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The Two-Way Mirror #21: The Mirror of Erised: A Horcrux

By Daniela

I am grateful for the interview that Melissa and Emerson were able to conduct with J. K. Rowling. It was both funny and enlightening. Several editorials could be written based on Rowling’s answers. I have written the present one based on these comments:

JKR: Well, I’m prepared to bet you now, that at least before the week is out, at least one of the Horcruxes will have been correctly identified by careful re-readers of the books. JKR: It’s a huge order. But Dumbledore has given him some pretty valuable clues and Harry, also, in the course of previous six books has amassed more knowledge than he realizes. That’s all I am going to say.

Dumbledore and Harry seemed to have identified practically all the Horcruxes during their Pensieve lessons, and for that reason I found Rowling’s comment that we will be able to identify “at least one” of the Horcruxes puzzling and intriguing. She seems to say that there is more to what Harry and Dumbledore discussed. After all, since the diary and the ring have been destroyed, and there are supposedly only four Horcruxes left, three of which have been identified by Harry and Dumbledore (locket, cup, Nagini), what does Rowling mean by “at least one”? Shouldn’t she have said “the fourth one”?

She seems to say, in fact, that there are “at least two” Horcruxes that are not entirely obvious, though they are guessable. The only way that is possible is if there are more than four Horcruxes left. It is very likely that those who think Harry became (probably inadvertently) a Horcrux are on the right track and have identified a “fifth” Horcrux. It may also be that Rowling thought we’d realize we have seen some of the Horcruxes before, like the locket that wouldn’t open that appeared to have been thrown out during the cleaning of 12 Grimmauld Place. She is clearly suggesting that we have had hints about the Horcruxes in all the books, not just the sixth one.

My aim with this editorial is to identify the fourth Horcrux, the one that was left a little open-ended by Harry and Dumbledore. This was supposed to be an object belonging to another Hogwarts founder, either Gryffindor or Ravenclaw.

Dumbledore assured Harry that the sword is the only remaining heirloom of Gryffindor and that it has been kept safe from Voldemort. Although I don’t think Dumbledore is infallible, I believe he is right in this case. The sword appears to have been locked in the Headmaster’s office, which would place it out of reach of Voldemort. Perhaps Ravenclaw’s heirloom was more accessible than Gryffindor’s.

Back in the days before Half-Blood Prince came out, when we were studying the book covers hungrily, I had noticed that what we thought was a Pensieve, and which turned out to be Voldemort’s basin in the cave, the one in which he hid his Horcrux, was standing on a pillar with clawed feet. I wondered very much about the significance of those clawed feet, and thought that it was Ravenclaw who had invented the Pensieve… Well, there was nothing about claws in the book description of the pedestal, so it seems that those claws were pure inspiration on the part of the illustrator, but it is because of them that I opened my eyes wide to all claws in the books. Thus I found a very interesting object with clawed feet, and the simple detail that I had overlooked over and over again in all my re-readings finally stood out like a huge revelation because I thought it might have something with the “Pensieve” on the cover. How wrong I was… and yet how right!

How many of you remember what the Mirror of Erised looks like, besides its interesting inscription? Here is the physical description:

It was a magnificent mirror, as high as the ceiling, with an ornate gold frame, standing on two clawed feet.

I don’t think Rowling chose the detail of the “clawed feet” gratuitously, when she has chosen one of the founders of Hogwarts to be named “Ravenclaw.” I think she wanted us to deduce that the Mirror of Erised was a Ravenclaw heirloom.

