Luna and Hermione as Rationality Doppelgangers?

In the discussion of Ms. Rowling’s Veil comments on the HogPro thread below, Felicity, after Inked’s exposition of the reactions of several character to the veil as archetypal reactions to death, reviewed each from text. Besides revealing where Ms. Rowling made a gaffe worthy of candidates for political office (confusing Ron and Hermione’s reactions to the stone arch), she points out the curious ambiguity of Luna’s character. Felicity wrote:

Luna hears the voices more clearly than anyone and she also know there are “people in there” who (as we find out later in OotP) have “gone on.” But Luna is a character who believes in lots of bizarre things. As Hermione said of Luna, “Ginny’s told me all about her, apparently she’ll only believe in things as long as there’s no proof at all.” (OP13) Luna wears earrings made of dirigible plums, which we learned from Xenophilius, “enhance the ability to accept the extraordinary.” (DH20) And Luna does accept the existence of the extraordinary, even, apparently, the blatantly bogus. She has the strongest belief in an afterlife of all the students, but she also believes in the existence of Blibbering Humdingers, Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, Wrackspurts, and the Rotfang Conspiracy. Is Loony Luna an example of faith alone leading to acceptance of all manner of superstition? Or is Ravenclaw Luna an admirable example of untroubled faith standing ground against the ridicule of skeptics? Both?

In a nutshell, Luna can be read as a nutter or spiritually luminous or both. One word for this condition is ‘arationality,’ which is not to be confused with ‘irrationality.’ Her ability to answer the Ravenclaw Common Room Door’s metaphysical chestnut speaks to a higher intelligence than reason rather than ‘absence of smarts.’ Her name suggests, too, a super-lunar perspective, which in western tradition means the created world not subject to becoming, change, decay, and death. There’s nothing mundane about her, which makes her “always high value” to chuck-a-lucks like Ron but someone the rest of us have to wonder about.

Is this arationality a spirituality that is super or sub-rational? Probably the easiest way to get at that question is to ask instead if Luna is the doppelganger or inside-out story depiction of Hermione and MacGonagall’s border line absurd rationality. As daft and prescient as Luna can be, Hermione’s denying Lovegood’s allegorical breakdown of the triangular eye Hallows symbol as “a morality tale” confirms the Lovegood (and Trelawney) opinion of our Nancy Drew stand-in as a girl of extremely limited vision. Are Luna and Hermione carnival fun house mirror reflections of one another and of our ideas of “intelligence”? Note their similarities as well as their opposition, most notably that Hermione is a Ravenclaw Ringer in the Fraternity house of Gryffindor and Luna alone among Ravenclaw eggheads seems to have a preference or few qualms about combat rather than negotiation.

That Hermione never seems to get under Luna’s skin I think is especially interesting in light of Hermione’s response to Luna. Is this a cross generational picture of MacGonagall and Trelawney? Your comments and correction, please.


  1. I hadn’t thought of how Hermione and Luna relate to McGonagall and Trelawney. I’m not sure I like thinking of Luna as being anything like Trelawney, actually. Luna is that free spirit sort who is charming, yet fiercely loyal and, as you mentioned, brave. When the chips are down, she’s able to come up with a plan of action, where I don’t think Trelawney could ever do more than wring her hands twisted in her shawls–except at the final battle when she finds a practical use for the crystal balls.

    Luna gets a lot of her wacky ideas and habits from her father. But Trelawney always struck me as someone who had wacky ideas that were enhanced by sniffing the perfumed air in her classroom far too long, not to mention the cooking sherry.

    And Hermione, logical to a fault, does come to have a certain affection and respect for Luna. I’m not sure that McGonagall ever gets to that point with Trelawney. She rushes to her rescue when Umbridge is throwing her out, but I think that’s more out of pity for Trelawney and anger toward Umbridge.

    So similarities between the two pairs, but not a direct parallel, in my mind.


  2. Arabella Figg says

    I see Luna representing emotional intelligence and Hermione intellectual intelligence.

    With her peacable equanimity, Luna sees possiblity in all things, and can believe preposterous things, yet isn’t crushed when some of those things are shown to be untrue. She’s very fluid (fitting with her alchemical White status).

