Harry as Horcrux 101 (C): Answers to Objections

continued from Harry as Horcrux 101 (B) above:

Objections and Answers to objections

As most of you know, I do not surf the internet Potterverse. I do post my reflections for feedback on this weBlog where I hope you will all join the conversation. From friends on this weBlog and my provate boards I received five principal objections last year. I’ll try to spell out these objections as fairly as possible (in the words of the original post-er) and answer each one as best I can.

1. The first objection is that Animampono diminishes Lily’s sacrifice. Beth Krause wrote me to say that “what has bothered me from the start” about this theory “is that it ignores or trivializes the importance of Lily’s sacrifice.” Travis Prinzi echoed this criticism by saying that it seemed I was trying to make Lily’s love something quantitative that would evoke an almost mechanical response rather than remain mysterious. Several other readers said that they, too, preferred the undefined “saving quality” of Lily’s love to the resonance-reaction from Voldemort’s wand-and-near-Horcrux.

If Animampono in a nutshell is that the Phoenix-cored wand became the Horcrux and, in the presence of and because of Lily’s love, it threw off the second fragment of Voldemort‚Äôs soul which saved Harry’s life, how can it fairly be said Lily’s loving sacrifice is “ignored or trivialized”? Except for Lily’s sacrificial death resonating with the Phoenix/Christ core of the Dark Lord‚Äôs wand and her death being a separate and distinct murder from her husband‚Äôs, which together create a soul gragment ‚Äúto go‚Äù and the wand‚Äôs expelling the darkness of the soul fragment there, nothing happens. Lily’s love is the heart and engine of Animampono – and the big advance, I think, in this theory is that within the confines of the story as we have it, we get an explanation of how love could stop the Death Curse that is not aerily vague or sentimental.

I‚Äôve been told to think of Lily‚Äôs sacrifice as becoming a “Shield of love” over Harry. If I might indulge in a rhetorical question here, ‚ÄúWhere have we seen magic like that anywhere in these books?‚Äù A ‚ÄúShield of Love‚Äù may be a hearts-and-flowers mental image, I agree, but, again, the whole series turns on the point of how Harry survived the Death Curse and why his scar acts like no other curse scar. I do not think Ms. Rowling will leave us with this sentimental an explanation.

Again, as an image of how Christ’s death protects us from death and evil, this undefined and mysterious ‚ÄúLove Conquers All‚Äù idea works. As an element in detective/mystery fiction, however, it is not satisfying. It introduces Mystery (capital M) where we’re trying to solve a mystery. I doubt Ms. Rowling will break one of the ten commandments of detective fiction (the one forbidding introducing supernatural elements ex machina as explanation) even in a magical story like this one.

To Travis‚Äô excellent point that love is not a force in this story (or anywhere) that should be put into a box for empirical observation or mechanical analysis, I certainly agree. I don’t think I’m asking for a mechanical explanation – just something a little less off a Hallmark card quality than “her love saved me.” Dumbledore gives just this explanation to Harry in the hospital wing his first year. (Harry shares the Dumbledore explanation with the Riddle memory in the Chamber of Secrets, and Riddlemort pretends to understand it, clueless as he is about the power of love.) The Headmaster is offering a nice and simple explanation for an eleven year old kid just awake after a three day coma – but it isn‚Äôt something a writer of this quality would make the whole series turn on!

2. The second objection to Animampono is that Dumbledore would have certainly told Harry if he had any suspicions that Harry’s scar was a Horcrux, especially after their confrontation at the end of Phoenix. Dumbledore never mentions Harry’s scar as a Horcrux possibility, therefore, it isn’t one.

Janet Batchler put it this way: ‚ÄúDumbledore does talk to Harry about his scar, many many times. And he always treats it as a bit of a mystery, not as something with an arcane explanation — and this includes in Book 6, when Dumbledore has all his Horcrux research in hand. In fact, the book basically starts with Dumbledore asking “How’s the scar doing?” — then he relaxes and never bothers with it again. Were the scar a Horcrux, wouldn’t it be an object of Dumbledore’s curiosity, research, concern?‚Äù

Three quick responses to this. (1) Dumbledore does keep things from Harry even after the prophecy throw-down in Phoenix, (2) the consequences of alerting Harry to the possibility that one of the Horcruxes he must destroy is part of him make telling Harry a losing proposition, and (3) the story stops dead as soon as this is revealed.

