Death Eaters – Part 1: The Death Eater Roster
Among the many reasons to love the Harry Potter books is the wealth of minor characters filling the pages, from Harry’s classmates to Order members with bit parts. In this series of essays, we’re going to be exploring the baddies: the Death Eaters.
One of the things Jo did masterfully in the Potter books was personifying Lord Voldemort’s minions. Far too often within the genre, the Dark Lord’s minions are nameless and faceless goons who get eliminated by the score in every scene – calling them “one-dimensional characters” feels overly generous because they aren’t really characters. Harry Potter would lend itself well to the convention, given an already expansive role call and the Death Eaters’ fashion choice of masks.
But that wasn’t what happened. Rather than squaring off against “Death Eater #7” and “Death Eater #31,” Harry and his friends duel the likes of Rookwood and Yaxley. I say this in a complimentary sense, but the Death Eaters are one-dimensional characters – their motivations and backstories aren’t overly complex or well-developed, but they are characters rather than the literary equivalent of a CGI army.
Obviously, some Death Eaters transcend that – Lucius, Draco, Bellatrix, Pettigrew, Snape, and Crouch, Jr. are all full-fledged supporting characters with important roles to play in the story. But I’m interested in exploring beyond that, looking at the Death Eaters who just show up for battles and Death Eater meetings. By carefully tracking the names that recur in these scenes, we can paint fuller pictures of these secondary Death Eaters.
The Battle of the Department of Mysteries
Throughout the upcoming essays, we will zero in on the moments when Death Eaters congregate and see what we can glean about who was there and what happened to them. However, there was one battle where the legwork has already been done for us.
In the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, Lucius very helpfully rattles off all 12 names of the Death Eaters present. Armed with that, readers can figure out who did what – and that work has already been done by Kendall Smiley in her seminal essay at the Lexicon: “The Battle of the Department of Mysteries: An Analysis of the Chase and Battle, June 1996.”
I will be borrowing that essay’s nomenclature: The Death Eaters who reintegrated into society between Vold War I and Vold War II are termed the “Respectables.” In contrast to them are the Azkaban Ten, who break out of Azkaban in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with much fanfare.
With my compliments to Kendall’s diligence, here is a quick summary of what happens to the 12 Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries.
- Lucius Malfoy (Respectable) – Leads the expedition. He attempts to get the prophecy from Harry in the Death Chamber. He’s hit with an Impediment Jinx by Harry but shakes it off and duels Lupin briefly.
- Macnair (Respectable) – Very goal-oriented, goes after Harry and the prophecy even when the Order shows up. He’s choking Harry when he takes Neville’s wand to the eye and then gets Stunned by Harry.
- Avery (Respectable)
- Crabbe, Sr. (Respectable) – Stunned by Hermione and turned into a babyhead. We never see him again, so presumably, this magic was impossible to reverse.
- Nott, Sr. (Respectable) – Nott is injured by the falling shelves of prophecies at the very beginning and does not actually participate in the battle. We never see him again in the story’s present, so presumably, the injuries were severe. We also never check in with Theodore Nott after the battle, but his absence from Draco’s posse suggests there may have been quite a story playing out in the Nott family during Vold War II.
- Bellatrix (Azkaban Ten) – Among the four Death Eaters who chased Ron, Ginny, and Luna into the Planet Room. Chases the kids into the Brain Room, then Harry into the Death Chamber. Defeats Tonks, Sirius, and Kingsley in one-on-one duels. Manages to flee after Dumbledore shows up.
- Rodolphus (Azkaban Ten) – Among the four Death Eaters who chased Ron, Ginny, and Luna into the Planet Room.
- Rabastan (Azkaban Ten) – Stunned by Harry in the Time Room but back for the Death Chamber battle.
- Dolohov (Azkaban Ten) – Silenced by Hermione, whom he hits with a curse of purple flames in retaliation. He breaks Neville’s nose and wand with a kick. He’s hit with a Body-Bind Curse by Harry in the office. But he’s back in action in the Death Chamber battle, where he defeats Mad-Eye Moody in a duel. He demonstrates some creative spellwork by hitting Neville with the Dancing Feet Spell and is busy pursuing the prophecy when Sirius begins dueling with him. Mid-duel, he’s hit with another Body-Bind Curse from Harry.
- Rookwood (Azkaban Ten) – Duels Kingsley in the Death Chamber. Manages to hold his own until Dumbledore arrives.
- Mulciber (Azkaban Ten)
- Jugson (???) – Hit with a Body-Bind Curse by Harry in the office but back for the Death Chamber battle.
It’s interesting to consider how proficient the different characters are at dueling – particularly the fact that some of the Death Eaters seem really rusty in this battle.
Death Eater MVPs
- Bellatrix – takes out three Order members in one-on-one duels and escapes from Dumbledore.
- Dolohov – takes out one Order member and one DA member, in addition to breaking Neville’s wand and nose.
No one else puts up a very impressive showing. Voldemort can’t be very pleased!
- Harry – Stuns or Body-Binds four Death Eaters (Dolohov twice).
- Hermione – Silences Dolohov and Stuns two Death Eaters.
- Sirius/Kingsley – each take out a Death Eater before being defeated by Bellatrix.
The Elder Statesmen
Because of the longevity of the Death Eater organization, there is quite an age range present at this battle. On the one hand, you have the young whippersnappers who are in their mid-thirties, like Avery. But there are also Death Eaters who’ve had the title for 40 years yet are still breaking into government buildings to attack teenagers. To examine the latter, let us zero in on “Lord Voldemort’s Request,” the earliest chronological point where we meet“those who call themselves – or so rumor has it – the Death Eaters” (HBP 444). For historical context, “Lord Voldemort’s Request” happens in the winter of 1956–57. (This is a matter of some debate in the fandom. For my reasoning, look to Dumbledore: The Life and Lies, pages 178–79.)
Dumbledore mentions four of Voldemort’s “devoted friends”/“servants” in this scene: “Nott, Rosier, Mulciber, Dolohov” (HBP 444). It’s possible some of these are part of a Death Eater dynasty, and we’ll be exploring that in future essays. But others are some of the oldest Death Eaters still active.
There’s no indication of any other Dolohovs in the series, so we may as well accept that this is Antonin Dolohov. That certainly makes Dolohov even more impressive, considering he’s getting on in years by the time he’s spryly slashing teenagers with flaming curses. But while Dolohov isn’t slowing down in years, Nott is.
The Nott, Sr. from the ’50s is definitely the same one who gets injured in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries – Jo described him as a “very elderly widower” on her website. He’s also described as “a stooped figure in Mr. Goyle’s shadow” (GoF 651), furthering the image of someone elderly. This could help explain why he was injured – his reflexes must not be what they were. It looks like not a lot of Death Eaters get to take an early retirement. As Sirius said, “It’s a lifetime of service or death” (OotP 112).
Next up: Part 2, where we dive into Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and look at who showed up for Voldemort’s resurrection.