The Sixth Horcrux: A Relic of Gryffindor?
by Jay Ortiz
The plan Voldemort created for his Horcruxes – the pattern into which the objects must fit – seems clear enough, and leads to the conclusion that the sixth Horcrux should be an object once owned by or directly connected to Godric Gryffindor. Dumbledore himself, speculating about the two Horcruxes he could not identify, suggested that objects belonging to either Gryffindor or Rowena Ravenclaw were probable candidates, if they existed.(1) Although its identity remains uncertain, it seems more than merely likely that the fifth Horcrux was an artifact of Ravenclaw and, therefore, that the sixth should be a relic of Gryffindor. Further, the rivalry between Slytherin and Gryffindor has been such a consistent theme that it seems almost inconceivable it would not find its reflection in the Horcruxes as well; since Slytherin’s locket was the first of the founders Horcruxes, there is logical symmetry in a Gryffindor-related Horcrux being the last. Therefore, as we seek the final Horcrux, we will be searching for a candidate that bears a clear and unique connection to Godric Gryffindor.
Dumbledore concluded(2) there were no surviving artifacts of Gryffindor that could have been transformed into Horcruxes. The wise old headmaster told Harry, incorrectly as it happens,(3) that there was “only [one] known relic of Gryffindor”(4) the ruby-encrusted sword encased in glass in his office.(5) He also, this time correctly, told Harry that it remains safe.(6) In fact, though, there was another object in his office that had once been owned by Godric Gryffindor the Sorting Hat(7); it, however, does not seem an appropriate candidate, because it is not exclusively a relic of Gryffindor. When the four founders decided to use Gryffindor’s hat to sort new students into their Hogwarts Houses, “[t]he founders [all] put some brains in me”(8) and thereafter, for more than a thousand years, the Sorting Hat has been a joint artifact of all the founders. Therefore, the Sorting Hat does not qualify as a relic solely of Gryffindor, and most of the readers who remember its original owner have concluded as has this author that it cannot be the sixth Horcrux.
What, though, of the sword? It was a true relic of Gryffindor, and would have been a worthy trophy for Lord Voldemort. Based perhaps more on the apparent lack of other candidates than on fact, many readers have speculated that Voldemort somehow gained unsupervised access to the sword, and transformed it into his sixth Horcrux. Indeed, the theories are both legion and imaginative. However, all of them suffer from the same defect: they assume facts that are simply not present anywhere in the Harry Potter narrative.
Many readers have speculated that Tom Riddle gained access to the sword while it was in the headmaster’s office, either when he was a student or during his subsequent visit to Dumbledore to seek a teaching position.(9) The latter is simply not supportable from the text, since Dumbledore was present from the time Riddle entered his office until he left and, unless Riddle cast a memory charm on the headmaster, surely Dumbledore would have noticed that Tom was transforming the sword into a Horcrux. The former hypothesis, however, cannot be so conclusively dismissed; we do not know from the literal text that Riddle did not enter the headmaster’s office while he was still a student to cast the appropriate spell on the sword. Yet, to believe that he did so is to indulge in the rankest form of speculation, assuming facts which are not even implied, much less verifiable.
It is worth a separate paragraph to warn against theories that are based on the premise that, if Ms. Rowling has not specifically stated that something did not happen, then it must have happened. That, simply, is not Ms. Rowling’s style, nor is it even reasonable. Therefore, for this author at least, none of these theories have any credibility whatsoever.
Other theorists have noted we have no direct evidence the sword was ever in the headmaster’s possession before Harry delivered it to him at the end of his second year.(10) These theorists seek support for the supposition that it was somewhere else from the fact that Ms. Rowling does not mention Harry noticing it in the headmasters office until his fourth year.(11) They therefore make the not-necessarily-logical leap that the sword could have been in someone elses possession before Fawkes delivered it to Harry and he, in turn, delivered it to Dumbledore. Every one of these theories, though, must either ignore where the sword was when it came into Harrys possession or contrive some wholly conjectural explanation for that inconvenient fact.
When Fawkes swooped into the Chamber of Secrets, he delivered the Sorting Hat which had been in Hogwarts for more than a thousand years(12) to Harry,(13) and it was from the Sorting Hat that Harry pulled Gryffindor’s sword.(14) Both Fawkes and the Sorting Hat resided in Dumbledore’s office(15) and it is pure speculation to suggest that Fawkes made a quick detour, on his way to assist Harry, in order to obtain the sword from somewhere else and place it in the Sorting Hat. Certainly, it is possible, because Ms. Rowling has not told us that it did not happen but the likelihood seems remote at best; once again, Ms. Rowling’s failure to say no does not prove that she meant yes.