One at a time.

Dumbledore has kept from Harry the fact of the Prophecy for five years supposedly because he did not think he could handle it – and it served no purpose to tell him (he thought). Dumbledore does not tell Harry about why he trusts Severus Snape for reasons we do not know but must assume are matters of Snape’s confidence, Harry’s vulnerability to a Legilimens, and Dumbledore’s prudence that the risks of telling Harry outweigh the benefits (i.e., the time is not yet right). Dumbledore‚Äôs mind and thoughts have never been completely or even widely opened to Harry – and there are good reasons for believing the last thing he wants Harry thinking about is that he has a Horcrux tattoo.

If Dumbledore has suspicions that the scar is a Horcrux, what would be the risk/benefit ratio of telling Harry this? The downside seems obvious. Harry freaks out and can think of nothing else except that he is a huge part of the problem to be resolved. How he is going to destroy the scar on his forehead is always going to the foremost of his thoughts (ahem).

Back to an objective view of story telling, too, because Harry can do nothing about the scar Horcrux but will be endlessly distracted about the bomb on his forehead, everything in the narrative will stop when his predicament is brought into the light. Of course it has to wait until the last book. Especially if Snape and the gang are using the scar-Horcrux as a means of spoon-feeding Voldemort deceptive information via selective Scar-o-Scope broadcasts from the Headmaster’s office.

Even if we want to pretend the demands of story telling don‚Äôt affect plot revelation timing, and if we accept the Harry-version of events on the Tower, then we can see why Harry doesn‚Äôt learn from the Headmaster about his scar Horcrux. Dumbledore seems to die suddenly and in action to protect Hogwarts and Draco. He does not have time to tell Harry as he dies about the scar Horcrux. I expect the Severus ‚ÄúStoppered Death‚Äù revelation, the Scar Horcrux, and his ‚ÄúStaged Death‚Äù are what he would have wanted to communicate with his two disciples on the Astronomy Tower – but couldn’t, if he really dies on the Tower.

The “Dumbledore didn’t tell him about it” objection is a dog that doesn’t hunt.

3. The third objection to Animampono is that it isn’t Lily’s love per se that saves Harry, it’s something in her blood that he shares. We know this is the case because of Quirrell’s death by contact with Harry’s skin, which Dumbledore (and later, Voldemort) explains as being a property in his Harry’s blood that he has because of his mother’s sacrifice for him. Voldemort has to have Harry’s blood for his Rebirthing party to get past this obstacle. It’s the blood that’s important.

The blood issue is an important point. My first thought, though, is that the blood only becomes relevant and important after Harry has survived the Death Curse. Blood doesn‚Äôt save him there, but, because of the ancient magic Dumbledore calls on to make the Dursley’s home a sanctuary for Harry, it protects him from the touch of evil men. His sister has the same blood as Harry’s mum, the magic requires a bond of blood between protected and protecting sacrifice-blood, voila, advent of blood issue.

Some readers may think that it is actually Lily’s spilt blood that saves Harry (in an echo of Calvary?) but this is atextual speculation. There‚Äôs no mention of a killing curse spilling blood. Certainly, though, there is a positive and negative meaning of “blood” in these books, the positive being the bond that invites loving sacrifice (e.g., Hagrid and Grawp), the negative being the Pride of clan that is blood’s demonic parroting (the Purebloods). I doubt that Lily’s blood had anything to do with Harry’s being saved rather than something which becomes important because of how it protects him. This ‚Äúblood magic‚Äù is, I think, a reference to the Eucharist.

4. The fourth objection to Animampono is just that “Harry isn’t a Horcrux! C’mon! If Harry were a Horcrux he’d act like Ginny did in Chamber. He doesn’t, therefore he isn’t a Horcrux.”

