"Harry Potter" Fan Theories: The Boy Who Lived or The Boy The World Forgot?
Was Harry or Neville The Chosen One?
In the Harry Potter series, it should be evident that Harry is the subject of all significant events. Right? Was Harry destined to be the Boy Who Lived? Or did Voldemort inadvertently create his own nemesis? One Harry Potter fan theory with the most traction is that Professor Trelawney's prophecy applied to Harry and Neville Longbottom.
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies."
— Sybill Trelawney, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The fan theories surrounding the prophecy vary across the fandom. Some fans believe that while the beginning of the prophecy does apply to both boys, Harry is ultimately the Chosen One. The fan theory that I choose to believe is that Neville is the Chosen One all along. And here's why.
" The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches.. Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies…"
Two out of the three first conditions of Trelawney's prophecy are fulfilled by both boys equally. Neither has been born yet. Both are ultimately born at the end of September. But the bit requiring the Chosen One's parents to have "thrice defied him" is the first fork in the road of the internet Harry Potter fan theory.
It's difficult to say which parents, the Potters or the Longbottoms, precisely defied Voldemort three times BEFORE the birth of their sons. Both the Potters and Longbottoms rejected offers from Voldemort himself to join his efforts. Both couples helped to found the Order of the Phoenix. The third instance has inspired in-depth fan research across the world to identify a third specific instance of either boy's parents standing out as defying Voldemort more strongly than the other.
J. K. Rowling herself has weighed in on the matter. Pottercast, the official podcast for The-Leaky-Cauldron.org, was able to ask Rowling directly on "Episode #130" of their podcast. Rowling's own explanation was:
"MA: What about the three times-- The thrice-defying of Voldemort?
JKR: Of James and Lily?
MA: Of Neville's parents. Well, James and Lily, too.
JKR: It depends how you take defying, doesn't it. I mean, if you're counting, which I do, anytime you arrested one of his henchmen, anytime you escaped him, anytime you thwarted him, that's what he's looking for. And both couples qualified because they were both fighting. Also, James and Lily turned him down, that was established in "Philosopher's Stone." He wanted them, and they wouldn't come over, so that's one strike against them before they were even out of their teens."
-J. K. Rowling, transcript of Pottercast: Ep. 130 Part 1
I understand that Rowling should be the final authority. Still, it seems the prophecy should be referring to something more specific. If we are playing by the rules of Rowling's explanation, both the Potters and Longbottoms far surpassed three instances of defiance each. But it is unclear what the third defiance could be for either pair.
The Potters earn the third defiance after Harry is born when Lily and James sacrifice themselves to save their son from Voldemort. The Longbottoms earn theirs for enduring the Cruciatus Curse at the hands of the Death Eaters. But both of these take place after the boys are born. What do you think the third defiance is? Let me know your fan theory!
"...and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not…"
It is widely believed that Harry is the one marked as Voldemort's equal. I mean, come on! Seven books are chasing Voldemort's absolute obsession with Harry Potter. Potter is the one who gets all of the attention after he survives Voldemort's Killing Curse as an infant.
After this incident, Voldemort appears to assign the role of "Chosen One" to Harry. But I feel like this is an overcorrection for his embarrassment at being unable to overpower a baby. Can you even imagine? All-Powerful-Dark-Lord-Voldemort, defeated by totes adorbs Potter Jr. But does this mark Harry as his EQUAL?
Voldemort marks Harry as his ENEMY and Neville as his EQUAL. Why would Voldemort ever consider Harry an equal when Voldemort built his entire campaign on the idea of pureblood superiority? Harry's mother was muggle-born. Frank and Alice Longbottom were both pureblood. Where Voldemort has nothing but criticism and frustration for Harry's existence as a whole, his interaction with Neville is very different.
"But you are a pureblood, aren't you, my brave boy?...You show spirit, and bravery, and you come of noble stock. You will make a very valuable Death Eater. We need your kind, Neville Longbottom." -Voldemort to Neville, Deathly Hallows
For seven years, we follow the story of Voldemort attempting to kill Harry. It is easy to overlook the one time Voldemort has a chance to interact with Neville Longbottom. It is even easier to forget how he fawns over Neville in that one interaction.
To me, in this way, Neville fulfills the conditions of the prophecy better than Harry. Voldemort believes that Harry is marked as his equal by the scar Harry bears as a reminder that an infallible and murderous curse crashed, ineffectively, to pieces around the boy.
He believes Harry is marked as his equal because he believes Harry survived because of some hidden skill or ability. Voldemort knows nothing of the power behind the love that saved Harry.
While both boys do wield that particular "power the Dark Lord knows not," love of friends and family, it is Neville that Voldemort genuinely looks upon and sees someone that could stand beside him as his equal. The same courtesy would never be extended to Harry even if Harry decided to surrender for any reason.
"and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies."
I suppose the fan theory I subscribe to hinges primarily on Neville's distinction being marked Voldemort's equal rather than Harry. But my second string argument arrives here.
We cannot deny that Harry could not have killed Voldemort without both Harry and Neville's combined efforts, not to mention everyone who helped destroy each Horcrux along the way. However, if Voldemort had not been so fixated on Harry as the Chosen One, maybe he would not have been so blind to all of Neville's movements.
Neville didn't just sleep his way through years one through six at Hogwarts. He started a bit bumbling. But by the time of the Battle of Hogwarts, Neville had come into his own as the leader of Dumbledore's Army in Harry's absence. Neville was single-handedly leading the school's resistance when Harry, Ron, and Hermione were forced into hiding.
There's a whole other fan theory hidden here about how Neville's capability improved drastically after Dolohov, a Death Eater, broke Neville's father's wand in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries. Neville had been using his father Frank Longbottom's wand since arriving at Hogwarts.
There is a lot of fan theory surrounding this being the cause of Neville's ineptitude at the beginning of the series since the wand is meant to choose the wizard. Neville's initial wand didn't.
Neville was powered by the love that Voldemort "knows not." After receiving a new wand and learning that Bellatrix, the woman primarily responsible for torturing his parents, was still alive, Neville made a name for himself. Or rather, Neville should have made a name for himself. But he didn't.
Nobody beyond Hogwarts knew Neville Longbottom. Everyone knew The Boy Who Lived. Is it any wonder that Neville was the one capable of resisting the immobility curse and beheading Nagini, and making it possible to destroy Voldemort once and for all?
What are your thoughts? Is Neville the Chosen One? Is it Harry? Who most fulfills Trelawney's prophecy? What is your favorite fan theory? Stay with us for the second in the three-article series!
Next time we will pick apart the idea that Harry being a Horcrux influenced the Dursley's treatment of him! Look for the second article in the series next Monday, April 5, 2021!