The Jungian Society for Scholarly Studies
Conference 2003 Highlights
Confronting the Villain in Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone: Voldemort as Shadow and Evil Magician
Beloved by readers of all ages for the past several years, the Harry Potter series depicts a young schoolboy's development as a fledgling wizard in his fairytale boarding school of Hogwarts in England. Throughout the novels, Harry's knowledge and skill in magic increases while his nemesis Voldemort becomes more powerful. Each novel climaxes in Harry's confrontation with either Voldemort or his agents. Using the first novel Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, we examine the role of Voldemort as a projection of Harry's shadow, perceiving his contacts with the animus, the anima, and with the parental imago of the'wise old man' of the fairytale--all connections providing Harry with moral lessons as he grows towards individuation.
Because the Voldemort's name can be transliterated as either'flight from death' or'wish for death,' his very name indicates his function as Harry's shadow. By definition, the shadow is the'personification of certain aspects of the unconscious personality'which'is the dark, unlived, and repressed side of the ego complex' (von Franz 5). During the first stage, the shadow represents all the things that person'cannot directly know' (von Franz 5). However, just as Jung indicates, becoming conscious of one's shadow is essential to self-knowledge ('The Shadow' 9), and so Harry must confront his resistances to self-knowledge that he binds up in this projection ('The Shadow' 9). As a part of Harry's shadow, the villain images are recessed deeper into his unconscious in the forms of the animus and anima. In Harry's case, Voldemort represents his animus because he is the same sex as Harry. Delving into the unconscious also allows Harry to connect with his opposite side or anima, his feelings in contrast to his intellect.
On his road to maturation, Harry also faces the dual opposites of the'wise old
man' image of the fairytale realm in the persons of Voldemort and Dumbledore. As Jung explains in'The Spirit in Fairytales,' the positive,'wise old man' image always appears when'the hero is in a hopeless and desperate situation' (217). Just like the positive'wise old man,' Dumbledore gives advice, asks questions to induce self-reflection, gives a talisman (Jung 217-220), and even comes to Harry's rescue. Alternately, the'wise old man' image appears as an'evil doer' (Jung, The Spirit in Fairytales,' 229-234) or the'old magician' who corresponds to'the negative parental imago in the magic world of the unconscious' (Jung, Fairytales 234). Hence, Voldemort serves as not only Harry's shadowy animus, but also his negative-father imago as the'old magician' who is counterbalanced by his positive-father imago of Dumbledore.
In particular, Harry Potter's projection of Voldemort as his evil potential can be further explained by several of Marie Louise von France's observations on the fairy tale. Written for children primarily, The Sorcerer's Stone not only follows the pattern of the neo-Jungian, Joseph Campbell's Monomyth hero, but also casts Harry as the Cinderella figure of the abused stepchild. Harry's story begins when he lives beneath his foster parents' stairwell and is then spirited away from his ordinary human or'muggles' life by a fairy'godmother' for a new life in wizard school under Dumbledore's protection. In addition, because of their simplicity, the fairy tale images allow a clearer look into Harry's confrontation with his shadow. As Marie von France suggests in Shadow and Evil in Fairytales, since fairy tales reduce to their most elemental aspects, they mirror the'most basic psychological structures of man to a greater extent than [even] myths and literary products' (12). Moreover, the fairy tale elements help explain the Potter series' adult popularity since such tales, as von Franz says, are reduced to'basic structural elements' that appeal'to everybody' (12).
My plan here is to examine the first appearance of the villain Voldemort during the climax of The Sorcerer's Stone. A close reading reveals that the images and symbols contribute to the villain's manifestation as both shadow and evil'magician.'
Voldemort's very description betrays the evil within the shadow. Near the end of Harry's quest to rescue the magical Sorcerer's Stone, Harry descends through a trap door into the metaphoric'underworld' or the unconscious. Here, Harry confronts Voldemort for the first time. When Voldemort's servant Quirrell unwraps his turban and turns around, Voldemort is exposed. Harry is shocked to find that'Where there should have been a back to Quirrell's head, there was a'most terrible face' (SS 293). Voldemort's first manifestation indicates that while Harry is clearly outmatched in wizardry and age, he meets the'face' of evil courageously, willing to confront the dark side of himself, his own shadow, the part of himself he does not yet understand. Furthermore, the appearance of Voldemort as two-faced forecasts Voldemort's capacity for lying. Additionally, Voldemort's appearance as a parasite on his servant's head indicates his power of demonic possession and his evil aptitude to exploit others. In this way, Voldemort's description as a two-faced parasite begins to symbolize not only Harry's willingness to face his shadow, but also his moral obligation to respect others and to use power to help, not degrade them.
