QR #8

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).

Picture 1This 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.

Picture source: http://www.doctorpopcorn.com/2009/07/harry-potter-and-half-blood-prince.html

  1. erynnk2013 said:

    I agree that self-confidence stands as an extremely important factor in a person’s performance level. Without self-confidence, a person cannot perform something to the best of their ability because they do not feel completely sure that they can do it in the first place. Without confidence, a person tends to try to hide in their comfort zone, which usually results in the person falling short of their full potential. For example, in gymnastics, if one does not have confidence in oneself, one becomes cautious and does not attack the elements in one’s routine, thus worsening the performance level and often resulting in injuries caused by too much caution and fear. Self-confidence certainly impacts the performance level of a person’s abilities in tremendous ways.
    However, though self-confidence is extremely important, I do not believe that a person’s abilities do not matter, as your proposition states. Without having abilities in the first place, a person could not succeed no matter how much self-confidence he or she has in himself or herself. One cannot simply feel that one can do anything, have complete confidence in oneself to do it, and be able to complete the task without having the physical or mental capacity to complete the job initially. For instance, in the example from Harry Potter that you gave, Ron might have had full confidence that he could be successful in the Quidditch match, but, no matter how much he believed in himself, Ron could not have had success in the match without having the mental ability to follow the rules of the game or the physical ability needed to withstand the physical exertion of a Quidditch match. Self-confidence, while a huge asset for performing a task, in this case taking part in a game of Quidditch, does not completely determine the outcome of the participant’s performance. Ultimately, ability proves to be an extremely critical factor in determining the result of a performance or completion of a task.
    How can we determine that self-confidence, or even a person’s ability, is the factor that really matters in the end and impacts the outcome of a situation the most?
    How do you define what quality someone’s performance level is? Is success always a good thing?

    • thefifthe said:

      I definitely see what you’re saying, erynnk, but I feel that I addressed that in my proposition, though now i see it might not have been clear enough. My proposition stated that “It is not one’s abilities that matter, but rather one’s own confidence in one’s abilities.” Now if it were possible to italicize in comments, I would’ve italicized the second half of that. I’m not saying that anyone can succeed just because they have tons of self confidence (if this were possible I would be president!)—that’s just crazy. Of course a person needs the ability to succeed, but beyond that they need confidence IN their ability. In my proposition I say that people need to have confidence in their abilities, not just that they need confidence.

  2. erynnk2013 said:

    I understand completely what you are saying. Just try to make that clearer in your proposition next time. 🙂

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