What should the relevance be of J.K. Rowlings telling us who Harry Potter should have wound up with?

February 7th, 2014

Let me preface this post by noting that I have not read any of the Harry Potter books. I saw a few of the movies, and enjoyed them. I had a great time at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, but had to have a lot of the lore explained to me. So my post has nothing at all to do with the Harry Potter mythology.

Ilya Somin (who I’m sure is kvelling that I linked to one of his fantasy posts) noted that recently, J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series “admitted that she made a mistake in pairing Hermione Granger with Ron Weasley rather than Harry.” 

This newly discovered evidence raises an interesting jurisprudential point–what relevance should J.K. Rowling’s statements–made years after the final book was published–have.

In statutory interpretation, post-enactment legislative history, even those statements made by the law’s author, are considered basically worthless. With respect to Rowling, the single author of the book, rather than a member of Congress–one of 535, the salience is greater. But shouldn’t we let the work, as written, speak for itself?

I understand in other realms of science fiction–such as in the Star Wars Universe–this may not be the case, as lots of stories are added before and after the events at issues in the movies.

Originalists should appreciate this point. How often do we find a single statement by James Madison, made in the years after 1787, that seems to conflict with how a provision of the Constitution was generally understood? Or a statement of another framer? Which should prevail? The post-enactment history, or the contemporary original understanding.

I remember raising a similar point years ago in Jurisprudence class when I asked what relevance should the fact that J.K. Rowling later admitted that a character in the book, Dumbledore, was gay. I argued that it should have none, and the we should let the work stand. (I’ve been told that there were many clues in the book about Dumbledore, but I have no personal knowledge).

And no Ilya, I still haven’t read The Lord of the Rings.