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What Hermione From Harry Potter Really Should Have Looked Like

Given how ubiquitous the Harry Potter films have become, it's hard to separate Emma Watson's portrayal of the heroic Hermione Granger from the character that first came to life in the pages of J.K. Rowling's magnum opus. Watson has basically become synonymous with Harry's bookish BFF, though there will always be a certain subset of fans who never quite got onboard with the casting. The general complaint is that Rowling never intended Hermione to be as beautiful as the radiant Watson; in fact, the author spent most of the series going out of her way to describe Miss Granger's physically unappealing traits, emphasizing her priority on less skin-deep concerns.

This criticism isn't without merit. If the casting directors over at Warner Bros. had stayed true to the letter of Rowling's source material, we likely would have ended up with a different Hermione Granger. To get a better picture of what the real Hermione Granger should have looked like, we have to dive deep into the books. It's all there for close readers to find.

The books describe a bushy-haired brain with prominent front teeth

To get a good working picture of the canonical Hermione Granger, it's best to go straight to the source. We get a few key descriptive passages directly from J.K. Rowling herself. In the first Harry Potter novel, 1997's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Sorcerer's Stone for the American publication), Hermione makes her entrance on the Hogwarts Express, where she introduces herself to future besties Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. Rowling describes the young Miss Granger as possessing "lots of bushy brown hair, and rather large front teeth." Both the hair and the teeth become Hermione's most commonly referenced features throughout the series. 

Interestingly, the director of the first two films, Chris Columbus, made the most valiant effort to stay true to Rowling's description. Although he and his crew didn't go as far as to digitally enhance Emma Watson's teeth, they did obviously frizz out her hair to match the canonical description. The bushy look persisted until Prisoner of Azkaban director Alfonso Cuaron imposed a different vision on the series. Cuaron clearly had a plan to make the students at Hogwarts seem more like normal teens by favoring fashionable street clothes over school robes and blessing them with more flattering hair styles. The result — as with the third film as a whole — was visually striking, if a bit farther afield of the original story.

Hermione does some growing up in books 4 and 5

In book 4, The Goblet of Fire, Hermione's big front teeth become an explicit point of shame. Draco Malfoy uses the insecurity to rag on Hermione upon learning that she has secured a date to the Yule Ball. "You're not telling me someone's asked that to the ball?" he asks rhetorically. "Not the long-molared Mudblood?" Always a charmer, that Malfoy.

Ahead of the ball, Hermione tricks the school nurse, Madame Pomfrey, into shrinking her teeth to a more proportional size. She also uses a wizarding product called "Sleakeazy's Hair Potion" to tame her rebellious locks. With her whole look revamped to impress her quidditch-star date Viktor Krum, Goblet Hermione probably looks as close to Watson's on-screen portrayal as at any previous point in the books.

The makeover doesn't last, however. Rowling makes a point of noting that Hermione abandons the hair product after the ball. "Hermione's hair was bushy again; she confessed to Harry that she had used liberal amounts of Sleekeazy's Hair Potion on it for the ball, 'but it's way too much bother to do every day,' she said."

Around this point in the story, it seems that Hermione may be emerging from an awkward pre-teen phase and growing into a real stunner. She catches the eye of a professional athlete, after all — and a Tri-Wizard champion to boot. All in all, we can fairly conclude that it wasn't unreasonable to have an actress as beautiful as Emma Watson portray the bookish Hermione Granger on screen — even if Watson didn't grow up to be a perfect match for the picture painted by Rowling's prose.