8

The full prophecy by Trelawney, the part my question is about in bold:

"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches ... 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 have 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 ..." – Sybill Trelawney (to Dumbledore)

  1. I am interpreting

    for neither can live while the other survives

    as: Harry can't live while Voldemort survives and vice versa. But why? It clearly worked until the end of book 7. One could argue with Dumbledore's thery of the self-fulfilling prophecy. But clearly Voldemort was smart enough to see that there was no mechanism that would kill him just because Harry stayed alive.

  2. and either must die at the hand of the other

    Again: Why? If somebody else destroyed all Horcruxes and then killed Harry, Voldemort would be just as vulnerable and could be killed by anyone. On the other hand, Harry could have been killed by anyone - his mum's protection transferred to Voldemort by Harry's blood was only helping against Voldemort.

    I guess that I am interpreting this part of the prophecy in the wrong way or maybe there is an alternate, less obvious and more tricky one. So my question is: What exactly does the highlighted part of Trelawney's prophecy state?

  • possible duplicate of Why Was It 'Essential' That Voldemort Kill Harry Potter? – Slytherincess Sep 22 '13 at 16:40
  • 1
    @Slytherincess Duplicate of the second half of this one, yes, but I don't think it answers the first half. mort, perhaps this can be edited down? – Izkata Sep 22 '13 at 17:45
  • 1
    @Slytherincess: The other post answers why it was essential for Dumbledore - so that Harry may survive - but it does not answer the question why the prophecy is formulated in this way. – mort Sep 22 '13 at 18:58
  • 1
    I think that's why it's worded as "possible" duplicate. – Slytherincess Sep 22 '13 at 19:16
  • 1
    I always thought the first part took “live” to mean “have a fulfilling and satisfying life”, not just to survive. If both were alive, they’d be consumed with frustration and fear of the other, which is a poor way to live. (Harry pushing Ginny away, for example.) Does that make sense? – alexwlchan Sep 22 '13 at 20:44
10

First, a nitpic. You said:

But clearly Voldemort was smart enough to see that there was no mechanism that would kill him just because Harry stayed alive.

This may be applicable to a muggle world. But in the magical world, Prophecies are basically seen by everyone - with reason - as causative (e.g. if it's prophecied that Harry's survival will kill Voldemort, that WILL happen, as far as Voldemort knows). This is fully normal in magical universes, starting with Greek Mythology (and before) - see Perseus prophecy, Cassandra, Oedipus, etc...

So Voldemort WAS smart by taking the Prophecy seriously.


Second, to address your 2 valid points:

"Harry can't live while Voldemort survives and vice versa." - It clearly worked until the end of book 7.

This is a very good observation. I will put it down to language impreciseness - what was meant by "neither can live" wasn't "neither can avoid dying" but "neither can lead the life they want/need". This matches well with what actually transpired.

"and either must die at the hand of the other" - Again: Why? If somebody else destroyed all Horcruxes and then killed Harry, Voldemort would be just as vulnerable and could be killed by anyone. On the other hand, Harry could have been killed by anyone - his mum's protection transferred to Voldemort by Harry's blood was only helping against Voldemort.

Another valid observation. I can't really prove anything with canon facts, but "entering the realms of guesswork and speculation" - to quote Professor himself- I can venture a guess.

As you yourself noted, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yes, Harry could have been killed by someone else (heck, Barty Crouch Jr. wanted to try). But Voldemort wanted to kill him himself, to prove he was The Boss... so he worked hard to make sure nobody else among Death Eaters did.

  • 5
    Funny you should mention Oedipus. Like Voldemort, his prophecy only came true because he believed it. – Izkata Sep 23 '13 at 3:08
  • Upvote because I had the same vague idea, but this is a much better way to put it. :) – alexwlchan Sep 23 '13 at 7:02
  • "his mum's protection transferred to Voldemort by Harry's blood was only helping against Voldemort". Is it not the case that this transfer "tethered Harry to this world as far as Voldemort was alive" (in this body)? – N Unnikrishnan May 26 '14 at 20:11
  • @Izkata You are wrong about Oedipus. His prophecy only came true because he wanted to avoid it. – QuestionAuthority Aug 18 '18 at 17:08
5

The prophecy is deliberately phrased to be unclear and ambiguous. Quoting the FAQ of J. K. Rowling's website:

The prophecy Harry hears in Dumbledore's office suggests to me that both he and Voldemort will have to die, is that true?

Both Madam Trelawney and I worded the prophecy extremely carefully and that is all I have to say on the subject!

(This entry was posted in 2006 or earlier, so it's either after Goblet or Prince.)

