What is Hermione Granger's ethnicity?

  • In all of the Potter books, there appears to be only one reference to Hermione's skin colour:

    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.
    Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 4: The Leaky Cauldron

    While it would be easy to assume that JKR meant that she's tanned (e.g. from the sun), other writers have suggested that the line above, and lack of other descriptors strongly implies that Hermione is naturally dark-skinned. Zeba Blay, the 'Voices Culture Writer' for Huffington Post even goes so far as to say that it's down to individual readers to make their own judgement on the issue.

    "So is the fictional character actually white? Perhaps that's a determination readers should make for themselves." - Italics and bolding mine


    Is there any evidence either way? Has JKR ever given an in-universe reason to assume that Hermione is white, black or mixed-race?

    Comments are for clarification of the question. If you would like to debate race vs. ethnicity or the motivations for this question, do it in [chat].

    It's a trope of British life that kids - especially well-off kids, which includes Hermione - spend some of their summer breaks outdoors and/or in sunnier climes than Britain, and therefore come back to school browner than when they left.

    Sun promotes more freckles as well as tanned skin. It implies that they spent a lot of time outdoors.

    I think its worth pointing out the second quote isn't by J.K. Rowling, its by a HuffPo commentator.

    @randal'thor - Ooh, now that is interesting! That being said, I went to see a production of Othello a few years ago with a white Othello and a black Iago.

    I dunno man. Imagine Rowling writing something like "Harry saw Tonks, Moody, and Kingsley Shacklebolt standing there, Shacklebolt looking very brown." Pretty weird, I think, when talking about an actual brown guy.

    @Misha: JKR on Twitter, Dec, 21st: _"Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione."_ https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/678888094339366914

    @sbi - Prisoner of Azkaban - "*Hermione’s white face was sticking out from behind a tree."*. White skin *seems* to have been specified.

    @Richard: That might well be. But the actual _author_ said, black skin would be just as good on Hermione. I'm not gonna dispute her on this.

    @sbi - The major problem here (as I see it) is that JKR is disputing her own clear intention.

  • Valorum

    Valorum Correct answer

    5 years ago

    There are a few clues to Hermione's racial background;

    Hermione is described (in Prison of Azkaban) as having a 'white face'

    ‘One moment, please, Macnair,’ came Dumbledore’s voice. ‘You need to sign, too.’ 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.

    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Chapter 21: Hermione's Secret

    Note, however that JKR has now gone on record as stating that this was not indicative of her race

    “I had a bunch of racists telling me that because Hermione ‘turned white’ – that is, lost colour from her face after a shock – that she must be a white woman, which I have a great deal of difficulty with. But I decided not to get too agitated about it and simply state quite firmly that Hermione can be a black woman with my absolute blessing and enthusiasm.”

    Hermione is drawn Caucasian

    The US versions of the Harry Potter books had chapter illustrations that were hand-chosen by JKR. Although it's a little hard to see the detailing, in the pictures that contain Hermione, she certainly appears to be white/Caucasian. There's no substantial shading and her colouration appears to be the same as Ron's and Harry's.

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    Hermione is JKR

    In various interviews, JKR has stated that Hermione is basically a Mary Sue character, essentially herself in fictional form:

    Lydon: I was about to say 'are you Hermione?'

    JKR: Yeah - w-well - n-n-not ... I mean none of the characters in the books are directly taken from life. Real people did inspire a few of them, but of course once they are on the page they become something completely different. But, yeah, Hermione is a caricature of what I was when I was 11 - a real exaggeration, I wasn't that clever - Hermione is a border-line genius at points - and I hope I wasn't that annoying, because I would have deserved strangling; sometimes she is an incredible know-it-all.

    It's by no means definitive, but it seems unlikely that someone portraying themself would change their race.

    Do we know for certain that Rowling personally picked the illustrations?

    @JasonBaker - There's a quote from her saying that she was very happy with them. I'll dig it up

    How do you know JKR isn't actually secretly black?

    @Möoz - Because I've read her biography and seen pictures of her parents; http://aws-cf.ados.fr/prod/photos/4/0/7/1025407/430792/img-4307929c5.jpg?v=6

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM