The North Tower #24: The Changeling Hypothesis (2): The Chamber of Secrets
Hi everybody! Today, I thought I’d continue to comment the Changeling Hypothesis, which I started on last week. I’ve received loads of owls on the subject, and most point out the same things; so I thought I’d start with that the most common questions.
1) “JKR said in an interview that Harry isn’t related to Voldemort, so you saying that he’s in a way the heir of Slytherin can’t be true.”
Hem hem, what I said was “He [Harry] was, not by blood but in soul, the last descendant of the House’s founder and thereby a potential ‘true heir.'” Note the NOT BY BLOOD part. For Harry to have Tom Riddle’s soul in him doesn’t make him a blood relative to Riddle; it’s more like an adoption, if you will. (Normally, I wouldn’t have gone back on this, because I trust that you’re all capable to read and to re-read passages you find weird or difficult to make sure you read it right. Misreading things is totally normal [I do it all the time], but please check again before you put it in the feedback form. I got about 60 owls with the above question/statement in three days so I probably should’ve emphasised the “not by blood” part already in my article. I’ll try to write more explicitly in the future.)
2) “This [the changeling hypothesis] could explain the weird instrument in Dumbledore’s office after the attack on Mr Weasly in OotP, when first there is one snake and then Dumbledore asks “but in essence divided?” and it splits itself into two snakes.”
Yes! I totally agree (with the about 100 of you who sent this), this could be a major clue supporting the CH (Changeling Hypothesis). The first snake would then represent Voldemort at the time when Harry (and/or the Tom Riddle soul) SPIRITUALLY was with him in the snake and the splitting into two snakes would then probably be after Harry had woken up and Voldemort and the TR soul were again separated. The main problem I find with this is that it would be solid proof that Dumbledore actually knows about Harry having two souls (and that there was not only some power that was transmitted the night at Godric’s Hollow), so why wouldn’t he then have told him when he was supposed to “tell him everything”? Leaving out “Oh and yes Harry, you’re actually carrying Tom Riddle’s soul inside of you,” seems like a major thing to me and you’d think that Dumbledore would have learnt his lesson about keeping stuff from Harry by now. On the other hand, if the CH holds, JKR is not going to reveal that until the very end of the series (it’d be like revealing the killer in the middle of a detective novel), and it might not be crucial for Harry to know just yet. Or it could be that Dumbledore hasn’t figured out exactly how this fits into the prophecy yet. (I’ll get back to that in the CoS analysis below.)
3) “If Harry has TR’s soul in him, shouldn’t he have been able to control the Basilisk in the CoS?”
Yes, he probably should have. Though Tom Riddle-memory was there too, so the snake might have been really confused about whose orders to follow. I think the significant part here though is that Harry didn’t EVEN TRY to control the snake using Parseltongue. He never spoke to it. He just ran, got the sword and fought. Harry isn’t much of a “talking your way out of a tight spot”-type of person (which, for example, Pettigrew seems to be; I highly recommend the Marauder article at Red Hen on this subject). Harry’s more of an “attack is your best defense”-person. (e.g. when fighting Quirrell in PS/SS, fighting the Basilisk in CoS, jumping on Sirius in the Shrieking Shack in PoA, attacking Voldemort in GoF, etc.) Often, he doesn’t think about the most obvious solution until it’s too late (e.g. Sirius’s knife when swimming in the lake in the Triwizard tournament in GoF, using the mirror to contact Sirius in OotP [although, fair point says he didn’t know it was a mirror by then. Still, he could have opened his present earlier just to see what it was], going to Snape to tell him about Sirius’s “capture” in OotP etc.). If Harry was a role playing character (in the Whitewolf series), he probably wouldn’t have a very high “wits”-score. (Loads of “perception” + “alertness” though, with those reflexes.) Okay, that was a digression, on with other things
4) “I think the Changeling Hypothesis seems too complicated; we must remember that JKR’s main audience is children, after all, and they wouldn’t get it.”
Well, I remember JKR saying several times in her interviews that for one thing she writes stories that she would want to read herself (and as she’s an adult, and obviously an educated and intelligent one at that, she wouldn’t like to read simplistic novels), and secondly she says that one should not underestimate children and young people’s minds. I totally agree with that. I don’t think that it’s the younger audience that’ll have a hard time understanding if the CH actually turns out to be correct (and HP is a series that can also be read at different levels, quite like Animal Farm by George Orwell). It’s more likely some older teenagers or narrow-minded adults who will have problems with it.
