This is another excerpt from The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter for you to enjoy. I think the popularity of both The Lord of the Rings and of the Harry Potter series is due in part to the loving relationships between the heroic characters and the loyalty that these brave friends have for each other.
Both in Christianity and in Harry Potter’s world self-sacrificial love has the power to defeat the Curse of Death.
In the first four novels, Voldemort was unable to touch Harry because of the protection of Lily Potter’s loving self-sacrifice:
“Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign…to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.” (SS 299)
Dumbledore again mentioned that Lily’s blood shed in self-sacrifice was a powerful protection against evil in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, “Your mother’s sacrifice made the bond of blood the strongest shield I could give you.” (OP 836)
Harry lost this protection in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Voldemort used Harry’s own blood to return in the flesh. This event would contribute to Lord Voldemort’s downfall in the seventh novel. There is a passage in Goblet of Fire that indicates that Dumbledore knew this would happen:
“He said my blood would make him stronger than if he’d used someone else’s,” Harry told Dumbledore. “He said the protection my—my mother left me—he’d have it too. And he was right–he could touch me without hurting himself, he touched my face.”
For a fleeting instant, Harry thought he saw a gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledore’s eyes. (GF 696)
Voldemort was able to possess Harry in Book 5 due to the fact that Lily’s blood no longer offered Harry protection. However, this terrible circumstance led Harry to make an important discovery: the power that Lily had is a power that Harry has as well. It is the same power that is behind the enigmatic Locked Door in the Department of Mysteries:
“It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature…It is the power held within that room that you possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all.” (OP 843)
When Harry was possessed by Voldemort in Order of the Phoenix, he was able to save himself using the Power the Dark Lord Knows Not, the power of love.
“We’re nearly there,” he muttered suddenly. “Let me think—let me think…”
The white queen turned her blank face toward him.
“Yes…” said Ron softly, “it’s the only way…I’ve got to be taken.”
“NO!” Harry and Hermione shouted.
“That’s chess!” snapped Ron. “You’ve got to make some sacrifices!” (SS 283)
Ron willingly sacrificed himself in the chess game to save his friends. By risking his life, Ron allowed Harry to win the game, and then prevent Quirrell from obtaining the Philosopher’s Stone.
Harry, like Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, tried to travel alone on his mission to destroy a great evil, but in both situations, their friends would not allow it. Both Rowling and Tolkien made a point about the importance of fellowship. The hero may save the world, but it is his friends who save him. Three hobbits from the Shire accompany Frodo on his mission, Sam, Merry, and Pippin:
“Merry and I are coming with you. Sam is an excellent fellow, and would jump down a dragon’s throat to save you, if he did not trip over his own feet; but you will need more than one companion in your dangerous adventure.” –Pippin (LOTR 102)
“You cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone…We are your friends, Frodo.” –Merry (LOTR 103)
Frodo warned Sam of the dangers they would face, but Samwise was not deterred:
“But I am going to Mordor.”
“I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are, and I’m coming with you.”—Frodo and Sam (LOTR 397)
The love of his friends, especially that of Sam, is what sustained Frodo in his struggle to resist the influence of the Ring as he made his arduous journey to Mordor and Mount Doom. Sam’s devotion to Frodo is a selfless model of Christian love:
“It is going to be very dangerous, Sam. It is already dangerous. Most likely neither of us will come back.”
“If you don’t come back, sir, then I shan’t, that’s certain,” said Sam. Don’t you leave him! They said. I never mean to. (LOTR 85)
Just as Frodo desired to complete his terrible journey alone, so did Harry insist upon going after the Philosopher’s Stone by himself.
“I’ll use the invisibility cloak,” said Harry. “It’s just lucky I got it back.”
“But will it cover all three of us?” said Ron.
“All—all three of us?”
“Oh, come off it, you don’t think we’d let you go alone?”
“Of course not,” said Hermione briskly. “How do you think you’d get to the Stone without us? I’d better go and look through my books, there might be something useful…” (SS 271)
When the trio is faced with the task of getting past the giant three-headed dog, Fluffy, all three of them realize the dangers that await them.
“If you want to go back, I won’t blame you,” [Harry] said. “You can take the cloak, I won’t need it now.”
“Don’t be stupid,” said Ron.
“We’re coming,” said Hermione. (SS 271)
In the adventure that followed, Ron sacrificed himself to save Harry and Hermione in the giant chess game, and Hermione, after solving the potions riddle, reminded Harry about which of a person’s qualities matter most: “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things—friendship and bravery.” (SS 287)
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore remembered Ron and Hermione as well as Harry when he made his will. His intention was to have all three of them go on the mission to destroy the Horcruxes together, knowing that Harry should not face such terrible dangers alone. As Gandalf said, with regards to Merry and Pippin going on the quest, “I think, Elrond, that in this matter it would be well to trust rather to their friendship than to great wisdom.” (LOTR 269, emphasis mine). Gandalf, like Dumbledore, knows that the love and loyalty of friends is a powerful weapon against the darkness that threatens to engulf the world. Love isn’t just the power that allows Frodo and Harry to save others, it is also the power that saves them from the evil they must confront.
Rowling, in my opinion, has made a reference to Sam’s loyalty and devotion at the conclusion of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when Ron and Hermione insist on going with Harry on his mission to destroy the Horcruxes. Sam Gamgee, in one of his most memorable speeches, reminds us that he and Frodo are characters in a story. Their adventure is one of the stories that stays in our hearts, long after the telling of the tale is done.
“But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them usually—their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t.” (LOTR 696)
Perhaps Rowling viewed Harry’s story as one of the “tales that really mattered” when she wrote the ending of the sixth of Harry’s adventures. At the close of the final chapter of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Ron and Hermione express a devotion to Harry in words that echo Sam Gamgee’s selfless loyalty.
“We’ll be there, Harry,” said Ron
“At your aunt and uncle’s house,” said Ron. “And then we’ll go with you wherever you’re going.”
“No,” said Harry quickly; he had not counted on this, he had meant them to understand that he was undertaking this most dangerous journey alone.
“You said to us once before,” said Hermione quietly, “that there was time to turn back if we wanted to. We’ve had time, haven’t we?”
“We’re with you whatever happens,” said Ron.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.
I was upset when I saw how the film version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince differed from the novel. In the movie version, Hermione made her pledge of loyalty to Harry, but Ron remained silent, unlike Ron in the novel. This is one of many examples I could give of how these films have slighted Ron as a character, and it continues to upset me. I hope they portray him correctly in the film adaptations of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Comments are welcome!