First off, apologies for the delay and the silence and the lack of updates on awesome female fantasy characters. Travel and work have prevented me from hacking away at my laptop in the cause of literary immortality. Alas, I can only hope to make up for lost time with an extended celebration (spilling past Women’s Day), but since I doubt the virtual world will really mind it, no worries!
Today I take up the cause of a character I believe was let down by her creator. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the Harry Potter series (as anyone who has glanced cursorily through this blog would know), but that same love does not blind me to its (perceived) faults. One of those, I think, is the use or misuse of Nymphadora Tonks, the young Auror who trips her way into the series in my favourite book, The Order of the Phoenix.
Nymphadora^, or Tonks as she prefers to be called, is not your everyday girl next door, though she could possibly look like one when needed. Not only is her job an action-heavy, dangerous one that is notoriously difficult to qualify for, but her Metamorphmagus abilities also make her a great asset for the ‘Light’ side*. Besides all this, she also has an interesting family background. Her mother, Andromeda Tonks nee Black, is the sister of Bellatrix Lestrange and Narcissa Malfoy, the former being a leading Death Eater and Voldemort’s ‘lieutenant’, the latter the wife of one of the (arguably) most attractive and valued Death Eaters and mother of fanon’s darling, Draco. Andromeda, we are told, broke with tradition (much like Sirius would do after her), and married a Muggleborn, Ted Tonks. Tonks is the product of a ‘blood traitor’s’ attraction to a ‘Mudblood’.
Tonks represents, in a manner, the beauty and potential of a society united, and not divided along lines drawn by blood and upbringing. She is similar, in this manner, to Harry, also a child of pureblood-Muggleborn parentage and possessor of unique talents (not as unique as Tonks’s, but what the hell). Her body thus comes to signify the aspirations of the side that fights against Voldemort and his eugenics theories, and with its ever changing, ever shifting form, it highlights the many directions that this society’s future could take.
We don’t even have to delve too deeply into these ‘symbolic’ aspects to know that Tonks is awesome and atypical as a female character. She is spunky, clumsy, and not afraid to wear her hair loud (when Harry meets her, she has bubblegum pink hair in spikes). Not only this, but she seems to exude enthusiasm and energy, winking, joking and generally breathing a spirit of life into an otherwise dreary and danger-ridden Order mission. She provides the perfect counterweight to Moody’s paranoia, her humour lightening the atmosphere and reminding us that yes, we are in a universe where the hero will eventually save the day.
Given her unconventionality (nowhere does Tonks come across as a damsel in distress), it is really a pity that Rowling, for all practical purposes, dropped the ball on this one. I fail to understand WHY she had to make Tonks a lovelorn, power-losing weakling in ‘The Half Blood Prince’. Surely we didn’t need another love story in a book that was already bursting at the seams with unfulfilled teenage lust and hormones? As far I can tell, the Remus Lupin- Nymphadora Tonks pairing did little but produce a child with inherited Metamorphmagus abilities (and this after we had been told how very rare those abilities are).
If there is one thing J K Rowling has taught me through Tonks, it is what NOT to do with a promising character. There doesn’t seem to be much point in creating what appears to be a wonderful and unique character, consciously breaking stereotypes, and then forcing her back into those stereotypes in order to make one male character (not) very happy for the duration of half a book. If the Lupin-Tonks pairing had been written better, if it had been made clear that it was a relationship of equals rather than the whining of one character and the hardpressed do-gooder-ness of the other, I might have less trouble buying it. Unfortunately, I have to turn to fanfiction to provide me versions of Tonks that I can admire (post and pre OoTP), such as the wonderful version of her created by SnorkackCatcher in ‘Nymphadora Tonks and the Liquor of Jacmel’.
Read it, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Seriously, it’s at moments and with characters like this that I’m exceedingly grateful for fanfiction. Tonks might have been let down in canon, but in fanon, she battles, transforms and shines on, destroying stereotypes and teaching girls that they can be just whoever they want to be.
*The ‘side’ that Harry is part of, that fights against the Death Eaters, is never specifically hailed as the ‘Light’, but this seems to be an accepted term in fanon. Hence my use of it here.
^It’s really no wonder that this woman dislikes her first name, as nymphs in Greek mythology are ‘minor deities which appear in the form of young, pretty girls’. We have her asserting right away that she is NOT to be confused with one of those delicate seeming creatures.