5) “If Dumbledore knows that Tom Riddle’s soul is actually in Harry, why would he then keep calling Voldemort “Tom,” since there is no “Tom”?”
For three reasons I think: 1) Voldemort still retains all of Tom’s memories and Dumbledore calling him by his old name reminds him of the fact that Dumbledore knows about his past and the fact that he’s a half-blood, which he’s scared will become known amongst his followers (since most of them probably doesn’t know). 2) It reminds Voldemort that he used to be Dumbledore’s student and that Dumbledore is a lot older and more experienced than he is. It puts Voldemort back in the teacher-student relationship he used to have with Dumbledore at Hogwarts, or at least that’s probably the thought. 3) I think that Dumbledore (if he know about the two souls) really wishes to keep the information about the whereabouts of Voldemort’s soul hidden from Voldemort. He obviously doesn’t know that he’s missing his soul, and Dumbledore wants it to stay this way until he’s found a way to solve the problem.
Two more things supporting the Changeling Hypothesis
1) Harry’s talent on the Quidditch Pitch
As I stated last time, the CH could explain why Harry seems to be exceptionally magical (two magical souls). Well, his main strength is Quidditch (which he himself states in GoF) and he’s truly exceptional at it, being the youngest seeker in a hundred years (I wonder if the one before him was Dumbledore, by the way; just a random thought, no evidence whatsoever). Sure, James was good, but I’m willing to bet that Harry’s way better. So, how do I get the CH into this? Well, take a look at the following:
Tom Riddle’s alias (which he created at Hogwarts) was Voldemort. The classical interpretation of this is to divide it into VOL (French for “flight” OR “theft”), DE (French for “of” OR “from”) and MORT (French for “death”)
Now, “VOL” is derived from the verb “VOLER,” which means both “to fly” and “to steal.” It gets a lot more interesting when you look at the evolution of the verb from Latin through ancient French to modern French though. (Ancient French is the stage in the evolution Latin to French which lasted from around 8th-9th century to around 14th century, by the way) Okay, so my professor showed us the evolution of VOLER about a year and a half ago, so it won’t be super exact with dates and everything, okay? I’ll just give you the main outline:
In Latin (where I guess it would have been VOLARE, but I’m not sure because I was never any good at Latin, so I’ll use the French spelling), “VOLER” signified “to fly,” referring to the flight of birds. Sometime later, because of the way birds of prey would dive towards the ground and snatch up little animals, the verb got its second definition: “to rapidly take something” which then developed into “to steal.” The two definitions kept the same form (“voler”) all the way to modern French, and so did their derivatives. “VOL” thus means either “flight” or “theft.”
These different meanings make for quite a few interpretations such as “theft from death” or “flight from death” (meaning that he steals himself away from death by achieving immortality), “theft of death” or “flight of death” (meaning that he steals other people’s lives and that he’s in a way Death incarnate – I’m sure his ego would have liked that thought). One doesn’t really have to choose either – “Voldemort” can very well mean all these things at once.
What I was thinking about was the “flight”-“theft” connection in relation to the evolution of VOLER. Think about it, Harry’s specialty on the Quidditch Pitch is DIVES, like when he snatched the Rememberall or the Golden Egg. Also think about the description of Victor Krum in GoF, who’s a DIVE expert, with a HAWKLIKE nose and looks like an overgrown BIRD OF PREY (GoF, p. 95) when flying around on this broom. Both Harry and Krum are in addition to this Seekers, whose job it is to SNATCH the Snitch. What says that Tom Riddle wasn’t a Seeker too, and partly chose his alias “Voldemort” based on his talent as a flyer? Sure, nothing in canon says that Tom Riddle did play Quidditch, but I find this connection (especially in relation with the CH) a bit too intriguing to overlook. (I am a linguistics major, after all. :-))
2) The painful possessing process (that’s called alliteration by the way. :-))
When Harry was possessed by Voldemort, he felt enormous pain, but he could still remember everything that happened. When Ginny was possessed, she couldn’t remember anything she did when under the control of Riddle and she hasn’t said anything about the process being painful (seems quite like sleepwalking to me). Quirrell didn’t double over in pain all the time either, so I think we can safely presume that Harry is a special case because of the connection between him and Voldemort. In accordance with the CH, Voldemort possessing Harry should cause some sort of inner struggle, where the TR soul is pulled between Harry and Voldemort. This also gives us an indication to how extremely difficult a task it would be to extract the TR soul from Harry without killing him. It seems to have grown together with the HP soul.
