J.K. Rowling first thought of Harry while travelling on a train from Manchester to London. But his best friend was not far behind:
‘I didn’t know then that it was going to be a book for children – I just knew I had this boy, Harry. During that journey I also discovered Ron...’
Conversations with J.K. Rowling (2001)
Other characters invented on that same trip were Nearly Headless Nick, Hagrid and Peeves. Rowling didn’t have a pen or notebook with her, so we’re glad she remembered them all later.
Many of the Harry Potter characters had their names altered during development, hence we never met ‘Draco Spungen’ or ‘Hermione Puckle’, as were J.K. Rowling’s original last names for Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger. (You can read more about that in this piece about J.K. Rowling’s ‘Original 40’ characters). However, Ron and his family were Weasleys from the word go.
The name comes from the author’s love of the Mustelidae family, which includes badgers, otters and, of course, weasels. Though considered unlucky or even evil creatures by many, J.K. Rowling believes weasels are just misunderstood. The same can be said for the family’s iconic ginger barnets:
‘There are also many superstitions associated with redheaded people and most state that they are in some way unlucky (Judas Iscariot was supposedly red-haired), but this is nonsense; I happen to like red hair as well as weasels.’
Tackling two negative misconceptions at the same time – yet another reason why Weasley is our King.
Ron’s unfortunate middle moniker sounds like ‘bilious’ – a word relating to nausea, which Ron might recognise as ‘that feeling you get when you suddenly start vomiting slugs’. But why would Molly and Arthur give their son this literally sickening name? Most likely, it came from an uncle of Ron’s who reportedly died after seeing a Grim. Before then, Uncle Bilius was apparently a bit of a character:
‘He used to down an entire bottle of Firewhisky, then run onto the dance floor, hoist up his robes and start pulling bunches of flowers out of his –’
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Here’s hoping Ron never tried to emulate his uncle’s antics. What would Hermione say?
When Stephen Fry (the voice behind the British versions of the Harry Potter audiobooks) asked J.K. Rowling if she’d ever had something ‘too scary, sad or rude’ for inclusion in the books, she replied that her editor wouldn’t allow any swearing from the characters. This created difficulties in writing Ron’s dialogue, as she noted ‘Ron is definitely a boy who would swear’.
Rather than compromise by having Ron exclaim ‘Merlin’s pants’ every five minutes, Rowling craftily worked her way around the problem with phrases such as this:
... he called Snape something that made Hermione say ‘Ron!’
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Whatever Ron called his teachers was probably best left to our imaginations anyway.
With so many Weasleys around, it seems inevitable that one or two would get lost among the redrafts. This was the case with Ron’s cousin Mafalda, who was supposed to appear in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Having ‘inconveniently’ produced a magical daughter, Mafalda’s parents – her father an accountant, her mother a Muggle – were supposed to send her to the Burrow for summer. During her stay, Mafalda would turn out to be ‘the most unpleasant child Mrs Weasley has ever met’. Knowing Ron, he wouldn’t have had much time for his nosy, show-off of a cousin either. As the character was cut, the only mention of her side of the family came from Ron in the first book:
‘I think Mum’s got a second cousin who’s an accountant, but we never talk about him.’
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Now we all know the truth about Scabbers, it gives us the creeps every time he shows up in the first two books. But the hand-me-down rat wasn’t Ron’s first pet. According to some scribbles in the original 2001 Comic Relief edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Ron once owned a Puffskein – a round, custard-coloured furball with a high tolerance for being thrown about. The name of Ron’s Puffskein is unknown but its fate, unfortunately, is. Apparently one of the twins needed something round-shaped for Bludger practice and, well... you get the idea. Poor Puffskein.
Ron’s arachnophobia was put to the test in the film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in more ways than one. Rupert Grint, who portrayed Ron on screen, also suffers from a fear of spiders:
‘I hate them – even rubber ones I get scared of. Luckily, some of them were CGI. But that car-sized one, that was actually there unfortunately. So that wasn’t my favourite scene to film.’
Another self-confessed arachnophobe was Harry Potter creature designer Nick Dudman, who created the model for Aragog. We’ll appreciate their efforts all the more next time we watch the film.
We’re guessing that ‘destroying a Horcrux’ was probably a close second.
On Ron’s first trip aboard the Hogwarts Express, we learned he was a keen card collector. However, Ron said something quite important to Harry as they bonded over their shared sweets:
‘Everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it’s no big deal, because they did it first.’
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Yet the day would eventually come where Ron achieved something no one in his family could boast. His brothers might have also been prefects, star Quidditch players and fought at the Battle of Hogwarts. But being immortalised on a Chocolate Frog card? That was something special, just for Ron.