Dark Magic Death

Things Much Worse Than Death

Things Much Worse Than Death

“Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness–“

Albus Dumbledore saying a very Dumbledore thing while casually dueling Voldemort in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic (OP36: The Only One He Ever Feared)


This statement echoes several others in the series, such as:

  • Harry's encounter with Firenze in the Forbidden Forest, during his detention in his first year
    • "The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price.  You have slain something pure and defenseless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips."  Harry stared at the back of Firenze's head, which was dappled silver in the moonlight."  But who'd be that desperate?" he wondered aloud.  "If you're going to be cursed forever, death's better, isn't it?" (PS15)
  • Harry's conversation with Dumbledore, when he wakes after retrieving the Sorcerer's Stone
    • "To one as young as you, I'm sure it seems incredible, but to Nicolas and Perenelle, it really is like going to bed after a very, very long day.  After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." (PS17)
  • Sirius' rage at Peter in the Shrieking Shack
  • Harry's thoughts regarding the performance of the Dementor's Kiss on Barty Crouch, Jr.
    • It had sucked his soul out through his mouth.  He was worse than dead.  (GF36)
  • Harry's speculation about the mysterious weapon Sirius mentions, which Voldemort "didn't have last time"
    • "Like what kind of weapon?" said Harry.  "Something worse than the Avada Kedavra--?" (OP5)
  • pages later, speculating again about the weapon
    • "But there can't be anything worse than the Avada Kedavra curse, can there?" said Ron.  "What's worse than death?"
      "Maybe it's something that can kill loads of people at once," suggested George.
      "Maybe it's some particularly painful way of killing people," said Ron fearfully.
      "He's got the Cruciatus Curse for causing pain," said Harry.  "He doesn't need anything more efficient than that."
      There was a pause and Harry knew that the others, like him, were wondering what horrors this weapon could perpetrate. (OP6)
  • Voldemort, prompting the quote in question
    • "There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!" (OP36)
  • Harry and Dumbledore, discussing Voldemort's mother, who chose death after a great deal of suffering
    • "Yes, Merope Riddle chose death in spite of a son who needed her, but do not judge her too harshly, Harry.  She was greatly weakened by long suffering and she never had your mother's courage." (HBP13)
  • Dumbledore's description of Voldemort's use of Horcruxes
    • "You heard Voldemort: What he particularly wanted from Horace was an opinion on what would happen to the wizard who created more than one Horcrux, what would happen to the wizard so determined to evade death that he would be prepared to murder many times, rip his soul repeatedly, so as to store it in many, separately concealed Horcruxes." (HBP23)
  • Dumbledore's attempt to assuage Harry's alarm at the sight of the Inferi in the cave water
    • "There is nothing to be feared from a body, Harry, any more than there is anything to be feared from the darkness.  Lord Voldemort, who of course secretly fears both, disagrees.  But once again he reveals his own lack of wisdom.  It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more." (HBP26)
  • The note from Regulus inside the fake locket Horcrux
    • "To the Dark Lord
      I know I will be dead long before you read this but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret.  I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can.  I face death in the hope that when you meet your match, you will be mortal once more.
      R.A.B." (HBP28)
  • the epigraph from William Penn's More Fruits of Solitude  at the beginning of Deathly Hallows
    • "Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.  For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent.  In this divine glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.  This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal."
  • the epitaph on Harry's parents' headstone
    • The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
      • Hermione tells Harry, "It doesn't mean defeating death in the way the Death Eaters mean it, Harry.... It means... you know... living beyond death.  Living after death."  (DH16)  Her explanation does not seem to bring Harry any comfort.
  • Harry's thoughts (transitioning from Voldemort's thoughts) between escaping Bathilda Bagshot's home and waking in the tent with Hermione
    • And his scream was Harry's scream, his pain was Harry's pain... that it could happen here, where it had happened before... here, within sight of that house where he had come so close to knowing what it was to die... to die....  The pain was so terrible... ripped from his body....  But if he had no body, why did his head hurt so badly; if he was dead, how could he feel so unbearably, didn't pain cease with death, didn't it go... (DH17)
  • Harry's experiences as he decides to sacrifice his life in order to destroy the piece of Voldemort's soul inside him
    • Terror washed over him as he lay on the floor, with that funeral drum pounding inside him.  Would it hurt to die?  All those times he had thought that it was about to happen and escaped, he had never really thought of the thing itself: His will to live had always been so much stronger than his fear of death.  Yet it did not occur to him now to try to escape, to outrun Voldemort.  It was over, he knew it, and all that was left was the thing itself: dying. (DH34)
  • Dumbledore's description of his fear of Grindelwald
    • "Oh, not death," said Dumbledore, in answer to Harry's questioning look.  "Not what he could do to me magically.  I knew that we were evenly matched, perhaps that I was a shade more skillful.  It was the truth I feared.  You see, I never knew which of us, in that last, horrific fight, had actually cast the curse that killed my sister.  You may call me cowardly: you would be right.  Harry, I dreaded beyond all things the knowledge that it had been I who brought about her death, not merely through my arrogance and stupidity, but that I actually struck the blow that snuffed out her life." (DH35)
  • Dumbledore's revelation that Harry is the master of death
    • "You are the true master of death, because the true master does not seek to run away from Death.  He accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying." (DH35)
  • Dumbledore's advice, regarding Harry's piteous glance toward the grotesque form of the dead fraction of Voldemort
    • "Do not pity the dead, Harry.  Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love." (DH35)

This theme, that many things are worse than death and dying, can be extrapolated to include the concept of sacrifice.  Many characters die in this war narrative, for the causes in which they believe.  This is a very proactive approach to expressing that some things are worse than death--such as remaining idle when action needs to be taken.  Sirius Black is one of the characters most vocal about this, going so far as to (rather brusquely) tell the Weasleys that their father knew he was risking his life in guarding the prophecy, that there are "things worth dying for" (OP22).  This is particularly meaningful, not only because Sirius dies in the effort to save Harry and his friends at the Ministry a few months later, but also because he dies not knowing that his brother, Regulus, very deliberately gave his life to swap the horcrux locket with a fake one.


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Tags: death failure fears goading sacrifices weaknesses