In all of the Potter books, there appears to be only one reference to Hermione's skin colour:

They were there, both of them, sitting outside Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor — Ron looking incredibly freckly, Hermione very brown, both waving frantically at him.
Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 4: The Leaky Cauldron

While it would be easy to assume that JKR meant that she's tanned (e.g. from the sun), other writers have suggested that the line above, and lack of other descriptors strongly implies that Hermione is naturally dark-skinned. Zeba Blay, the 'Voices Culture Writer' for Huffington Post even goes so far as to say that it's down to individual readers to make their own judgement on the issue.

"So is the fictional character actually white? Perhaps that's a determination readers should make for themselves." - Italics and bolding mine


Is there any evidence either way? Has JKR ever given an in-universe reason to assume that Hermione is white, black or mixed-race?

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    <Mod deleted comments> Comments are for clarification of the question. If you would like to debate race vs. ethnicity or the motivations for this question, do it in Science Fiction & Fantasy Chat. – Kevin Oct 20 '15 at 19:56
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    It's a trope of British life that kids - especially well-off kids, which includes Hermione - spend some of their summer breaks outdoors and/or in sunnier climes than Britain, and therefore come back to school browner than when they left. – DJClayworth Oct 21 '15 at 15:16
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    Sun promotes more freckles as well as tanned skin. It implies that they spent a lot of time outdoors. – JohnP Oct 21 '15 at 16:00
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    @sbi - Prisoner of Azkaban - "Hermione’s white face was sticking out from behind a tree.". White skin seems to have been specified. – Valorum Dec 27 '15 at 17:22
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    @sbi - The major problem here (as I see it) is that JKR is disputing her own clear intention. – Valorum Dec 27 '15 at 17:25

19 Answers 19

Stuff and nonsense. Why would you need to remark on Hermione's "very brown" skin if that was its normal shade? This is very clearly saying that both Ron and Hermione have been spending more time in the sun than they usually do; in Ron, it comes out as freckles, and in Hermione, it manifests as a tan.

Add in the book covers (by the time the later books, and especially the reissues, came out, JKR had enough clout to veto anything that was blatantly wrong) and the movie casting (for which we know JKR had input), and it's clear that people are trying to "read into" this one quote things that are definitely not there.


Word of God is now on record as saying Hermione's race was not specified, but in that case, the quote in question doesn't really make sense: unless we all acquire Mr. Data's observing capabilities, we wouldn't be able to tell whether Ms. Dumezweni spent her vacation deep underground in a cave vs. on a sunny beach. I think Ms. Rowling had a white girl in mind for Hermione while writing the books -- hence the allusions to turning pink, looking pale, and resembling a panda --, but she realizes that casting a play or movie is about more than physical descriptions. Remember that the original productions of Romeo & Juliet had a boy playing Juliet.

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    That may well be true, but nothing you've said amounts to actual evidence one way or another. As I said in my earlier comment, if she was mixed-race (for example) but normally quite fair-skinned, then it would be worthy of remark that she has become a darker shade in the sun. – Valorum Oct 19 '15 at 19:51
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    "JKR had enough clout to veto anything that was blatantly wrong" or maybe JKR didn't care enough because hermione's skin color is ultimately inconsequential. the fact that something made it into the movie does not necessarily make it book-accurate, much less what JKR envisioned. – phantom42 Oct 19 '15 at 20:12
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    I think this is a good answer to a different question, and makes me wish that whatever that other question is had been asked instead. – Web Head Oct 19 '15 at 21:12
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    @Agent_L: The question asks, essentially, "does this quote imply that Hermione is not white?", and the answer to that is a resounding "uh, no? what are you smoking and why aren't you sharing?". This isn't personal opinion; it's just how language and logic work. Saying that this quote implies anything about Hermione's race is about as logical as saying that it implies something about Ron's race. – Martha Oct 21 '15 at 15:03
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    @Martha No, Martha. The question is "Has JKR ever given an in-universe reason to assume that Hermione is white, black or mixed-race?". And you gave absolutely nothing on this topic. I do understand your "Nonsense!" reaction (mine was same), but it's not an answer to the question asked. – Agent_L Oct 22 '15 at 9:40

Although not exactly evidence, Rowling has done occasional sketches of her characters, all of which portray Hermione as having light skin:

  • In 1999, she did a sketch of her main characters, but I don't know the story behind it:

    enter image description here

  • She released a sketch of a scene from Philosopher's Stone on her website in 2004 (archived by the HP Lexicon):

    enter image description here

    The fifth character, on the far right, is presumably an early version of the character who would become Dean Thomas; Pottermore reveals that a character named "Gary Thomas" was one of the Original Forty Hogwarts students created by Rowling, later renamed "Dean." Since we know that Dean is dark-skinned, and he appears dark(er)-skinned in the sketch, it stands to reason that Hermione was intended to be light-skinned1.

