Harry Potter and the Dubious Hallows
CONTENT WARNING: Suicide is mentioned in this article. If you’re struggling, please know that you’re not alone. You can reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat with a representative online.
There are certain established facts about how magic works in Harry Potter. Readers get explanations ranging from the concrete and infallible, like Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration, to the more enigmatic, like Lily’s sacrificial protection. Because some branches of magic remain a mystery, it can be deduced that some explanations might be imprecise.
For example, the archway that Sirius falls through is assumed to be a one-way passage to the afterlife, and Sirius’s appearance in “Chapter 35: The Forest Again” is taken as proof. The archway has long been a topic of debate; some still question whether it was Bellatrix’s curse or the archway itself that killed him. Likewise, Horcruxes and the Elixir of Life are intended to grant eternal life, but both Voldemort and Nicolas Flamel could die. This makes me wonder if all magical items might work differently than assumed, which brings me to the Deathly Hallows.
The Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Invisibility Cloak are supposedly unfailing artifacts, undeniably powerful and unique. Still, Hermione points out the absurdity of Death himself crafting them. Are the Deathly Hallows truly infallible? Through close scrutiny, it’s clear that they don’t always work as expected. In fact, they might do the opposite of what they promise.
The Elder Wand is frequently described as unbeatable, yet we see the Wand beaten multiple times:
- Grindelwald stole it from Gregorovitch. It’s unclear exactly how this worked.
- Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald in a duel in 1945. We expect to see this play out in the Fantastic Beasts movies, and I assume some logical loophole will be in play.
- Draco disarmed Dumbledore using a spell taught to 12-year-olds. Though Snape killed Dumbledore, the Elder Wand knew it belonged to Draco.
- Harry stole Draco’s wand, causing the Elder Wand’s loyalty to shift.
Clearly, the Elder Wand is not unbeatable. There are very complicated ways of winning its allegiance, but there are simple methods as well. Nearly everyone who wielded the Wand died while using it. The two young teens on this list who survived the series technically owned it but did not use it, paralleling the Sorcerer’s Stone. Clearly, using the Elder Wand makes you a target for murder. If Death made the Wand, he knew what he was doing in luring people to their demise.
The Resurrection Stone is even more complicated. Like the Mirror of Erised, Harry reveres the Stone, though it may be vastly more dangerous than he realizes. It’s supposed to bring people back from the dead, seemingly drawing departed spirits back to this plane. But what if these apparitions aren’t what we think they are? What if the Resurrection Stone can’t resurrect anyone? I can’t take credit for this theory that’s floating around the fandom, but it’s entirely possible that the Stone actually works as a suicide stone, creating false ghosts that lure one to kill oneself.
The Stone gives Harry strength while walking to his death. He then finds himself in a sort of limbo where Dumbledore’s spirit tells him that all of this might indeed be happening inside his head. This has been embraced as a wholesome slogan for the fandom, but what if it hints at something more sinister?
Why would James, Lily, Remus, and Sirius ever encourage Harry to die? When did Sirius ever give the impression that he’d sacrifice his godson to save the wizarding world? This is entirely out of character. Perhaps the Stone makes you hallucinate realistic specters that convince you to die. Consider how the Stone drove the second Peverell brother mad. Like the Mirror or the archway, the Stone draws you in, making you forget to live.
The Harry Potter series is full of symbolic objects that work this way. The Mirror, the archway, Riddle’s diary, and even the Pensieve could all theoretically trick you into dying. Thankfully, Harry rises above all this temptation in the end; after the Stone successfully kills him, Harry shows great fortitude by not searching for it again.
The Invisibility Cloak is arguably the only Hallow that protects rather than endangers you. The only possible loophole is Moody’s magical eye seeing right through it. So even though the Cloak isn’t as flashy as the other two, Hermione was right: The Cloak is the most practical and desirable of the Hallows.
So were these objects created by Death himself? If so, then he created loopholes to swiftly draw brothers one and two to him. The third brother alone outsmarted Death by requesting something that hid him for a long period of time. Similarly, by going into hiding in Book 7, Harry was given time to outsmart Voldemort. Riddle was then outsmarted by Death, like the power-hungry first brother. We all know by now that Snape is the equivalent of the lovesick second brother.
But if we deny that Death created the Hallows, then they are simply powerful, enchanted objects. The theory of becoming Master of Death is never proven. However one looks at it, the first two of the Deathly Hallows are just that: deadly and not something you’d want to use.