The Crux of it All
Hello everybody. Yes, I've been gone for a while. One reason is that I got a job, moved in with my boyfriend and just got so much else to do. The other, more important reason, is that I've been uninspired. The problem, I find, with Book 6 is that JKR throws in so much new stuff (most of which is probably entirely inconsequential) to just (in my mind) try to throw the reader off track as much as possible. There is so much information and so many new characters in this book, which is very different from the other five, that there must be a whole net of red herrings among them. It really frustrates me. It feels as though I'm walking through thick smoke and can't see anything clearly anymore. This, combined with not enough time to sit down and re-read the series two-three times makes writing very difficult. If you feel that you can take the risk of this being utterly speculative and basically sucking from an academic point of view, then please follow me while I stumble through the smoke and hopefully, we'll find some clarity in it. If you're only interested in good, solid analysis, you should probably press back and return in a few months when I've hopefully sorted out my head a little. :-)
Ok, enough moping. Happy Easter! Let's talk about Horcruxes.
I was quite pleased when JKR told us about them, in the hey, seems I've been on the right track after all kind of way. Not in the sense that I'd foreseen the entire plot, but because I knew I'd got one thing right and probably would get one more before the series' end. My first column on this site was about the prophecy and the importance in the distinction between the words vanquish and kill- how Harry would not kill (e.g. with a sword or an Avada Kedavra) Voldemort, but neutralise him in some way or another. A while later, I made an analysis of Red Hen's Changeling Hypothesis (Voldemort's soul trapped in Harry's body), which now seems to be quite genius if not entirely correct.
I guess we can start there: Yes, I belong to the group who believes that Harry's scar is the last horcrux, and my reason for believing it is really quite simple: it's just such pure, classic drama. Think about it: there is just so much juice in it and you can spin it in so many ways.
How I think JKR would use a Harry-is-the-last-Horcrux storyline:
The evil/demon within. How to face and conquer your inner darkness. (Very symbolic, could be really good if nicely written.)
- Dramatic twist: Harry destroys what he thinks is the last Horcrux, only to have Voldemort attack him from the inside (or some such thing).
- I think it's fairly certain that Harry won't conquer Voldy through sheer magical power. It just wouldn't be believable since Harry is so young and Voldy is now the most powerful wizard there is (since Dumbledore capped it). So far, Harry has escaped Voldemort because of instinct, and, most importantly, courage. This is courage of the old-school definition, meaning strength and purity of heart (comes from the French word coeur, which means heart). In medieval literature, courage is the knight's greatest virtue, incorporating bravery, but more importantly, a strong and righteous heart. So far, Harry has learned lessons of courage, love and sacrifice all intimately connected in the story. He's in the lion House, a true Gryffindor, who refuses to cower when he can fight and has even used a sword on occasion. :-) If Harry were to conquer Voldemort through some extra-special spell that he, Ron and Hermione find out about at the eleventh hour, when it seems like JKR has spent six
books preparing for a battle of courage and inner strength, I would, quite frankly, lose a lot of respect for the story. My money on the show down is on Red Hen's spirit quest theory (which you can read here), which I'll analyse another time.
So, let's move on to the Horcrux storyline in general.
Let me start by saying that I don't think Dumbledore is entirely right in his outline. The main reason for thinking this is again the simple notion of dramatic effect. A decoy is just so much fun, as we saw in Book Six. All that work and sacrifice for nothing. Compelling and very heart-wrenching. From the first six books, we know that JKR likes repetition, but not simple repetition there needs to be a twist to it. I'll get back to this.
First thing I think we need to do is to separate the known from the assumed. We don't know, for example, that there are seven Horcruxes. Dumbledore might have been right in thinking that that was Voldemort's goal, but we don't know whether he made them all or what has actually happened. In fact, only three pieces of Voldemorts soul are confirmed: the ring, the diary and the piece inside Voldemort (former Vapormort). The mysterious locket could also be counted among the confirmed pieces, I suppose. IF there are, in total, seven pieces, we're missing only three. If one is Harry (or Harry's scar) and the other two are objects (such as the Hufflepuff cup and something of Ravenclaw's I really see no point in speculating in this, despite interesting coincidences such as Zacharias Smith's last name and House) then we have them all. That is, IF there are in total seven pieces. At the end of the book, Harry believes there to be seven HORCRUXES: the ring, the cup, the locket, the diary, something of Gryffindor's, something of Ravenclaw's and Nagini. Since Voldemort necessarily still has one piece of his soul inside himself (or how could he split his soul to supposedly make Nagini into a horcrux?), that would make a total of EIGHT pieces, which isn't a very magical number at all.