Unfortunately, none of this tells us if she was meant to be mixed-race or not.

Obviously I'm reaching a bit here, and how canonical these drawings are is a matter of personal taste. Nevertheless, it gives some insight into Rowling's mind when she created the character, and I've found no evidence to suggest she changed it.

It's also potentially worth pointing out that there are abundant examples of Hermione being described as "looking pale" throughout the books. Again, though, this isn't evidence of much; the examples are always in high-stress situations, and a pale complexion in those sorts of situations has little-to-nothing to do with skin colour.


1 Hat-tip to Jason (no relation) in comments for nudging me in this direction

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    I think the illustration shows enough talent that we would be able to tell if Hermione was intended to be completely non-white, although perhaps it doesn't completely rule out some sort of ethnic mix. – Hypnosifl Oct 19 '15 at 19:53
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    What the hell is that thing in the lower left hand corner? – Wad Cheber Oct 19 '15 at 20:03
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    @WadCheber Dobby, of course – Dave Johnson Oct 19 '15 at 20:03
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    Because an early version of a black character stayed black, Rowling can't have changed her mind about Hermione since making this sketch? That sounds like a non sequitur to me. – Junuxx Oct 20 '15 at 3:03
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    @Junuxx I don't think his point was that Hermione didn't change because the other character didn't, but rather that Rowling did clearly draw the other character in such a way that their darker complexion was obvious. This implies that, had she intended other characters in the scene to have dark skin, she would have done the same for them. The answer does not say that Rowling could not have later changed her mind about Hermione's complexion, only that there's no evidence she did so. – reirab Oct 22 '15 at 14:40
up vote 89 down vote accepted

There are a few clues to Hermione's racial background;

Hermione is described (in Prison of Azkaban) as having a 'white face'

‘One moment, please, Macnair,’ came Dumbledore’s voice. ‘You need to sign, too.’ The footsteps stopped. Harry heaved on the rope. Buckbeak snapped his beak and walked a little faster.

Hermione’s white face was sticking out from behind a tree.

‘Harry, hurry!’ she mouthed.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Chapter 21: Hermione's Secret

Note, however that JKR has now gone on record as stating that this was not indicative of her race

“I had a bunch of racists telling me that because Hermione ‘turned white’ – that is, lost colour from her face after a shock – that she must be a white woman, which I have a great deal of difficulty with. But I decided not to get too agitated about it and simply state quite firmly that Hermione can be a black woman with my absolute blessing and enthusiasm.”

Hermione is drawn Caucasian

The US versions of the Harry Potter books had chapter illustrations that were hand-chosen by JKR. Although it's a little hard to see the detailing, in the pictures that contain Hermione, she certainly appears to be white/Caucasian. There's no substantial shading and her colouration appears to be the same as Ron's and Harry's.

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

Hermione is JKR

In various interviews, JKR has stated that Hermione is basically a Mary Sue character, essentially herself in fictional form:

Lydon: I was about to say 'are you Hermione?'

JKR: Yeah - w-well - n-n-not ... I mean none of the characters in the books are directly taken from life. Real people did inspire a few of them, but of course once they are on the page they become something completely different. But, yeah, Hermione is a caricature of what I was when I was 11 - a real exaggeration, I wasn't that clever - Hermione is a border-line genius at points - and I hope I wasn't that annoying, because I would have deserved strangling; sometimes she is an incredible know-it-all.

It's by no means definitive, but it seems unlikely that someone portraying themself would change their race.

  • Do we know for certain that Rowling personally picked the illustrations? – Jason Baker Oct 19 '15 at 23:17
  • @JasonBaker - There's a quote from her saying that she was very happy with them. I'll dig it up – Valorum Oct 19 '15 at 23:21
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    @randal'thor - actually, Hermione is @DVK – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 20 '15 at 20:35
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    +1 for the "white face" quote, which is actually in the text and seems to indicate a fairly pale skin tone (it doesn't precisely indicate her ethnicity in the books, but it's an important piece of evidence about it). – sumelic Jan 16 '16 at 3:47
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    How do you know JKR isn't actually secretly black? – Möoz Oct 27 '17 at 4:49

Hermione is repeatedly described in the books as having bushy brown hair.

