In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince we learn that Lord Voldemort has tried to make himself immortal by enclosing parts of his soul in six so-called Horcruxes, all of which must be destroyed before he can die. Two have been destroyed already and four still remain. All six objects may be said to represent royal insignia, and can also be connected to the Arthurian legends. Whereas Voldemort has acquired his regalia by theft and murder, Harry has received another set of insignia as gifts or loans and has kept his soul intact.
Definition of a Horcrux
We are given the definition of a Horcrux by Professor Slughorn in a memory watched by Dumbledore and Harry in the Pensieve. This is Slughorn's description to Tom Riddle (later known as Voldemort) back in Tom's final year at Hogwarts:
A Horcrux is the word used for an object in which a person has concealed part of their soul. ¦ you split your soul ¦ and hide part of it in an object outside the body. Then, even if one's body is attacked or destroyed, one cannot die, for part of the soul remains earthbound and undamaged.1
The creation of a Horcrux involves murder, which "rips the soul apart' 2 and the use of a spell. A Horcrux is considered "Dark stuff" and is a banned subject at Hogwarts. Nevertheless, from the same memory it is clear that Tom, at the age of 16 or 17, is contemplating the idea of more than one Horcrux and also considers seven to be "the most powerfully magical number." 3
After watching the scene from Slughorn's memory, Dumbledore explains to Harry that he suspects Voldemort of having actually split his soul and made not only one, but six Horcruxes out of different objects.
The first Horcrux was the Diary that Harry destroyed four years ago in the Chamber of Secrets and which contained Tom Riddle's "memory" from when he was a student at Hogwarts.
Another was the Ring that Dumbledore acquired and destroyed in the summer between books 5 and 6; a ring that Tom at the age of 16 had stolen from his mother's brother, Morfin Gaunt. Morfin was accused shortly thereafter of murdering Tom's father and paternal grandparents and sent to Azkaban ’ a murder more likely committed by Tom himself. The ring was engraved with the Peverell Coat of Arms. This name was not previously mentioned in the books and is not explained in The Half Blood Prince. Harry also never gets to hear (within book 6) the story of exactly how Dumbledore destroyed the Ring or how Dumbledore's hand became withered and burned in the process.
The remaining Horcruxes Dumbledore deduces to be:
A Locket engraved with the Slytherin symbol.
A Cup engraved with the Hufflepuff symbol.
An Unknown Object of Ravenclaw or Gryffindor.
The Snake, Nagini.
The Locket and the Cup were both stolen from Hepzibah Smith, whom Tom visited while he was working for Borgin & Burkes. The Cup, which she claimed had belonged to Helga Hufflepuff, one of the founders of Hogwarts, was a family heirloom. Hepzibah had bought the Locket from Borgin & Burkes. Dumbledore and Harry had seen it before in the Pensieve, and they knew it had been sold to Borgin & Burkes by Tom's mother, Merope. Merope's father, Marvolo Gaunt, claimed it to be a family heirloom proving the Gaunts to be the last living descendants of Salazar Slytherin, another founder of Hogwarts.
