Seeing as all good things must come to an end (even though we don’t want them too), I have completed my reread of the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series. This is where all the pieces of the puzzle come together to reveal the big picture. As we’ve all heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, we will be able to conclude that not all aspects of the story will be analysed in this post. I have chosen to focus on two main sets of topics, and tracing the parallels between them. The first section will examine the links between three of the greatest wizards in recent history, while the second will be devoted to the comparisons of Hallows and Horcruxes.
Dumbledore, Grindelwald and Voldemort (the good, the bad and the ugly)
I do realize that Harry is the hero of the story, and I in no way want to contest that fact. Seeing as Harry was probably the most developed character, with good reason, I feel he has already been analyzed through and through. That is the reason for which I chose to examine three other great wizards, powerful in their own right, and see how they are connected to one another and possibly uncovering some interesting links that could have had an influence on Harry.
Let’s start with the good: Dumbledore. Upon graduating from Hogwarts, the brilliant and talented Dumbledore was to set off on a world trip with his good friend Doge. However, upon his mother’s accidental death, he was forced to return to Godric’s Hollow, as he was now the head of the family. He felt trapped and was bitter and resentful of his situation. That is when Gellert Grindelwald appeared in his life. Grindelwald was in Godric’s Hollow to research the Dealthy Hallows. Albus had finally met someone on his level. He became fascinated by the young wizard and was entranced by his ideas of wizarding domination. In his youth, Albus’ father had been sent to Azkaban for having murdered three Muggles. This incident must have left a lasting impression on the young boy. Many probably assumed that seeing as his father hated Muggles, Albus must have also hated them. Whether this was true throughout his youth or not, Albus definitively developed a certain degree of Muggle prejudice when influenced by Grindelwald. It was fortunately short-lived and he saw the errors of his ways. Dumbledore later regretted his relationship with Grindelwald.
I feel that Dumbledore, blinded by the appeal of the resurrection stone and its ability to bring back his parents, regretted encouraging such vile thoughts in Grindelwald. Seeing as his former friend had an evil disposition, he went on to do horrible things and managed to find the elder wand along the way. I think Dumbledore finally decided to confront him and try to stop his rampage, as he felt partly responsible for the devastation. That is when, in 1945, the greatest wizard duel ever was fought between Dumbledore and Grindelwald. Dumbledore won (even though he was fighting against the Elder wand) and Grindelwald was locked up in Nurmengard. Having won the wand fair and square, Dumbledore decided to keep it. Although Dumbledore was not seeking the Hallows, he could not pass up the opportunity to keep the wand.
Now that peace had been restored, Dumbledore continued teaching at Hogwarts and recruiting students. One of the most prominent students he had recruited was Tom Riddle. During their first meeting, Dumbledore became suspicious of Tom’s cruel, secretive and dominating dispositions. He kept a close eye on him at school and was not easily charmed by the boy, as others were. These suspicions led to Tom despising Dumbledore and considering him an obstacle. I believe Dumbledore felt enough remorse for having helped and encouraged a wizard with a dark streak that he vowed to not let that happen again. Unfortunately, the little resistance by Dumbledore did not stop Riddle becoming Lord Voldemort.
However, Dumbledore never gave up the resistance. He denied Tom’s application for the position of Defence Against the Dark Arts, suspecting he had other intentions than to teach. This rejection leads to Voldemort cursing the position, preventing anyone from ever holding the position for more than a year. Clearly, he was holding on to the hope that Dumbledore would eventually fold and give him the position. Unlucky for him, Dumbledore is a resourceful man.
It is important to note that Dumbledore was a great believer in the power of the human spirit. He was also capable of deep love and constantly reminded Harry that love was the greatest magic of all. This probably stems from his unrequited affections for Grindelwald. Not only did Dumbledore love him, but he also admired him for his thoughts and ideas. Dumbledore believes in the good of people and that each and every one had goodness within them. This is why he was such a proponent of second chances. Knowing and believing that everyone is capable of goodness, he wanted to give those who have made mistakes the chance to change. Obviously the best example of this is his relationship with Snape. Dumbledore was willing to trust him again after he showed remorse for his ways. Another good example is that of Draco Malfoy. Dumbledore knew of Draco’s murder mission and asked Snape to kill him in the end in order to save Draco’s soul from being ripped. Dumbledore even saw good in Tom Riddle as a child and decided to give him a second chance by allowing him to attend Hogwarts, even though the child was clearly cruel and a bully. He gave him the benefit of the doubt and offered him a fresh start, without ever revealing information from his past to people in his current environment. Had Dumbledore warned his colleagues of Tom’s predispositions, Tom might have turned out differently.