Naturally dark skin typically goes with dark or downright black hair. Now while brown, of course, can range through a variety of shades, some of them quite dark, I think we can rely on Rowling's eloquence (so manifest on other occasions) to believe that, had she meant dark (or black) hair, she would have said so. For me at least, when hearing brown, the expectation is chestnut, not coffee.

Also, Hermione is in the habit of turning pink rather often.

"I love you, Hermione," said Ron, sinking back in his chair, rubbing his eyes wearily. Hermione turned faintly pink, but merely said, "Don't let Lavender hear you saying that."

[HBP, ch.20]

Oh well. A brown-haired girl who's in the habit of turning pink.

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    This charming young lady is literally the first person who comes up when I search on google for "Bushy hair" – Valorum Oct 19 '15 at 20:31
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    You have my +1 for her turning faintly pink. That's conceivable for a mixed-race complexion, but highly unlikely. – Valorum Oct 19 '15 at 23:37
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    @Richard - As anemone said, that woman's hair would be black, not brown, if not for the hair dye. At the start of the series Hermione is a nerdy little girl who doesn't seem like the type to be using beauty products like dye or makeup at that age, so I think brown must be her natural hair color--and as far as I know, naturally brown hair is only seen in people with European ancestry (though again this doesn't totally rule out some kind of mixed heritage). – Hypnosifl Oct 20 '15 at 21:36
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    @Hypnosifl North-African people can have brown hair too. Try searching for Berber or Moroccan. Arguably, this can be from blood mixing from the Iberian invaders... but don't forget the strong counter-argument that Iberians have darker complexions due to blood mixing with Moorish people. – ANeves Oct 21 '15 at 10:53
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    Bushy brown hair... It's no proof either way, but I've been told there's a stereotype of difficult or unmanageable hair linked to certain ethnicities. I would believe a darker brown just fine, but I don't think she specifies, that's only opinion. A lighter complexion shows her skin pinks, as you spotted, but a tan one shows when she pales (several times, in fright), and it would be emphasized (as the quote) when she browns. I don't see anything that would contradict a mixed ethnicity, as long as she tended to the lighter end of the spectrum - light to mid tan, with bushy brown hair. – Megha Dec 22 '15 at 1:18

Very brown is a British term for looking tanned after outdoor sports or a holiday. Ron looking "incredibly freckly" would mean as a redhead, he's very pale and doesn't tan at all.

ETA: Excerpts

Examples would be in real life, and I recall Enid Blyton's boarding school books referring to a sporty character looking brown after the summer hols.

'Hallo, Sally! How brown you are!'

Mary-Lou was at the deep end, watching the others. At least, she watched Darrell mostly, admiring the way she swam, cutting the water so cleanly with her strong brown arms, and thrusting through the waves like a small torpedo.

A pair of wicked eyes looked out of the window of a car, and a tuft of hair fell over a brown forehead. 'I may have!' said Betty, stepping out.

Mallory Towers series by Enid Blyton

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=WZ_3AQAAQBAJ&q=brown#v=snippet&q=brown&f=false

Even more here: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=usknAwAAQBAJ&q=brown#v=snippet&q=brown&f=false

  • Can you offer a quote? – Valorum Oct 20 '15 at 11:05
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    The weather had been so very hot lately. Day after day had brought nothing but blue sky and sunshine. George had been burnt a dark-brown, and her eyes were startlingly blue in her sunburnt face...George, how brown you are! amazon.com/Five-Away-Together-Famous-Book-ebook/dp/B007JNX5ZI – Fillet Oct 20 '15 at 13:08
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    @Richard - I think riddler was just using Enid Blyton as an example of an author using a reasonably common turn of phrase, not saying she coined this description of a suntan. If you search on google books for "browned by the sun" or "sun browned", you find plenty of other examples, for example p. 252 of The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway says "They drank much wine and were all burned and browned by the sun". Also see the entry for "brown" in this Learners' Dictionary with the example "you'll brown nicely in the sun today". – Hypnosifl Oct 20 '15 at 21:48
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    Oh, and I just noticed that entry in the Learners' Dictionary gives a usage example even closer to JKR's--"suntanned: She was very brown after her holiday in Greece." – Hypnosifl Oct 21 '15 at 0:41
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    Yes, as @Hypnosifl said, it's a British colloquial term. It doesn't necessarily mean that JKR read this phrase in Enid Blyton's books."Jo maintained her thirst for reading during this period as well, picking up books by such authors as Edith Nesbit, Enid Blyton, and series such as What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge and C.S. Lewis's well-known Chronicles of Narnia." Unofficial biography based on interviews books.google.co.uk/… and another source hp-lexicon.org/muggle/encyc/muggle-b.html#blyton_enid – riddler Oct 22 '15 at 12:05
up vote 41 down vote
+100

This is a panda. enter image description here This is a panda's description

The giant panda has a body shape typical of bears. It has black fur on its ears, eye patches, muzzle, legs, arms and shoulders. The rest of the animal's coat is white.