I admit that it may seem a little strange that the intellectual house should have such an heirloom left behind by its founder. The “heart’s desire” doesn’t seem to mix with the intellect, does it? And yet, I think it could be a very intellectual thing to contemplate one’s desire in a mirror, and to learn to liberate oneself from it. The mirror in itself I think is an intellectual symbol, an image of reflection, of thought. In any case, the Mirror of Erised is an object used for contemplation, an adventure of the mind. It seems to fit with the Ravenclaw spirit. I think Ravenclaw is the house that has been most overlooked so far in the books, and I believe it is time to hear more about them. Only Luna has really stood out and it is especially her very strange faith in the impossible that sets her apart from the rest. What Luna is capable of seeing seems to be right up there with staring inside the Mirror of Erised. She is the only one who assures Harry that he will see his parents again…

Why would Voldemort choose the Mirror of Erised as a Horcrux? I think there are many unbelievably awesome reasons. For one, the Mirror certainly looks very majestic, tall as the ceiling, with an ornate golden frame. Then, the Mirror is very likely an heirloom of Ravenclaw. If it isn’t, it certainly looks like one, with its clawed feet. Besides looking like a Ravenclaw heirloom, the Mirror is firmly rooted at Hogwarts. Unlike the smaller heirlooms, it seems to belong to the whole school, accessible to all the students, like a tempting teacher, the kind Voldemort would have been. The Mirror is a powerfully magical object, and the other heirlooms were also powerfully magical. Hepzibah Smith tells Voldemort she hasn’t yet figured out all the properties of the locket and the cup. I think Dumbledore figured out one of the properties of the Mirror when he decided to hide the stone inside it, and he said it was one of his more brilliant ideas, which is saying something. If a material stone could be hidden inside the Mirror, certainly a piece of soul could be hidden inside it as well? Maybe that was one of Voldemort’s more brilliant ideas…

The most wonderful reason I think that Voldemort would choose the Mirror of Erised as a Horcrux is that he looked in it and saw his heart’s desire. Rowling answered what Voldemort would see in the mirror:

JKR: Himself, all-powerful and eternal. That’s what he wants.

Doesn’t it seem like it would be a very precious place to conceal a part of his soul, the Mirror in which Voldemort sees himself as all-powerful and eternal? It seems so perfect that Voldemort should want to place a part of his soul behind that most wonderful image of himself that he contemplated in the Mirror. There might even be an element of superstition in making the image come alive. Maybe Voldemort thought he’d increase his chances at immortality and absolute power if he placed a part of his soul behind that image of his self.

Doesn’t it seem ironically appropriate that the object that shows Voldemort what he wants most in the world should be an object that helps him achieve that goal? Isn’t it ironic that the mirror that leaves everyone else thirsty should actually turn out to be instrumental in making Voldemort’s dream a reality? It would also be a scornful reversal of the Mirror’s supposed danger.

I don’t know when Voldemort may have transformed the Mirror into a Horcrux. It is possible he did it when he went to ask Dumbledore for the DADA position, perhaps after he left his office… And then the Mirror of Erised remained behind Voldemort at Hogwarts, like a dangerous teacher to children. Voldemort was not allowed to teach, but I am sure he derived great pleasure, after encasing his soul in it, from identifying with the mirror that could teach for him… teach his potential followers to hunger and thirst like he did, to be slaves of their desires, and to follow anyone who promised to make them real… But the only person he would never be able to lure was the one who saw his parents in the mirror. Harry’s heart’s desire is to be with James and Lily, and Voldemort will never access Harry’s heart because he destroyed the object of Harry’s desire. He destroyed the very thing he may have been able to use as leverage against Harry.

Dumbledore tells Harry that the greatness of Harry’s power, the power that Voldemort knows not, was revealed by what he saw in the Mirror, and that Voldemort should have realized then what he was dealing with. Harry is immune to the temptations of Voldemort, Dumbledore emphasizes that. Despite his gifts and powers, Harry rejects the Dark Arts and Voldemort’s lure. Dumbledore really seems to be saying that Voldemort is a kind of Mirror of Erised, but that Harry never gave in to its temptation, because all he could ever desire was love, all he could ever see was his own parents, and as a result all he could ever desire was to defeat Voldemort. I think if we have learned our lessons well along with Harry during the Pensieve sessions with Dumbledore, we will see why it is very likely that Voldemort has used the Mirror of Erised as a Horcrux.