Dumbledore was more than a good judge of character, he had the ability of seeing people’s true personalities, which is a hard thing to do and requires a certain perception and emotional intelligence. The best example of this ability is when he pieced together the bits of Voldemort’s past with Harry and deduced what the Horcruxes were, or might have been, as well as possible hiding places for them. This required an intense examination of Voldemort’s psyche. It is also important to point out that he did have quite a bit of contact with Voldemort in his younger years, allowing him to witness behavioural patterns that he was then able to depend on for some of his sleuthing.
Despite his many admirable and extraordinary qualities, Dumbledore was slightly Machiavellian. He was prone to lying and being secretive, all while being calm and pragmatic, even though some of the people surrounding him had earned his utmost trust. This speaks to the fact that he still does have insecurities of his own and is most likely embarrassed of his past. He changed over the years and he probably does not want to be associated or reminded of this darker chapter of his life. I mean, plotting Muggle domination with Gellert Grindelwarld and neglecting his sister are not things he would do in the present. He is not a cruel man, but sometimes was taunted by what he believed would be for the good of humanity, even if it meant hurting people around him. The most obvious case of this behaviour is when he took advantage of Snape’s emotions to achieve his goals. He convinced Snape to help him protect Harry, even though he secretly planned to allow Voldemort to kill Harry in order to destroy the piece of Voldemort’s soul inside him. To achieve this, Dumbledore set out to mould Harry in a way that he would become the type of person who would willingly sacrifice himself for the greater good, leaving him with the chance to choose between life and death in the end. He also avoided Harry for a full year following Voldemort’s rebirth, fearing what Voldemort could do should he discover the type of relationship he had with Harry.
Dumbledore admitted his greatest flaw was his desire for power. He clearly had grandiose plans with Grindelwald to ensure wizards became the rulers of the world (with the two accomplices at the head, obviously). Fortunately, after his sister dies, things came into perspective for Dumbledore. This led to him refusing positions of power beyond being headmaster for the remainder of his life, most likely out of fear of a power-lust relapse. He realized later on that those best suited for power are those who do not seek it. I do wonder what would have transpired had Arianna not been killed. If Dumbledore and Grindelwald, I dare say the most powerful duo of their time, had succeeded in their world-domination plans, the Wizarding World might have been in far worse shape than that in which Voldemort left it. Grindelwald, being of a dark nature, and Dumbledore being tempted by the darkness of his friend would have ruled in a rather dark fashion. Voldemort’s reign would have been a joke compared to what these two could have managed. This is not the Dumbledore we know today. He is now a good wizard, but it could have gone either way. The unfortunate death of Arianna might have saved the world from a lot of torment. I guess one could say her death was not it vain, but for the greater good.
Dumbledore felt a tremendous amount of guilt over the death of his sister. The fact that he might have been the one to cast the curse that killed her tortured him for the rest of his life. The possibility of confirming that fact is what delayed him in facing the now dark wizard Grindelwald. However, he managed to eventually put aside his personal feelings and reservations for the wellbeing of the wizarding world. He fought and vanquished his enemy. This must have given him a bit of relief and redemption for the fact he had once encouraged the views of his former friend.
During his conversation with Harry in limbo, Dumbledore confesses to loving each and every member of his family, even though he was blinded by ambition. His original intent in finding the resurrection stone was to use it to bring back his parents and rid himself of the burden of being the head of the family. After Arianna’s death, he wanted to use it (if he ever found it) to bring back his deceased loved ones to apologize. Ironically, this desire is what led to his death. Upon finding the Gaunt ring Horcrux, he had a short memory laps and his first instinct was to put it on. The curse attached to the Horcrux infected him and slowly killed him. He once searched for the stone on a quest for power, but by the time he finally found it, he was no longer yearning for power, but for forgiveness. This goes to show that one thing or object in this case can be used for both good and evil; it all depends on how it is used. Had the Stone not been turned into a Horcrux, Dumbledore might have been able to ask for forgiveness. Then again, he might not have ever found it if it weren’t for the Horcrux quest.