What did we learn? Pandas have white fur on their faces, and black fur around their eyes.

Here is a quote about Hermione from Half Blood Prince.

Hermione emerged, coughing, out of the smoke, clutching the telescope and sporting a brilliantly purple black eye.

Here is a second quote moments later when Mrs.Weasley attempts to fix Hermione's eye.

Hermione sitting at the kitchen table in great agitation, while MRS. Weasley tried to lessen her resemblance to half a panda".

Let's summarize

  1. Pandas have White Faces

  2. Pandas have black fur around their eyes.

  3. Hermione has a black eye.

  4. Hermione looks like half a panda.

Moral of the story, Hermione is white.... or a Panda.

panda link

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    This is some excellent sleuthing. And yes, that is indeed a panda. The picture was most instructive. – Valorum Jan 4 '16 at 16:09
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    @Richard i felt that for some users benefit we must show what a panda looks like. :D – Himarm Jan 4 '16 at 16:16
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    Your conclusion, while not only incorrect, conflates morals with summaries, a most errant decision. – Web Head Jan 5 '16 at 1:48
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    I'm now tempted to ask if there's any canon confirmation that Hermione isn't a panda. – Valorum Jan 5 '16 at 17:07
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    @Richard i got 2 downvotes because people dont like panda's i guess, also its good i didnt ask this then because i wouldnt have garnered any upvotes! – Himarm Jan 5 '16 at 17:09

I was having a discussion with a friend about this question, and he said something along the lines of this:

I too assumed that Hermione was white because of my prejudices.

I disagree: it's not prejudice that makes my friend think Hermione is white. Instead, I think my friend picked up on a number of subtle clues embeded into the text of Harry Potter. Rightly or wrongly, Western culture and the English language use a number of vague and unusual techniques to convey information about race. This is why, while JKR never explicitly states the race of many of her characters, we can infer the race of many of these characters by taking a close look at the language, or rather the lack of language, that she uses to describe these characters.

I previously claimed that JKR only specifies the race of non-white characters. I've done further research, and I know that is not true. I've found a number of examples where JRK does discuss the skin color of white characters. (I'll get to those examples in a second). However, I still stand by the following idea, which is going to inform the rest of my answer:

I think it is possible that some readers never even notice what color the people in the story are. Don't notice, don't care. Whites of course have the privilege of not caring, of being "colorblind." Nobody else does.

(A Whitewashed Earthsea)

Here's the claim that I'm going to spend the rest of my answer proving. JKR will specify the skin color of her characters only in a few specific circumstances:

  1. If a character is a minority. This is because for most (almost all) minorities, skin color is an important part of their identity because it's the feature that the rest of society judges them by.
  2. If a character is evil. One of the defining features of Voldemort is that he is deathly (almost unnaturally) pale. Many other characters who are (initially) associated with evil are also described in similar ways.
  3. If there is a "biological reason" for describing a characters skin color, e.g. if a character is sick, scared, depressed, or (as quoted in the question) tanned from the sun. For example, when Tonks is depressed in The Half Blood Prince, she is described as "pale". I would suspect that this is because being pale is a symptom of being sick.

In all other cases, when JKR does not describe the skin color of a character, it is because that character is white. Minorities in Western cultures do not have the privilege of ignoring their skin color; whites can go through their entire lives without thinking about the fact that they are white. This is because if you are white, you won't be systematically discriminated against because of the color of your skin; everyone else will be.

I can prove this by the fact that I only found one instance where a character was described as white, and none of the above reasons applied (see the bottom answer for a discussion about that). But I think it should also make sense that white characters don't think about or notice the fact that they are white. In fact, it's even awkward for people to say things like "my white friend" or "I'm white", even if those sentences are true.