In the same scene, Voldemort's appearance as a skull and a snake are important symbols that offer Harry new insights. When he assesses villain's face, Harry describes it as'Chalk white with glaring red eyes and slits for nostrils, like a snake' (SS 293). On one hand, the'chalk white' face suggests a skull that represents Harry's fear of death in his collective unconscious. The skull also ties in to Voldemort's name as meaning'flight from death' or'wish for death.' Obviously, Harry fears his own death from Voldemort who has already killed Harry's parents (SS 294) and who threatens him, yet the skull also represents Harry's shadow aspect in his unconscious'wish for death' since this is the only way he can satisfy his intense longing to be re-united with his parents, a weakness that Voldemort often preys upon. On the other hand, the skull also connects to the villain's ultimate desire as a'flight from death' since his immediate goal is to attain immortality by stealing the Stone. Moreover, Voldemort's obsession with immortality signifies his evil side since, as von Franz says,'evil entails being swept away by one-sidedness, by only one single pattern of behavior' (von Franz 147). Altogether then, Voldemort's multivalent death imagery presents Harry with the understanding that obsession becomes evil because a person chooses to ignore balance in life. As Harry learns later from his positive father figure, the headmaster Dumbledore, a gift'like unlimited'life' is a bad choice because death is not to be feared, but rather to be expected as only the'next great adventure' (297). It appears that Dumbledore, like Jung, recognizes death as'a goal and a fulfillment' of life's natural progression ('The Soul and Death' 495).
Voldemort's description as a snake reinforces his evil nature in other ways. Clearly, the snake imagery underscores the immortality theme since the snake as a circle served as such before Judeo-Christian myth. Just as important, the snake imagery connects to the biblical Eden as a symbol of flattery and deceit. Like the biblical Satan, Voldemort uses flattery when he tries to convince Harry to give up the Sorcerer's Stone by acknowledging that he had admired Harry's parents' bravery. When flattery does not work, Voldemort descends to deceit when he insists that Harry's parents need not have died in vain. Fortunately, however, Harry is not deceived: he already realizes that his parents' deaths were a sacrifice of love in trying to protect him from Voldemort.
The theme of lying has larger moral aspect that connects to Harry's maturation. Harry has already lied to Quirrell about how to find the Sorcerer's Stone when Harry saw his reflection in the Mirror of Erised (Desire). Not too incidentally, Harry is much like Perseus who required the'mirror' of objectivity to bypass the emotional shock of looking at Medusa directly (von Franz 249) or into his own evil side. Nonetheless, Harry's lying reveals a more sophisticated decision. For'moral' not only includes the capacity of discriminating between right and wrong, but also of making an intellectual choice based upon the higher good, as verified by the probability that Voldemort would use the Stone to acquire a separate physical body and attain eternal life-- to advance his control of the world.
In addition to the death and lying symbolism, snake imagery contributes to Voldemort's position as Harry's shadow in the fairytale since both can speak with snakes in what wizards call'parseltongue.' Sharing this rare magic power (CS 317), the two are even more similar than indicated by the several suggestions of their physical resemblance (CS 317). Since the ability to communicate in an animal language is a prime element of the fairy tale, Harry's capacity suggests that he can probe the Nature side of his personality, his emotional aspect, his anima. In this way, Harry can learn to balance intellect and emotion, which promotes his growth towards individuation. In contrast to the villain who uses parseltongue to command animals to attack (CS 308), Harry generally speaks with snakes to understand and help them (SS 28). Harry's own connection to the snake imagery may be perceived as a positive aspect. The snake often climbs and then descends from the'tree of life' bringing messages to the physical or conscious realm.
Next, in his confrontation scene with Voldemort, Harry glimpses the deeper side of himself through a descent into the numinous realm. When grappling with Quirrell, Harry feels pain in his head and lacks external sight (SS 295). Just like Perseus avoided Medusa's stare, Harry's blindness suggests his reluctance to face his shadow because such a look can end in death. As Jung observes, a person may recognize'the relative evil of his nature,' but to gaze into the face of absolute evil is a'rare and shattering experience' ('Shadow' 10). Additionally, Harry's blindness indicates his respect for a greater spiritual power, for in a fairytale, one should not penetrate the awe of a higher power unless forced to (von Franz 165). Fortunately, Harry's temporary blindness is compensated with'in-sight.' He descends through an inner hell to attain a numinous experience (von Franz 198). Over Quirrell's shrieks and Voldemort's commands to kill him, Harry hears the call of'Harry! Harry!' (SS 295). For his courage to participate in a numinous experience, Harry gains the reward of hearing his parents as helpmates. As we will learn in later novels, his parents will reappear when Harry needs aid in confronting evil, and, in fact, Harry's father later materializes as the'Petronus' (his patron, his'pater') in his appearance as the animal helper of the white stag.
