HPEF presents Infinitus 2010, a Harry Potter conference            TEXT  MENU

July 15-18, 2010
Orlando, Florida

Hallows and Horcruxes: Splintering and Wholeness in the Harry Potter Series
Barbara Purdom

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry must consider this question: Hallows or Horcruxes? Should he focus on finding and destroying Voldemort’s soul fragments, making his enemy vulnerable to defeat, or should Harry pursue the (possibly mythical) Deathly Hallows? And what REALLY distinguishes the Hallows and the Horcruxes from each other? What basic philosophical contrast is JK Rowling presenting?

The Horcruxes, repositories for Voldemort’s soul-fragments, sum up what Voldemort’s character is about: division AND enforced uniformity. Each piece of his soul is a perfect little copy of him. In Chamber of Secrets, the soul-fragment in the diary has all of Tom Riddle’s memories, his cruelty and his cunning. Dividing a soul doesn’t result in one piece that represents Voldemort’s love of reptiles and another that possesses his affinity for torture—every piece is him, his psyche and personality, identical with all other pieces. This preference for uniformity is also seen in the way Voldemort selects his minions; he doesn’t find anyone useful who isn’t his philosophical clone. Any divergence from his way of thinking and doing is heretical.

The Deathly Hallows were never parts of a whole; they are disparate objects that come together to create a whole, a collection that makes the owner Master of Death, which, if Harry is to believe the fairy tale by Beadle the Bard, means that the Master of Death has the ability to choose his time of death, to be in complete control of the one thing that almost no one is in control of. It doesn’t represent complete avoidance of death, which is what Voldemort is attempting, but an acknowledgement that, eventually, death is a part of—life.

Rowling’s books have a number of groups whose strength is in diversity, not uniformity; people come together to make wholes that are stronger for being unlike each other: The Order of the Phoenix; Dumbledore’s Army; the Trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione; and the Hogwarts houses. The strength of both the Hallows and these composite entities is in their union of diverse elements, while Voldemort assumes that he draws strength from the Horcruxes due to their separation and uniformity, which, paradoxically, are NOT strengths, as we see over and over in the series.

Barbara Purdom has been writing about the Potterverse since 2001 and has presented seven papers at five symposia, which she is incorporating into books about the Harry Potter series. She has also led classes for people of faith about all seven Potter books and was a religiously-based activist for gay rights, reproductive freedom and church/separation for ten years, as well as also being interviewed by Bay Windows concerning Dumbledore's "outing" after Bay Windows also interviewed her about Metaphorical Queerness in the Harry Potter Books, presented at The Witching Hour (Salem, October 2005). She was a classics major and anthropology minor at Temple University and still lives in her native Philadelphia with her husband and teenaged son and daughter, plus their five cats. She has been on the board of HPEF since its inception.
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