If the wizarding world was all about the frontrunners who were given handouts and boosts through life, we wouldn’t nearly have as much fun watching them succeed. Also, let’s face it, the main character probably would have been Draco Malfoy. Instead, both the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts series are full of the little guys rising up as heroes, and although it seems impossible to choose our favourites, we’ll certainly give it a try...
How could we start a feature about underdogs without giving Neville the shining spotlight? From a terrified first-year who couldn’t keep hold of his toad and thought he was probably a Squib for most of his childhood, Neville rose up to become a hero of the wizarding world, a Horcrux destroyer, rebel club-leader and a professor at Hogwarts.
Neville’s journey might have been the biggest zero-to-hero arc of the Harry Potter series, but others were just as important.
Thanks to Voldemort’s locket Horcrux, we all know Ron’s deepest insecurities, even though we actually knew them from the moment he looked into the Mirror of Erised, really. Ron was overshadowed by his five older brothers, all of whom had very successful school lives at Hogwarts (whether they were Quidditch stars, Head Boys or very popular), and feared not being able to rise to their level, particularly with the famous Harry Potter as his best friend.
Of course, none of this mattered as Ron became a Prefect, destroyed a Horcrux, got the girl (or rather, earned her respect after thinking about house-elf welfare) and got over the chip on his shoulder.
‘Least loved, always, by the mother who craved a daughter... least loved, now, by the girl who prefers your friend... second best, always, eternally overshadowed.’
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The No-Maj, the legend! Jacob was accidentally introduced to the wizarding world of 1920s New York and took it all in his stride, and even joined in on his new witch and wizard friends’ adventures – despite being in way, way over his head.
Not only that, but when we first met Jacob he was miserable while working in a canning factory and was already trying to improve his circumstances to open up a bakery. We’ve no doubt he would have managed it eventually, but with a little help from Newt he was finally able to open one, and business was booming as people flocked to buy his magical beast creations.
NEWT (V.O.) ‘Dear Mr Kowalski, You are wasted in a canning factory. Please take these Occamy eggshells as collateral for your bakery. A well-wisher.’
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay
We’re just going to say it – Bowtruckles can be underdogs too, okay? Or an under... Bowtruckle, we suppose. When we first met Pickett, Newt’s little Bowtruckle friend, he was recovering from a cold, and refused to rejoin his fellow Bowtruckles in Newt’s suitcase, apparently due to some unresolved cases of bullying. However, from just having serious attachment issues with regards to Newt, Pickett seriously stepped up and became a miniature hero, helping to pick the locks of Newt’s handcuffs and saving him and Tina from their execution. Not bad for a little twiggy guy.
We can get through this without crying, everyone. Deep breaths. Dobby was a sorry sight when we first met him. Dressed in a pillowcase and punishing himself at every given opportunity, he was clearly a worn-down house-elf with a difficult life. However, thanks to his actions (and partly down to Harry), Dobby took control of his life and became a paid house-elf, working at Hogwarts, with a penchant for fabulous mismatching socks. What could be a better underdog story than that?
Remus joined Hogwarts with a terrible secret; once a month he would go through excruciating pain and become a werewolf, which in itself was taboo in the wizarding world. So to go from that to a part of one of the coolest groups that Hogwarts has ever seen – the Marauders – was pretty impressive.
What’s more important is that Lupin was destined for tragedy in his life. He experienced the loss of James Potter and Peter Pettigrew (or, in the case of the latter, so he thought at the time), and believed for years that his other close friend, Sirius Black, was behind it all. During that time he struggled to keep down a job due to his ‘furry little problem’, and yet he still found happiness (if sadly all-too-brief) by marrying Tonks and welcoming a baby son.
Considering Luna Lovegood was regularly introduced as ‘Loony Lovegood’, she was not to be underestimated. She may have just seemed like a Quibbler-reading, radish earring-wearing eccentric to her peers, but it wasn’t long before she was giving sage advice to the Boy Who Lived and helping defeat Lord Voldemort at the Battle of Hogwarts.
Luna took everything in her stride, from dismissing Hogwarts bullies who hid her possessions to surviving a kidnap in Deathly Hallows. When we learnt about her mother’s tragic death, we were heartbroken for her, but Luna being Luna, she revealed the information to Harry in such a typically calm way that we realised Luna was made of much stronger stuff than her fellow students gave her credit for. Brownie points to Luna for figuring out the Ravenclaw Common Room’s tough riddle, slap-bang in the middle of the Battle to Hogwarts. We’re not sure how we’d answer, ‘which came first: the phoenix or the flame?’ under pressure...
As many of our underdogs have taught us, sometimes it helps to be a bit unconventional in the face of Dark wizards.