Power and the Fall of Voldemort
“Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.”
– Carl Jung
What does Lord Voldemort want?
This is such a simple question that one can easily forget to consider it. What is the point of his actions, and all of his schemes? What is the point of him seeking eternal life and unlimited strength? There may be several possible answers, but I came across the above quotation by one of the foremost psychologists of the 20th century, Carl Jung. The word “love” has so many connotations in the wizarding world, and I believe it will have an enormous bearing on the end of the series, so as a reader I am drawn to it wherever I see it. Thus, it struck me that the opposite of love given in the quote above was not hate, nor fear, but rather the will to power.
Voldemort, simply put, is ruled by his will to power. His many schemes, his desire to kill Harry Potter, and his plans for immortality, are all for the purpose of gaining greater and greater power over other wizards. And as the will to power shadows love, so Voldemort is the shadow of Albus Dumbledore.
If there was a poll for the most “fictional” character in the series, my vote would not go towards Remus Lupin with his monthly werewolf transformations, nor Nymphadora Tonks with her ability to change her nose at whim. I would vote for Dumbledore. I could more likely imagine a man turning himself into an enormous black sheepdog than imagine one who has so much power, yet has not been corrupted by it.
As the greatest wizard of his age, Dumbledore could have infinite power. But he has no desire for it. JK Rowling wanted us, as readers, to note the extent to which Dumbledore is ruled by his heart. At the end of OotP, she risked Dumbledore’s reputation, made Harry doubt and even despise him, and held him partly responsible for the death of Sirius Black, largely to show, I think, how different he is from Voldemort. If Dumbledore’s wisdom and ability had always prevailed, then it would perhaps suggest that his love was lacking, for love is irrational, and love makes foolish mistakes.
Love is a weakness, no doubt. But an opposite of love, the will to power, is perhaps equally fraught with weakness. What are the weaknesses of power? What is it about the nature of power that lends itself to its own destruction?
Power is a dangerous thing to desire. It is a fleeting and insecure possession. But above all, the will to power is a solitary endeavor. Voldemort is shown to have followers who seem as though they would die for him, and his dark forces have lately been shown to be gaining strength. I call bluff on his so-called supporters. I think the Death Eaters are one of the primary red herrings shown to us by JK Rowling in the series. Power does not make friends, and absolute power, by its very nature, cannot be shared. Voldemort is all alone.
Consider the followers of Voldemort:
“It is said that power corrupts, but actually its more true that power attracts the corruptible.”
– David Brin
When Voldemort calls the Death Eaters to him at the graveyard in GoF, he says the curious phrase, “My true family returns…” This phrase is strange because it shortly becomes very clear that the Death Eaters lack what “true families” purport to have: loyalty. Indeed, Voldemort makes it evident that the majority of the Death Eaters seemingly renounced him, and goes on to say,
“There is a stench of guilt upon the air…why did this band of wizards never come to the aid of their master, to whom they swore eternal loyalty?…And then I ask myself, but how could they have believed I would not rise again? They, who knew the steps I took, long ago, to guard myself against mortal death?”
Not one of these Death Eaters tried to find him. Barty Crouch Jr. describes these Death Eaters in Moody’s office in GoF.
“Those treacherous cowards who wouldn’t even brave Azkaban for him. The faithless, worthless bits of filth who were brave enough to cavort in masks at the Quidditch World Cup, but fled at the sight of the Dark Mark when I fired it into the sky…They turned their backs on my master when he needed them most.”
What is evident from this scene is that the majority of Death Eaters are not as devoted to Voldemort as they appear to be. Lucius Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, Avery, and most of the others are not there out of loyalty, for they scattered in fear when the Dark Mark rose in the sky. They support Voldemort only when it is profitable for them to do so. Lucius Malfoy, apparently one of Voldemort’s right-hand men, is referred to by Voldemort as his “slippery friend.” His loyalties often seem dubious.
So why do these Death Eaters support Voldemort at all? Only out of desire to advance their own purposes. For one, they are shown to be driven mostly by a pure-blood agenda. They support this agenda so strongly because they themselves are pure-bloods, and obviously they promote a hierarchy where they would be at the top.
Another reason for the Death Eaters is suggested again in the graveyard scene in GoF. Voldemort makes an interesting observation:
“And I answer myself, perhaps they believed a still greater power could exist, one that could vanquish even Lord Voldemort…perhaps they now pay allegiance to another…Albus Dumbledore?”
Voldemort suggests that the Death Eaters abandoned him because they were more impressed by the power of Dumbledore. Thus, he himself admits that the Death Eaters are not with him out of loyalty, but out of a desire to align with the greatest power there is. Thus they are evidently looking out for themselves. Only while they believe Voldemort to be the greatest power do they follow him. Otherwise, Voldemort lies forgotten in the forests of Albania.
“The secret of power is the knowledge that others are more cowardly than you are.”
– Ludwig Borne
As Lucius symbolized the corrupt Death Eaters, Peter Pettigrew symbolizes the cowardly. Voldemort himself acknowledges this to Pettigrew in GoF:
“Your devotion is nothing more than cowardice. You would not be here if you had anywhere else to go…You returned to me, not out of loyalty, but out of fear of your old friends.”
Voldemort has a great ability to prey upon those who are weak-minded. However, by definition his supporters have always been, and will always be, those who are weak-minded and cowardly themselves. Pettigrew’s cowardice has shown itself in numerous situations. His hands are demonstrably shaking as he ties up Harry in the graveyard scene. And in the beginning of GoF, while Voldemort and Pettigrew scheme in the Riddle House, Pettigrew whimpers,
“It could be done without Harry Potter, My Lord.”