Janet Batchler wrote me, ‚ÄúWouldn’t your body containing a piece of Voldemort’s soul definitionally [sic] be a less-complete version of possession? That’s certainly how the Diary worked: It was possessed by the soul of Tom Riddle. In addition, look at Dumbledore’s discussion of Nagini as Horcrux. He talks about the difficulties of using a living creature as a Horcrux, but basically concludes that Voldemort has done so with Nagini. But wouldn’t these difficulties be compounded if one were using a human being? And how much further would they be compounded if the human being involved were your fiercest enemy?‚Äù

This is an objection that takes many different forms but always comes down to the simple confusion of Harry’s scar being the Horcrux with all of Harry being the Horcrux object. Harry is not the Horcrux; the scar is the Horcrux. Saying Harry has to be possessed by this mark is like saying tattoos are signs of demonic possession.

Harry wears the Horcrux Рand it hurts. He never takes pleasure in it beyond the exotic appearance it gives him (which is also a head ache. Sorry). It is the cause of “pain greater than he had ever experienced in his entire life” at least once a book and several times in two books. It messes with his mind and dreams, especially in Phoenix, and serves as a pipeline between him and the Dark Lord that he cannot control. It’s even possible that Voldemort does alter Harry’s behavior significantly in Phoenix while learning to look through Harry’s eyeballs unobtrusively.

But the scar is external to him and not of his person except superficially. As important as this scar is in transforming Harry into the Hogwarts Hermaphrodite or Philosopher’s Stone (see the three part literary alchemy chapter in Unlocking), Harry is not the Horcrux; the scar is the Horcrux.

But if you read the beginning of Phoenix again with the possibility in mind that Harry’s anger here is not adolescent fury but the effects of the Dark Lord within, I think you’ll see qualities in him that border on possession. Fortunately, Voldemort learns how to screen himself or block Harry’s reaction to his working the Scar-o-Scope. Imagine if Harry screamed his way through Phoenix and Prince…

5. The fifth objection to Animampono is that it is hackneyed, cliched, Back-and-Fill storytelling. How many books and movies in the last ten years have you seen or read in which the hero turns out to be the bomb or virus or enemy plant Рand even s/he was unaware of it until the last episode? Surely Ms. Rowling isn’t going to give us this chestnut as our resolution to the mystery of the Harry-Voldemort connection.

I confess that this objection strikes me as ad hoc, or just a bizarre way of saying, “I don’t like the idea of Harry’s scar being a Horcrux” or “I wouldn’t have written the story that way.” Part of my trouble is probably that my answer to the rhetorical question in the objection is that I can’t think of any books or movies with this ending, if I have been assured there have been bunches (I don’t get out enough, I guess).

Fantasy fiction, by definition, is the projection of interior conflicts in story to external, visible antagonisms for resolution. The Harry Potter series, as fantasy fiction, is about every human being’s design for love and consequent destiny to combat evil, their free will acceptance of this destiny, and the ego sacrificial choices necessary to win the battle with our fallen nature. Harry/Voldemort is a doppelganger symbol of our new and old men in conflict. The scar Horcrux connection, requiring loving sacrifice of self to overcome and be born again, brilliantly and subtly (nothing didactic or heavy handed here, a la a Stone Table), reveals and communicates the answer to our own struggles as fallen human beings.

And, as we’ll see in the next chapters, that this story topos is used in many movies and novels of our time is not an argument against its usage but for its usage. People writing in the same time period, be it the Elizabethans, the Victorians, or us postmoderns, use the same themes and devices because they answer the questions in the way we expect, demand really. Hackneyed? No, just in keeping with the times. Could the Harry Potter books be as popular as they are if they were written like a Georgian era manners-and-morals piece?

Forgive me the ad absurdum rhetorical question.

