Soul of the Phoenix

Bob Sindeldecker suggested in a recent editorial that both Harry and Voldemort might already be dead. According to this theory, the botched Avada Kedavra curse from Voldemort’s attempt to kill Harry on Halloween 1981 split both of their souls from their personas. Voldemort’s soul then entered Harry’s body, where it resides today (we suggest you read “YOU’RE DEAD, POTTER!” before reading further here).

Unfortunately, Bob could not explain what happened to Harry’s soul. If the soul needs a living body to reside in, as the Changeling Hypothesis suggests, and if Bob is right that only one soul can occupy a body, then it must have entered the nearest living body that was without a soul. This rules out other human beings. So where could Harry’s soul have gone?

Esther Kleinig provided the answer:

It’s in Fawkes.

This Scheme is for the Birds

When asking ourselves what happened we have to consider not only what is logical, but what makes sense for the story. We also have to take Jo Rowling’s clues seriously; like Dumbledore she has never led us astray. Esther pointed out that Jo once suggested we read “Bless Me Ultima,” a story in which a witch becomes almost immortal — or at least very difficult to kill — because her soul is kept inside a bird, away from her body (Jodel, author of the Changeling Hypothesis, makes a similar reference). If this is a clue to the mystery behind Harry and Voldemort, then it is almost certain that Harry’s soul is hidden inside a bird.

The question is, which bird?

We think it is safe to rule out two possibilities: 1) Hedwig and 2) a new bird we haven’t met yet. We rule out Hedwig for three reasons. First, she is young, probably not even born when Harry was attacked. Second, Dumbledore would certainly have taken her in if she had Harry’s soul within her. Third, it is just too coincidental that Hagrid just happened to buy Harry a gift, that it just happened to be an owl, and that Harry just happened to select this owl. That’s a kind of “magical” series of events that makes for bad storytelling; Jo wouldn’t pull something like that on us.

What about a new bird? Again, we doubt it. Something as important as Harry’s soul would not be allowed to simply prance off and be ignored until the end of the series. Again, Jo wouldn’t do that. If Harry’s soul is hidden somewhere, it must be where we might have detected it long ago if we simply knew where to look. As Galadriel Waters pointed out — and we cannot thank her enough! — the Harry Potter series is a giant mystery, and mysteries must have reliable clues for the readers to figure out. So Harry’s soul must be somewhere that we weren’t supposed to figure out until the revelation makes us slap our heads and go, “D’Oh! Of course!”

We think it’s in Fawkes. This makes sense for the story in several ways. First, we already know Fawkes. Second, Dumbledore keeps Fawkes around, and that lends a real significance to his friendship with this particular bird. Their relationship is more than just a friendship between man and bird; it is a way for Dumbledore to keep Harry’s soul safe (although for much of the friendship, Dumbledore may not have been aware of this fact. As Bob mentioned, animals are more instinctual than intellectual: their communication doesn’t take the form of distinct words or ideas).

Third, Fawkes is really the only bird that could safely hold onto Harry’s soul. Birds are normally short-lived, not the least because they are hunted by both man and other animals. If it was in another bird, that bird could die (or be killed) and Harry’s soul would be lost. Fawkes, however, is immortal, so he is the perfect keeper for something so precious. If Harry’s immortal soul has to be anywhere besides in his own body, Fawkes’ body is the perfect place for it.

How Did it Happen?

We believe Fawkes must have been present at the moment Voldemort attacked Harry. If you wonder how, just think back to the end of OotP (pg. 815, US edition) — or for that matter, Harry’s worst moment in the Chamber Of Secrets, when he thought all was lost. Both times, Fawkes appeared and saved the day just when he was needed — and by “just when” we mean “at the exact moment.” He has a most curious habit of showing up just in the nick of time. Most curious — almost psychic, in fact. But that’s a subject for another editorial.

Whether by some wandless directive of Dumbledore’s or his own as-yet unexplained abilities, Fawkes knows when Harry needs him. It does indeed seem as if Fawkes has some sort of psychic connection to Harry. Something like Harry’s connection to Voldemort, in fact. Not just “like” — exactly the same. Harry can “read” Voldemort because he carries Voldemort’s soul, and Fawkes can do the same with Harry for the same reason. And don’t forget the connection of Harry and Voldemort through the brother wands of Fawkes — it already seems like there’s an apparently destiny-determined bond between the three of them. As Esther put it, “this is a triangle that is just too good to not be true.”

SO, we think it went something like this:

1) Voldemort murders James Potter
2) Lily makes her clever deal — “My life for Harry’s!” — craftily drawing Voldemort into a magical contract he will surely break (bear in mind, though, that the counter-charm, if you support it, still fits this theory)
3) Voldemort agrees, then murders Lily
4) Voldemort tries to murder Harry, thus breaking the deal he agreed to
5) Now, several things happen at once:

  •  Fawkes appears in the Potters’ house
  • the Avada Kedavra strikes Harry
  • Harry’s soul is split from his persona
  • the Avada Kedavra bounces back on Voldemort
  • Voldemort’s soul and persona are split, his body vaporized
  • Voldemort’s soul enters Harry’s body (Harry’s soul has been severed and traumatised, leaving room for Voldemort’s more powerful soul to take over)
  • Harry’s soul enters Fawkes

6) the Potters’ house is destroyed (we believe this is due to the botched, and very powerful, Avada Kedavra curse)
7) Fawkes returns to Dumbledore, alerting him of the situation through whatever form of communication he uses

This raises more than a few questions:

Q: How did Fawkes know to come at just that moment?
A: We don’t know. Maybe Dumbledore sent him, or maybe he knew he should be there somehow. The timing may have been pure luck; Dumbledore sent him to check on the Potters, and he just happened to arrive right then.

