“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, January 4, 2010

The Deathly Hallows, the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Last Enemy

According to legend, it is also said that if these three legendary objects are united, the possessor is master of death. When he first learns of the Hallows, Harry is allured by this possibility, tempted by pride and power much as the first brother was: “Master…conqueror…vanquisher…[Harry] saw himself, possessor of the Hallows, facing Voldemort, whose Horcruxes were no match” (DH ch. 22). Is this the way to “defeat the last enemy,” wonders Harry?

Possession of the Hallows, in and of itself, causes a temptation to pride, the pride of conquering death, standing over death as over a frightened child. Ironically, notes Dumbledore (The Tales of Beedle the Bard, p. 95), the growing legend that possession of the Hallows makes one master of death “precisely contradicts the message of the original” (that is, the Tale of the Three Brothers). That story points towards the true way of defeating death, which, discovers Harry, is not in the Hallows themselves. After Harry accepts his own death and lays down his life, Dumbledore tells him what it means to possess the Hallows:

“Maybe a man in a million could unite the Hallows, Harry. I was fit only to possess the meanest of them, the least extraordinary. I was fit to own the Elder Wand, and not to boast of it, and not to kill with it, but to save others from it. But the Cloak, I took out of vain curiousity, and so it could never have worked for me as it works for you, its true owner. The stone I would have used in an attempt to drag back those who are at peace, rather than to enable my self-sacrifice, as you did. You are the worthy possessor of the Hallows.” (DH ch. 35)
In other words, possessing the Hallows indicates that one is the true master of death, but does not make one the true master. In the story, Harry acquires all three Hallows because he finally understands and overcomes death; he does not defeat death because he acquires the Hallows. Possession of the Hallows, in itself, has a ring of pride and power, but, as we have seen, the way to mastering death must involve humble, self-giving submission to death. To pursue the Hallows as a means to conquering death is, as Dumbledore says, “a desperate man’s dream…a lure for fools” (DH ch. 35).

In book 7, the Hallows are pursued as a means of mastering death. In book 1, he encounters the Philosopher’s Stone, which produces the elixir of life and turns all to gold, thereby giving the possessor immortality and immeasurable riches. Here again we encounter a means by which death is sought to be defeated, (or, more accurately, avoided). Like Voldemort’s attempt to escape death through horcruxes, reliance on the Stone could never give one complete victory over death – the potential for death always remains, and life remains mortal life in a fallen world, albeit full of wealth. One never passes “on” to what lies beyond death. In the end, the Stone is destroyed and Nicolas Flamel, its Maker, accepts death. Dumbledore tells Harry “you know, the Stone was really not such a wonderful thing…” (PS ch. 17). Like horcruxes and hallows, it is not the way to defeat death. Only by death can this victory be attained, and not be any means of escaping death.

2 comments:

  1. I love your wonderful blog! I hope you will visit mine at http://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com. You may also be interested in reading about the correspondences between Rowling's Philospher's Stone and the Resurrection Stone with the Grail Stone of Parzival in the Arthurian legends. I've written about this and much more in "The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your blog was good you jus' need to add more facts

      Delete