EVERYONE LOVES…SNAPE?!: AN ANALYSIS OF THE CHARACTER AND HIS FAN APPEAL
By Sarah Levesque
Word Count: 791
Rating: G (suitable for all audiences)
Summary: The author struggles to understand why everyone loves to write about Severus Snape.
As Avellina and I slowly collected articles for our Harry Potter issue of Ink & Fairydust, we were astounded when story after story came in, all about everyone’s least favorite teacher, Severus Snape, and nearly all showing him in a good light. Apparently he’s not so hated, after all. And I think I’m starting to understand why.
First of all, Snape had a horrible past. Growing up with an alcoholic Muggle father in a poor factory town, life must have been extremely difficult for him, as many fanfiction authors have written about, (including our own Avellina in “Legend of the Lost”). While I don’t think it was explicitly said in the books or the movies – and I could be wrong because I don’t have a copy of either with me as I’m writing this – it would not be surprising if Snape had grown up hungry, dirty, and disliked by neighbors because of his father. Not much got better at Hogwarts, where his only friend, Lily, was sorted away from him, and where James Potter bullied him.
When he grew up, he became a spy for Dumbledore, which made his already hard life even tougher. This difficult life makes it easy to pity him and understand him better – he is stern and sarcastic because he feels the need to put up a strong front against bullies like his father, James Potter, and the Death Eaters. He belittles people because that’s what he grew up with. Does this make it acceptable? No, but once we gain understanding of why a person does what he does, that person – whether real or fictional – is more relatable. With this scant knowledge of his upbringing and his years as a spy, it is easy to wonder what these experiences were like, and to want to create them.
There are two more reasons I can see why Snape is looked on more benevolently than he seems to deserve at first glance. As we all found out at the end of the books or movies, Snape wasn’t actually a bad guy. His exterior was armor to protect his inner self. While he didn’t like children and he belittled them horribly, when any were in danger, he did his utmost to protect them, no matter how annoying they were, no matter how much he had ignored them or belittled them or disliked them. Even when he killed Dumbledore, it was because he had been asked to. Perhaps some of us write about Snape because we feel sorry that we didn’t see him as a good character before it was revealed.
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, everyone that has a romantic side loves Snape because of his deep and unwavering love of Lily Evans Potter. Even though she didn’t return his love, and instead married his rival and enemy James Potter, Snape still loved her. Let’s admit it, Snape “always” broke our hearts. He was extremely loyal to her, no matter what happened, and because of it, he was loyal to her son, no matter how hard it was to be loyal to James’ son. What happened when Lily died, we wonder. What happened each time Snape did something he knew she wouldn’t approve of? How often did having Lily’s eyes save her son? More things to wonder about, to write about.
I think this is why we write about Snape. Knowing just a bit about his shabby background, about his hard life, about his hidden goodness, about his love, we are left to wonder about his experiences and to make them up as we think best. Another thing that caught my fancy was how Snape reacted to praise. If he saw this article, I think his reaction would be something like this…
“Rubbish,” Snape muttered as he balled up the parchment. “Where do they get this sickening sentimentality?” He marched down the hall to try to intercept any other of these reports. But Hogwarts was full of them; every student seemed to have a copy. Snape narrowed his eyes and heaved a great sigh.
“Severus,” came the voice of Professor McGonagall.
“Minerva,” he returned evenly, pivoting on his heel to look at the Head Mistress.
“Have you read…”
“Unfortunately? Severus, it was a good article. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be circulated, that people shouldn’t know that you are not a villain.”
“They needn’t have looked into my personal life.” The thought of Lily still lingered in his mind, contrasting sharply with the remembered pain of his father beating him.
“How else would they have explained you?” Professor McGonagall asked.
“They needn’t have bothered,” Snape said and turned away to stride angrily down the corridor, his robes billowing satisfactorily behind him.