From your question:

Harry could have been killed by anyone - his mum's protection transferred to Voldemort by Harry's blood was only helping against Voldemort.

However, the Dark Lord has wanted to kill Harry Potter personally, and has specifically commanded all Death Eaters that they must get him alive. This is mentioned in all of the last four novels. The prophecy might have foreseen this.

  • Ok. "and either must die at the hand of the other" can be read as "either will die...". I read it as "has to die and it won't work in any other way". What about the second part though? – mort Sep 22 '13 at 19:00
1

The prophecy is explained by Dumbledore in fuller detail in Hallows. Voldemort actively forces the prophecy due to his ego and circumstances. Neither will rest until one of them kills the other, and only one will come out standing.

1

I think the prophecy is more about foreshadowing the details and the procession of the events to follow. For example, we understand that the choices for the "Chosen One" sit basically between just Harry and Neville. The prophecy's outlined criteria clearly put these two boys interchangeably in the subject line, at least until referencing action based on the prophecy by LV. Because these boy's are the Schrodinger's Cat of prophecy subjects right now it is entirely likely that had Voldemort had a stronger opinion of Neville's family that he would have been the one that LV would have attacked, thereby making Neville the active subject of the prophecy in question. But, since he didn't..

"... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ..."

From this part we can safely gleam that the "power" that [He] will have will be something he didn't have up until the very moment LV tries to kill him the first time. which were Lily's Protection (arising from her loving act of ultimate sacrifice), becoming one of LV Horcruxes (something that has already been established within the books themselves as a process of murder, then placement of one's soul into a ready receptacle, living or otherwise. but is implied that it is a very fluid process and is highly unlikely to be a two spell type thing as Harry became one without LV's knowledge. so Harry has the ability to detect LV's presence and direct influence, and even has an indirect line and sometimes direct and coherent line to LV's mind.)

Further I believe that the last part of the prophecy;

"... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives ..."

References the situation in which one of the boys gets chosen, and the powers LV unknowingly bestows upon them, and how to correct it, rather than a physical and direct 'Neither can live with peace of mind and "Thrive" in life if the other still draws breath, no matter how destitute' as initially thought, but instead is about the chosen being a Horcrux: a vessel for part of LV's soul.

Now we already know that the act of creating a horcrux is considered darker than even the most forbidden magic, because of what it represents; breaking the soul apart, and the cost of doing so. and we also know that the nature of the soul is to be unified, which is why one must resort to dark magic in order to get it to do otherwise, and the whole point of doing it in the first place is to circumvent death (and they do a fine job doing that don't they?). But horcruxes by their very nature don't want to exist. They do simply because a particularly dark wizard willed and commanded them to do so. so we could surmise that their is a particular protection offered to horcruxes from the very act of containing a piece of one's soul.

Suppose then, for a second that it isn't imperative that LV be the one to kill Harry, for the sole reason that he's the one with the ability to destroy the part of his soul that lies within, as it may not be within his ability to do so (the books say that creating horcruxes is up there with some of the darkest magic a wizard could perform because it breaks the soul apart, but destroying it altogether may simply be one of those things that can't be done.), we could surmise from this that the soul fragments that are contained within the different items aren't destroyed, but rather released in much the same way they usually would be in a death of a person with a unified soul. So from this I would gather that LV doesn't have the ability to destroy the soul fragment that's inside harry, but instead the act of killing harry is the equivalent of murdering the original host, which wouldn't pose anyone a problem barring abnormal circumstances. The prophecy then would stress the importance of these concepts, implying that the very act of creating a horcrux within the subject of the prophecy is what guarantee's LV's downfall in the first place, but by that same token, also guarantee's harry's survival until then, providing him with protections only otherwise afforded to LV himself. (like the protection from death from LV'c various henchmen. How pissed do you think LV would have been if harry got killed by say Bellatrix, especially if LV knew his soul was contained within harry? And if he didn't know before he certainly would after harry's death.) But both knowing that as long as the other was alive, both would be in danger of dying at the hands of the other. I don't think it would have mattered much, if the outcome was that Bellatrix killed harry, as the vessel that contained LV's horcrux would still have been destroyed, but because is the grand scheme of things harry became the master of death, another power the Dark Lord was not aware of, they were both effectively immortal, but LV would be closer to death. The other thing is that DD was aware of a lot more than even he lets on in the books. It was even suggested that he has a Merlin type thing going on where he could somewhat accurately see into the future of others, but not so much his own future. Which explains the need for his elaborate plans that span nearly two decades. He has to account for his own actions in response to the futures he sees.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.