The whole soul-splitting process is really very confusing. Slughorn tells us that the soul is split when you commit a murder and can then be channeled into an object which will keep the piece of soul safe and keep you from dying. The immediate question then becomes: does the soul split automatically every time you kill someone and, if so, what happens to the soul pieces that don't become Horcruxes? Do they simply disappear? Do they go back to rejoin their original host? After all, Voldemort has killed a lot of people (or so we're told), so the question is quite relevant. For argument's sake, say that the soul does tear every time you kill someone in JKR's world but that the split piece rejoins the host unless channeled into a Horcrux (leaving a permanent soul scar, so to speak). This could then explain a lot about what happened the night at Godric's Hollow, namely:
Voldy gets there and kills James. The soul is split but the torn piece stays with Voldy. He then kills Lily, who's begging for Harry's life. Same thing happens again. Thirdly, he tries to kill Harry and the soul is split a third time, only this time, Lily's sacrifice makes the death curse rebound upon himself, killing his body. It can't kill the piece of soul that's still inside him because he has his Horcruxes, so that last remaining part becomes Vapormort. Meanwhile, the piece of soul that broke off when he Avada Kedavraed Harry has nowhere to go, because the host Voldy does no longer exist. The piece of soul then goes into Harry, the probably closest and definitely most receptive living host around, manifesting itself as a scar on his forehead. And voilà, Harry's direct mental link to Voldy, the shared feelings, the transferral of power etc etc is explained. Harry's scar is an accidentally made Horcrux. That's of course, if a Horcrux can happen by accident and if the soul
is automatically split when committing a murder in JKR's world. A lot of ifs, I agree, but I like the theory so I'll go with it.
The more interesting question now becomes: Does Voldemort know that Harry's scar contains a piece of his own soul? If yes, when did he find out? The second question is the most important, I think, because if Voldemort realised this after GoF (say at the same time as he realised that he could manipulate Harry's mind and feelings) and if Dumbledore was right about Voldemort being one Horcrux short of his goal when he went to kill Harry as a baby, the snake theory might not be wrong. This would then mean a total of eight Horcruxes or nine pieces of Voldy-soul in total a very nice twist after Harry destroys number seven and realises that ooops, there is one more that no one knew about and, ooooops again, it's me! Personally, I think counting the number of soul fragments is more logical than counting the number of Horcruxes, meaning that I find the theory of seven pieces (Voldy, Harry, the diary, the ring, the locket, the cup, something of Ravenclaw's) or that of nine pieces (all the above plus something of Gryffindor's and the snake) the most compelling, seven and nine both being strong magical numbers traditionally. I'll go with the seven-piece theory however, since I like the thought of the snake being a decoy. I personally think that when Voldemort went to Godric's hollow that night, he only had five Horcruxes and that Harry's murder was supposed to complete his set of House Horcruxes, turning into something of Gryffindor's (an object either already at the house or something he'd brought with him). After all, there should be some significance in the name of the town being Godric's Hollow. Lily and James probably had a Gryffindor heirloom on the mantle piece which Wormtail had told him about.
From the angle of storytelling, the idea of only six Horcruxes makes sense because the fact is that JKR only has one more book to tie all her loose ends together (according to herself), and unless she's planning on making it several thousand pages long, she'll have to focus on a few important events that can serve several storylines at the same time. Just abandoning all the different stories she's created to have Harry go off to chasing five Horcruxes (locket, cup, snake, Ravenclaw and Gryffindor) plus Voldemort seems a bit unlikely. It will simply take too long. For the same reason, I think that RAB has already destroyed the locket, leaving Harry with only three battles with Voldemort's soul in Book Seven: the Battle of the Hufflepuff cup, the Battle of the Ravenclaw whatever and, combined in one great, final battle, the Battle of Souls - Gryffindor (Harry's scar) versus Slytherin (the last soul piece inside Voldemort). Come on guys, high drama, strong symbolism and beautiful symmetry. Even if I'm totally wrong, I'll be proud of myself for this one. :-)
See you next time,
PS. I'm utterly fed up with all the pop-up commercials on my feedback e-mail so I'll read all your comments in the forums instead. Thanks for staying with the column and for all the positive and inspiring messages you've sent me during the past months. You guys rock.
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