Harry’s scar, of course, does not have to be a Horcrux. Quite a bit of the story, alas, points to this and it is consistent with the themes and meaning of this “Everyman” alchemical tale, as I explain them in Unlocking Harry Potter. Harry‚Äôs greatest obstacle to becoming the saving Quintessence is his Pride and Prejudice. The cure for these conditions is humility and loving sympathy for others. Harry realizing that he is carrying on his forehead Voldemort‚Äôs key to survival and immortality, that his individual life is in part the reason Voldemort will always be a threat to the community, is a grand way of resolving his self-importance and arrogance.

It also, in one blow, makes him the Gryffindor/Slytherine androgyne that is the Philosopher’s Stone and Voldemort’s bane.

If this is a clich?©, I look forward to reading the books and seeing all the movies with this edifying and engaging theme and meaning.

What’s left in the story

I’m going to assume that I have said enough on the subjects of (a) the mysteries in the Harry Potter books that Harry’s scar being a Horcrux resolves and of (b) how a Horcrux could have been planted accidentally and unknowingly on Harry’s forehead and protected him from the Avadra Kedavra death curse. Let’s take it for granted that Harry’s scar is a Horcrux. What has to happen in the seventh and concluding novel because of this?

Well, first we have to get to the point that Harry finds out that he is wearing a tattoo Horcrux that he cannot peel off. I expect this will come just before or just after he destroys the other Horcruxes or what he believes are the remaining Horcruxes. Whenever he finds out, nothing else will matter from that point on except what Harry decides to do.

Linda McCabe was the first person to point out to me the remarkable number of beheadings, near beheadings, and various states of headlessness there is throughout the books. From Nearly Headless Nick and the Headless Hunt to the battle of fake wands (in which Ron’s wand-parrot bites off Harry’s wand-fish head), from Buckbeak’s faux execution by McNair to the twins’ Headless Hats, it is amazing what a series of foreshadowings we have had that Harry will be beheaded or seem to be beheaded at story’s end.

Ms. Rowling has said that the greatest single line in English literature is Sydney Carton’s last words at the guillotine as he walks to his sacrificial beheading to save the lives of his friends (“It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known,” Tale of Two Cities, Book 3, chapter 15). One of the questions left to answer is “Will Harry choose to die for his friends by beheading because of the scar Horcrux?”

Another is, if Harry is decapitated to destroy the scar Horcrux (or seems to be, a la Buckbeak), who will kill Lord Voldemort? One assumes it will be a Vanquisher who satisfies the Prophecy and who is not Harry; the only sure thing about prophecies in good stories is that they will be misinterpreted or misunderstood so the odds have always been against Harry being the Chosen One except in appearance.

And, of course, there is a very good possibility the scar Horcrux has already been neutralized, at least as a camera. Severus’ Parthian blow to Harry in Prince is to slash at Harry with his wand and slam him “across the face” with a “white-hot, whip-like something” (Chapter 28, pg. 604). A little Sectumsempra Horcrux-extinguishing surgery under cover of being angered by Harry’s calling him a coward? Worth considering.

Whatever the ending or Voldemort‚Äôs fate, Animampono provides us with an explanation of how Harry‚Äôs head could have become a Horcrux mat. To the Dark Lord‚Äôs misfortune and to Harry’s grand good fortune, a Phoenix or any part of a Phoenix does not, at least when in resonance with sacrificial love, act as a multiple Horcrux holder. The soul fragment from Lily‚Äôs murder flies from the wand instead with the death curse, hits Harry in the forehead, and becomes his scar. The soul portion repels the killing curse, voila – Vapormort and The Boy Who Lived.

And we have a postmodern doppelganger/morality tale that is the great story of our times. How will Harry resolve his Horcrux, i.e., die to his old self and become the true Dumbledore Man? By love, sacrificial love, that resolves all contraries, unites the quartenaries as Quintessence, and throws light into darkness, defeating death. More to the point, Harry’s scar makes him a Hogwarts Hermaphrodite and philosophical orphan, the alchemical Gryffindor/Slytherin androgyne destined to become the Philosopher’s Stone and love conductor who destroys the Dark Lord.

Will Harry die in the story, beyond a figurative death, to be born again?