It should be noted that the names Peverell and Gaunt in British "Muggle" history go back to the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066 (Battle of Hastings), a century or so after Hogwarts is supposed to have been built.4 The name Gaunt comes from Ghent in Flanders.5 The motto in the Gaunt Coat of Arms is interesting in connection with Voldemort's immortality project: "Dum spiro spero - while I have breath I hope." 6 Peverell is a name of ancient Norman origin, and William the Conqueror had a bastard son named William Peverell, so there is also a possible royal connection.7
The Snake, Nagini, was of help to Voldemort in regaining a body:
"Wormtail was able to follow the rudimentary instructions I gave him, which would return me to a rudimentary, weak body of my own, a body I would be able to inhabit while awaiting the essential ingredients for true rebirth¦ a spell or two of my own invention¦ a little help from my dear Nagini" ’ Voldemort's eye fell upon the continually circling snake ’ "a potion concocted from unicorn blood, and the snake venom Nagini provided¦ I was soon returned to an almost human form, and strong enough to travel." 8
In The Half Blood Prince, Dumbledore points out to Harry that Voldemort "is perhaps as fond of her as he can be of anything; he certainly likes to keep her close and he seems to have an unusual amount of control over her." 9 This refers to how Voldemort used the snake in The Order of the Phoenix to attack Arthur Weasley.10
Since Dumbledore points out that "the only known relic of Gryffindor remains safe' it seems likely that the Unknown Object is connected to Ravenclaw. Several suggestions have been made about what this object could be, and many readers have concluded that it is probably a tiara, since a tiara is mentioned twice in The Half-Blood Prince.11 Harry finds a "tarnished tiara" in the Room of Requirement and uses it to mark the place where he hides his Potions book. Mrs. Weasley mentions a goblin-made tiara belonging to Great Auntie Muriel, whom she hopes will be willing to lend it to Fleur to wear at the wedding. That Auntie Muriel's tiara is goblin-made could indicate a connection to Ravenclaw. J.K. Rowling has said that Professor Flitwick, Head of Ravenclaw House, has "a dash of goblin ancestry" 12 In one of the Pensieve scenes we see Hepzibah Smith and part of her collection of heirlooms from the founders of Hogwarts. Besides the Slytherin locket and the Hufflepuff Cup, goblin-made armour is mentioned. Put together, these hints seem to indicate an ancient connection between Ravenclaw and goblins. Whether the tiara is still in Auntie Muriel's possession, or if it is the one in the Room of Requirement, we cannot know until book 7. For this essay, I am assuming that the Unknown Horcrux is a tiara connected to Rowena Ravenclaw and hidden by Voldemort in the Room of Requirement, since this seems to fit in well with a bigger pattern.
The four Houses of Hogwarts and their symbols are connected to the four Elements:13
Fire ’ Gryffindor (lion)
Water ’ Slytherin (serpent)
Air ’ Ravenclaw (eagle)
Earth ’ Hufflepuff (badger)
It seems likely that Voldemort has taken the elemental symbols into account when choosing his hiding places:
Judging from the injury Dumbledore got in acquiring/destroying the Ring, either its hiding place or its curse was connected to fire.14 If so, the ring is probably supposed to represent Gryffindor, whether the Peverell coat of arms that is engraved on it has any actual connection to Godric Gryffindor or not.
The Slytherin Locket was hidden in a basin, on an island, in the middle of a lake, in a cave under water. Even if the original was later replaced by another locket containing a message from R.A.B. about the exchange, the location Voldemort chose was surrounded by water.
If the Unknown Object is actually a Ravenclaw Tiara, it would be very appropriate to hide it on the 7th floor of Hogwarts--high up in the seat of learning and close to the air.
According to the same logic, the Hufflepuff Cup is likely to be hidden underground. For example, it could be in a Gringotts vault. From a "plotting" point of view alone, I think we may expect Gringotts to be involved in the last book: Bill works for Gringotts; Charlie works with dragons; and dragons are said to be guarding the high-security vaults in the bank. It would be a shame not to make use of that combination!
The Horcruxes as Regalia
Something else these four objects have in common is that they represent crown jewels or regalia.
Rings are used in coronation ceremonies, representing the "marriage" between the Sovereign and the nation.15 One of the many uses of signet rings, which are engraved with a ruler's crests of arms, is to seal documents.16
Crowns and tiaras are obvious crown jewels.
Necklaces are also displayed with the crown jewels in many countries, even if I can't find that necklaces have been part of the actual coronation ceremony in Britain. But neck rings, also called torcs, were important pieces of jewelry among the Celts and their chieftains.17
Cups have also been used in coronation ceremonies.18
What about the other two Horcruxes, the Diary and the Snake? They are less obvious, but they, too, can be regarded as royal symbols:
Dumbledore says the Diary "was proof that he [Voldemort] was the heir of Slytherin." 19 We can compare it to the Chronicles and Books of Kings in the Bible or to other chronicles or legends about kings.
