume different things.

Many fans cite a passage from Prisoner of Azkaban to say that Hermione is white:

The footsteps stopped. Harry heaved on the rope. Buckbeak snapped his beak and walked a little faster.

Hermione’s white face was sticking out from behind a tree.

“Harry, hurry!” she mouthed.

I don’t see this line specifying her ethnicity however as white or pale faced is something used to describe people when they are scared. I think “white face” here just serves to emphasize the tension of the moment and how Hermione turned pale from fear. Another moment in the same book Hermione is described as brown:

They were there, both of them, sitting outside Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor — Ron looking incredibly freckly, Hermione very brown, both waving frantically at him.

Here the use of the word brown regarding Hermione’s face is also not specifying her ethnicity but commenting on the fact that she grew tan over the summer.

I’ve seen Hermione drawn as black in the fandom for years, I’ve even seen Harry drawn as bi-racial and being part desi. Before Jessie Cave played Lavender Brown in the sixth movie, she was played by two different black actresses: Kathleen Cauley in “Chamber of Secrets” and Jennifer Smith in “Prisoner of Azkaban.” You can see her hanging out with Parvati when you look those movies. From these examples you can see how race for the majority of characters is left ambiguous in Potter. This allows the reader to decide what characters look like with their imagination. And after all, isn’t imagination what these books are all about?

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In the Harry Potter Lexicon Minute podcast you’ll hear the voices of our editors sharing some of the many little things which delight us about the Wizarding World. In each podcast, one to two minutes in length, we’ll talk about anything from cool trivia and interesting canon passages to the latest Wizarding World news. We hope you’ll join us! And we’d love to hear from you as well. Feel free to use the comment section on the blogpost for each podcast to post your thoughts.

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