There are two wolves. A black wolf and a white wolf. Which one wins?
This simple phrase was drilled into me by my mother before I ever read Harry Potter. But the series demonstrates the philosophical analogy better than any novel I have ever read.
Before diving into this, if you have not read the first post in “The Surprising Truth About Harry Potter” series, I suggest you go back real quick and take a look at the first installment.
Good and evil are classic elements to good stories. As they should be. They are real and ever present in life outside of a book, so the concepts are instantly relatable.
Harry Potter is a good guy, side by side with Luke Skywalker and Samwise- oh, I mean, er, Frodo Baggins. Voldemort is a bad guy, in the same lineup as the Emperor and Sauroman.
These characters are always against each other. Books upon books are dedicated to the ultimate fights between good and evil. More often than not, good wins in the end.
I had the pleasure to attend the 2019 Leaky Con in Dallas, Texas. There, I went to a seminar titled “Horcruxes Not Hallows” by Russel W. Dalton, professor of religious education at the Brite Divinity School. I was able to listen to his views on why Harry triumphed over Voldemort in the end.
It was slightly more complicated than “good beats evil” and “love always wins”, although those words are valid. No, there is a real, logical, explanation.
I believe I am safe to say Remus Lupin fans (shout out to my fellow Lupin lovers!) had a real emotional roller coaster ride reading the end of Half Blood Prince and the beginning of Deathly Hallows. Remus is thoroughly depressed in these sections and makes all the wrong choices. I have never EVER been more disappointed in Lupin and more proud of Harry than when after Harry used Expelliarmus against Stan Shunpike;
“Harry, the time for disarming is past! These people are trying to capture and kill you! At least Stun if you aren’t prepared to kill!“
“We were hundreds of feet up! Stan’s not himself and if I Stunned him, he’d have died the same as if I use Avada Kedavra! Expelliarmus saved me from Voldemort two years ago,” Harry added defiantly. Lupin was reminding him of the sneering Hufflepuff Zacharias Smith, who jeered at Harry for wanting to teach Dumbledore‘s Army how to disarm.
“Yes, Harry,” said Lupin with painful restraint, “and a great number of Death Eaters witnessed that happening. Forgive me, but it was a very unusual move then under eminent threat of death. Repeating it tonight in front of Death Eaters who either witnessed or heard about the first occasion was close to suicidal!”
“So you think I should’ve killed Stan Shunpike?” Said Harry angrily.
“Of course not,” said Lupin, “but the Death Eaters-frankly most people-would’ve expected you to attack back! Expelliarmus is a useful spell, Harry, but the Death Eaters seem to think it is your signature move and I urge you not to let it become so!”
Lupin was making Harry feel idiotic, and yet there was still a grain of defiance inside him.“I won’t blast people out of my way just because they’re there,” said Harry. “That’s Voldemort’s job.”J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Remus’ views have never been more askew than they are now and Harry’s have never been more on point.
Notice how Remus repeatedly uses the words Death Eaters. Death Eaters,Death Eaters, Death Eaters. That’s all he seems to care about. But Harry doesn’t refer to them once, he specifically says Stan Shunpike.
Harry is constantly seeing people as they are (save for Severus Snape, but he doesn’t put on the best persona now does he?) He sees Remus not as a bloodthirsty werewolf, but as his old Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Thus, he sees Stan not as a threat but as the Knight Bus conductor under the Imperious Curse.
Remus believes that the most important thing is survival. Harry believes that the most important thing is mercy.
In the “Horcruxes Not Hallows” seminar, Dalton brings up the motives of Harry and Voldemort. I admit to being confused. What did he mean what were their motives? Harry needed to get the Horcruxes while Voldemort sought after the Hallows.
But Dalton went on to reveal something I had never thought of before.
Why didn’t Harry go after the Hallows, same as Voldemort? If Harry had beat Voldemort to them, he could have easily defeated Voldemort and the Death Eaters with the Invisibility Cloak, Resurrection Stone, and Elder Wand. Dumbledore had even given him everything he needed to find them (Tales of Beedle the Bard and the golden Snitch) and Harry already had one! With all three, Harry would be unstoppable.
Or, Voldemort could have gone after the Horcruxes himself, keeping them safe from threat. He kept Nagini with him at all times, but that was as a last resort to keep himself alive once he learn that the Golden Trio were destroying the pieces of his soul he had hidden.
By retrieving the Horcruxes, Harry was securing that Voldemort could be defeated, yet in the final battle, Harry gives, not Voldemort, but Tom Riddle a chance of redemption until the very end.
“But before you try to kill me, I advise you to think about what you’ve done… think and try for some remorse, Riddle…”
“What is this?” Of all the things that Harry had said to him, beyond any revelation or taunt, nothing had shocked Voldemort like this. Harry saw his pupils contract to thin slits, saw skin around his eyes whiten.
“It’s your last chance,” said Harry, “it’s all you’ve got left…I’ve seen what you’ll be otherwise…be a man…try…try for some remorse…”J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Media nowadays does not think twice before allowing the hero to kill the bad guy. David Yates, the director of the movie adaptation of the Deathly Hallows, talked about how the movies portrayed the last battle.
“So, I always wanted to get it out of the Great Hall, away from an audience, so the sequence became much more about a boy facing down this nemesis, this demon that had haunted him right throughout his childhood. This is the figure that had killed his parents. “David Yates
Really, Yates? Is that really what it is about? Because last time I checked, Harry only sought after revenge once, when he heard falsehoods that Sirius Black had betrayed his mother and father. And when given the chance to kill Sirius…he didn’t.
This is because Harry has never wanted revenge. Slytherins want revenge, not Gryffindors. Gryffindors want justice not revenge.
Justice is not judgement. Judgement results in Voldemort killing Harry’s parents and would have resulted in Harry killing Voldemort if Harry believed in human’s ability to judge others.
Human anger does not produce righteousness. Anyone who listens to the world’s ideas on morals is deceived. Justice comes from a power higher than our own. I believe Harry knows that.
And Harry offered justice to Tom in their last stance. If Voldemort had seen the error of his ways, he would have been sparred. Harry gave him opportunity until the last spell.
Going back to the Harry and Remus’ row, Remus says that Disarming should not be Harry’s go to move. And yet, fans like us know that Expelliarmus is Harry’s signature spell.
By using Expelliarmus, Harry gave Voldemort the chance to use any other spell than Avada Kadavra. If Voldemort had not used the killing curse, he would not have perished. His curse rebounded upon him. He could have saved himself.
But he didn’t.
Harry Potter isn’t purely about good vs evil. It is about the choices each side makes. About how Harry had mercy until the very end.
We live in a world of retaliation. When someone wrongs another, it becomes perfectly acceptable to seek revenge. Everyday there is more evidence of the battle of humans. Not good vs evil, as it should be, but hate vs hate, discontentment vs discontentment. No problem had ever been solved in such a way.
While other characters like Remus and even Molly Weasley fall into this very human way of acting, Harry does not.
While the hearts may be true, it is the actions we take that determine who we are.
There are two wolves. A white wolf and a black wolf. Which one wins?
Whichever one you feed.