The Snake could represent the royal scepter. In old Egypt, the Cobra was the symbol of Pharaoh. In the Celtic religion the snake represented immortality, "for its ability to shed its skin, essentially being reborn anew." 20 In the Harry Potter story, the snake is Slytherin's symbol.
In The Chamber of Secrets, the wand duel between Harry and Draco is an allusion to the story in the Book of Exodus in the Bible about Moses and Aaron confronting the magicians of Pharaoh. Aaron's staff (cf. wand!) turned into a snake. Pharaoh's magicians performed the same trick, but Aaron's snake (staff) devoured the Egyptians' snakes:
Then Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs. (Exod. 7:10-12)21
In The Chamber of Secrets, Draco produces a snake from his wand, but Harry controls it by speaking to it in Parseltongue. Lockhart tries to get rid of it but only manages to get it to fly ten feet into the air and fall back onto the floor again. It is Snape who finally makes it disappear: "Snape stepped forward, waved his wand and the snake vanished in a small puff of black smoke." 22
We have a similar scene but on a bigger scale in The Order of the Phoenix. Here Dumbledore gets rid of a snake that Voldemort conjures up:
At the same moment, Dumbledore brandished his wand in one long, fluid movement ’ the snake, which had been an instant from sinking its fangs into him, flew high into the air and vanished in a wisp of dark smoke.23
We don't know what object Voldemort originally intended to make into a Horcrux in connection with killing Harry, if he had been successful. My bet is on a scepter-like object. And since we haven't heard of any such object being stolen, my guess is it would have been something in the Potters' possession, for example, James's wand. This might also partly explain a statement by the author in the Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview in July, 2005:
ES: This is one of my burning questions since the third book - why did Voldemort offer Lily so many chances to live? Would he actually have let her live?
JKR: [silence] Can't tell you. But he did offer, you're absolutely right. Don't you want to ask me why James's death didn't protect Lily and Harry? There's your answer, you've just answered your own question, because she could have lived and chose to die. James was going to be killed anyway. [---] she was given time to choose. James wasn't.24
However, the attempt to kill Harry did not go as planned. Dumbledore suggests Voldemort might later have found the live Snake that helped him back to power to be a suitable last Horcrux, instead of whatever-it-was that he had intended to use in the first place. Voldemort would probably also consider the Snake to be useful as a tool to help him finally get to Harry. By the time he turned the Snake into a Horcrux he would have known (through Wormtail) about Harry's ability to speak Parseltongue.
Voldemort is obviously careful in his choice of Horcruxes. Since he has also chosen the title "Lord" for himself, it seems likely that he would also choose to "dress himself" (the parts of his soul) in royal attire. Lord is a title of nobility in Britain, but it is also the title by which the Israelites referred to God, whose name they didn't dare to speak out aloud ’ just like most people in the wizarding world do not dare say the name Voldemort.
The Horcruxes and the Arthurian Legends
In The Chamber of Secrets, we have a clear allusion to the Arthurian theme of the books in connection with the destruction of the first Horcrux, the Diary. Fawkes brings Harry the Sorting Hat, and from the hat Harry draws the Gryffindor sword, like King Arthur drew the sword from the stone (after it had been put there by Merlin). Dumbledore says to Harry afterwards about the sword: "Only a true Gryffindor could have pulled that out of the Hat." 25 And the person saved is Ginny, whose real name is Ginevra,26 a variant of the name Guinevere, who was King Arthur's queen.
This made me wonder if perhaps the Horcruxes are not only symbols of regalia in general, but specifically of regalia connected to the Arthurian legends. I did some research on the Internet and found support for this theory.
In the Arthurian legends, the wizard Merlin appears as King Arthur's mentor. In Howard Pyle's story of King Arthur and His Knights, Merlin is given a ring, which later causes him to be enclosed in an enchanted castle or tomb.27 In The Half-Blood Prince, it is Dumbledore, Harry's mentor, who finds the Horcrux ring and ends up in a tomb.
