15

Although not completely analogous, there do seem to be some similarities between Sauron's "soul" embodied in the One Ring and Voldemort's "soul" embodied in a Horcrux.

Has JKR ever talked about the inspiration of creating the Horcrux idea?

I'm wondering if she has ever discussed this aspect in her numerous interviews/tweets/etc.

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    dunno if we have ANYTHING to go on here, but i totally see were your going with this. – Himarm Mar 2 '17 at 4:51
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    I think this might end up being a duplicate for this question -- Not that it's exactly the same question, but that the same answer resolves both. – K-H-W Mar 2 '17 at 6:33
26

It is certainly possible, but the concept of a supernatural villain who can only be killed by destroying a particular object is much older than Tolkien.

It's found in a variety of folk tales, usually a complicated series of nested objects.

For example Koshchei the Deathless from Russian folklore :

“My death,” said he [Koschei], “is far from here and hard to find, on the wide ocean. In that sea is an island, and on the island there grows a green oak, and beneath the oak is an iron chest, and in the chest is a small basket, and in the basket is a hare, and in the hare is a duck, and in the duck is an egg; and he who finds the egg and breaks it, kills me at the same time.”

(The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer - http://www.bartleby.com/196/pages/page671.html)

A very similar setup shows up in the Norwegian "The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body", and several others.

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    That is correct, In many of oriental fantasy folktales, the stories about giants who hide their "life force" inside another being such as a parrot is very common and they go back to centuries before Tolkien ever devised his one ring. To kill the giant, the heroic Prince had to kill the parrot or whatever was holding the life force. +1 – Aegon Mar 2 '17 at 6:52
  • Tolkien himself has attributed the basic idea of the Ring to old folktales where an evil character puts their soul or essence in a separate object (I think this is mentioned in the letter published in the introduction to the Silmarillion). – melboiko Jul 17 '18 at 10:04
  • I guess Pirates of the Carribean follow this concept as well - Davy Jones and his heart in a chest. – ElmoVanKielmo Jul 17 '18 at 12:39
  • Out of curiosity, how is the duck in the hare? Did it eat it? Is it a big hare/small duck? And if so, how is the egg intact? Am I thinking too hard about a story passed down through oral storytelling? – Imperator Jul 17 '18 at 22:17
7

Voldemort is a typical lich - a wizard who chooses immortality by embedding part of his soul into an object (called a phylactery in Dungeons&Dragons). There were many before him in myths and fiction worlds.

A quote from Wikipedia:

In fantasy fiction, a lich (/ˈlɪtʃ/;1 cognate to Dutch lijk, German Leiche, Norse lík, and Swedish lik, all meaning "corpse") is a type of undead creature. Often such a creature is the result of a transformation, as a powerful magician or king striving for eternal life uses spells or rituals to bind his intellect and soul to his phylactery and thereby achieve a form of immortality. Liches are depicted as being clearly cadaverous, bodies desiccated or completely skeletal. Liches are often depicted as holding power over hordes of lesser undead creatures, using them as soldiers and servants.

D&D: first mention of a lich - Wikipedia

For the original D&D rule set, the lich was introduced in its first supplement, Greyhawk (1975).2 It is described as a skeletal monster that was formerly either a magic-user or a cleric in life. The lich was further developed in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry (1976).

Kaschey the Immportal, mentioned in the first answer, is also a lich

  • While you are correct, it seems to me that the asker specifically required clarification from J.K. Rowling, and not some general reference. – Gallifreyan Mar 3 '17 at 19:27
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    @Gallifreyan - Correct, but I still give the newbie a +1 for introducing a new word to my vocabulary (and to give him a boost to his rep as a new user. I had a rough start here so I am kind of partial to new users (my stupid first question has been mercifully deleted)). – iMerchant Mar 3 '17 at 20:14
  • In such case, a link to a reputable source discussing the "lich" would be nice. Also, some examples of "many before him" would be nice. – Gallifreyan Mar 3 '17 at 20:17
  • Good, but it is a tad limited to D 'n' D: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/phylactery – can-ned_food Mar 7 '17 at 16:38
1

I certainly haven't seen Rowling talk about this but:

One Answer suggests that it is possible but is it really so? If it is it's still very different (other than the part that each have some of their creator in them). You're forgetting some important things about the One Ring and the Horcruxes. I know the question actually points out that it's not exactly the same but I would like to explain how and why this is the case (as well as point out some interesting points that maybe haven't been - and might have - thought of).

A Horcrux contains a part of the soul so that if the creator were to die they could not die because there is still part of their soul living in another object. They could return - as Voldemort does. At this point it seems like the One Ring is similar, doesn't it? As long as the One Ring survives so too does Sauron (but Sauron never dies). But the similarities end there; there are significant differences:

When all the Horcruxes are destroyed Voldemort is still a formidable foe; Dumbledore says this directly in HBP:

Harry sat in thought for a moment, then asked, 'So if all of his Horcruxes are destroyed, Voldemort could be killed?'

'Yes, I think so,' said Dumbledore. 'Without his Horcruxes, Voldemort will be a mortal man with a maimed and diminished soul. Never forget, though, that while his soul may be damaged beyond repair, his brain and his magical powers remain intact. It will take uncommon skill and power to kill a wizard like Voldemort even without his Horcruxes.'

Yes quite a bit of Sauron is in the One Ring but what happens when the One Ring is destroyed? Is Sauron killed?

In fact when the One Ring is destroyed Sauron is not killed but he is diminished to an impotent shadow that could never threaten Middle-earth again (see next paragraph too). But what happens if all of Voldemort's Horcruxes are destroyed? Not only is he still alive but he still has exceptional magic (see above quote); he's mortal once more but he's still a powerful wizard. He also has his armies (and he still has his body).

Actually Sauron never is 'killed': when he caused Númenor to drown he did not 'die': he could never be fair again but he was still a formidable foe (though not immediately). Not when Elendil &co defeated Sauron (followed by Isildur cutting the Ring off his finger) did he 'die'; he lost his shape again but he returns in full form once more (with the Black Hand having only four fingers).

Critically there is this: if Horcruxes were the same idea then one of the following would hold true:

  1. When all of Voldemort's Horcruxes were destroyed he would become impotent and never be able to threaten anyone again. In addition his Death Eaters would all be confused (I use the word 'confused' very loosely here). The latter doesn't happen (and here it might be more like they claim they were under the Imperius Curse rather than freely giving themselves up)

OR

  1. When the One Ring is destroyed Sauron and all his armies would still be a real danger to everyone. Is that how it ends? Well some of his armies were still dangerous but they were defeated; others gave themselves up. But either way Barad-dûr was destroyed, his Nazgûl were no longer a threat and Sauron could never threaten Middle-earth again.

But do either of those scenarios happen? No. When Voldemort's Horcruxes are destroyed he is mortal and thus at risk of death. When he is killed some who were truly under the Imperius Curse had control of themselves again; and yes you could argue this about when Sauron is defeated. But when Voldemort's Horcruxes are destroyed he still isn't defeated; when the One Ring is destroyed Sauron IS.

What might be interesting to point out though is that some of the Horcruxes had an influence on those who were in possession of them (or 'used' them where use could be writing in or wearing). These were negative influences though. Still having the One Ring also had influences but quite different. Does that make them more alike? I think that's a matter of opinion; personally I don't see it that way but it's certainly a similarity of sort.

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