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Harry Potter and the Five Big BUTS
WARNING! WARNING! DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!
There are easier ways, right? Toss the ring into begin with, since all his plans – save one assassination – were spoiled by Cap) touches the wrong glowy thing and vanishes in a puff of cosmic smoke! Sure all those villains can come back, hale and hearty and ready to roll, but at least defeating them was quick, clean and made some sense.
And then there’s Voldemort.
To be clear, I think JK Rowling is hands-down brilliant. I’ve no doubt the seven book/eight film Harry Potter saga will be part of our culture, download, e-book or otherwise, for decades to come. At the same time, though, among the crucial hallmarks of great storytelling, I’ve always considered elegance and simplicity, well… important. And there’s something wildly inelegant and increasingly complicated about the battle twixt Harry and Voldemort.
Not that the Empress has no clothes, but I think she could have dressed a little better. Much of the series seems planned – hey, I’m tickled to go back to the first book and see mention of Sirius Black’s motorcycle. Then, as we get to the end of the fifth book, The Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore takes Harry aside and, for about a hundred pages, to says, in effect, “Here’s the real plot, but I kept it secret because I didn’t want to hurt you.” At that point, I have to at least suspect a certain someone had written themselves into a corner and was now performing a variety of literary-contortionist moves to get out of it.
In a big way, who cares? Potter rules! Yet, when I reach that grand finale, the final confrontation, and I read it once, twice and again, then hit the web in search of explanation, I get a little lost (yeah, like the TV series). Sometimes I think I get it, and sometimes I don’t. So, for those with similar confusion (and suspicions), here’s a brief list, I call, despite the title of the column:
Voldemort wants to kill Harry Potter BUT….
1. …the love of Harry’s mother saves him.
Aside from the power of a mom’s love being a tad old news, I have little trouble with this, especially since it’s introduced in the first book, Sorcerer’s Stone (Philosopher’s to you Brits). When Voldemort tried to blast everyone’s favorite toddler in his crib, Lily Evans Potter willingly sacrifices herself to save her son. In so doing, she creates a protective shield around him, causing the death spell (Avada Kedavra – Geseundeit!) to rebound and destroy Voldemort’s physical form. This sacrifice (which some argue actually created a magical contract, but I’m not going to get into that here) is so strong, to quote Dumbledore, it “leaves a mark” which later prevents Professor Quirinus Quirrel from even touching Harry. Way to go Mom! Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only thing that happened during Lily’s last moment, but more on that when we get to number three.
2. … Harry and Voldemort’s wands are twinned.
Voldy gets his body back in the fourth book, Goblet of Fire, and naturally tries to zap Harry again. So what happened to the protection of Lily’s love spell? The big V says, “This is old magic, I should have remembered it, I was foolish to overlook it…but no matter. I can touch him now.” But beyond that we don’t get the answer to that one for a while. Even so, the Dark Lord still can’t touch Harry. When he tries, Harry parries and their wands get all crazy with what they call Priori Incantatem and I don’t think Viagra will help. How’d that happen? To be fair, again, the reason’s pretty clear. We know from wand-maker Olivander’s comments back in Sorceror, that Harry’s wand is twinned with Voldemort’s own, meaning they share a core, or whatever, so they get locked up, or something.
3. …Harry’s secretly a Horcrux.
Hold on to your choosing hat, ’cause here comes the real “Huh?” territory. In the grand finale, Deathly Hallows, Voldemort finally figures he’s all set. No, really, for sure. The good guys have failed to destroy what Voldy thinks is his final Horcrux (a magical item containing a shard of his soul). He’s got the Elder Wand (the most powerful in existence). Harry’s right in front of him, ready to die. What could go wrong? Zap! Harry falls! Dark Lord does his happy dance! Only… turns out there’s an awful lot going on here, so much it requires another long explanation from Dumbledore, even though he’s dead.
First off, in killing Harry, Voldemort’s really killing himself, and that’s no metaphor. Way back in that instant when Mom sacrificed herself, we now learn that Voldemort unkowingly turned Harry into a Horcrux, too! And here you thought maybe creating a Horcrux required concentration, intent and maybe a little time? Nah, I do ’em all the time. No idea how many Horcruxes I have. So Voldemort destroyed his own Horcrux! Even so, shouldn’t Harry, being a Horcrux, now be destroyed? Nope! Because…
4. …Voldemort has some of Harry’s blood in him.
Back in Goblet, a bit of Harry’s blood was used to resurrect the Dark Lord. Apparently Voldemort thought this would be his way around the old magic of Lily’s Love, but Voldemort doesn’t understand love, or the plot, either. In fact, this move had the opposite effect, and “grounded Harry to the physical world” – whatever that means. So, when Harry looks like he dies, he doesn’t. Not at all. At least that’s how JKR explained it in the FAQ on her old website.
5. … the Elder Wand is really Harry’s.
Turns out the hyper-powerful magical Elder Wand isn’t really Voldemort’s to begin with! Legend had it that the wand belonged to whoever killed the previous owner. Even Dumbledore believed that much, but it turns out legends are stupid! You just have to best the owner, even by disarming him. (Well, at least if the wand likes you, since they chose their owners.) Given the blood and the Horcrux, what difference does the freaking Elder Wand make? Well, it’s the only wand powerful enough to destroy a Horcrux.
To recap, the Elder Wand DOES kill the part of Harry that’s the Horcrux (this, incidentally is the first time we learn that a Horcrux is only “part” of an object), but can’t kill Harry because (a) he’s grounded in the physical world (b) the wand is really Harry’s to begin with.
Brilliant? Sometimes I think so. Sometimes I just think, Huh? In the end, at that point, I figure Voldemort was so sick of all this crap anyway, he was ready to fall on his own wand. If he had one, that is, after all, it’s really Harry’s and… Oh, forget it!
Riddle indeed. More like a Rubik’s Cube.
For more Harry Potter yucks, and even less sense, I invite you all to take a look at Harry Potty and the Deathly Boring, with art by Rick Parker. You can check out an excerpt here.