“Without Harry Potter?” breathed [Voldemort] softly. “I see…”
“My Lord, I do not say this out of concern for the boy!” said Wormtail, his voice rising squeakily.
Pettigrew is a weak man, and, as Dumbledore himself predicted, Pettigrew will ultimately fail Voldemort.
“The fools of this world prefer to look for sages far away. They dont believe that the wisdom of their own mind is the sage They fall prey to falsehood and lose their minds to insanity.”
Here we approach the pitiably small group of Death Eaters who are in fact loyal to Lord Voldemort. Only four of Voldemort’s supporters are shown to have been truly faithful to him throughout. These four are Bellatrix Lestrange and her husband Rodolphus, her brother-in-law Rabastan, and Barty Crouch Jr. As Bellatrix announces in the pensieve scene in GoF, they alone sought out Voldemort in his weakness.
“The Dark Lord will rise again, Crouch! Throw us into Azkaban; we will wait! He will rise again and will come for us, he will reward us beyond any of his other supporters! We alone were faithful! We alone tried to find him!”
Of these four, we are acquainted only with Bellatrix Lestrange and Barty Crouch Jr. They have one glaring similarity: both are described to be conspicuously insane.
After returning via portkey to Hogwarts from the graveyard in GoF, Harry begins to recognize that Moody is not the wizard he appeared to be as he begins to appear more and more crazed.
“The Dark Lord and I,” said Moody, and he looked completely insane now, towering over Harry, leering down at him, “have much in common.”
“You’re mad,” Harry said — he couldn’t stop himself — “you’re mad!”
The description of madness carries out until Crouch Jr. meets his demise. His devotion to Voldemort is not described as loyalty, but comes across as madness.
Crouch’s head rolled on his neck, and an insane grin spread across his face. “My master came for me…He is returned to power and I will be honored by him beyond the dreams of wizards.” The insane smile lit his features once more, and his head drooped onto his shoulder.
As for Bellatrix Lestrange, she is a fantastic and frightening character. She is particularly terrifying because she seems so excessively crazed and thus unpredictable in the end of OotP. Her creepy mock baby voice, her escaped prisoner appearance, her psychotic laugh, and her heavy-lidded mad eyes all add to her aura of danger.
“Oh, he knows how to play, little bitty baby Potter,” she said, her mad eyes staring through the slits in her hood.
[Bellatrix] looked transported, alive with excitement as she glanced at Harry, then back at Neville.
“And he knows!” said Harry, with a mad laugh to match Bellatrix’s own.
As shown by Bellatrix and Barty Jr., those few supporters who are loyal to Voldemort are shown to be crazy. I think they are purposely shown to be insane in order to highlight their major flaw: they are highly unstable, and thus cannot be fully relied upon.
Of course, all intense devotion might come across as irrational, so it is important to contrast the descriptions of Voldemort’s loyal supporters with Dumbledore’s. Hagrid’s devotion to Dumbledore might arguably seem on par with Bellatrix and Crouch’s devotion to Voldemort. At certain points, Hagrid’s loyalty may even seem slightly excessive, particularly in SS/PS when he threatens the Dursleys, or in GoF when he assaults Karkaroff for insulting Dumbledore. However, Hagrid is never described, in the numerous occasions where he mutters, “Great man, Dumbledore ” as having a mad gleam in his eye. Bellatrix and Crouch Jr., thus, must be specifically portrayed to be insane and thus unstable.
Perhaps it may seem like an oversimplification to categorize the Death Eaters such as I have. Because they are shown to be evil, it may be easy to dismiss them all as corrupt, cowardly, or crazed, and much harder to attribute real motives to them. However, I believe there are legitimate criticisms in this case. Up until this point, we have yet to see a Death Eater who was not specifically described as difficult for Voldemort to trust or rely on. Those who are rational cannot be trusted, like Lucius Malfoy, and those who can be trusted are described as being irrational. Voldemort is given no supporters like Minerva McGonagall, who is both intelligent and loyal, or Rubeus Hagrid, about whom Dumbledore said in SS/PS, “I would trust Hagrid with my life.”
Additionally, I further want to point out that it is not necessarily Voldemort specifically who has attracted such a sub-par inner circle. Rather, as described in the above quotes, the nature of power without love is such that it cannot help but attract the corruptible, prey on the cowardly, and cultivate the insane.
This is especially interesting because Voldemort does not seem one to suffer fools or weakness easily, yet he is forced to again and again. By nature of his will to power, he is condemned to having to rely on such unsuitable people. It is this condemnation that is the weakness of power.
In conclusion, while Voldemort’s armies seem to be building and getting stronger, his followers will abandon him before the end, and he will once again be left alone. His will to power will destroy itself from within. Thus it will not be Harry Potter, nor Dumbledore, who will ultimately lead to the demise of Voldemort’s forces. Whereas Harry and Dumbledore will never lose the loyalty of those close to them, as they are bound by love, Voldemort will eventually be betrayed by the Death Eaters, as those who do not support him based on fear support him due to their own foolish agendas. Even without Harry and Dumbledore in his way, Voldemort would come to destroy himself. More than just being a solitary endeavor, the will to power is often a futile one.
This is not to say that Harry will not face Voldemort at the end of Book 7; I for one believe he will. But I think in the final battle, we will see Voldemort alone. His allies gone, and his power destroyed, Voldemort will fight only for his own survival. And thus we will see him fight Harry more desperate and angry than ever before.