Equally important, Harry's confrontation with Voldemort brings about a connection with his anima or with his emotional side that values love. For example, because Harry is under the power of his dead mother's love, Harry's very physical touch of Quirrell brings about his intense pain that causes Quirrell to release his grasp and to retreat (SS 299). Harry's mother's gift of love repels Quirrell because he has shared his soul with the evil Voldemort (SS 299). As Dumbledore later explains to Harry,
If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn't realize that love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign' to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed, and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good. (SS 299)
Hence, Harry is protected by his maternal love because, as von Franz says,
'Warm human contact dissipates'clouds of projection' (154). Therefore, Harry's human contact not only repels physical evil, but also diminishes the grip of his shadow's projection. Subsequently, Harry begins to perceive that the warmth of love engendered within his anima is the superior human defense against the cold manifestation of hatred.
Additionally, Voldemort personifies the shadow qualities that Harry must
learn to reject. Voldemort embodies that kind of evil that von Franz determines as the'spirit of'no life and no love'' (173). Voldemort even seems to derive pleasure from'destructiveness for its own sake' (von Franz 173) since he kills his hosts without remorse. Furthermore, Harry's shadow-villain Voldemort continues to repudiate his own emotional side. Before he retreats, Voldemort asserts that there is'no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it' (SS 291). Here, Voldemort suggests that any positive emotions such as love and compassion betray a lack of strength. He himself denies his anima and thus is trapped within his obsession for power.
On the other hand, Harry accepts the anima aspects of himself: he respects others,
uses power to help not abuse, and appreciates the love that affirms life. As a result of his generous emotions that counterbalance his intellect, Harry learns about the protectiveness of love and gains the reward of connecting with his spiritual patron-father. In this way, Harry's ego becomes stronger as he begins his journey towards individuation. Seen another way, Harry's journey resembles the fairytale aspects aligned with his shadow. His journey begins with conventional Cinderella imagery, replicates the plot of the fairytale hero who descends into the numinous realm, and ends with Harry's confrontation with the shadow that allows him to connect to the positive emotions that promote individuation. Equally important, Harry succeeds in fending off Voldemort because Harry carries a higher power than mere magic: his character reveals he makes good choices. As von France notes,'Knowledge when linked with a state of higher consciousness, is perhaps the greatest means of fighting evil; dissociated from consciousness, it is just one magical trick against another' (250). Moreover, Harry has love on his side too. As von France further points out, in a contest of magic, the drive of love or Eros will win against the'drive of dominion' (252).
In conclusion, using M.L. von Franz's concepts from The Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales which amplify Jung's'The Spirit of the Fairytale,' this investigation concludes that Harry prevails over evil by his willing descent into an inner hell, facilitated by a numinous combination of his knowledge, state of higher consciousness, and inherent drive towards love or Eros. Because the Voldemort's name can be transliterated as either'flight from death' or'wish for death,' his very name confirms his function as Harry's shadow. Furthermore,'Vole-de-mort' suggests'vole' or'mole' of death, the despised, sneaky, dark-roaming rodent who functions as the'magician.'
Ultimately, Harry will continue to confront Voldemort in future novels because Harry has more to learn from his shadow. Even his continuing training in wizardry skills will bring him just to par with Voldemort's intellect and experience. One final lesson must be for Harry to recognize his own capacity for evil. As von Franz says, evil includes the lack of the'spirit of'no life and no love' which'. is destructiveness for its own sake,' but also the self-recognition that everybody possesses the capacity for evil'to some degree' (173). In future novels, Harry must continue to address his shadow that contains his'the dark, unlived, and repressed side' (von Franz 5} and to balance intellect and emotion of his animus and anima. While he has acquired the boon of a positive father imago in Dumbledore and will later attain the animal-helper Patron of his father, ultimately, Harry's future journeys into his shadow must include his ability to admit his own weaknesses, to recognize his own capacity for evil, and to use his ego strength for self-discipline. Only further novels will tell whether Harry will continue to prevail over his shadow-villain Voldemort.
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