I have wondered about the importance of mirrors for a long time now, in my first editorial Double, Double… Toil and Trouble, and especially in my editorial Harry’s Dreams, Part II: Wizard Dreams. I wondered what was the symbolism of Harry’s breaking the two-way mirror at the end of Order of the Phoenix; why there were so many broken glass objects throughout the book; and what it meant that Harry saw Voldemort’s face in the mirror instead of his own in a dream. I concluded the editorial with a question:

Is Voldemort’s life somehow hidden in a mirror? And what form of high-pitched music will it take to shatter it?

It does seem interesting, doesn’t it, that the Philosopher’s Stone was hidden inside the Mirror of Erised in the first book? Wouldn’t it be ironic that the stone should be hidden in the very object that already serves to hide Voldemort’s soul, already helping him be immortal? The soul and the body were both in the Mirror… The stone/body was destroyed in Book One. Maybe the soul/mirror will be destroyed in Book Seven.

This theory raises a few troublesome questions:

1. How come Dumbledore didn’t realize the mirror is a Ravenclaw heirloom and/or a Horcrux? How come he didn’t realize at least that it looked like a Ravenclaw heirloom and that it could be a very tempting Horcrux for Voldemort?2. Why would Voldemort use something as fragile as a Mirror, and something as big and easy to find, something that he could not steal and hide?

3. Could Voldemort be troubled by the fact that Dumbledore hid the Philosopher’s Stone inside the Mirror? Would he see in it a message from Dumbledore that he knows his secret?

My answers are somewhat related to each other:

3. I think the fact that Voldemort saw the Mirror intact showed him Dumbledore did not suspect it of being a Horcrux. Had Dumbledore realized it, he would probably have destroyed it. In any case, it is obvious Voldemort did not take steps to protect his other Horcruxes after the ordeal with the Mirror. The fact that Dumbledore hid the stone in the Mirror might have been a subconscious realization on Dumbledore’s part that Voldemort’s secret step towards immortality was somehow already hidden there. Perhaps Harry will remember one day his experience with the Mirror because of the way Dumbledore used it, and he will realize that it is a Horcrux.2. Sometimes the best way to hide something is to leave it out in the open. We have also seen that since Voldemort has several Horcruxes, he doesn’t mind leaving some more vulnerable than others, because the meaning of the Horcrux is more important to him than its absolute protection. The diary was proof that Voldemort was the heir of Slytherin. Voldemort risked that part of his soul for the glory of preserving that part of his personal history. And what is the diary if not a mirror of the self? It makes sense after the diary that an actual mirror should also be a Horcrux. And this is not just any mirror, but one that shows Voldemort as “all-powerful and eternal.” It’s just too beautiful not to put a part of his soul in such a Mirror. The huge dangers of the Mirror that are emphasized from the first book I think also fit very well with the possibility that it hides inside it a part of the most evil soul that ever lived.

There are other merits to hiding his soul in an object that is practically out in the open at Hogwarts. Being at Hogwarts the object is, in fact, protected. As Dumbledore told Voldemort when he invited him to be a student, theft is not tolerated at Hogwarts. I am sure Voldemort played with that idea, and “stole” the mirror anyway, but in a different way, by using it as he did, but leaving it behind. Another advantage to using the Mirror of Erised is that it could be fairly easy with a certain amount of spying to find out if the Mirror is intact, to get wind of whether anyone tried to destroy it in suspicious circumstances. Perhaps the Mirror of Erised, being the most ‘out-in-the-open’ Horcrux, could be Voldemort’s “alarm bell” for going and checking on the others if he found out it was destroyed. Maybe Voldemort actually thought that if anyone figured him out, they would go first for the Mirror. He decided to have an obvious Horcrux so that he could tell immediately if someone was on his tail. Of course, it could also be that he thought it would be well hidden by being in the open. The diary, on the other hand, I don’t think was meant to be an alarm bell. Harry clearly destroyed it in self-defense, and Voldemort didn’t go checking on his other Horcruxes when he found out about its destruction.

