The biggest plan in defeating Voldemort is to hunt down and destroy all his Horcruxes, and a significant part of the last two books is spent doing this. Dumbledore, the most powerful wizard able to stand up against Voldemort, risks and sacrifices his life for it.

This is justified by Voldemort being immortal until all the Horcruxes are destroyed, so there is assumed to be no point in trying to kill him before that. But this justification doesn't make sense, for many reasons:

  • if he is killed again (in an ambush, in a fight, or an assassination), even if he doesn't truly die, his body will be killed, and he will spend a lot of time in a weakened state. Last time it happened, his side collapsed completely as soon as he died, and he needed 14 years to come back (the first 10 years of that being in a complete state of helplessness). It would be much easier to hunt for the Horcruxes while Voldemort was a weakened disembodied spirit and his supporters hiding or in Azkaban, than doing the same while Voldemort is in power, in the control of the Ministry, and you have to be constantly on the run from his goons.
  • what if not all Horcruxes are identified correctly? The identity of most of them were just educated guesses. If Voldemort was even just slightly smart, he would have created one out of a pebble and hidden it in a desert. Or made it out of something heavy and dropped it into a volcano to sink deep into the Earth's mantle.
  • even if not all Horcruxes could be found and destroyed, there are many other ways of permanently stopping him. Stun him, grab the body, then Obliviate all his memories. Or, if you aren't too morally restrained, then Crucio him to complete insanity. Or transfigure him into a piece of rock and bury it deep underground. Or place him in Azkaban, where he cannot use magic. And do it as soon as possible, instead of waiting until his followers get more and more numerous and gather more and more political power.

Am I missing something which makes it logical to try to find and destroy all Horcruxes before any attempt is made to attack Voldemort directly?

  • Do you have evidence for the fact that Voldemort would actually just be a weakened soul? Actually, he wouldn't be. That only happened because he was trying to attack Harry who had his mother's love flowing through his veins...
    – user112267
    Jun 26, 2019 at 19:28
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    You may want to read Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality -- a very good story, and one that tries to address a lot of issues like that.
    – K-H-W
    Jun 26, 2019 at 19:31
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    I found HPMOR to be pretentious and unsatisfying. AFAIAC, it is strictly a fan-based opinion version. Read it if you are in to that kind of stuff, but if you are only interested in JKR’s world, then you can safely ignore it.
    – Dúthomhas
    Jun 26, 2019 at 19:34
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    @K-H-W I loved HPMOR from the bottom of my heart!
    – user112267
    Jun 26, 2019 at 19:36
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    @K-H-W : It's a very good story indeed (if you can look past the very blatant cases of the author smacking you on the head with his overly preachy political and ideological views over and over and over again), but several rules of magic are different there, so an answer valid in that universe is not necessarily valid in the Rowling canon (and vice versa).
    – vsz
    Jun 26, 2019 at 20:10

1 Answer 1


The need to destroy his (current) body last has already been asked and answered here: Why should the Horcruxes be destroyed first?

However, the point about simply detaining or incapacitating him seems a good one — except that we know Voldemort is easily the most dangerous wizard (and one of the most powerful ones) in existence.

While, yes, Dumbledore is a match for him, we both read and see (books and movies) that even at his scariest, Dumbledore was unable to detain or incapacitate him.

Think about it: sudden call to the ministry to save Harry from Voldemort, who has just conveniently presented himself to a place full of anti-dark magic wards and the like... it would certainly be a good time to try to capture or maim Voldemort in some significant way. The reality is that is easier said than done, even with powerful magic.

This holds in Real Life as well. Hollywood ideas like shooting a person in the leg or karate-kicking him only a little are just that: awesomeness ideation. In real life you cannot successfully fight a kill-or-be-killed battle without doing lethal damage — and, IMO, Dumbledore was really put on the spot because he was fighting a battle he did not choose. His main goals would have been: escape (with Harry) if possible, kill if not.

(Those, incidentally, are also Real Life self-defense goals when under lethal attack.)

I would like to add also that Dumbledore had another goal in his efforts to destroy Voldemort: reduce incidental damage to others. Killing or seriously maiming Voldemort would very likely result in Voldemort injuring another. IMO.

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    "In real life you cannot successfully fight a kill-or-be-killed battle without doing lethal damage" - so what? With magic, there must be plenty of stunning and sleeping spells. And why should it be a face-to-face confrontation? Spells can certainly hit from the back, can't they?
    – vsz
    Jun 26, 2019 at 19:40
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    Dumbledore managed to capture Grindelwald alive, so there is precedent.
    – user102803
    Jun 26, 2019 at 19:47
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    @RalfFriedl Dumbledore disarmed Grindelwald. Until a movie / JKR clarifies how that fight went, we can assume that Grindelwald simply screwed up in the fight — just as happens in any fight in real life.
    – Dúthomhas
    Jun 26, 2019 at 20:36
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    @Dúthomhas : why "active opponent"? Real battles are not formal duels when the opponents introduce themselves before starting to fight. Ever heard of ambushes? sneak attacks? Betrayals? Invisibility? Apparition behind someone's back?
    – vsz
    Jun 26, 2019 at 22:04
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    @RalfFriedl : and if you are dropped into an inescapable location, then immortality is not a bonus, but a curse. How long can a mind hold out in complete sensory deprivation, for example? (I remember a sci-fi story where an immortal woman was defeated by burying her underground. After several months of complete sensory deprivation she was mentally a vegetable). If Voldemort's body is destroyed, he will just reincarnate into a new one, given time. If his mind is reduced to a vegetative state, he will probably just stay like that (like the Longbottom parents, if I remember correctly)
    – vsz
    Jun 28, 2019 at 6:10

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