Also in Howard Pyle's story of King Arthur, there is a locket, which is exchanged for another necklace. When the locket - or rather it's content, "a ball as of crystal' is destroyed by King Arthur, the former bearer of the locket dies.28
Legend has it that King Arthur's crown was a silver "coronella" (a small crown or tiara rather than a full size crown) which was acquired by king Edward in his victory over the Welsh. It has been claimed by some to be the same "king Edward's crown" which when melted down in the 17th century, was found to be made not of pure gold but of heavily gilded silver.29
For the Cup we have the legendary Grail, for which there are so many literary sources that it is impossible to refer to just one”especially since we have not seen yet what magic will be connected to the Hufflepuff Cup in Rowling's story. Riddle's Diary would correspond to the legends about King Arthur. As for the Snake, snakes and dragons are also involved in Arthurian tales. The most famous among these are perhaps the red and white dragons that Merlin saw in a vision of before Arthur was even born. Merlin interpreted this vision to represent a struggle for power between Britons and Saxons. In the Harry Potter story, the duel scenes involving snakes represent a similar struggle for power between enemies.
The Horcruxes as Weapons
Dumbledore says to Harry that Tom Riddle's Diary was not quite an ordinary Horcrux, because it was "intended as a weapon as much as a safeguard." 30 That is, it was not just a container but could act on its own.
If the very first Horcrux Tom Riddle made had this complex construction, would not all of them be like that, not just the Diary and the Snake? Assuming the locket is the "heavy locket none of them could open" found in Grimmauld Place,31 and the Tiara in the Room of Requirement is indeed one of the Horcruxes, it seems both can be touched without anything happening. But so could the Diary, until Ginny (and later Harry) started using it as a diary and writing in it.
The jewelry objects are all meant to be worn or used. We are told that at least some of them had magic powers of their own to begin with. According to Dumbledore, the ring had "a terrible curse" connected to it, but we don't know whether or not this was a curse put on it by Voldemort.32 Hepzibah Smith said that the Locket and the Cup had "all sorts of powers" attributed to them, but she was keeping them "nice and safe." 33 It seems likely that none of the objects would show their powers until they are worn or used in the way they were intended.
So what can we expect from them?
A ring is made to be worn on the hand, so it is likely to make the wearer do things one wouldn't normally do. We are not told exactly what Dumbledore had to do to destroy the Ring Horcrux. But it was made clear in the chapter about the Horcruxes that this action caused the injury to his hand: "However, a withered hand does not seem an unreasonable exchange for a seventh of Voldemort's soul." 34 Gryffindor is connected to the element Fire, which represents Passion (for example in the interpretation of Tarot cards).35
A locket is made to keep secrets of the heart, so it is likely to affect one's feelings, perhaps make one feel things one wouldn't normally feel. It could make one doubt oneself or reveal one's innermost feelings. The locket in Pyle's story contained a crystal ball that could symbolize tears. Slytherin is connected to the element Water, which represents Emotion.
A tiara is made to be worn on the head, so it is likely to affect one's thoughts. Ravenclaw is connected to the element Air, and to the mind.
A cup is made to be drunk from and to touch the mouth. If this cup is supposed to be the opposite of the legendary Grail (a vessel that always provides), it might make whoever drinks from it greedy. Another possibility is that it might make the one who drinks from it say things that he or she wouldn't normally say. Hufflepuff is connected to the element Earth, which represents the Body and material things.
Voldemort likely intended to use the objects' original magic for his own purposes. As seen from the Diary and the Snake, he was not satisfied with just keeping the pieces of his soul "safe." He also seems to have wanted to use them to control other people. However, this idea has so far not turned out exactly as he wanted. Even if more people might be injured in the process, I think we can also safely count on Voldemort's failure to understand the Power of Love to continue to backfire on him with each of the remaining Horcruxes in Book 7. We learn already in Book 1 that "if there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love." 36
The Opposites of the Horcruxes
If Voldemort chose his Horcruxes as regalia to prove his ancestry, his power and his right to put himself above others, there seems to be a matching set of objects that have chosen Harry (instead of Harry actively choosing them). These objects correspond even better to Arthurian regalia than the Horcruxes, because Harry does not choose them for himself but receives and accepts them as gifts or loans. All of them also have some sort of connection to Dumbledore. This is another indication that the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore could be intended to remind us of King Arthur and Merlin.
