Why are we all so obsessed with Horcuxes?
A wiser man than your darling Quibbler Editor once claimed that all fantasy writing after Tolkien is kind of faced with a bit of a block. Supposedly Tolkien did it all. But that’s not how literature works. It’s developing and fluid and for sharing like good garlic bread (not the fluid bit). Tolkien reinvented fantasy. Rowling reinvented British boarding school literature and took the hero’s journey in another creative direction. So before y’all expect a rant about Rowling stealing everything from the likes of Tolkien and Pratchett- this isn’t that, I promise!
How far can the One Ring be likened to Rowling’s Horcruxes?
The One Ring took immense skill to create, but was not meant as a tool to maintain immortality. Tolkien loved the Magic Rings of legend, as did dear old Lewis. Moreover, that’s probably why Rowling had one of Voldy’s Horcruxes be a ring. It’s a brilliant motif, found throughout literature and fantasy. There’s always a magic ring. It’s not a story about good and evil and magic if there isn’t a magic ring. But Sauron didn’t need immortality, his ring was made as an attempt to further his goal of Middle Earth domination. His plot was thwarted, but the Ring did hold part of his soul even so. That meant, when he lost the Ring, he lost a part of himself, and the Ring then spent its time trying to spread maliciousness and return to its master.
But the One Ring- it did act a bit like Rowling’s Horcruxes later did, it possessed part of a great creature, who wanted to do terrible things. The Ring manipulated those around it, promising them greatness. The Horcruxes however never seemed to mind too much that they were away from Voldy, and Voldemort kind of wanted to keep them that way.
Furthermore, the One Ring was super hard to destroy. There’s literally no point in having a really cool weapon/vessel for your soul, if it breaks when you drop it. Like the Nokia brick phones of old, the One Ring could only be destroyed by the fires of Mordor from which it came. (Though nerd alert: there’s kind of argument over what this exactly means- does it mean the fires of Mount Doom in which it was forged, or the fires of Mordor, does that mean dragon fire, or Balrog fire would count? I’m in favour of no, otherwise I’m pretty sure Gandalf (even not knowing he was definitely dealing with) could have arranged for an ‘accident’ to happen with Frodo and the Balrog. Like seriously. ‘Oh woops Frodo got burnt to a crisp, oh well, no more ring’ would not have sounded as good in the books, but I would not put it past Gandalf. (See my next piece: Gandalf and Dumbledore- master manipulators)). Not dissimilar to the Horcruxes, that can only be destroyed if rendered beyond repair.
But like noted at the very start of this rambling piece. Putting a bit of your soul in something, either as a means to survive, or as a way of extending your power, has been a thing for absolutely ever. Anyone read Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray? Spoiler: beautiful young man, with a picture that ages in the attic. Dorian didn’t actually spend that long looking for eternal youth, whereas Voldemort spent ages looking for immortality and in doing so wasted most of his life. It always surprised me that Voldy didn’t go drinking unicorn blood, or trying to get himself a philosopher’s stone, sooner. For someone willing to make a horcrux, it’s odd that those two were his later resorts. This leads one to assume Voldy got off a little bit on the creation of his horcruxes, and the symbolism behind them- an especially gross thought when one remembers that the creation of the horcrux may involve either cannibalism or necrophilia.
But the idea of the Horcrux isn’t new, nor is the One Ring, nor is Dorian’s picture. It’s all part of the idea that people put parts of themselves we can’t see, inside something physical. Angels in ancient texts kept parts of their souls in jars, mermaids who had voices not souls kept them in necklaces, and so on and so forth.
It’s a trope found in tons of myths from all over the world. It’s a trope found in tons of modern fantasy series. Why? Because the idea of making the intangible tangible, and the mortal immortal, to preserve what cannot even be held, is incredibly incredibly fascinating to us. It captures us. It mesmerises us. After all- death is the final enemy, or friend, to be faced. And although we might not strive to be immortal, the idea of leaving something behind, a trace of us, is incredibly appealing. Most of us wouldn’t commit a terrible act, or even actively seek immortality, but there it is. Memories preserve the dead, don’t they? It is therefore self-explanatory that it would be a trope that appears so frequently in tale, because it’s through stories and literature that we as humankind communicate and that we live, enhancing our lives and our development. Our obsession with memory and mortality merely translates into our medium of communication.
So why do we find Horcruxes everywhere we look, in various forms, and by other names? Because we’re human, and that’s the kind of thing we do.