In limbo, Harry attempted to console Dumbledore when he asked whether he had been any better than Voldemort by seeking the Hallows in his quest for power. Harry assured him that Dumbledore never killed if it could be avoided and that searching for the Hallows, as opposed to making Horcruxes, was totally different. It is sad that even in death, Dumbledore could not resist comparing his behaviour and weakness for power to that of Voldemort’s. Perhaps he lived his entire adult life trying to redeem the mistakes of his past, without ever being able to clear his conscience. In the end, he gave his life for the greater good, sacrificing all personal benefits.
Moving on to the bad: Gellert Grindelwald. Like the two other wizards I am comparing and contrasting him to, Grindelwald was an intelligent and gifted wizard. He attended Durmstrang and had more than a penchant for the dark arts. He had a keen interest in history, wand lore and the power of magical artefacts, hence his obsession with the Deathly Hallows. He was so obsessed that he appropriated himself their runic symbols as his personal emblem.
Like any obsessed person, Grindelwald researched the Hallows and discovered that the last of the Peverell’s were buried in Godric’s Hollow. Having a great aunt that lived there (Bathilda Bagshot) was the perfect cover up for his true purpose. What he was not counting on was meeting Albus Dumbeldore, a wizard of equal talents as his own. Now I am surprized that Grindelwald was so open to sharing his ideas and plotting with Dumbledore. He strikes me as more of a lone wolf, and someone of that nature works alone. Would they really have ruled together? Or was Grindelwald simply using Dumbledore to help him find the Hallows before disposing or overthrowing him? I mean someone who wants to be Master of Death surely does not want to share the position with another. My hunch is that he was simply using Dumbledore. The pour guy was so miserable at the time that it was easy to lure him in with the fascinating Hallows. Dumbledore was tempted, but his deepest desire was to use the Resurrection Stone to bring back his parents. I don’t think he gave as much stock into the Muggle domination as one might think, but was simply going along with Grindelwald, seeing as this was his best bet at finding the stone. Perhaps they were both using one another, each having a hidden agenda.
After his stint in Godric’s Hollow, and the major blow up with Dumbledore, Grindelwald continued on his quest to find the Hallows. He first managed to find the location of the Elder Wand. Rumors informed him that Gregorovitch, a renowned wand maker, possessed it and was working on duplicating its properties. Simple enough, Gellert broke into the wandmaker’s shop, stunned the man (he understands wand lore and realizes he has to “win” the wand in order to be its new master) and steal the wand. He then went on his merry way, terrorizing Europe as he went along. I do not think he ever managed to find the remaining Hallows.
Once defeated by Dumbledore, Grindelwald was sent to Nurmengard, where he spent the rest of hid days. This lengthy stay in confinement might have led him to regain some perspective. He refused to give Voldemort any information when the latter came looking for the Elder wand, despite the fact he was unarmed, imprisoned and quite defenseless in the face of the only dark wizard ever considered more powerful than himself. I mean at this point, the poor guy had nothing to lose standing up to Voldemort. He saw Voldemort as a powerful idiot who didn’t understand anything important.
I think that Grindelwald had a spec of good in him. He simply had a bigger spec of bad and he chose to nurture that one as opposed to the good one. In my opinion, his long seclusion helped him see things for what they were and the good spec outgrew the bad one. Although he did horrible things in his past, his soul might have been torn, but it always remained whole with his body. He was on a quest to find legendary relics that are said to help the owner become master of death, should he possess all three. Now we know he never succeeded in reuniting all of the Hallows, but I do think he, like Dumbledore, became a sort of Master of Death because he made peace with the fact of dying. He was ready for it and greeted death like an old friend when the time came. That is the true power of the Hallows and I think both Dumbledore and Grindelwald, in a way, succeeded on their quest. Dumbledore would finally be reunited with his loved ones and have the chance to apologize and Grindelwald gave his life for the greater good by not helping the current Dark Lord. After all, Grindelwald and Dumbledore both possessed the dispositions of being either good or bad, and simply chose different paths. However, in the end, it’s the good in them that prevailed, although it took Grindelwald a bit more time to get to that point.
