“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

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Voldemort “killed by his own rebounding curse”

In the Christian story, the battle was won decisively with Christ’s death – the resurrection was a declaration of that victory to all creation. In Harry Potter, the story is different in this regard. Harry’s “death” is crucial to Voldemort’s doom, but it is not the final, decisive cause. When Harry is “resurrected,” he must complete the task, which he does brilliantly, exposing Voldemort’s folly and defeating him in battle as the sun rises red and gold. The final stroke was Harry’s deflection of (once again) Voldemort’s death curse. This, as Harry explains to Voldemort with great lucidity, was only possible because Harry was the true master of the Elder Wand, which Voldemort had seized and with which he attempted to kill Harry. I have already described how Voldemort’s mistaken belief that he had mastered the Elder Wand bore similarities to his fatal ignorance of love. Just as that ignorance resulted in the Avada Kedavra curse reflecting back upon Voldemort from a love-protected baby Harry, so once again the Dark Lord’s ignorance of what it means to master the Elder Wand (and thus master death) results in him being “killed by his own rebounding curse.”

Everything Voldemort seems to think of as a brilliant move on his own part backfires against him, reveals his folly, and allows the true nature of love and death to be seen. He marked Harry (who loved) as the one with power to vanquish him and (accidentally) made him into a horcrux, thus making necessary Harry’s death for Voldemort’s defeat. Later he accomplished his own defeat by “killing” Harry himself.

When Voldemort tried to eliminate the prophesied threat to his immortality, he created his own worst enemy and handed him a powerful weapon. When Voldemort took Harry’s blood, he “tethered Harry to life” and set up his own demise. When he attempted to kill Harry in the Dark Forest, he destroyed what was left of his own soul, made himself mortal, and foolishly allowed his enemies to be shielded from harm. And when he seized the Elder Wand and used it against Harry, its true master, his death curse was (once again) reflected back upon him, this time killing him, since he had accidentally mortalized himself. In all of these actions, he “tampered so ill-advisedly with the deepest laws of magic” ( DH 570). This pattern of the seemingly cunning designs of evil playing paradoxically into the deeper and greater designs of the good is, as we have seen, most definitely present in Christianity. It is a pattern that profoundly reflects reality.

Voldemort, in his folly, mistook his enemies’ greatest strengths for weaknesses. A similarity in the paradoxical nature of love and death is worth noting. Just as the “weakness” of love (Voldemort views his enemies as “fools who love”) was shown to be crucial in Voldemort’s defeat, so also was the “shameful human weakness” of death turned on its head, resulting in resurrection from death and victory over death (see also C. S. Lewis’ description of God as a chessmaster, turning the enemy’s great weapon of death into his own even greater weapon for victory). For more thoughts on these “weaknesses” being, in fact, powerful and strong and true, see “The ‘Foolish’ Wisdom of the Cross,” “The Paradox of the Cross,” and “The Paradox of ‘Foolish Wisdom’.”

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