Jo Rowling has said she doesn’t believe in fate, so we have to wonder just what to make of the Prophecy. Within the story however the Prophecy may have ensured that Harry’s soul had to be caught by the Phoenix. Or, maybe a better description is that prophecies simply state what will be, rather than govern events, so Fawkes was just playing a role in a script written on the tides of time. We don’t know, but it’s fun to wonder.

Q: Fawkes has regenerated himself many times. Why hasn’t Harry’s soul been “lost” again?
A: Because Fawkes is a Phoenix. When Fawkes regenerates he does “die” (sort of) and Harry’s soul is released, true. But then it seeks the nearest warm body to inhabit, and the nearest warm body is…Fawkes himself! Remember, he becomes a baby bird amid the ashes. There is no body nearer so Harry’s soul returns to Fawkes immediately.

Q: But shouldn’t Harry’s soul return to Harry’s body as soon as it can?
A: Yes — as soon as it can. It should, and it would…if Harry’s body wasn’t already full of another soul, namely Voldemort’s. Our theory differs from the Changeling Hypothesis, which says Harry has two souls within him. We believe a person can only have one soul at a time. If Harry can have two souls, neither this theory nor Bob’s previous theory can work. And why, if this theory is correct, didn’t Harry’s soul enter Voldemort’s soulless body when Fawkes sacrificed himself in the DoM? The most likely explanation is that Fawkes’ new body, in the ashes on the ground, was closer to Harry’s drifting soul that Voldemort’s body, across the battlefield.

Q: So how can Harry ever get his soul back?
A: We believe two things must happen:

  1. Harry must lose Voldemort’s soul somehow, and
  2. Fawkes must regenerate, freeing Harry’s soul to return to him

We reckon this must involve Dementors. Esther suggested that instead of Voldemort directing the Dementor’s to Kiss Harry, he might direct them to Kiss someone Harry loves, particularly Hermione (although you can, if you prefer, substitute in another candidate; we don’’t want you to ignore our theory on the basis of shipping!). Then Harry, wandless and unable to do the Patronus Charm, would sacrifice himself by attracting the Dementor to himself and away from her. This is right up Harry’s alley — the “saving people thing” that Hermione pointed out — and besides, in OotP we learn that he has no fear of, and rather a fascination for, death anyway.

(By the way, we should point out that Voldemort, having no soul within him, is immune to the Dementor’s Kiss. They probably cannot even “see” him. Talk about “cheating death!”)

Once Harry is Kissed, Voldemort’s soul will be destroyed. The Dark Lord will then become a “walking corpse” as William S. Burroughs so morbidly put it. Fawkes can then regenerate (either here amidst the action, or later in Dumbledore’s office), returning Harry’s soul to him. And They Lived Happily Ever After. Maybe.

Esther notes that a conclusion like this satisfies not only the story requirements but the readers’ desires in several ways:

1) Love Conquers All — it is, in our opinion, the “power the Dark Lord knows not,” and Voldemort’s underestimation of Harry’s power of love is his downfall
2) Harry wins by giving up the fight, a very Zen thing
3) Voldemort is vanquished — not killed, but suffers A Fate Worse Than Death
4) Voldemort loses because he allied himself with evil — the Dementors — and even though he WAS evil, that did not save him from THEIR evil, which means:
5) Dumbledore’s refusal to touch dark magic is proven correct in the end
6) Harry has the advantage over Voldemort because he embraces death (remember, Dumbledore said Voldemort’s fear of death is a weakness)
7) Sirius’ death becomes important, as JKR said it would — Harry doesn’t want the same thing to happen again
8) Harry fits perfectly into the Christian notion of death-and-resurrection, which will apparently be crucial to the series ending, because Harry both “dies” and lives (see note below)

NOTE: As a basic rundown for those who don’t understand point 8…

1) In Christianity it is believed that Jesus (the Christ) died on the cross as a divine sacrifice on behalf of the world (everyone was suffering from the evil that arose from their own sinful natures) — so by his death everyone in the world was saved from evil. Following this, God raised Jesus from death because Jesus is divine, “one” with God, and can’t stay dead.
2) JKR has said that she is Christian, but she doesn’t like people to notice it because then they will know how the series will end. This could mean one of two things — that Harry dies, sacrificing himself for the world, OR that Harry chooses to sacrifice himself, and then eventually lives.
3) It works like this in our theory: Harry symbolises Jesus (read Maline Freden’’s North Tower article “Who is You-Know-Who?”), and by choosing to sacrifice himself by attracting the Dementor towards him and away from a loved one, the evil Voldemort is destroyed. Then, seeing as Harry has, in a sense, been “improperly dead” without his soul, he can then return to “life” (proper life) again when Fawkes (who could symbolise God?) allows Harry’s soul to return to Harry’’s body. (Don’’t forget that Jesus and Harry, like Neo in “The Matrix”, are “the One” — the “Messiah”, or Saviour, and as Jesus and Neo didn’’t die, Harry’’s death does not seem very likely.)

Bob is writing a fanfic based on this idea, but that is nothing to stop you from doing your own, now that you have all the elements.

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