The first object to choose Harry is his Wand,37 which (as he finds out later) contains a feather from Dumbledore's Phoenix bird Fawkes. The wand is the key to magic power, and in that respect could be a symbol of the scepter. But the wand is also used as a weapon and could therefore be compared to a spear. The next magical object that chooses Harry is the Sorting Hat, which "crowns" him into Gryffindor House. But the Sorting Hat does not force anyone; it listens to what is in their own mind. Harry's choice is confirmed the following year in The Chamber of Secrets, when the Phoenix Fawkes comes to his aid and brings him the Hat containing Gryffindor's Sword and heals Harry's wounds with its tears. The Phoenix is a firebird and could be regarded as the Opposite of the Snake, which is the Slytherin symbol. At the same time, it's tears represent the elemental symbol of Slytherin ’ Water/Emotion. Instead of writing his own Chronicles in a diary, Harry is given important clues about the past in Dumbledore's Pensieve.38 All of these objects, including the bird, are usually kept in the Headmaster's office. Presumably, so is the Goblet of Fire, which chooses Harry to partake in the Triwizard Tournament in his fourth year at Hogwarts. Dumbledore calls the Goblet "an impartial selector." The Goblet is a "roughly hewn wooden cup", filled with magic fire. Significantly, the other Hogwarts' champion chosen by the Goblet is Cedric from Hufflepuff House. If the Phoenix connects Fire and Water (Gryffindor and Slytherin), then the Goblet connects Fire and Earth. There is also a temptation of materialism in the prize of gold that awaits the winner of the Tournament. However, Harry gives his winnings away.
Furthermore, the Goblet's selection of Harry as Champion led to his blood being used to bring Lord Voldemort back into a human Body. It could perhaps be argued that this was not a good thing. But Voldemort's rebirth was necessary to make him mortal again. It is his return to human form that will make it possible for him to die in the end, after the Horcruxes have been destroyed. It could also turn out more important than we have yet seen, that it was Harry's blood that was used, rather than somebody else's.
Another object, which comes to Harry as an anonymous Christmas gift in his first year, is the Invisibility Cloak. It turns out to have belonged to Harry's father, but it is Dumbledore who gives it to Harry. The cloak is a mantle, which also belongs to the royal insignia. Among the magical Thirteen Treasures of Britain, we find, as the thirteenth object, "The mantle of Arthur; whosoever was beneath it could see everything, while no one could see him." 39
The Invisibility Cloak, I think, should be considered as a kind of opposite of Voldemort's new body after his rebirth in the cauldron in The Goblet of Fire. This new body is in itself not much more than a Horcrux, since it is not really his own, but is made up of "Bone of the father, unknowingly given' "Flesh of the servant, willingly given' and "Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken." 40 When he rises again from the Cauldron, he says: "Robe me." Voldemort has chosen to become visible and tangible again. The Emperor puts on new clothes but cannot see that in spite of all his royal attire, his scattered soul is still vulnerable.