In Learning To Be White: Money, Race and God in America, the theologian and college professor Thandeka describes an little social experiment she devised called The Race Game. The origins of this game were this: At a lunch together, a white member of the staff at Smith College asked Thandeka what it felt like to be black. Thandeka said that if her luncheon partner played The Race Game for one week, she would then answer the colleague’s question. The game consisted of one rule. For one week the woman was to “use the ascriptive term white” whenever she mentioned the names of “Euro-American cohorts. She must say, for instance, ‘my white husband, Phil,’ or ‘my white friend Julie,’ or ‘my lovely white child Jackie.’” The women never had lunch with Thandeka again. Over and over, when Thandeka presented the idea of The Race Game, white colleagues refused to do it. Thandeka remarks: “…in their [my white colleagues’] racial lexicon, their own racial group becomes the great unsaid.”

(Notes on Questioning Whiteness as a Literary Practice)

So for a number of reasons, both the fact that white characters don't need to think about their race and the fact that it's uncomfortable for white characters to think about their race, it makes sense that Hermione wouldn't be described as white, at least in the same way that other minority characters are described as black.


In researching this answer, I literally searched through every book looking for references to characters skin color. I'm not going to include every quote I find because this answer would be too long. I also found one exception, which I've included at the bottom of the answer. Here are the results:

Minority Characters

"Thomas, Dean," a Black boy even taller than Ron, joined Harry at the Gryffindor table.

(Sorcerors Stone)

'Yeah, I see what you mean, Remus,' said a bald black wizard standing furthest back - he had a deep, slow voice and wore a single gold hoop in his ear - 'he looks exactly like James.'

(Order of the Phoenix)

"Evil" Characters

[Voldemort] was standing in a dark, curtained room lit by a single branch of candles. His hands were clenched on the back of a chair in front of him. They were long-fingered and white as though they had not seen sunlight for years and looked like large, pale spiders against the dark velvet of the chair.

(Order of the Phoenix)

Harry twisted around, his own wand held high, and saw that the Death Eater had ripped off his mask and was pointing his wand directly at Harry, who recognised the long, pale, twisted face from the Daily Prophet: Antonin Dolohov, the wizard who had murdered the Prewetts.

(Order of the Phoenix)

And he threw the copy of The Quibbler to her. She caught it and stared down at the cover. Her pale, doughy face turned an ugly, patchy violet.

'When did you do this?' she asked, her voice trembling slightly.

'Last Hogsmeade weekend,' said Harry.

She looked up at him, incandescent with rage, the magazine shaking in her stubby fingers.

(Order of the Phoenix)

And from behind the six large figures before them came a seventh, smaller boy, smirking all over his pale, pointed face. It was Draco Malfoy.

(Chamber of Secrets)

Sick/Depressed/Scared Characters

A young witch with a pale, heart-shaped face and mousy brown hair was sitting at the table clutching a large mug between her hands.

"Hello, Professor," she said. " Wotcher, Harry."

"Hi, Tonks."

(This is in the Half Blood Prince, when Tonks is feeling depressed because of Lupin. When they get engaged, Tonks is no longer described as Pale.)

'Harry, dear, are you sure you're all right?' said Mrs Weasley in a worried voice, as they walked around the unkempt patch of grass in the middle of Grimmauld Place. 'You look ever so pale . . . are you sure you slept this morning? You go upstairs to bed right now and you can have a couple of hours of sleep before dinner, all right?'

(Order of the Phoenix)

Exceptions to my theory

"Well, well, well," said the Fat Lady, "Violet's just told me everything. Who's just been chosen as school champion, then?"

"Balderdash," said Harry dully.

"It most certainly isn't!" said the pale witch indignantly.

"No, no, Vi, it's the password," said the Fat Lady soothingly, and she swung forward on her hinges to let Harry into the common room.

(Goblet of Fire)

I'm not quite sure about this quote: if anyone has any ideas, let me know in the comments. I suspect this is because Violet is associated with alchohol (she drinks a lot with the Fat Lady), and her being described as pale might be because of that. However, I'm not 100% sure about that argument.

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    Note that language tends to be economic – Hagen von Eitzen Oct 21 '15 at 19:52
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    That unspoken rule is incomplete. The assumption is "all characters are the nationality of the country the literature is set in, unless specified otherwise." – Scott Oct 21 '15 at 21:31
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    @Scott That's not true; please see my edit to the answer. – user1807 Oct 22 '15 at 16:22

The non-US Deathly Hallows cover depicts her as light skinned, as does the "new" Scholastic cover, so one can easily assume that the quote in question is indeed indicating a tan.

enter image description here

Also, Jim Kay has done the illustrations for the new editions. The one of Hermione is featured on Pottermore, and Jim Kay's illustrations have received JKR's stamp of approval. At a minimum, then, we can assume that the last illustration is correct, and she is at least of white skin color, though we cannot definitely rule out mixed race.

