“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

Saturday, January 30, 2010

“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord.”

I’ve made a number of observations about the themes of death, evil, and love in Harry Potter. At the end of the final book, these themes come together in a remarkable way. A closer examination of the extraordinary revelations at the end of Deathly Hallows reveals the key to Voldemort’s downfall and what are perhaps the most striking Christian parallels. But in order to better understand these events, we need to look back at how the battle between Harry and Voldemort originated. In attacking Harry and his parents, Voldemort’s original purpose was indeed to kill Harry, whom he believed to be a threat to him. This was because of a prophecy made concerning Voldemort and Harry, a prophecy that describes Harry almost as a Messiah* in whom the deliverance from evil will be found:

“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches…Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies…and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not…and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.” (OotP 841)
Voldemort, writes Rowling, was not merely following the tides of destiny when he attacked Harry in order to eliminate the threat foretold in this prophecy. He made a choice to single out a person whose unusual love was power beyond that of the Dark Lord, and in putting Lily in a position to give herself for Harry, Voldemort allowed Harry to acquire an additional weapon, the protective power of his mother’s love (HBP 510). Overlooking the power of sacrificial love proved to be fatal for Voldemort, and although he realized this, he makes the same mistake years later. Dumbledore tells Harry,
“Voldemort made a grave error, and acted on Professor Trelawney’s words!...Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there, is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back! Voldemort is no different! Always he was on the lookout for the one who would challenge him. He heard the prophecy and he leapt into action, with he result that he not only handpicked the man most likely to finish him, he handed him uniquely deadly weapons.” (HBP 510)
It is in the nature of evil, says Dumbledore, to create its own enemy, to bring about its own doom by doing things that will backfire in the end. (This is not surprising, given Voldemort’s woeful ignorance of all that is good.) In trying to eliminate Harry, Voldemort “marked him as his equal” and strengthened the power of love in Harry. That Voldemort’s attempt to destroy Harry as a baby both backfired against him at the time and resulted in Harry becoming a formidable future enemy to Voldemort is important as a backdrop for later events that took place between Harry and Voldemort.

*Harry’s birth was prophesied, and his enemy tried to kill him as a baby because the prophecy described Harry as a threat to him. In a strikingly similar way, Jesus’ birth was prophesied, and Herod tried to kill him as a child because the prophecies described the Messiah as King, which Herod considered a threat to his kingship. And just as strange events coincided with Jesus’ birth and childhood (the star of Bethlehem, angels appearing to shepherds, etc.), so also “strange and mysterious things” (PS ch. 1), such as shooting stars and an abundance of flying owls, coincide with Harry’s survival defeat of Voldemort as a baby.

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