Death Eaters – Part 5: The Death Eaters of “Deathly Hallows”
This is the fifth part of a series about the Death Eaters – here’s Part 1 if you’d like to start from the beginning.
Over the last few essays, we’ve explored the Death Eaters in moments when there are limited numbers of them – a dozen in the Department of Mysteries, exactly ten breaking out of Azkaban, at least ten on the Astronomy Tower, and either a dozen-odd or 30 Death Eaters at Voldemort’s resurrection.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the paradigm shifts: With Voldemort having a lot more legroom in the wake of Dumbledore’s death, we are suddenly running into Death Eaters all the time – alone at the Ministry and Gringotts, in pairs during skirmishes at Tottenham Court Road and Xenophilius Lovegood’s house, and in large groups at various battles.
However, by this point in the series, Jo had done a lot of buildup of the Death Eaters’ ranks. The Death Eaters who were at the Battle of the Tower finally receive names, several Imperiused wizards find themselves dueling for Voldemort, and we finally meet the fabled Travers in person. But only one wholly new Death Eater is introduced in Deathly Hallows: Selwyn.
On the topic of Selwyn… Of all the named Death Eaters in the series, he is the only one who’s a likely candidate for the other mystery Death Eater at the Battle of the Tower. All the other named Death Eaters are accounted for (usually by virtue of being locked up in Azkaban). The only other possibility is Goyle, Sr., and it would be unwise for Goyle, Sr. to actively invade the school where his son is a student in case the mission goes south. (Additionally, Harry mentions Crabbe and Goyle being lonely without Draco [HBP 640], and it seems implausible that he wouldn’t mention that Goyle is extra bummed because his father was just carted off to Azkaban.) A small point in favor of Selwyn being the elusive combatant is that Selwyn is paired with Travers at Xeno Lovegood’s house, so perhaps they are also paired as the mystery Death Eaters at the Battle of the Tower. But that is not definitive enough to say with any certainty that Selwyn was there.
In any event, back to Deathly Hallows. The fact that we knew enough Death Eaters beforehand to populate Book 7’s pages is really a testament to how well done the slow buildup of their roster was over the three preceding books. Now we’ll examine who we know for certain was present in two key scenes early on in the book and who was likely there but unconfirmed.
“The Dark Lord Ascending”
The last book opens with a meeting of Death Eaters, with Yaxley uttering the first line of dialogue. The meeting serves as a helpful refresher on all the Death Eaters who have significant roles to play in keeping with Jo’s trend of naming a bunch of Death Eaters early in a book who will show up later on in the book. Here are the Death Eaters in the order they’re first mentioned, and I’ll enumerate the roles they play except where it’s obvious (Snape and the Malfoys).
- Yaxley (DH 3) – fresh out of Azkaban. He is Voldemort’s point person at the Ministry and succeeds in casting the Imperius Curse on Pius Thicknesse. At this moment, he feels a bit unappreciated since Voldemort is unimpressed by all his accomplishments. Yaxley’s role in Deathly Hallows is as the antagonist in the trio’s Ministry caper since he becomes the new head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement post-coup and makes himself comfortable in “magnificent, sweeping robes, which were embroidered with much gold thread” (DH 243). He joins Umbridge in putting Muggle-borns on trial and is awful all around. He manages to grab Hermione as she Disapparates, thereby finally breaching the Fidelius Charm on Grimmauld Place (DH 270).
- Snape (DH 3) – given the prestigious seat on Voldemort’s immediate right, a sign of his newfound favor
- Dolohov (DH 3) – fresh out of Azkaban. He pops up throughout Deathly Hallows, causing trouble wherever he goes. He’s the lead antagonist of the Skirmish of Tottenham Court Road – Rowle is immediately Stunned by Ron, but Dolohov ties Ron up, dodges Harry’s Stunning Spells, and blows up a table with Expulso before being neutralized (DH 165–66). He is also present on guard duty over Grimmauld Place, mentioned as “the man with the twisted face” (DH 224).
- Amycus Carrow (DH 4) – only referred to as a “squat man.” Curiously, the Carrows are the only Death Eaters referred to by descriptors instead of names. The “wheezy giggle” is a signature Carrow mannerism (HBP 592). Amycus is part of Snape’s regime at Hogwarts, causing no end of grief for the DA.
- Wormtail (DH 7) – reduced to being Ollivander’s jailer throughout the book. Gets one of the best-written deaths in the series after the Skirmish at Malfoy Manor, illustrating Harry’s merciful impulses and Voldemort’s lack thereof
- Lucius Malfoy (DH 7) – fresh out of Azkaban. Lucius is thoroughly demoted and emasculated by Voldemort in Deathly Hallows, having fallen far out of favor between the Department of Mysteries fiasco and his recklessness with the diarycrux.
