Weasleys, Rostovs, and Mormons–Oh My!

In honor of the 20th Anniversary of the Harry Potter franchise. . . .

The Weasleys are the Mormons of the Wizarding World. This was clear to me the first time I saw a Harry Potter movie (though it didn’t come through as clearly in the books). Lots of things suggest the comparison, but the two most obvious ones are the quantity and the quality of their family life: They have lots of kids—7 in all—and they support them all on a (magical) civil servant’s salary. This means lots of hand-me-downs, used spell books, taped wands, and sack lunches. But it also means that they are fiercely loyal to each other, always know that they are loved, and always feel like they are part of a family.

Most of the other major families in the Harry Potter saga are single-child families. There is one Potter, one Granger, one Malfoy, one Lovegood, one Finnigan, one Longbottom. The Weasley are extreme outliers in this world. And they pay the price in the generation of the saga by stretching their resources to the breaking point.

But they reap a huge reward in the next generation when everybody ends up a Weasley. The highest- status person in the saga (Harry Potter), the smartest person (Hermione Granger) and the most beautiful person (Fleur Delacour) all marry Weasleys and make sure that the Weasley genes AND the Weasley family values will dominate the Wizarding World of the future.

I had almost the same reaction when I read Leo Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace—not a novel, I have to admit, that is normally compared to the Harry Potter Saga. But, like Rowling’s Wizarding World, Tolstoy’s Russian aristocracy has a Weasley family. They are called the Rostovs, and, once again, they are the Mormons of War and Peace. The Rostovs value family life more than the trappings of the Russian aristocracy. Count Ilya Rostov is an agreeable family man who spends all of his money making sure that his children are spoiled and his family happy.

And, like the Weasleys, the Rostovs have more children than anybody else—five of them in a society where two is considered a lot. In the course of the novel, Count Rostov spends his fortune foolishly, but amiably, and looks like he is going to end up destitute. But (wouldn’t you know it) two of their children end up marrying the two wealthiest, highest-status individuals in the book. Their son, Nikolai, marries Maria Bolkonsky—the physically unspectacular daughter of Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky, and the richest, most intelligent female character in the novel. Count Rostov’s daughter, Natasha, marries Pierre Bezukhov—the fantastically wealthy and famously thoughtful central protagonist in War and Peace.

There are even more similarities between the two families. Both the Weasleys and the Rostovs lose one child in a war, and both of them have one child who never marries. For nearly every other family in either of the novels, either of these events—a premature death or a child who never marries–would have meant the end of their line, as most of them only have one child to begin with. But the Weasleys and the Rostovs absorb these events and still manage to dominate the gene pools of the future.

Does it work this way for Mormons and for Mormonism in general? I am pretty sure that it does. I don’t have any data on how many people have joined the LDS Church because they married, or at least dated, a Mormon. But in my own experience, the correlation is immense. The only people that I baptized on my mission, who were still active a year after their baptisms, were those who converted to the church because of a spouse.

And nearly every convert I know who has become fully engaged in the church is either someone who joined the church through their own marriage or their parents’ marriage. At a distance, I include myself in this category. I only exist because my grandmother—an attractive Mormon singer who performed for military families in Long Beach, California, during the Great Depression—managed to convince my staunch Lutheran grandfather to marry her and (eventually) become a Mormon.  

I’m playing a hunch here, but I suspect that Weasley’s, Rostov’s, and Mormons all represent a core truth of evolution. In the long run, success is not determined by beauty, intelligence, wealth, or status. All of that is stuff you can marry. Ultimately, the world belongs to those who have enough children to get everything else through marriage.    

Comments

  1. The Weasley’s are the Mormons of the Wizarding World.

    Except the Wesleys are Catholic, Michael. Dude, it’s practically canon. Percy Ignatius Weasley? QED, man.

  2. Michael Austin says:

    If Ron had been a Catholic, he would have been much better at Latin.

  3. Starting the obvious here, but in a book it’s easy for the civil servant to match his kids up with smartest, most powerful, and richest kids in the world (don’t forget Potter’s account at Gringotts) at a private boarding school.

    We don’t often talk about books about the moderately successful family who struggles to save for 6-10 kids’ college education, so they work and go to school and live unremarkable lives with boring life partners.

    Related Book Recommendation: The Brothers K, by David James Duncan, about a seventh day Adventist family. The father gets injured and loses his chance to be a pro baseball player, raises the family in near poverty and struggles with alcoholism. The story is about the kids struggles, coming of age, restrictive religion, getting drafted into the Vietnam war. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of them marry into wealth and power. But it has been a long time since I read it.

  4. I love this so much. I’m just a little frustrated that now I have to re-read Harry Potter with this excellent lens.

    Sadly, although I read War and Peace, the only thing I remember about it is Pierre’s name.

  5. Marian, When you do re-read W & P, make sure you read the edition in the photo. They’re the best Russian translators around.

  6. (This is a tangent, but…) I’d actually recommend against the Pevear and Volokhonsky translations. I tried their Brothers Karamazov and found it torturous in syntax and diction; I’ve glanced at their War and Peace and seen similar patterns. I really enjoyed the Norton Critical Edition, which uses the Louise and Aylmer Maude text.

  7. What does it mean to be “fully engaged in the church”?

    I’ve lived in various places where such generational transfers simply were not possible, because everyone was a first-generation member. When we were in Brasil in the 1990s, in the Philippines, in Indonesia. Yes, eventually there were part-member families to unite…but it all began with one person in the family joining the church. Let’s please acknowledge that such brave people exist, even if you didn’t personally baptize them.

    Okay, I did date a Latter-day Saint a year or two before my own baptism. He was always looking down on me for being Catholic. Not a great impression. When I ran into him later at BYU, the first words out of his mouth were, “If you joined the church, there is hope for the world.”

    Yeah, that’s kind of the idea of the whole spreading-the-gospel thing.

    A currently serving full-time sister missionary, who I was privileged to teach when she was a young woman, does have two sisters who also joined the church before she left, but her parents are not members.

    Perhaps we are just weirdo outliers, one more way that a stupid convert like me doesn’t understand how things are done in this church.

  8. Muslims have been focusing on this pretty heavily. There’s a reason Muhammad is the most popular baby name in the UK.

    Societal evolutionary arguments are dangerous ground though.

    Fun observation though!

  9. I think the novels oversell intergenerational social mobility. In the US at least, there’s a correlation coefficient of like 0.6 between the socioeconomic status of parents and their children

  10. Don’t want to start an argument here, but if I do I will be happy that it is the type of internet argument we could use more of, but I really loved Pevear and Volokhonsky’s Brothers Karamazov. First time I was able to read this book that I was able to be transported into the world without feeling like I was an observer from another planet. Idioms and little jokes became clear to me that I had missed previously, that actually had me laughing out loud, also a first for me. And the emotional tenor became more accessible so that I was finally able to feel that the truth that Alysosha is the true hero of this book, rather than have to convince myself of it argumentatively. All of this, however, might have been a function of this being the third time I read the book, so I had already become incrementally more familiar.
    I am currently finding most of Pevear and Volokhonsky’s “Anna Karenina” to be as difficult as Michael has said, although the tender emotional core of the heroine’s plight is really hitting home.

  11. I do love the Weasley’s, I am just saddened that they were created by a person that has actually made my life more difficult.

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