The following is a list of the objects we have been discussing thus far:
|Gryffindor’Fire’Passion-Hand||Ring of Peverell||Gryffindor Sword|
|Ravenclaw’Air’Thought’Mind||Tiara of Ravenclaw (?)||Sorting hat|
|Slytherin’Water’Emotion-Heart||Locket of Slytherin||Fawkes (healing tears)|
|Hufflepuff’Earth’Body-Mouth||Cup of Hufflepuff||Goblet of Fire|
|Scepter, Spear’Power||Snake (Nagini)||Wand (Phoenix core)|
|Mantle||New body||Invisibility Cloak|
Since we are still waiting for book 7, events in that book might still change our perspective and the lists above. For example, I am not convinced about the wand as Harry's "scepter" or "spear" in the end. We know that Voldemort's wand has the same core (another feather from Fawkes) and saw in The Goblet of Fire that the two don't work against each other. Furthermore, since Voldemort's "scepter" (also used as weapon) is a live one, we should perhaps expect the same for Harry. An interesting detail that gives food for thought is the name of King Arthur's spear (or lance) ’ it was called "Ron".41 Will we get to see Ron act as Harry's "spear" in book 7? Already in the first book, The Philosopher's Stone, Ron took the place of a Knight in the Chess game, which they had to play to get to the chamber where the Stone was kept. I have not been able to find a scepter in any list of enchanted objects connected to King Arthur. According to the official website of the British Monarchy, "The first recorded appearance of the sceptre in the coronation dates from the ninth century." 42 (Arthur is supposed to have died in 542.)43 The scepter is a symbol of power meant to be passed on and does not become the personal property of the king. Which raises the interesting question: Will Nagini stay loyal to Lord Voldemort and controllable, or might she suddenly show a will of her own? Dumbledore says about the idea of using animals as Horcruxes: "Well, it is inadvisable to do so, because to confide a part of your soul to something that can think and move for itself is obviously a very risky business." 44 Harry's ability to speak the language of snakes (Parseltongue) has also been a point of consideration ever since the first book, in which he communicates with a snake at the zoo. There might be alternatives other than the Wand or the Sword when it comes to dealing with Nagini ’ and, for that matter, when it comes to dealing with Lord Voldemort himself at the end.
The Grail Question
A previously rumored title in the Harry Potter series was The Hallows of Hogwarts (registered trade mark, later withdrawn).45 In Celtic and Arthurian legends, the Hallows refer to certain objects that must be brought (back) to the wounded Grail Keeper, also called the Fisher King, to heal him as well as his land. The objects differ between versions, but usually the Hallows refer to: the Spear that wounded the King, a Sword, a Cup (or cauldron, or dish), and the King's Crown. In some versions, the Grail Question must be answered before the Grail Keeper finally yields the Holy Grail to the Knight (Parsifal or Galahad).46
In the Harry Potter story, I think that Voldemort's Horcruxes have to be found and destroyed, and "brought back" to him for Voldemort to realize that the parts of his soul he once hid in these objects no longer reside there. I believe he will then have to acknowledge that the soul within his mortal body is all he has left. Maybe Voldemort must also be asked and answer a "Grail Question" at the end, before he can die. Dumbledore (and with him the author) has made a point of digging into Voldemort's / Tom Riddle's past, and showing Harry important scenes related to it in the Pensieve. Even in his encounter with Lord Voldemort at the Ministry of Magic at the end of The Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore calls him by his given name, Tom, instead of by the name he has taken for himself, Voldemort. What was it that made Tom so afraid of death in the first place that he took all these drastic measures to protect himself from it? Voldemort says to Dumbledore at the Ministry of Magic: "There's nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!" But we learned already in the first book that Dumbledore takes a different view on the subject of death: "After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." 47
Even if some of the details can only be guessed at until the last book in the series is published, I think the main idea can be sensed already: Riddle/Voldemort has misused his magic power, ripped and scattered his soul by murder, and stolen his regalia; even his present body was acquired by force. Because they were never rightfully his, he is destined to lose his Horcruxes and be forced to face Mortality like any other man in the end.
Harry on the other hand has kept his soul intact and accepted both power and wealth as gifts or loans and willingly shared them with his friends; therefore he has been able to repeatedly defeat evil. However, his victory in the end probably depends on continued willingness to share not only power and possessions with his friends, but also his burdens. The latter is probably what will be hardest for him to realize: When Ron says at the end of book 6 that he and Hermione will be going with him wherever he goes, Harry "had not counted on this, he had meant them to understand that he was undertaking this most dangerous journey alone." 48 He broke up with Ginny for the same reason: "I've got things to do alone now."
So even if Harry has learned something along the way about delegating tasks to others, at the end of The Half Blood Prince he is still convinced that it is he alone who must find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes and kill Voldemort. Most likely, he will find during the course of the last book that he is not as alone as he thinks in his mission; help will still come to him from unexpected sources when he needs it, if only he is willing to receive it.
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