    Hermione, on the other hand, believes nothing outside the proven. And she won’t give up a conviction without a big, angry fight. She’s as rigid as they come. (With Hermione’s firm attachment to Hogwarts: A History, is Rowling perhaps giving a sly poke to what she considers “Bible-thumpers” and entrenched academics? )

    Those like Hermione and McGonagall who “have all the answers” have their opposites in, and find annoying and threatening, those who move comfortably beyond the knowns to diagonally embrace the unknowns.

    (And when you experience *yourself* turning from a Hermione into a Luna, that can really be disconcerting. . . but highly rewarding!)

    Tuna Yumgood annoyed Howliony, who stalked off in a huff…

  3. Gladius Terrae Novae says

    I wouldn’t consider Luna’s intelligence emotional or sub-rational, but merely a different type of reasoning. Advance in any science does not come from mere reasoning very often, but from a hunch that seems right and then pursuing that hunch until it is proven or disproven.

    I think this is something we as postmoderns tend to forget as we pursue rationality. We prefer cold and often wrong ideas to beautiful and often more accurate science. We often forget that the enlightenment age of reason was not merely the renaissance of science, but also of magic. These are the true opposites, as Prof. Granger so wonderfully put it, cold rationality and feverish “irrationality.” Somewhere between is arationality, a sort of combination of the two.

    This is displayed very well in alchemy. Somewhere between the irrationality of a wizrds potions (in the real sense, not the potter sense) and the chemist’s chemicals is the science and art of transformation of metals, a blend of science and magic. This, I think is the difference between Luna and Hermione. Hermione’s frustration is over the fact that despite her regular nonsense, Luna is often right when her ideas are least credible and most relevent.That is why she is in Ravenclaw, because she understands that science is not mere rationality, and so Hermione is in Gryffindor. She has a firm belief in rationality, one she is fiercely loyal to despite the experience of Ron, Harry, Luna and the rest.

    That, at least, is my take on it.

  4. Arabella Figg says

    GTN, I’m thinking you misunderstood what I wrote about Luna having emotional intelligence (EI). I was referring to the emergent understanding of emotional IQ, versus the traditional understanding of IQ. So Luna’s intelligence was not subrational or irrational, but along the lines you discuss.

    It’s believed that a high emotional IQ may serve people better than high intellectual IQ. While I’m loath to quote Wikipedia, you can read about it there at

    I agree with Pat, that Trelawney/McGonagall doesn’t seem to fit the Hermione/Luna doppelganger setup. But (Star Trek) Spockian logic-driven Hermione certainly works as a doppelganger for “logic-smogic” Luna. And I think Luna is a happier person overall for her life-views. Perhaps her “arationality” has served her best in losing her mother and coping with her father.

    When a cat stares you down you see all kinds of IQ whirling behind those eyes…

  5. I just love the idea of Luna as the anti-Hermione of the intellect. It feels so right that I am enjoying the concept on an arational level (?).

    Arabella Figg observes that “(Hermione is) as rigid as they come. (With Hermione’s firm attachment to Hogwarts: A History, is Rowling perhaps giving a sly poke to what she considers “Bible-thumpers” and entrenched academics? )

    My take on this is more positive:
    if only the two boys HAD read ‘Hogwarts a history’ they would have avoided blindly blundering into all sorts of wrong headed actions; maybe JKR was pointing to the idea that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. (er Wall St anyone?)

  6. I like the intergenerationality/arationality verbal play this question raises very much and am trying to think it out slowly. But I must admit that the doppelganger motif is present in both generations as described.

    Just another reason to keep up with the Professor and fellow students here.

    The potential for the depiction of emotional versus rational IQs is an excellent area for exploration as well. I’m delighted with the possibilities there.

    I’d not draw the connection between HAH and bible-thumpers, though. I’m more with SeaJay and Thucydides and Quoheloth on this one : “There is nothing new under the sun…” (Eccl 1).

  7. I took Luna as a symbolic representation of “alternative _____ (Fill in the blank). Media, medicine, history, etc. And Rowling’s point, as I saw it, was to show that Luna defies conventional stories about virtually everything, which makes her more open, both to truth the rest of the world is not prepared to admit, and to false information. This openness is a two-edged sword, as she helps reveal a truth the mainstream was not ready to admit, and also that it lets in a lot of sheer silliness.

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