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An Analysis of the Prophecy

An editorial by Nichola Weall


This editorial was written pre-Half-Blood Prince. The staff here at Harry Potter Fan Zone believe this was one of the editorials J.K. Rowling mentioned on her official website as being “waaaay too revealing”.

“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approache…born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies…and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will power the Dark Lord knows not…and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies.” – Order of the Phoenix, chapter 37: The Lost Prophecy

The prophecy is one of the many highlights in the fifth instalment of the Harry Potter books. Dumbledore enlightens Harry to the reason why Voldemort wanted to kill him in the first place. One of Voldemort’s followers had heard the first part of the prophecy, but was not fortunate enough to hear the rest, and so gave his master information that could point to two candidates; Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom. The significance of Neville within the prophecy is best explained by J K Rowling, who in a recent F.A.Q., said:

“So where does this leave Neville, the boy who was so nearly King? Well, it does not give him either hidden powers or a mysterious destiny. He remains a ‘normal’ wizarding boy, albeit one with a past, in its way, as tragic as Harry’s. As you saw in ‘Order of the Phoenix,’ however, Neville is not without his own latent strengths. It remains to be seen how he will feel if he ever finds out how close he came to being the Chosen One.”

For the purposes of this analysis then, we shall not dwell on Neville and his future, but discuss the prophecy in terms of Harry and Voldemort.

Firstly, we should note that Harry, being “the one”, has the power to “vanquish” the Dark Lord. Vanquish is a term meaning “to defeat or conquer in battle”. It would not be too presumptuous therefore, if we were to assume that there will be an end “battle”, in which one of either Harry or Voldemort will be victorious. The term “vanquish” however does not necessarily mean kill. It can also mean “to overcome and subdue”. This could probably suggest the way in which Harry would kill Voldemort. Although this would require an entirely separate analysis of its own, many, including I, believe that love is what will kill Voldemort. We have seen love in the Ministry of Magic, behind a door in the Department of Mysteries, which cannot be opened. When Voldemort possessed Harry during his duel with Dumbledore, it was the love and emotion inside Harry at the thought of Sirius which Voldemort could not stand. It is also love which prevented Harry being killed by Voldemort in the first place, in the way his mother died to save him. It would be useful to note here that Voldemort can now touch Harry despite this sacrifice. This too, is not without its mysteries:

“‘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 in me…he’d have it too. And he was righ…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. But next second, Harry was sure he had imagined it.” – Goblet of Fire, chapter 36: The Parting of the Ways

Why would Dumbledore see this as triumphant? A possible theory is that Voldemort now has part of Harry inside him, the part which loves. He has the sacrifice of Lily running in his veins. If our theories are correct, and it is love which can defeat Voldemort, then he is already victim to his weakness.

Harry’s scar is also part of the prophecy, in the sense that the Dark Lord “marked him as his equal”. The interesting use of the word “equal” has also sparked speculation. How is Harry equal to Voldemort? We know that they are both “half-blood” wizards. It seems, however, that they are very different. Or are they? All evidence in Order of the Phoenix appears to suggest that Harry and Voldemort are becoming connected somehow. Harry and Voldemort both have the power now to invade each other’s minds. Harry has often experienced Voldemort’s mood when it is particularly strong, and Voldemort has shown his ability to manipulate Harry’s dreams. It is also possible that Dumbledore is aware of this union:

“Dumbledore now swooped down upon one of the fragile silver instruments whose function Harry had never known…Dumbledore watched the smoke closely, his brow furrowed. After a few seconds, the tiny puffs of smoke became a steady stream of smoke that thickened and coiled in the air…a serpent’s head grew out of the end of it, opening its mouth wide…But in essence divided? The smoke serpent, however, split itself instantly into two snakes, both coiling and undulating in the dark air.” – Order of the Phoenix, chapter 22: St Mungo’s Hospital

This could quite easily be confirmation of the speculation which states Harry and Voldemort are merging. It could also be nothing of the sort. The prophecy does however tell us that both Harry and Voldemort are somewhat equal. It may be that Harry’s power is yet unknown, or that he is yet to develop power which will rival Voldemort’s. What is clear is that Harry has power “the Dark Lord knows not”. This is deliberately ambiguous. This power could be that of his Mother’s sacrifice, or it could mean his ability to love. It could also mean both.

We should finally turn to the conclusion of the prophecy, which could quite possibly also be the conclusion to the Harry Potter series. A fantastically constructed sentence and a credit to the English language:

“And either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives.”

The concept of death is hard-hitting in any prophecy, but for Harry and the readers, we now know where his final years at Hogwarts are taking us. Harry either has to kill Voldemort, or has to be murdered by him. It would be a tragic way to end the series if it should be the later which occurs, but I also do not believe it would a be a true victory in the sense of the word if the earlier happens. We know that others will die in the forthcoming books, so even if Harry overcomes Voldemort and kills him, it will not be without a great deal of loss. It is interesting that “neither can live while the other survives”. This may become apparent in later books, or it may be that due to Voldemort’s determination to kill Harry, Voldemort will initiate a war which will either be his victory or his downfall. We are reminded by Firenze that wizardkind is due a second war, and the final chapter of Order of the Phoenix is entitled “The Second War Begins”. Jo herself has stated that the next two books are like two parts of the same novel, presumably the second (and probably final) war against Voldemort and his followers. The war will have an ending, and the ending with be the death of Harry or Voldemort – or quite possibly both.