Some might consider Grindelwald as a purely evil wizard, a sort of precursor to Voldemort. There are, however, clues that point to the contrary. Even though Dumbledore’s ability to judge a person’s character was not fully developed upon meeting Gellert, he would not have gravitated towards him had he not possess qualities other than a thirst for power. Perhaps it is his experience with Grindelwald that sharpened Dumbledore’s way of sniffing out people who could go bad in a big way. Without this experience, he might never had had any inkling whatsoever to Tom Riddle’s real dispositions. Then, Grindelwald decided to stun Gregorovicth as opposed to killing him. This points to the fact that he was not on a killing rampage or that he wanted the wand maker around should he need him for any reason. Voldemort kills willy-nilly without thinking things through. Finally by refusing to divulge any information to Voldemort on the Elder wand, he was perhaps attempting to prevent the desecration of Dumbledore’s tomb or he might have been extremely remorseful of his own crimes. Then again, he was probably relishing in the fact that Voldemort had to resort to consulting the previous dark wizard and was simply taunting him as a sort of last hurrah, knowing he’d probably be killed regardless of what he said or didn’t say.
In the end, I think Grindelwald always respected Dumbledore. I wonder if he intentionally let Dumbledore win the duel because he realized that he needed to be stopped, but was unable to stop himself. Since he was the owner of the Elder wand, the most powerful wand ever, it is hard to believe that Dumbledore won. I think by that point Grindelwald realized he was probably not going to find the remaining Hallows and that he had caused enough suffering. I might have started to feel remorseful over what he had done and who better to take him down than his old friend, whom he probably saw as an equal. In the end, they both worked together on the same goal: to bring down Voldemort.
Finally, we’ve reached the ugly: Lord Voldemort. Tom Riddle was the product of a love potion. Right off the bat, I don’t think he possessed any “good” bit inside him. I think he was predisposed at being evil, not just bad. In his time at the orphanage, he terrorized the other kids. On the day Dumbledore visited to tell him he was a wizard and going to attend Hogwarts, the evil glimmer shone brighter than ever. He assumed his father was the magical one because, had his mother been magical, she would have been able to save herself from death, which happens to be what Tom regards as the biggest weakness. He believed this so strongly that he was determined to become the most powerful wizard ever and, in turn, he would be able to defy death. This is what he viewed as the ultimate power. Oddly enough death was also his biggest fear. I think he had to conceal his biggest fear in order to be perceived as powerful by turning the thing he fears most into his biggest act of power. A bit twisted in a way. It does make one wonder why on earth he wanted to be immortal if he had nothing to live for in the first place.
As he grew up, he discovered his mother was the witch, and his father had no magical abilities whatsoever. I believe this is when his hatred towards Muggles started. He also traced back his mother’s ancestry to discover he is a descendent of Salazar Slytherin. This explains his ability to speak Parseltongue, not to mention it cements the fact that he is rotten to the core. He adopts a new name, forever distancing himself from his muggle roots and amplifies the fact that he is linked to one of the great wizards. He also adopts Slytherin’s hate of Muggles and manages to find and open the Chamber of Secrets to complete Salazar’s noble work. It also happens to be in line with his own ambitions, so is all works out. I would like to point out that Tom was the last living descendent of Slytherin and that had he not opened the Chamber of Secrets in his lifetime (and not left the instructional diary behind), the Chamber would have never been opened and would have remained a legend forever.
