“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday, December 21, 2009

“I must die. It must end.” – Harry Potter

On the night of the final battle, Harry is able to view some of Snape’s most significant memories in the pensieve. One in particular reveals to him what it truly means to gain victory by dying. Harry looks on as Dumbledore reveals a shocking truth. Harry himself is a horcrux – in his body is a fragment of the Dark Lord’s soul (I will explain the significance of this in greater detail later). If Voldemort is to be defeated, his horcruxes must be destroyed, and therefore Harry must die: “‘So the boy…the boy must die?’ asked Snape, quite calmly. ‘And Voldemort himself must do it, Severus. That is essentialWhen he does set out to meet his death, it will, truly, mean the end of Voldemort’” (DH ch. 33). Harry must allow Voldemort to kill him. “His job was to talk calmly into death’s welcoming arms…‘I must die. It must end’” (DH ch. 34).

Finally, Harry knows the way that Voldemort must be defeated, and the path is clear before him. This is way the last enemy is to be destroyed – by his own death. As we will see, death is also the only way to save his friends: he must lay down his life for them and walk into death’s arms. And this is exactly what Harry does. Alone, he walks in the night into the Dark Forest, where Voldemort awaits him.1 He goes willingly and knowingly to his own murder,2 and during this long walk undergoes a sort of “Gethsemane.” “He could no longer control his own trembling. It was not, after all, so easy to die. Every second he breathed, the smell of the grass, the cool air on his face, was so precious: to think that people had years and years, time to waste, so much time it dragged, and he was clinging to each second. At the same time he thought that he would not be able to go on, and knew that he must” (DH ch. 34).3 Finally Harry reaches the very end. He steps out from the trees, and there stands the Dark Lord, appearing as a sort of dark angel, “his white hands folded…he might have been praying…the great snake Nagini floated…like a monstrous halo” (DH ch. 34). “‘Harry Potter,’ he said, very softly…‘The boy who lived’…He saw the mouth move and a flash of green light, and everything was gone.”

1 Rowling stated in an interview, “For me, that chapter is the key of all the books. Everything, everything I have written, was thought of for that precise moment when Harry goes into the forest. That is the chapter that I had planned for 17 years. That moment is the heart of all of the books. And for me it is the last truth of the story. Even though Harry survives, of that there was no doubt, he reaches that unique and very rare state which is to accept his own death. How many people have the possibility of accepting their death before they die?”
2 Isaiah 53 comes to mind: “he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” The Christian parallel begins to emerge here. Christ too walked intentionally to his death, setting his face like flint towards Jerusalem (Luke 9:51, Isaiah 50:7).
3 What would it be like to set out somewhere, knowing that you will die at the end of your walk? Life is longer than Harry’s path into the forest, but qualitatively, it too is a road to certain death.

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