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July 15-18, 2010
Orlando, Florida

Horcruxes in Faerie Land: Edmund Spenser's Influence on Voldemort's Efforts to Elude Death
Elizabeth Baird Hardy

Edmund Spenser never finished his epic twelve-book allegorical poem The Faerie Queene, featuring the adventures of knights who each represented a Christian virtue. Yet, the six complete books and segments known as the “mutabilitie cantos” have left a profound impact on Western Literature, far beyond Spenser’s original intent to compliment Queen Elizabeth I. The fantasy epic as we know it owes much to Spenser, his questing knights, dazzling ladies, and fantastic creatures. Though the language of The Faerie Queene  is a barrier few modern readers care to scale in order to visit Faerie Land, Spenser’s echoes can be seen in every subsequent tale of virtuous heroes, terrifying monsters, and heroic quests.

As heroic fantasy epic, J.K. Rowling’s seven-book telling of the trials, growth, and ultimate victory of Harry Potter draws upon the great traditions of fantasy, including Spenser. His bizarre monsters, dark forests, evil sorcerers, and dangerous journeys all find their way into Harry’s world.  Spenser’s influence in settings, themes, and character may be felt in any fantastic story as they are at Hogwarts, yet in one aspect of Harry’s adventures, Spenser’s echoes can be seen quite profoundly. Though Rowling invented both the word and the specific definition of Horcrux, Voldemort’s soul-fragments and the containers that hold them, meant as insurance against his mortality, connect back to the trials of Spenser’s Elfin Knights and the magical objects and snares they encounter on their journeys to fulfill their allegorical destinies. From the Redcrosse Knight’s struggles against a vision nearly identical to that faced by Ron Weasley in his attempt to crush the locket Horcrux to a magical ring that brings back the dead, the Horcruxes frequently reflect Spensarian echoes. In using similar, and often identical imagery, Spenser and Rowling both remind us, as Dumbledore does, that we should realize there are much worse things than dying.



Elizabeth Baird Hardy, author of Milton, Spenser, and the Chronicles of Narnia: Literary Sources for the C.S. Lewis Novels (McFarland 2007), is a senior instructor of English at Mayland Community College, where she was the 2006 Outstanding Faculty Member. She has presented at national conferences including the Women of Appalachia Conference, the Mythopoeic Society Conference, the 2007 C.S. Lewis the Man and his Work Conference, and the 2005 Witching Hour in Salem, MA. She contributed two chapters to Twilight and History (Wiley 2010) and is also a proud faculty member at the  Hogwarts Professor blog. She and her family live on the side of a mountain in western North Carolina.
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