Today we’re going to talk Horcruxes. Specifically, how they’re made. I started thinking about this subject when I read a particularly interesting passage from Half-Blood Prince. Here’s what caught my eye:
Dumbledore says that Voldemort “seems to have reserved the process of making Horcruxes for particularly significant deaths. … After an interval of some years, however, he used Nagini to kill an old Muggle man, and it might then have occurred to him to turn her into his last Horcrux.” (HBP23)
The reason this struck me is that Dumbledore is actually wrong here. For the most part, Voldemort didn’t use important or significant deaths for making his Horcruxes. He may have intended to originally, but that certainly wasn’t how it worked out.
Let’s take a look at all the murders he chose:
The first Horcrux he made was the ring, created with the murders of his father and grandparents. These victims were certainly important as they represented his Muggle blood. By murdering the Riddles he symbolically murdered his own Muggle identity. After that point he thought and spoke as if that part of his background didn’t exist. This happened in July or August of 1942.
The next murder, a year later, was that of Myrtle Warren, the Mudblood student who died in the bathroom where the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets was located. Myrtle’s death doesn’t seem to have any huge importance, except maybe in the fact that she was a Mudblood. Perhaps Riddle saw this as emphasizing the destruction of his Muggle side, but I would argue that her death was almost accidental. She was a target of opportunity who just happened to be in the bathroom where the Basilisk would exit the pipes into the school. I may be wrong about that — perhaps Riddle stalked the girls’ bathroom with his Basilisk for hours, waiting for a suitable victim to come in, but that seems not only really creepy but also a huge waste of time. Myrtle was killed in June of 1943.
Either in his last year of school or shortly after leaving, Tom Riddle followed the directions of Helena Ravenclaw to find the hiding place of Ravenclaw’s diadem in Albania. According to Rowling, he used the murder of an Albanian peasant to turn the diadem into his third Horcrux. This would have happened in 1945 or 1946.
Tom Riddle created his next Horcrux using Hufflepuff’s Cup after he murdered Hepzibah Smith. The date for this event is not known, but canon suggests that it was no earlier than the mid-1950s. Hepzibah claims that her family is distantly related to Helga Hufflepuff. If so, murdering her may have represented to Riddle his Slytherin superiority over another of the Hogwarts Houses.
After this, Riddle wanted to create a Horcrux using the even more significant magical object in his possession, Slytherin’s locket. He would have felt that this object rightfully belonged to him and that Borgin stole it from his mother. It represented his connection with the powerfully magical side of his heritage, his connection to Salazar Slytherin himself. To create the Horcrux, Riddle murdered a Muggle tramp — hardly a significant death to match the importance of the object, but it would seem he had to use a target of opportunity, so to speak.
That makes a total of five Horcruxes created before Voldemort’s first rise to power in the 1970s. When he was unexpectedly defeated in his attempt to kill one-year-old Harry Potter, those five Horcruxes sustained him and he fled to Albania. All five were securely hidden away. The cup was in the Lestrange vault. The diadem was in the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts and the Ring was hidden in the remains of Gaunt shack near Little Hangelton. The Diary was in the secret hiding place under the dining room floor in Malfoy Manor. And the locket, the most important Horcrux of all, representing Riddle’s connection to Salazar Slytherin, was magically protected on an island in the middle of a lake filled with Inferi located in an almost inaccessible sea cave along the coast.
When Voldemort was found and brought back to limited health by Wormtail, he wanted to create the sixth Horcrux he had always wanted, which would mean that his soul would be split into seven pieces. He found this opportunity with the capture and eventual murder of Bertha Jorkins. He used her death to create one more Horcrux, this time using the magical snake Nagini, whose venom then became crucial to creating the potion which could sustain him for the journey back to Britain.
As you can see, only two of these deaths, that of Hepzibah Smith and his parents, could be considered to be significant. It was more the objects themselves which were important to Riddle’s life and heritage: the locket and ring of Slytherin, the diadem of Ravenclaw, the cup of Hufflepuff, and his old diary from when he was at Hogwarts. Unless we learn more in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts films, Nagini doesn’t seem to have any particular significance to the history and ancestry of Lord Voldemort.
So Dumbledore was wrong, and on more than one detail. He suggested incorrectly that Voldemort used the killing of a Muggle, presumably Frank Bryce, to create the Nagini Horcrux when it was actually the murder of the unfortunate Bertha Jorkins according to Rowling after book seven came out.
This list of Horcux creation holds another controversy. Some fans would dispute the dates I’ve listed here. All I can say is that this timeline is based on a careful and literal reading of canon and therefore should be considered correct. That is, until Rowling decides to say or write something to mess it all up!
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