The Power of Rumplesnitz: Confidence in One’s Abilities
Knight-in-training Gawaine le Couer-Hardy lacks confidence until his headmaster gives him a magic word—‘Rumplesnitz’—that will protect him from all harm. Gawaine successfully kills forty-nine dragons using the magic word, but upon meeting the fiftieth, he is paralyzed with fear and forgets the word, but still defeats the dragon! Gawaine’s headmaster then reveals the truth about the magic word to Gawaine, shocking him considerably: “It wasn’t magic in a literal sense . . . but it was much more wonderful than that. The word gave you confidence. It took away your fears” (Broun 6).
This literary version of the Placebo effect is present in many stories, from Pixar’s “Kung Fu Panda” (though this is hardly literature) to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. In the sixth installment of the Potter series, Ron joins the Gryffindor Quidditch team as Keeper and, though he possesses the skill necessary to succeed, he lacks confidence. Harry, knowing that Ron won’t be able to conquer his fears on his own, leads Ron to believe that he has drunk a goblet of pumpkin juice Harry had spiked with his lucky potion, or Felix Felicis, given to him by Professor Slughorn. Because Ron thinks he has been given a magical source of luck, he believes he will succeed and does not miss a single save during the match. After he is confronted by Hermione, Harry shows them the still sealed vial of potion and reveals to Ron that he actually succeeded through his own talent—much to Ron’s amazement. Up to this point the stories of Gawaine le Coeur-hardy and Ron Weasley are similar, but after the realization they take different courses. Upon the discovery that he performed brilliantly all by himself, Ron is thrilled and continues to perform well. However when Gawaine finds out the truth, he has a mental break down which leaves him gibbering about his near escape from death and so confused and scared he is immediately devoured by the next dragon he meets.
In giving Gawaine the magic word ‘Rumplesnitz’, the headmaster sought to help him overcome his fears and build his confidence. It was clear that Gawaine had it in him to do so, but only lacked confidence in himself. ‘Rumplesnitz’ was supposed to aid Gawaine in discovering his own ability, but really the plan backfired as when he learned the truth, he lost all his newly found confidence and was killed soon after.
Proposition: It is not one’s abilities that matter, but rather one’s own confidence in one’s abilities.