The Burrow: The Curse of the Hallows

by Stuart Taylor

The Deathly Hallows. We all wondered what they might be: some suggested the world beyond the veil; others suggested Horcruxes; others still believed it was something we had not yet seen, as with the books’ other titles. And they were right – sort of.

Of course we had seen them all before – two of them (the Wand and the Cloak) as early as Philosopher’s Stone and the third (the Stone) in Half-Blood Prince – but the nature of them, we could not have imagined. Three objects to make one the “Master of Death”. As it turned out, things were not so simple – in The Tale of the Three Brothers, the Hallows led two of the brothers to premature deaths, but perhaps one could blame that on the owners rather than the Hallows themselves.

The Quest for the Wand

This whole Elder Wand lark is a tricky business. The misconception (a resultant increase in likelihood of death) lies in reading too much into the fable by Beedle the Bard. The Elder Wand does not make the bearer invincible; this much is true even within the Tale of the Three Brothers – the elder brother is killed in cold blood. The fact also remains that Grindelwald, while wielding the Death Stick in combat, was defeated by Albus Dumbledore. There is no clear information about how Dumbledore overwhelmed Gridelwald, but I would suspect that it was using techniques that did not involve direct wand-to-wand combat. For example, the battle between Voldemort and Dumbledore at the Ministry was wand-to-wand; but if Dumbledore summoned a tree branch to beat Grindelwald over the head, then that would be an ‘indirect’ style of combat that does not pit one wand’s strength against the other. But I digress!

I think we can all agree that if the wielder of the Wand is sufficiently combat trained, then the Elder Wand will overpower any rival wand. Covetable indeed. But let’s take a step back: how many battles are you likely to be in? Are you the kind of person who is constantly under threat of someone, Muggle or wizard, leaping out of the shadows and trying to do away with you? In my case, the answer is: certainly not. I hope your answer would be similar. In fact, one could argue that if you do live in constant fear of assault, the Cloak might be your better bet – but let us get to that in good time. One could further argue that possession of the Wand will actually encourage every scabby, toothless thug to try and knock you down with their car at the first possible chance, so desirable is the forsaken Wand.

So who would seek out such a wand? At this point, I think it is necessary to ignore those akin to Potter and Dumbledore, who would seek to hide the Wand to keep it safe from the world as a whole. They do not want the Wand, they merely carry the burden of its protection. No, those who want the Wand are aggressors – those who wish to attack or threaten. They want to take something by force or establish themselves as the greatest among fellows. Such a life is fraught with danger and they will always ‘live in fear of attack’. It is very tricky to imagine wanting a life like this, and therefore, I think only the short-sighted or arrogant seek out such a prize. I say this in fear of insulting fellow columnists.

The Quest for the Resurrection Stone

Now we’re treading in murky waters. The Stone: the Hallow that will return beings from the dead, with the catch that they will remain disconnected from the world of the living. The brother who returned his lost love felt such pain being with a woman so cold and removed that he took his own life to be in a world where they both could belong. This brother, to me, had the saddest story to tell. It was enough to turn most readers away from the Stone as an object of desire.

Instead, however, I suggest looking at another person to use the Stone – our protagonist, Harry Potter. As he marched, afraid, toward certain death, he used the Stone to give him the courage to face his fears. In bringing back his parents, Sirius, and Remus, he was able to have a moment of closure. He did not wish to return them forever, but merely have a quiet and personal moment of reflection, remorse, and love with those close to him. Their faith in him gave him further strength to do the right thing, all the way to (what would have been) the very end.

Having considered this, it is quite easy to see the use in the Stone, in both personal and purposeful ways. A last goodbye to lost loved-ones is always a most coveted wish for those left behind. A chance to say one last goodbye and say all that need to be said. To be able to close the door on strong emotional terms would be an extremely desirable thing. Of course, there are those who might not be able to let go, but with every tool there are those who wield it poorly. Furthermore, how incredibly brilliant would it be to communicate with those who could help with important problems. Think of the portraits in the Hogwarts Headmaster’s office – all previous Heads continue to serve the school, long after they have left the living. We are told that, like ghosts, portraits are merely an imprint of the subjects self – and this is different somewhat to the effects of the Stone. The Stone appears to drag the summoned individuals from the world of the dead, sometimes unwillingly. The user of the Stone must, at all times, be aware that the effect is a temporary and incomplete solution to their problems.

The one who would take the Stone is a compassionate and challenged individual. He/She should be one that seeks guidance from those departed while accepting that as people they are forever gone.

The Quest for the Cloak

Ah, the jewel in the crown – or so the denouement of the book will have you believe. The brother who hides from death, lives a life free of fear and hands himself over to death at a ripe old age, seems to have it all figured out. In fact, the Cloak sums up how Rowling would have us view death – nothing to be feared, only accepted. It is true to say that, to paraphrase the bearded headmaster himself, the fear of death is only the fear of the unknown. Personally, I don’t believe the third brother showed a fear of death, but instead a desire for life and protection – not just for himself but for those he loved. After all, Dumbledore mused that the true power of the Cloak was that it could hide others as well as yourself.

And this is where the Cloak and the Wand go head to head. The desire for either suggests that the seeker lives in fear of attack: the Wand gives the owner the chance to stand up in battle; the Cloak, the ability to escape the need to battle at all. In Deathly Hallows we saw Harry & co. walk amongst Death Eaters, Ministry Officials and even Lord Voldemort himself, protected by the undying invisibility of the Peverell Cloak. So useful is this, that one wonders how anything could possibly have been achieved over the course of the seven books without it. And, to add further credit to its value, plenty of acts carried out under its silky shield were selfless acts for good – despite sometimes sneaking into Honeydukes when he was banned from Hogsmeade (PoA).

But what does this say about the Cloak bearer? That they are sneaky skulkers? The Tale of the Three Brothers works well because the third brother is hiding from a physical manifestation of death, but in the real world it just leaves you constantly sneaking around in the shadows or, hopefully not, the ladies’ shower room. If I had the Cloak, I don’t think I would have (legal) use for it, unless I was being hunted down by some violent group/individual.

The Master of Death

Harry finds himself (from the moment he leaves Malfoy Manor, unknowingly) as the Master of Death. He can lay claim to all three Hallows and, in fact, manages to use all three to overcome Voldemort and his Horcruxes (one could also argue that a Horcrux also saved Harry, but Jo has stated on the record that the soul-scar was ‘not a proper Horcrux’). However, he is only the true Master of Death because he has accepted death as inevitability. So powerful is this state of mind, that he discards two of the Hallows (effectively banishing them from society), saving only the Hallow that will keep him and his own safe. In that case, one could argue that there was no need for any of the Hallows and, in fact, that they are creations of three powerful, but selfish, brothers and they are nothing but trouble.

The Choice

So what would I, the columnist, choose? I think it must be the Stone. Not because I have lost people close to me that I cannot live without; we have already discovered that journeying down that road is unsatisfying and dangerous. Instead, as a man of discussion and a seeker of knowledge, I would choose to find wisdom and closure in those I might still wish to speak. Maybe Isaac Newton. Though I hear he wasn’t very nice.