While at school, Tom had gathered many fellow Slytherins as followers. These people were the weak seeking protection, the ambitious seeking glory by association or the bullies seeking a leader. They eventually became the first Death Eaters. Tom claimed they were his friends, but this was simply a cover story. We know that Voldemort was incapable of love and that he could not care less about those he called his “friends”. He was simply using them to do his bidding and to serve him as the lord he dubbed himself. He manipulated these people to do his dirty work to avoid being caught for petty crimes, seeing as he had much more important work to do. I’d like to point out that Voldemort, were it not for the work of his army, would not have amounted to much. Grindelwald did his own work and did not rely on an army. This makes him, in my opinion, a much darker man. Then again, poor little Voldermort was afraid of death, so he made sure he was never in harm’s way. That never stopped him from claiming any victory as his own. This strikes me as cowardly behaviour. Neither Dumbledore nor Grindelwald could be classified as a coward. It seems to me that most of Voldemort’s attacks or shenanigans were nothing more than a horse and pony show to cover up his real mission: creating Horcruxes and living forever. The Death Eaters were simply protecting him and providing him with the peace necessary for him to accomplish that. It’s sad that the only thing he lived for was making Horcruxes, to then ensure he lives forever. What’s the point? It seems to me the way he ended up being trapped in limbo for eternity is very similar to the way he would have been on earth had he succeeded. A lonely being doing just that: existing, without any purpose or reason to live.
After graduating from Hogwarts, Tom asked to remain at the school as teacher of Defence Against the Dark Arts. Fortunately, the then headmaster rejected the request on the account of his age, but told him to reapply in a few years. Dumbledore was whole-heartedly against the idea, and for good reason. Can you imagine Voldemort teaching the Dark Arts? He’d create a bigger army in no time, not to mention he’d have the perfect headquarters: the school, which happens to contain his weapon of mass-muggle destruction!
He then accepted a job at Borgin and Burkes which consisted of collecting valuable magical heirlooms. Something Tom had developed a knack for early on. He strikes me as a very materialistic person, attaching himself to material things seems to make him feel more connected to the magical world. I guess that’s the only thing that made him feel whole, seeing as his life was void of love. So, naturally he would want to contain parts of his soul in objects he considered to be valuable.
After a few years of killing and creating Horcruxes, Voldemort killed the Potters and was left a fragment of soul without a physical form. Even splitting one’s soul has its limits. Living (not sure we can call it that at this point) in exile the better part of a decade, he managed to survive. Coincidentally, he heard of the Philisopher’s Stone around the same time Harry was set to begin attending Hogwarts. Part of me finds it hard to believe he had never heard of the Stone before. I mean, he was supposed to be smart right? Well, I think he simply overlooked it back in the day. It was not deemed evil enough a way to attain immortality. The Stone could be considered a “good” way of becoming immortal. I do think it would have been a much simpler way of reaching is goal, but to each their own.
Voldemort did have the nasty habit of overlooking things. He was quite narrow-minded and only deemed certain things important. Same goes for the fact he had never heard of Grindelwald, or his story. Odd, I think he would have admired and looked up to Grindelwald. He did not take the time to learn things that he thought were not important to him. It is his lack of understanding that often comes to play and interferes with his plans. In some instances, he does not seem very calculated to me. He’s more of a reactionary person as opposed to being a proactive one. For example, he wanted a body so badly that he used Dark magic containing the bone of his father, the flesh of his servant (Pettigrew) and the blood of the enemy (Harry) in order to form one. He totally disregarded the fact that Harry’s mother’s protection would now run through his veins also. So to recap, Harry was inadvertently made into a Horcrux and now Voldemort contains Harry’s protection within himself. That is the reason for which Harry did not die when Voldemort “killed him”. Voldemort only killed the part of his own soul remaining in Harry. He was the one who both killed him and kept him alive. Voldemort was what anchored Harry to the living world. If only Tom had taken the time to understand the powerful magic that is love. I’d also like to point out that Voldemort himself is the reason for which Harry was so well protected by his mother. You see, Voldemort was somewhat capable for acknowledging the desires of others, as long as they did not interfere with his own. The only example of this is when he agreed to Snape’s plea to spare Lily’s life. He then agreed he would give Lily the chance to step aside. He did follow through on that promise and gave Lily multiple chances to do so. Ironically, this is what made Lily’s death a whiling sacrifice, and what protected Harry in the first place. I guess, if I really wanted to push it, that it was Snape’s undying love for Lily that brought on the downfall of the Dark Lord. See, knowledge is the true power Voldemort!
