The Two-Way Mirror #8: Sacrifice, Voldemort-Style

By Daniela

Inspired by Nicole’s, Meghana’s, Robbie Fisher’s, and other editorials on Soul Theories, as well as by an additional farfetched but interesting comment (on a different site, I think) about Voldemort traveling in time and destroying his baby self and old self so that he would have neither beginning nor end, and therefore would be immortal… I have come up with the following related idea:

What if Voldemort has not locked and/or removed, or even initially lacked a certain human/loving part of himself, but has actually destroyed it? Immolated, killed a certain part of his soul, showing little respect for the “gift of the Creator.”

Voldemort mocks Harry’s mother’s sacrifice. He compares it in GoF with his own killing of his own father: “A Muggle and a fool . . . very like your dear mother. But they both had their uses, did they not? Your mother died to defend you as a child . . . and I killed my father, and see how useful he has proved himself, in death. . . .” (646 GoF, with my emphasis). That’s one messed-up comparison. But it may show that Voldemort has a skewed idea of sacrifice. Like when he thought Dumbledore might “sacrifice” Harry to kill Voldemort: “‘Kill me now, Dumbledore….’ […] ‘If death is nothing, Dumbledore, kill the boy…'” (816, OotP). Sacrifice is a bit different from murder, and Voldemort doesn’t seem to grasp that. Dumbledore mentions the word sacrifice in relation to this episode: “‘He hoped, when he possessed you briefly a short while ago, that I would sacrifice you in the hope of killing him'” (828, OotP). Sacrifice was very important in the first book when Ron snapped, “‘That’s chess! […] You’ve got to make some sacrifices!'” (352, SS) And Lily Potter’s sacrifice has been an essential theme throughout the books.

Now, I think there are a number of evil parodies of good actions and good parodies of evil actions in the novel. For example, Hermione’s protean charm on the golden coins that transfers information to members of the DA pastiches the Dark Mark communication between the Death Eaters. And the “cauldron […] a great stone belly large enough for a full-grown man to sit in” (640 GoF, with my emphasis) from which Voldemort is “reborn,” cold and hateful as ever, mimics a warm mother’s belly that gives loving birth to a real baby. Therefore, perhaps the “parody” of a sacrifice also “saved” Voldemort once, as a real sacrifice saved Harry at the same time.

Maybe Voldemort actually “sacrificed” – in his own murderous way – his human self, and not from selfless love and for higher purposes, like Lily Potter, but out of cold desire and to satisfy his own ambitions. Kind of like the difference between why Voldemort wanted the stone in the first book, and why Harry wanted it. Voldemort wanted to use the stone. And he says the murder of his father is useful (646, GoF). Given a choice when he was a baby, Harry would never have used his mother. It’s easy to imagine Voldemort killing some baby for his own sick rituals. Maybe he killed his own “light” this way, even as he “killed his own death,” – simultaneously maybe.

Maybe the light and death somehow go together. When Voldemort destroyed that mortal core, he destroyed his human self at the same time, as Hagrid says: there wasn’t much human left in Voldemort to die. The “human part” is perhaps both beautiful and mortal, somewhat like that wonderful and terrible power… the power that Harry has in such great quantities, and that the Dark Lord knows not… With his own hand Voldemort may have eliminated that source of strength, because he scorned it, and because it carried mortality with it; he may have even scorned it because it carried mortality with it. Does the wonderful and terrible force blend the mysteries of life and death?

Dumbledore still calls Voldemort Tom, it’s true… He calls him by his first name. Voldemort is a last name of sorts… Dumbledore has to show him who’s boss, so he’s not about to address Tom using any grand titles. Some readers have seen this. Or, if the name Tom indicates there is still something human left in Voldemort, maybe it is a part with different functions – maybe one that makes choices – unless that part is also destroyed. Nicole made a nice summary of the different parts and powers of Voldemort: soul, memory, body, and the missing force… Voldemort has several pieces of himself still, but he is missing an essential one. He may be missing it because he stupidly “sacrificed” it in his quest for immortality. In chess, there are smart sacrifices and stupid ones. One pawn close to the end of the board and capable of checkmate may be more valuable than a rook stuck somewhere. That rook would be a smarter sacrifice than the pawn, if it were necessary to keep the adversary’s eyes elsewhere. Kind of like in the Lord of the Rings climax: shall the Eye search for two tinny weenie Hobbits, or concentrate on the full blown battle at his gates and the glorious king that leads it? Voldemort (like Sauron) has a tendency to underestimate the value of certain “chess” pieces, whereas Dumbledore (like Gandalf) never makes that mistake.

Love and Sacrifice are One… and for this reason, where others see the power of love, Voldemort sees love’s stupidity. Through his treatment of sacrifice – in both speech and action – Voldemort shows that he thoroughly despises, mocks, and underestimates the power… of a fearless love that includes acceptance and embrace of death.