I certainly don’t know. I think we do know from all the foreshadowing beheadings and Headless and Nearly Headless folk and magical creatures in the books that it looks bad for Harry’s head as a Horcrux hanger. Let’s hope a Headless Hat or ‚ÄúNeville flying for England‚Äù can keep Harry‚Äôs head and neck together a la the Green Knight in the Arthurian legend or in an echo of Frodo‚Äôs destruction of the Sauron Ring Horcrux with an assist from Gollum at Mt. Doom.

Conclusion

The weird thing about “Harry-as-Horcrux” to me is that it raises the possibility that Harry isn’t the superhero of the stories. He may very well be the Chosen One package that had to be used by those fighting the Dark Lord, even if it meant deceiving Harry again and again, not to mention putting him through psychological agonies and into life-threatening conflicts. Thinking of how Harry responds to Rufus Scrimgeour’s requests to be used by the Ministry, just imagine how Harry will feel when he finds out he is not the show, Snape is the show.

If Snape has orchestrated all the events of Prince using Harry the way he’d use a microphone or a camera so he could get the drop on Voldemort in Deathly Hallows, wow, that would turn our thinking right-side up. Snape has just been brutally honest with Harry when he has reminded him that he is just a boy and not an especially talented kid. What a sobering message for us all, at least inasmuch as we, like Harry, thought the books were all about him.

I look forward to reading what you think.

Comments

  1. “Snape has just been brutally honest with Harry when he has reminded him that he is just a boy and not an especially talented kid. What a sobering message for us all, at least inasmuch as we, like Harry, thought the books were all about him.”

    Well, I find that Harry seems to display a certain “right brain” talent, in that when ever he is placed under pressure, he can do things well beyond normal wizards his age (producing a patronus, apparating with so little experience, teaching a DADA class, surviving the Triwizard Tournament, etc.), but in a normal classroom setting he flounders, where the left-brained Hermione excels. Still, even with the same essential study habits as Ron, he still earns either Outstanding or Exceeds Expectations in all but two or three subjects, one of which he completely ignored, and another where he passed out half way through the exam. He preforms best by doing and the seat of his pants, which I believe he gets from his father rather than his mother, who appears to have been more bookish.

    Yet, there very little in the way of an overt mention of this in the books. What has been critical to his survival and his overall path has been his choices, which of course was echoed by Dumbledore in CoS.

    And the fact that he does have talent, in whatever regard, might drive the lesson home even harder. Here we readers are, arguing over how powerful and talented Harry is, but it was Snape who finally did it.

  2. I would have thought that the answer to your rhetorical question was obvious – the Protego Charm, of course. The Shield Charm. Interestingly, Harry’s Protego Charm has been described at least once as unusually powerful.

  3. Hello, I’m new to this site and I’m intruiged by the idea of Harry’s scar being a Horcrux. However, (and if this was previously mentioned I apologize) would this not have interesting implications given the contents of the prophecy?

    The prophecy says:”…either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.”

    Well, if Harry is a Horcrux then BOTH Voldemort and Harry will live even if Harry destroys Voldemort in the body in addition to the other horcruxes. The only way then for the prophecy to be true would be if Voldemort killed Harry, for even if he lost a part of his soul, at least then Harry would be dead and Voldemort would be alive.

    This sets up something rather interesting then, although perhaps far-fetched. If and when Harry realizes that he is the final Horcrux (if he is), he may then go willingly to his death in order to save the world from evil (which is Voldemort) thus reenforcing the Harry as Christ theme.

    Please let me know what you think of this.

  4. Hi, Jane. Welcome to HogPro.

    Harry is not the Horcrux; it is attached to him in some way. There is one theory that the Dark Lord’s plan was to attach it to his skull so it would be buried with the dead boy. Killing Harry would not destroy the Horcrux, consequently. The scar probably covers it.

    Personally, I think Severus destroyed the Horcrux when he zapped Harry in the forehead as he left Hogwarts. Few here agree!

    John, hoping this helps

  5. Thanks John, that was very helpful indeed!

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