Even Harry understood that knowledge is more powerful than dark magic. In true good hero fashion (much in a similar way to that in which he saved Pettigrew’s life), Harry gave Voldemort one last chance at redemption. He took the time to explain how he had protected everyone he cared about at Hogwarts by sacrificing himself, just like his mother had done, therefore wielding the same magic. Even though Harry told him what was to become of him should he be unwilling to feel remorse, Voldemort ended in limbo. Harry then twisted the sword in the wound by telling him that Snape was loyal to Dumbledore through and through, that Dumbledore’s death had been planned and that Draco, not Snape, was the true master of the Elder Wand. Voldemort could have learned all of these facts had he only found them worthy enough of his attention. He never understood friendship and true loyalty, so was unable to see that Snape was neither friend nor loyal. Dumbledore and Snape saw through his murder mission to Draco, and protected the boy, all while making it seem impromptu. Unlike Dumbledore and Grindelwald, Voldemort never did study nor understand wand lore, therefore he was not equipped to understand the inner workings of the relationship between an wand and its master. Seems to me like old Voldy bit off more than he could chew! Had he listened to Harry, he would not have attempted to use the Elder wand against its master. In the end, he was his own demise.
I think it is safe to say that Voldemort went as bad as one can go. I mean he was left with a sliver of a soul for crying out loud! According to Dumbledore, he “went beyond normal evil”, of course Dumbledore having witnessed evil first hand would be in a position to judge the degree of evilness. He clearly displayed psychotic traits such as selfishness, violence, lack of empathy and incapacity to feel remorse. Although he was a highly intelligent individual, he lacked the ability to see the big picture and only focused on things that would help him reach his goal, hence the overlooking of many key pieces of information along the way. If he considered it was of no value, then he would not spend any time learning about it. For example, he didn’t know of Dumbledore’s victory against Grindelwald until he was searching for the Elder wand; nor did he bother to learn about house elf magic, biased by their status, he probably assumed their magic could not be superior to his own. Two examples of when this ignorance cost him are when Kreacher escaped the cave with the locket after Regulus stole it and when Dobby was able to enter and escape Malfoy Manor, since it was not protected against house elves.
Voldemort was also a very arrogant man. This eventually contributed to his downfall. He saw death as a shameful human weakness. To him, death represented defeat and loss of domination: the ultimate form of humiliation. I find this so out of whack seeing as all wizards are human. Wizards are not a different race, nor are they gods by any means. Last time I checked, human = mortal. To think that dying is a human weakness is completely berserk! Voldemort’s reasoning greatly leaves to be desired in this instance. From the get-go, Harry accepting his mortality makes him a stronger person than his enemy.
He was also obsessed with killing Harry. This is an extension of his fear of death because he saw Harry as a direct threat to his immortality. Each failed murder attempt just amplified his obsession and led to his own death. He is no different than any other tyrant in the fact that he is paranoid that someone else will rise against him, because of his own actions. This obsession was probably given more weight because Voldemort believed the prophecy. Like I mentioned before, it is people who believe the prophecies that ultimately make them become reality. Once you hear it, it remains in your thoughts and at some point you are bound to associate something to it, therefore believing it has come true. Voldemort was so obsessed with Harry because of what the prophecy stated. Had he not put so much stock in the prophecy, and left Harry to live his life in peace, he could have led a relatively peaceful eternity himself, surrounded by his Horcruxes that anchor him to the human world. It’s crazy how fear and obsession can push people to the limit. Ironically, he could have decided to overlook the prophecy, but this is one of the things Voldemort deemed important and worth knowing about. He was only interested in what the prophecy said, as opposed to learning about prophecies in general. How long did it take him to realize only a person to whom the prophecy refers can take it off the shelf in the hall of prophecies?
Always disregarding that which he does not understand, he walked right into his first downfall. He obviously did not comprehend that casting a Killing Curse on a victim following the murder of that victim’s protector, who had voluntary sacrificed themselves, would backfire due to the powerful magic that is love.