- Narcissa (DH 8) – not an actual Death Eater as far as we know but present at the meeting as hostess, given Voldy’s new HQ is Malfoy Manor
- Draco (DH 9) – probably the youngest wizard present. Not exactly thrilled to be there
- Bellatrix (DH 9) – Voldemort’s best lieutenant and lends her face to the Gringotts caper. Bellatrix serves as the leading antagonist of the Skirmish at Malfoy Manor, where she adds Dobby to her list of victims.
- Alecto Carrow (DH 11) – like her brother, only referred to as a “broad, hunched woman with pointed teeth.” Full disclosure, the first time I read this, I assumed it was Umbridge and was rather disappointed that Umbridge had turned out to be a Death Eater instead of just evil all on her own. Rather like Umbridge, she causes misery for the DA as part of Snape’s regime at Hogwarts, and it is her pressing of the Dark Mark that commences the Battle of Hogwarts.
These ten Death Eaters are a who’s who of the plot-relevant Death Eaters, but there are plenty more Death Eaters present at that long table. I’d venture a guess that most of the Death Eaters who are currently alive and in good standing would be present since Voldemort is discussing a lot of important maneuvers here. We can assume most (if not all) of the following were in attendance:
- Goyle, Sr.
- Rabastan Lestrange
- Rodolphus Lestrange
It’s also possible – but highly unlikely given the injuries sustained in the Department of Mysteries – that Crabbe, Sr. and Nott, Sr. were present.
The Battle of the Seven Potters
In a departure from tradition, Deathly Hallows has a big battle sequence quite early on. And with Voldemort’s ranks newly fortified by a second Azkaban breakout, we get far more combatants than usual: “at least thirty hooded figures” (DH 55).
For the first time since Voldemort’s rebirth, there are many Death Eaters present whom we don’t know. The Battle of the Seven Potters is more chaotic than any other, probably owing to its nature as an aerial battle. In fact, we only get a half dozen confirmed names for the Death Eaters, and four of the six Death Eaters who pursue Harry during the battle cannot even be identified.
Here are the ones we know for certain:
- Snape is part of the crew chasing Potter!George and Lupin and accidentally hits George’s ear with Sectumsempra (DH 73).
- Travers chases Potter!Hermione and Kingsley and is cursed by the latter (DH 73).
- Bellatrix chases Potter!Ron and Tonks; she tries very hard to kill Tonks (DH 76).
- Rodolphus also chases Potter!Ron and Tonks and was “definitely injured” in the battle (DH 76). Judging by how Bellatrix acts in the rest of Deathly Hallows, it seems likely that Rodolphus’s injuries were fatal and Bellatrix is unencumbered by a husband after this battle.
- Selwyn is the last Death Eater still flying of the six that pursue Harry and Hagrid, and Voldemort demands his wand in the thick of battle (DH 62).
- An Imperiused Stan Shunpike is Disarmed by Harry (DH 59).
But that leaves us short two dozen Death Eaters. Given how eager Voldemort is to get his hands on Harry, I’m under the impression that the Battle of the Seven Potters was an all-hands-on-deck mission. There are some exceptions, of course: Nott is injured, Crabbe is incapacitated, Lucius is wandless, and Wormtail seems an unlikely candidate for an aerial battle. The absence of any mention in the text of Draco participating seems to imply he was also absent.
But it seems likely that the other Death Eaters we know of were among the 30 combatants:
- Goyle, Sr.
- Rabastan Lestrange
Even if all of those were present, that leaves us a dozen Death Eaters short. And this is where I wish we had a conclusive answer as to how many Respectables there were at Voldemort’s resurrection. If there were 30 present then as well, then it seems likely Voldemort is relying on his tried-and-true Death Eaters from the First Vold War (and an Imperiused Stan Shunpike for some reason).
However, if there are only a dozen Respectables total, then Voldemort has been doing some heavy recruiting in the last year (12 Respectables + 10 Azkaban – 3 Absentees = Far less than 30). That would gel better with Stan Shunpike’s involvement. For all we know, Rowle and Selwyn are also new recruits. However, as discussed in Part 2 of this series, it seems more plausible that there were 30 Respectables and they made up most of the Death Eaters’ ranks in this battle.
Next up: Part 6 – We’re going to wrap up (for now) with, appropriately, the climactic Battle of Hogwarts.