If one is inclined to accept the textually unsupported thesis that the Sword was somewhere other than the headmasters office before Fawkes brought it to Harry, however, an entire universe opens to speculation and readers have not been reluctant to rush in. There is a subcategory of Horcrux theories that suggest that, when Lord Voldemort appeared at Godric’s Hollow, he either brought with him or expected to find there the object he intended to transform into his final Horcrux. Again, the premise is purely speculative; nonetheless, it is possible. Perhaps the most creative and certainly one of the more logical of these theories combines the uncertainty about the swords location with the possibility that Voldemort expected to find the intended Horcrux at Godric’s Hollow. This theory begins with the indisputable fact that Dumbledore was in possession of James Potters invisibility cloak and delivered it to Harry in his first year.(16) It is then hypothesized, without any textual support whatsoever, that James had the cloak at Godric’s Hollow when Lord Voldemort appeared, and that the intended Horcrux – Gryffindor’s sword, which is also assumed to have been in James’s possession – was concealed under it. Then, after Voldemorts spell rebounded and he disappeared into his Vapormort(17) state, the theory postulates – again without any textual foundation – that Dumbledore visited the ruins during the famous missing day, and retrieved both the cloak and the sword.(18) The difficulty with this theory, of course, is that Dumbledore himself said that James Potter left the cloak with him, not that he retrieved it after James’s death.(19)
We cannot, of course, rule out the possibility that this – or one of its variants – will prove to be correct.(20) Certainly, if one is willing to assume facts that are not contained or even implied in the text of the books, there are logic and consistency in many of the theories. At bottom, virtually all of them suffer from the same defect: they are based on supposition. Yet, this author does not believe it is necessary to invent facts or make assumptions in seeking the solution to the mystery of the final Horcrux; to do so seems a disservice to Ms. Rowling.
Rather, as will soon be apparent, she has already disclosed all we need to know to make an educated guess as to the identity and fate of the sixth Horcrux. This author will not, therefore, join the many discussions of the missing day or of what might have been hidden at Godric’s Hollow or of the other possibilities that can be derived from perceived gaps in Ms. Rowling’s narrative. Rather, wherever it may lead, the intent of this essay is to examine the actual text of the books, and to determine whether or not Ms. Rowling has already disclosed to us the identity and fate of the sixth Horcrux. Interestingly, that endeavor leads to a conclusion that answers most if not all of the significant questions that remain.
(1) HBP, p. 505.
(2) HBP, p. 505.
(3) In addition to his self-confessed fallibility and acknowledged errors, this is perhaps as clear an example as any that Dumbledore’s conclusions despite his wisdom are susceptible to lapses of memory or simple mistakes. It is important to remember this, any time Dumbledore’s statements are the only evidence of a supposed fact. Although more often right than wrong, and although wise beyond comprehension, not even Dumbledore was infallible and that is, in a number of contexts, important.
(4) HBP, p. 505.
(5) COS, p. 333; GOF, pp. 582-583.
(6) HBP, p. 505.
(7) GOF, p. 177.
(8) GOF, p. 177.
(9) HBP, pp. 440-446.
(10) COS, p. 328.
(11) GOF, pp. 582-583.
(12) GOF, pp. 176-177.
(13) COS, pp. 315-316.
(14) COS, pp. 319-320.
(15) COS, pp. 205-207.
(16) SS, p. 299.
(17) A perfectly wonderful appellation coined by a Harry Potter fan, whose identity has regrettably never been determined; whoever was the first person to use this word was nearly as creative and as descriptive as Ms. Rowling herself.
(18) Perhaps the best, and certainly the most succinct, exposition of this theory is set forth by a reader named Eric Ianson (Ianson, Eric. ”The Cloak and the Sword”.).
(19) SS, p. 299.
(20) Although it is certainly odd, to say the least, that Dumbledore did not mention to Harry, in any of their many conversations about Harrys parents and Voldemort, that he had visited Godric’s Hollow after the Potters were murdered. This author, at least, can think of no reason for Dumbledore to have concealed this from Harry.