Dumbledore always addressed or referred to Voldemort by either Tom or actually saying Voldemort. This clearly showed he did not fear the man and that he always knew him for who he really was. He did not let the name intimidate him. Taking a page out of Dumbledore’ book, Harry refers to Voldemort as Riddle in his final confrontation. I think this was a way of weakening him by recalling his painful and humiliating muggle ties. Nothing like a good dose of reality before being obliterated!
Dumbledore and Voldemort have quite a few things in common. Both were half-blood (Harry too), both were recognized as very powerful wizards (one good and one bad), both possessed the Elder wand (one rightfully earned it and the other stole it) and they both completely trusted Snape (I think that is a tremendous achievement on Snape’s part). They also both founded and led their own groups (Order of the Phoenix and Death Eaters). Obviously, Dumbledore realized he could not take Voldemort down on his own, like he had Grindelwald. He therefore recruited back up this time around, having already had an inkling of the potential damage Voldemort and his cronies could cause. It is safe to say that Dumbledore learned from his mistakes and was humble enough to use them to teach others; sadly the same cannot be said about Voldemort. He was so damaged a human being that even given the chance of redemption, turned it down out of pure arrogance. There was no saving him if he did not want to save himself.
Hallows and Horcruxes - same end goal?
After having examined three of the most powerful wizards of all time, let’s have a look at what motivated them, as well as the means by which they attempted to reach their goals. I am talking about objects of course. The Deathly Hallows and Horcruxes were after all what seemed to be simple objects. I think it brilliant that theses inconspicuous objects contained some of the most powerful magic. It goes to say that things aren’t always what they appear. Both types of objects had their own properties, but both promise the same end result, or so it seems.
The goal of a Horcrux is to defy death by anchoring one’s soul to the mortal world. It is a super dark magical object that contains a part of soul. As long as that vessel remains intact, the wizard whose sliver of soul resides within it will cling to life. Anybody (or at least any gifted magically inclined individual) can create a Horcrux. The catch is that an object of this nature can only be created by ripping apart one’s soul. How does one go about doing that? Well, by simply committing murder of course! I guess more people would create Horcruxes if it were a simpler process. Then again, I’m not sure a world full of hidden bits of souls would be a peaceful place… However, I’m not convinced that many people wish to live eternally. The select few that we came across were very powerful wizards (Dumbledore, Voldemort, Grindelwald and Nicholas Flammel). I guess that desire to live on forever is only truly desired by those whose talents and abilities would render them useful to keep around. Or at least this is the thought process of those individuals. Sure, they all had slightly different plans of what to do during their immortality, but they all shared that desire and felt the world could simply not live on without them. Then again, this desire might also be purely a selfish one.
Now, the only powerful wizard who dared create Horcruxes was Voldemort. Seeing as he was a cold-blooded murderer, the process was somewhat simplified for him. You know, not having to deal with guild or any other emotion brought on by committing such an act. He was also driven by his absolute fear of death. I guess he had to prove to himself that he was able of defying death and not being seen as a failure of a wizard. This is exactly what death meant to him, failing at being a wizard. I still don’t know why he was trying to prove this; he had nobody to prove it to… I think he was trying to show nature that he was able to master all aspects of life, including his own fate.
Seeing as anything can be turned into a Horcrux, this makes them extremely hard to detect, not to mention great for hiding in plain sight. However, this also adds to the dangerous factor. Voldemort chose objects of value and importance to him, symbols of sorts for his desires. Knowing this greatly helped in guessing what they might be. I’m not sure that everybody else who could or would create Horcruxes would be as selective of the objects. I do however think it is safe to say people tend to choose things that would have meaning to them. I think it is also safe to say that Voldemort jumped on the first method he found. He came upon the notion of Horcruxes and he was hooked. Yet again, he did not bother to learn of any other means of immortality, judging that it was unimportant to continue looking when, according to himself, he had found the best way possible. Had he done a bit more research, he would have come upon Nicholas Flammel’s philosopher stone or even the Deathly Hallows. After all, those two other means are much more known and not that hard to research. Clearly he had no idea of the Hallows, seeing as he turned one of the Hallows into a Horcrux! Boy, a mistake like that would have made me feel quite ashamed. Had he learned or heard of the Hallows, I think he might have opted for searching for them as opposed to creating Horcruxes, sort of like the powerful wizards before him did. But no, Voldemort had to go and overcomplicate things!