Hermione

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    Can you give an indication that those covers were chosen by JKR herself? – Valorum Oct 19 '15 at 19:33
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    The cover of my copy of PoA also features a light-skinned Hermione (riding on Buckbeak with Harry). – Rand al'Thor Oct 19 '15 at 20:22
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    @Richard Thanks to another question, I linked a Telegraph article wherein JKR is quoted as approving of Jim Kay's illustrations. – Dave Johnson Oct 20 '15 at 14:54
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    Related: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/105522/… – Ryan Oct 20 '15 at 20:09
  • I have never like the front cover of the Bloomsbury (non-adult) edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — those flushed faces seem to come from a different world, though I suppose it makes sense in context. – PJTraill Sep 19 '16 at 23:35

According to JK Rowling, Hermione’s ethnicity is not definitively stated in canon.

Quoting her on Twitter:

@mauvedust: like. especially rowling. how does she feel about black hermione. i need to know.

Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione 😘

@JK_Rowling on Twitter, 21 December 2015

This follows the announcement that Noma Dumezweni has just been cast as Hermione in the stage play The Cursed Child.

Just because she didn’t explicitly specify an ethnicity doesn’t mean she didn’t have one in mind. She’s made comparisons between Hermione and herself at a young age. I think it’s likely she had a white Hermione in mind when she wrote the books, which might explain some of the wording choices – but was careful never to pin it down entirely.

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    Welp, that's a word of God answer if I ever saw one. +1 – Dr R Dizzle Dec 21 '15 at 10:54
  • I saw the post on BBC News and came to check, and as I expected it was already posted. – March Ho Dec 21 '15 at 12:28
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    I've tweeted at her to question the line from POA where she talks about Hermione's white face. Maybe she'll answer, maybe she won't :-) – Valorum Dec 21 '15 at 18:48
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    Although I'm minded to change my acceptance, I'm going to hold fire until there's a word-of-god explanation of the line mentioned in my answer. In the meantime you can have an upvote. – Valorum Dec 21 '15 at 18:49
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    Set Retcon Shields to "Lucas", Mr Sulu. – Valorum Dec 24 '15 at 11:38

Concerning your specific quote, I'd say she just had a nice tan as she had just come back from a holiday in France:

Dear Harry,

Ron wrote to me and told me about his phone call to your Uncle Vernon. I do hope you’re all right.

I’m on holiday in France at the moment and I didn’t know how I was going to send this to you – what if they’d opened it at Customs? – but then Hedwig turned up! [...]

(The Prisoner of Azkaban)

In The Order of the Phoenix, Hermione says to Hagrid she's been to Dijon on a holiday:

I was headin' fer where Olympes school is, 'cause we knew we was bein' tailed by someone from the Ministry. We had to go slow, 'cause I'm not really's'posed ter use magic an' we knew the Ministry'd be lookin' fer a reason ter run us in. But we managed ter give the berk tailin' us the slip round abou' Dee-John —'

'Ooooh, Dijon?' said Hermione excitedly. 'I've been there on holiday, did you see -?'

(The Order of the Phoenix)

While Dijon is not particularly warm or sunny during the summer, you're only a few hours from lots of beaches on the south coast of France.

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    But is she a Caucasian with a nice tan or another race/ethnicity? – Valorum Oct 19 '15 at 21:10
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    @Richard I was merely commenting on the quote, and I agree with most of the answers you've got. I'd also add that Rowling has never been very strong on physical descriptions. It was never mentioned, for example, that Dean Thomas was black, and although Cho Chang and the Patil twins have typical Chinese/Korean and Indian surnames, their appearance is never explicitly described. – isanae Oct 20 '15 at 4:01
  1. Mixed race people do not always have dark or black hair
  2. JKR herself said in an interview that Emma Watson looked just like Hermione, only more beautiful. I think that's pretty definitive. Also, wouldn't she have mentioned it at some point if people were wrong?
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    Can you link to that interview? – Valorum Oct 20 '15 at 5:31
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    I'm not sure the relevance of point 1 – Valorum Oct 20 '15 at 14:24
  • Maybe reddit.com/r/harrypotter/comments/2xlxn6/…? – MiCl Oct 23 '15 at 1:07
  • @user165604 - She doesn't actually say that though, what she says is that she's (verbally) like she always imagined her, but not physically. – Valorum Dec 21 '15 at 6:40

I just got the new illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (US Edition), and Hermione appears to be caucasian:

enter image description here

Here's the new book:

enter image description here

Below is a picture of the 3 people that will be playing Harry, Hermione and Ron in the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

enter image description here
The people who will be playing Harry, Hermione and Ron in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

The woman playing Hermione is actress Noma Dumezweni. She was born in Swaziland to South African parents, before moving to England as a child.

