Pure Evil: Pure-Blood Supremacists and the Annihilation of Magic
by Robbie Fischer
Annihilation. More than just game-speak for really wicked pwnage…more than a melodramatic word for killing people and breaking things…the word means total, complete, and utter destruction. It means being SO destroyed that there arent even any little bits to sweep up and dump into the ash-bin. It means being reduced to absolutely NOTHING.
When you talk about the annihilation of something clearly-defined and obnoxious, such as a batch of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or the U.S. Tax Code, or the symphonic works of Alexander Scriabin, the idea of reducing it to exactly zero doesnt seem so bad. The effects of their total elimination would be limited in scope, perhaps even an improvement. But when youre talking about wiping out a whole species, or a world, or a universe, annihilation is the ultimate disaster. And I mean ULTIMATE. Most disasters can be repaired, somewhat. The survivors can pick up the pieces and try to put them back together. But annihilation means NO survivors. Everything — gone.
Who would want that? It’s hard to imagine such a perverted will. But if you can imagine it — and worse, if you encounter it — you have to admit that the will to wreak annihilation on a world is the very definition of PURE EVIL.
Hey, I’m not making this up. This is the way most of our favorite authors portray evil. When they’re not trying to abolish death (for themselves, at the expense of anyone and everyone else), they are trying to abolish life. That is the goal of Sauron, the Dark Lord of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. Thats what the Lone Power is after in Diane Duane’s Young Wizards novels. That’s the creed that Iago professed, in Arrigo Boito’s libretto for Verdi’s Otello. The greatest monsters of human history practiced annihilation on the kinds of people they didn’t like. The darkest nightmares of ancient myth and medieval legend craved nothing but the extinction of others. Even the devil of Christian belief is a spirit that aims to turn Gods creatio ex nihilo around and send it back to nihil. Nothingness. Destruction.
If you view the nature of Evil from this angle, then it doesn’t take much to prove that the Pure-Blood Supremacy of many wizards and witches in Harry Potter’s world is a manifestation of pure evil. The great irony, or perhaps the great deception, of it is that the people who believe in Pure-Blood Supremacy think their way is the only way for magic to survive. But actually, in the classic way of pure evil, their Pure-Blood Supremacy is a path to annihilation. Annihilation of the magic world.
The first reason for this is one that Ron Weasley pointed out long ago. Pure-Blood Supremacy is ridiculous because, if it weren’t for half-bloods and Muggleborn wizards and witches, magic would have gone extinct long ago. There isn’t a witch or wizard alive today who is more than a half-blood, remember.
When you consider what happens to those few strains of really pure blood (like the “House of Gaunt” in Half-Blood Prince) you can see another reason, besides the fact that magic doesn’t seem to stay put in the proper bloodlines. Namely, to make sure your bloodline is absolutely pure, you have to breed in smaller and smaller circles until you become a bunch of over-bred freaks like old Marvolo and his kin. Tell me THAT is supposed to promote the future of magic, and I’ll tell you about an island for sale off the coast of Idaho.
But to me, the most telling evidence that Pure-Blood Supremacy is an expression of Pure Evil has to do with the very nature of magic, and what makes it magical. If magic was only ever to be known or used by people who were born and raised to it, would it still be magic? Wouldn’t it rather become mundane and ordinary, like another source of energy to be harnessed, another law of physics, another system of technology? Wouldn’t it dissipate in a swirl of rules and regulations, explanations and observations, shortcuts and formalities and thoughtless mannerisms? Wouldn’t it either be straight-jacketed by red-tape, or preserved in secret until it was completely forgotten?
Magic, in my view, is only magical when it is being discovered. It was most magical for Harry Potter at the beginning of his education at Hogwarts, when everything was an amazing new discovery. Everything was either a delightful surprise or a nasty shock, and some things could have been one or the other — but only through the wide, wondering eyes of a boy who would never have guessed that magic was real, until…
With magic reserved for Pure-Bloods Only, there is no until. Or rather, until has fallen so far into the past that no one remembers it, or anything different from the way things are. Magic is less magical for Ron Weasley because he has a family full of witches and wizards, and he has never known anything else. Harry saves magic for him — Harry makes his world magical again — by discovering it with Ron, and so enabling Ron to discover it anew. But what about Draco Malfoy? Draco has no Harry to make him see his familiar world with fresh eyes.
Magic is less magical for Hermione Granger, too — less than for Harry, and perhaps less than for Ron as well. For Hermione, the discovery has already taken place. She has read every book, has absorbed all the information, and now it is all a matter of applying the information to solving problems. Maybe this means Hermione is poised to make discoveries no one else has ever made — the way a geneticist might study every tedious detail of the science of genetics, only to make amazing new discoveries that can change the world. But for the time being, Hermiones attitude toward magic sucks all the joy out of it for Harry, and leaves him with one alternative — Ron’s blasé indifference.
Harry walks the thin line between two extremes, either of which threatens to suck the enchantment out of magic. He could sin against magic the way Hermione does, and so become a rule-abiding, technically-proficient citizen of a magic world where every speck of fairy-dust has been counted and neatly labeled. Or he could fall into Ron’s sin of taking it all for granted, and missing his opportunity to discover it at all.
On the other hand, Harry is probably immune to the Ultimate Evil of the magic world. For him it will never be — can never be — a sacred entitlement which has always been his destiny because thats the way things should be. Harry will always be questioning himself, doubting himself, separating himself from the rest of the world — magical and otherwise. So even if he is too serious (or not serious enough) to notice a lot of the magic going on around him, or to pick up on the clues and hints and lessons that come at him in and out of class, he will still ALWAYS be discovering things. He will often be surprised; he will sometimes be shocked; he may be terrified, infuriated, heartbroken, discouraged. He will often question the way things are done, and step on peoples toes, and forget his manners, and be a disturber of the status quo.
But Harry will NEVER, EVER make his stand based on where someone comes from, as opposed to what they can do. He will NEVER, EVER deprive any worthy newcomer of the thrill of discovery, or try to wall up magic (and the power) in a catacomb of privilege, rank, and in-the-know-ness. Harry may make a lot of mistakes before hes through, but he will never side — knowingly or otherwise — with the forces of snobbery, exclusion, chaos, or destruction. You know this if you know anything about Harry. You know it more and more as you get to know Harry better. And therefore you know the truth of what Harry said, the night before he went through the trapdoor in his first year at school: ”I will never go over to the dark side!”