And now on to the Chamber of Secrets
When reading the CH, one thing that really struck me was the suggestion at the end, that since Voldemort now is nothing more than a corporeal memory, Harry might be able to “obliviate” him out of existence. I highly doubt that this is the solution, but the idea made me see something that should’ve been obvious to me at a much earlier state, namely the parallel between Voldemort now (end of Phoenix) and Tom Riddle-memory down in the Chamber of Secrets.
If I go by the CH and consider that Voldemort since GoF is really an embodied memory, containing the sense of self and memories of Tom Riddle/Voldemort including all his magical abilities that he acquired over the years, the parallel to TRM (Tom Riddle-memory) is striking. TRM is also a memory, who, through the death of Ginny Weasley would have become corporeal (one assumes, seeing as he becomes clearer and clearer the more energy he takes from her). TRM contains a sense of self and all the memories of Tom Riddle up until the end of his fifth year (the rest of his knowledge about himself as Voldemort are things that Ginny told him). He also apparently retains all of Tom’s magical abilities, seeing as he’s able to speak to the snake, take control of Ginny and use a wand. It seems probable that, had the plan worked and Ginny died, Tom Riddle would have continued his life at age 15 or 16, and there would thus have been two Voldemorts in the story. (which would have been weird but extremely interesting).
This takes us back to the question about the soul and how one can exist without it. I’ve received quite a lot of e-mails pointing out that when a Dementor takes a soul, that person will continue to exist but without memories and with no sense of self. This is true, but I think that in the cases of both Vapormort and TRM, the absence of a soul doesn’t mean the same thing as it does for a Dementor victim. The main difference is that Vapormort and TRM still have their memories and a sense of self, which then wouldn’t be part of the soul exactly. Maybe Dementors actually suck out two things with the Kiss: the soul and the sense of self/memories and that it is possible to separate the two units.
This of course opens up the can of worms about the nature of the soul, what it is, what it does etc,. and I don’t really want to go there because I’m not a philosopher and I don’t know what JKR’s view on the matter is either. So, what if we consider the soul to be the “essence” Dumbledore talks about in OotP, or rather, what if that “essence” is the combination soul + memories? That would explain the “in essence divided” even better – Harry has the soul-part and Voldemort has the memory-part of the essence of Tom Riddle.
When it comes to TRM, he’s killed when the diary is destroyed. He’s able to exist outside the diary and is spiritually tied to it (feels when somebody writes and is able to answer). One could make the parallel between TRM and the diary (which is his “essence” in a way) and Voldemort and Harry. In both cases, TRM and V would operate independently of the vessel containing the part of their essence called “soul” and retain all their memories and their sense of self.
What does this mean in plain English? Well, that I think that the key to destroying Voldemort (vanquishing him as the prophecy states) is to destroy his soul, which at present resides in Harry. Like the destruction of the diary got rid of Riddle, the destruction of the TR soul should get rid of Voldemort.
There’s only one snag: how do you do this without killing Harry? And how do you even do it in the first place?
There’ve been a lot of rumors flying about lately about how Harry’s next kiss might actually refer to being kissed by a Dementor. This would undoubtedly be a way of extracting the TR soul (and destroying it too because I don’t think you can retrieve a soul from a Dementor), but how the heck could it be done without also taking Harry’s soul and the rest of his essence in the process? I could possibly see a scenario where a Dementor swoops down and kisses Harry, gets the TR soul and is then chased away by a Patronus conjured by some friend. But it’s a bit unlikely, and it goes against the prophecy, which states that “either must die at the hand of the other,” implying direct action and interference on the part of the killer at least. So Voldemort sending a Dementor at Harry wouldn’t qualify. On the other hand, if it was Harry who made the decision to let the Dementor kiss him, knowing that it would destroy Voldemort, Voldemort would die “by his hand” in a sense. But (again), that would be very very “Harry as a Christ symbol” (like The Matrix Revolutions), and it would give the entire series the sort of Christian symbolic undertone that C.S. Lewis uses in the Narnia series. Now, I’ve already written a couple of articles about religion in the HP series and I’m not denying that the religious symbolic plane is already present, but to make that final statement and “crucify” Harry would really be taking the step across the border into religious allegory, and I somehow don’t think that JKR would choose to go there. (Though it would be extremely funny in an ironic way if she did, considering all the Christian fundamentalists who have been exclaiming that Harry Potter is satanic and against God’s law etc :-))
Another possibility is of course the discovery of some new weapon or spell or whatnot that will extract the TR soul from Harry without him dying (or vanquish Voldemort in some other way if either the CH is wrong or if there are alternative methods for killing him). Either way, it’s going to make for an intriguing and exciting end
See you next time.