This casting announcement has been confirmed by Pottermore, in which J K Rowling states;

"I’m so excited with the choice of casting for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I can’t wait to see Jamie, Noma and Paul bring the adult Harry, Hermione and Ron to life on stage next summer."

Thanks to the fact that there is nothing in the text of the books (by which I mean a definitive mention of Hermione's race) to support a hypothesis either way, we can conclude that;

  • In the films, Hermione is canonically white, having been played by actress Emma Watson.
  • In the stage play, she is canonically black, being played by actress Noma Dumezweni.
  • In the books, J K Rowling does not specify a skin colour for Hermione that cannot be interpreted as a demonstration of emotion. Her delight at both Emma Watson and Noma Dumezweni playing Hermione would seem to indicate that she simply doesn't care about this aspect of Hermione's character.
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    In the books she does specify a skin colour for Hermione, as I pointed out in my own answer; "Hermione’s white face was sticking out from behind a tree." – Valorum Dec 21 '15 at 10:20
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    @Richard Arguably, given the context of the quote, Hermione is scared/faint/nervous, not Caucasian. – Dr R Dizzle Dec 21 '15 at 10:22
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    Regardless of the context, I find it unbelievable that a children's author would describe a black character as being white-faced with fear. That's just a great big 'no-no'. – Valorum Dec 21 '15 at 10:25
  • @Richard Well, I made sure to specify that I was talking about the text of the books, not potential subtext or out-of-universe interpretation of author intention. I'll make that more clear. – Dr R Dizzle Dec 21 '15 at 10:26
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    Actually, JKR even gave a comment to this on Twitter: "Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione." twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/678888094339366914. Here, have an upvote. – sbi Dec 27 '15 at 17:20

From Chapter 8 - The Quidditch World Cup of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:

Mr. Malfoy's eyes had returned to Hermione, who went slightly pink, but stared determinedly back at him.

Skins high on melanin don't go pink. She was brown (in quote of your question) because of high UV ray exposure issue or other health issue.

Considering her name, the fact that the only place where she is referred to as Brown is when she returned from a place that is sunnier than usual, and the fact that she Lives in Britain, and thus the default assumption would be Anglo-Saxon, I would say by far the most likely answer is that it referred to a tan.

Wikipedia's list of people named Hermione contains 9 people described variously as English or British, and 1 (from 110 AD) who lived in Rome, and whose father was white.

Of those 9, 6 have pictures on the Wikipedia article and are white, 1 has a link to IMDB with pictures showing they are white. The others are a Baroness and a President at Oxford college. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume they are white too.

In fiction, 'Hermione's are generally British/English, with a smattering of Italians and one person from Ancient Greek Mythology.

Turning now to Granger, there are too many people on Wikipedia for me to go through 1 by 1, but they are predominantly British/English, the American 2nd most common (of the 5 I clicked on, 4 were white and one was Native American), or French/Australian/New Zealander/Canadian (I clicked on 5 that were all white). There are, however, 1 each from Guyana, Trinidad/Tobago, and the Caribbean.

Looking at fiction, then every character with the last name of Granger listed in Wikipedia is white, with one exception, of a character in the anime beyblade, where the character has a Japanese name in the Japanese version, and a 'Western' name with surname Granger for the English translation.

So in reality, a person named Hermione Granger is most likely white, but in fiction, the probability of someone named Hermione Granger not being white becomes vanishingly small.

In the Junior Novelization of Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire, Hermione's mother is described as having green eyes and pale skin. This provides fair evidence that Hermione is at least half-caucasian.