1. Perhaps Dumbledore didn’t figure out that the Mirror of Erised was a Horcrux because it was too simple and obvious an answer… And that may have been part of Voldemort’s plan, to place a Horcrux right under Dumbledore’s nose, to enjoy the irony of it, putting his soul in Dumbledore’s protecting hands… We know now, unfortunately, that certain unthinkable things can be done under Dumbledore’s nose, such as using the vanishing cabinets to bring Death Eaters into the castle. I don’t think it takes away from Dumbledore’s wisdom and brilliance. He has a lot on his mind, many difficult problems to solve. And as we have seen with Harry and Draco, when you have a huge assignment on your mind, pro or contra Voldemort, it is hard to keep up with everything else. Sometimes it is even a shortcoming of very intelligent people to look for the hard answers before finding out the easy ones. But it is good for Harry that Dumbledore took care of the harder (in some respects) problems first. It means that Harry can take it from here.

It seems almost impossible that Dumbledore should not think of the Mirror of Erised as a possible Horcrux and Ravenclaw heirloom, but somehow I think it can be explained psychologically. Perhaps there is more to it than being blind to the obvious. Rowling won’t tell us what Dumbledore saw in the Mirror when he looked. Perhaps whatever Dumbledore saw weakened him psychologically, blinding him to the possibility that the Mirror was a Horcrux because it meant that he would have to destroy it. Maybe Dumbledore could not bring himself to destroy the Mirror if it showed him world peace or something. In Harry’s case, he has other pictures of his parents, and his parents are already dead. He could destroy the Mirror.

Maybe Dumbledore did realize the Mirror of Erised was a Horcrux. Maybe he also realized that it was Voldemort’s alarm bell, and he wanted to go ahead and destroy all the other Horcruxes before the one that Voldemort thought he would go after first. And maybe Dumbledore realized with all his lessons that Harry could figure out on his own what the Mirror was.

Dumbledore suggests in the sixth book that Harry is the most powerful person before the Mirror of Erised because he has the power the Dark Lord knows not, the power of love. It is almost as if Dumbledore equals Harry’s challenge of facing Voldemort with his challenge of facing the Mirror. It is almost as if Voldemort is the Mirror. That seems to be another heavy hint that one seventh (or perhaps eighth if the scar is a Horcrux) of Voldemort’s soul might be inside that very Mirror that Harry can face better than anyone. Dumbledore reminds us of the importance of the Mirror: the Mirror revealed Harry’s power. I think it is important that he brings up the Mirror again, that it means we have not seen the last of the Mirror of Erised.

Rowling in her interview with Emerson and Melissa acted most suspiciously when a mirror was mentioned in relation to R.A.B., most likely Regulus Black, who stole the locket Horcrux:

MA: And perhaps, being Sirius’s brother, he had another mirror –
JKR: [drums fingers on soda can] MA: Does he have the other mirror, or Sirius’s mirror –
JKR: I have no comment at all on that mirror. That mirror is not on the table.

[Laughter from all; Jo’s is maniacal.] MA: Let the record note that she has drummed her fingers on her Coke can in a very Mr. Burns-like way.
[Laughter.]

Perhaps it was not the two-way mirror, although I am sure we will hear about that mirror again too, but mirrors in general, in connection with Horcruxes, that made JKR drum her fingers on the soda can so suggestively…

This is my idea about the fourth and least specific Horcrux that Dumbledore and Harry discussed. I don’t know how the Mirror will be destroyed by Harry, or if Harry himself will destroy it. There is something sad about destroying an heirloom… But it seems that the mirror will need to crack at least, like the ring that we saw on Dumbledore’s hand, if Voldemort’s soul is to be removed from it… I really look forward to the scene, because I think it will be extremely interesting, to see what Harry (if Harry) will see in the Mirror when he goes to destroy it. Somehow I think that it will happen and I can’t wait to read it.

P.S. I have been feverishly working on an editorial on Snape, and this idea came to me as I read the interviews with Rowling. I had to drop everything and write it. Stay tuned for Snape, unless something else draws my attention again.