Like Horcruxes, the goal of the Deathly Hallows is to master death. However, unlike Horcruxes, there is a good way to use the Hallows. Once united, all three Hallows (Elder Wand, Resurrection Stone and Cloak of Invisibility) make their possessor the Master of Death. Kind of intense! However, this title is often misunderstood. Master of Death does not mean that the possessor is in a position of defying the dying process. It refers to someone who has come to terms with death, therefore attaining a so-called mastery over it. One must use them the right way, they cannot be used to cheat death, like the first two Peverell brothers did. The Master of Death has to understand the limits and rules of nature that apply to powerful objects. Horcruxes on the other hand have no limits and can be used as weapons to ultimately cheat death. I like to think Voldemort, had he looked for the Hallows, would have used them wrongly and death would have prevailed. A lot of pain and suffering would have been avoided had he chosen that path.
It’s revealed that any desire for personal gain cancels out the possibility of mastering one of the Hallows. Dumbledore failed to bring back his family to apologize when in possession of the Resurrection Stone (once he had killed off the soul residing in the Horcruxe ring). Harry, however, managed to master the Hallows by his willingness to greet death, without resisting. He was the first and last person to ever reunite the Hallows and become a true Master of Death. I wish I had cool nicknames like Harry’s: the Boy-who-lived, the Chosen One and Master of Death. I mean it does not get more epic than that!
So in the end, the purpose of the Hallows is not to conquer death or gain any sort of magical power. They are simply symbols that represent the fact that death is a part of life. It is inevitable and should not be feared. Hence the appropriateness of the legend/story being part of a children’s book. There is a lesson to learn from the story.
Horcruxes and Hallows do not serve the same purpose, although many have misinterpreted the intent and powers of the Hallows. It was Hallows versus Horcruxes, good versus bad. The Hallows require a true understanding of death whereas the Horcruxes try to unnaturally avoid it. Ultimately, the Horcruxes proved no match to the Hallows. Harry struggled for a bit with coming to terms with death, but resolved to sacrificing himself for the greater good. He knew he was the only one who could rid the world of Voldemort and if he had to go in the process, it would not be in vain. There was absolutely no personal gain in it for him. He took a page out of his mother’s book.
It is interesting to note that Dumbledore came upon all three Hallows in his lifetime, though he never had more than two in his possession at any given time. He first acquired the Elder wand in a well-deserved manner. He then borrowed James’ invisibility cloak to study it and I’m sure he figured out what it was. After holding onto it for a few years, he returned it to its rightful descendent, probably because his weakness and temptation for power was creeping up again. Oddly, he had not yet come across the Hallow he desired most. When he finally found it in the form of the Gaunt family ring Horcrux, he no longer had the cloak. Nevertheless, Dumbledore could not have been Master of Death because he was blinded by personal gain. He desired to bring back his family to apologize. This goes to show that even the most rational person can be blinded by power. I also feel it pertinent to point out the friendship Albus had with Nicholas Flammel, the only man to have found a “good” way of living a quasi-immortal life. Either Dumbledore wanted to keep a close friendship with this great man for his own personal gain, such as living for as long as he wants, or he saw that Nicholas was a good man and had not been corrupted by power. He did have firsthand experience in picking up on the clues of corruption thanks to Grindelwald. Even Flammel knew when it was time to go and greeted death in a noble way. He understood the limitations of life, although he had managed to greatly prolong his own. I think had Flammel searched for the Hallows, he could have potentially become Master of Death, seeing as he seemed to have made peace with that fact of life. I never tried to trick his way out of death, he simply found a way to extend his existence.
I loved learning that Harry was a descendent of the Peverells. This really anchors him in the magical world and it is a sort of poetic justice that a descendent of the third brother, the one who understood the limitations of his Hallow, be the only one to ever become Master of Death and reuniting the Hallows for the first and last time. It’s as if Death knew way back then that some crazy person (Voldemort) would try to outdo him and trick his way out of dying. He gave the Peverells the tools that would one day be needed to vanquish all other sort of magically jimmy-rigged plan to escape him. Well played Death!