  • I'll try to get a direct quote later tonight when I am able, but Reddit has discussed this here. – phantom42 Oct 21 '15 at 15:34
  • I'm struggling to pin down a quote. According to the wiki, her eye colour is confirmed in the films only - harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/… – Valorum Oct 21 '15 at 17:42
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    I don’t think her parents’ appearance is described in the books. We meet them in Chamber of Secrets (At Flourish and Blotts), but there is nothing about what they look like. – chirlu Oct 22 '15 at 3:35
  • @chirlu - Agreed. I think the Reddit writer is getting mixed up between the film and the book – Valorum Oct 22 '15 at 20:25
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    @phantom42 - Since this doesn't tally with what's in the books, I was wondering if you'd want to delete this answer... – Valorum Mar 1 '17 at 12:07

As other users have provided plenty of evidence for the ethnicity/race of Hermione, I want to talk about the snippet that prompted this question and explain a different interpretation.

I think a more accurate interpretation of this snippet would be that this is a description of the most prominent feature. For Ron, his most prominent feature is the Weasley freckled skin and red hair. For Hermione, that is her ample bush of brown hair on her head. So for Ron, he's labeled by the freckles on his skin, while Hermione is labeled by her brown hair.

And yes, Weasleys are known for their freckles, as mentioned by Draco Malfoy in Philosopher's stone (not sure what chapter, if anyone knows, feel free to edit):

No need to ask who you are. My father told me all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles and more children than they can afford.

  • This make sense except that she didn't identify Blaine Zabini's race until book 4 – Valorum Oct 21 '15 at 11:49
  • @richard and this is relevant to the snippet in what way? I do not even know who Zabini is due to reading the book in Dutch. – Nzall Oct 21 '15 at 13:48
  • Blaine Zabini is a character who appeared in the first book as one of Harry's fellow students. It wasn't revealed until the fourth book that he was black. That would seem to contradict your assertion that JKR always speaks about the character's most prominent feature. – Valorum Oct 21 '15 at 13:57
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    @Richard I'm sorry, but Blaine Zabini is about as minor a character as you can get. In the books, he literally has one noteworthy scene, in the Slug Club onboard the Express in HBP. The only reason he got a bigger role in the movies was because the actor playing Crabbe got community service when they shot the FyendFyre scenes in DHP2 and they needed another Slytherin to support Malfoy and Goyle. – Nzall Oct 21 '15 at 17:07

Funny, all these answers, and yet my own interpretation is very different. To me, the description isn't of skin, but rather her entire ensemble as a person. When I've heard someone described as very brown in the past, it generally indicates a somewhat rumpled person, in drab brown colors, generally the kind of person who grabs clothes out of the closet and puts them on without really looking at them. Classically the idea would be that the person is dull and boring and only interested in minute stuff that nobody else really cares about. In other words, much like a classical depiction of a scientist whose field of study is something like the mating habits of the Amazonian ring worm. They can't be bothered with fashion, so they have 10 of the same outfits.

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    Although that may be true, this doesn't really answer the question asked which is 'what is her race/ethnicity?'. – Valorum Dec 27 '15 at 13:08
  • Excellent point, this is more appropriate as a comment rather than an answer. – Broklynite Dec 27 '15 at 17:16
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    As another answer shows, "brown" is often used in British English as a synonym for "sun-tanned". – Adeptus Jan 5 '16 at 4:11
  • @adeptus - Agreed. It would be highly unusual to describe someone dark- skinned as being "very brown" as a result of tanning or having gone white from fear. – Valorum Jan 14 '16 at 12:23

On this Pottermore page, there's an illustration named "Hermione falls foul of the Basilisk":

Hermione falls foul of the Basilisk

In this illustration, you can clearly see that Hermione is blonde and white.

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    This just muddies the waters even further, as Hermione's hair is canonically brown. – F1Krazy Jan 10 at 13:54
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    @F1Krazy because if you visit Pottermore frequently enough you realize that many of the content creators constantly contradict canon. – Skooba Jan 10 at 14:26
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    Um, no. The blonde girl is Penelope Clearwater. Hermione is the one whose hand is sticking out behind Madam Pomphrey. (This picture was made by Atomhawk for the old Pottermore's interactive moments, and it was supposed to be a bit of a surprise to see Hermione there so she wasn't fully visible until you clicked to zoom in past Madam Pomphrey.) Regardless, the illustrators of these moments have said in interviews that they had no contact with Rowling and based everything on published writings/interviews, so this is at best a secondary source. – ibid Jan 10 at 21:25
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    To clarify, here is the full quality image with madam pomphrey removed. As you can clearly see, Harry and Ron are sitting around a different girl's bed, who has a hair color matching book Hermione, and has her arm affixed in the way hers was at that point of the book. – ibid Feb 25 at 23:50

protected by user1027 Oct 20 '15 at 17:53

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