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July 11th, 2004


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06:17 pm



I. Muggles and Muggleborns are the greatest danger to the Wizarding World, although wizarding society remains largely unaware of this fact.

Despite all the wonderfully magical things that go on in the world of Harry Potter, it is supposed to take place in the world as we know it - concealed from us, but taking place around us. Hence I believe I'm correct in suggesting that the Muggles of Harry's world have the same capabilities as we do... you know: guns, bombs, chemical and biological agents, and the possibility of nuclear anihilation. Although the issue's never really been addressed, there is nothing to suggest that wizards are immune from such attacks. Even if they were, it is possible that Muggle science, if alerted to the existence of magic and directed to counteract it, could do exactly that.

However, the greatest dangers that Muggles pose to Wizards (and, indeed, to other Muggles) have mostly been invented in the last hundred years. The International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy, enacted in 1692, not only keeps knowledge of magic from Muggles but also shields magical folk from knowing about Muggles. What was Muggle weaponry like the last time Wizards as a whole had extensive contact with them? Well, some research on firearms has shown me that guns were in common use by then, specifically the flintlock gun. These guns were accurate at no more than eighty yeards, and could not fire multiple rounds. Cannons were also in use at about this time. Impressive, to be sure, and combined with a growing superiority of numbers enough to force wizards into exile - but nothing compared to what we've got today. If wizards still consider Muggles to be on the level they were when they last saw them, they're seriously underestimating them.


II. Only Muggleborns are fully aware of Muggle capabilities, but most are naturally sympathetic to both sides and wish they could live in peace. Tom is the exception.

Now wait just a moment. Sure, wizarding society as a whole might be blind to Muggles and the threat they pose, but it's not nobody knows anything about them. What about the Muggleborns? They know all about the Muggle world they were born into. Yet there's nothing to show that people listen to Muggleborns when they try to correct wizarding misperceptions. Plainly put, if Arthur Weasley, a man who's interested enough in Muggles to study them and collect artificats of them, can't even wrap his mind around eckeltricity... what does that say about how the Wizarding World accepts this information as a whole? There are institutionalized attempts to understand Muggles, such as the Muggle Studies class at Hogwarts. All the information we've got on this course comes from Hermione Granger, a Muggleborn who takes it. She thinks it's fascinating to view the Muggle world through wizarding eyes - but doesn't say anything about whether or not this view is accurate. Her assignments involve explaining electricity and lifting systems - not guns or nuclear bombs.

But then again, why would the Muggleborns have any incentive to try and convince the Wizarding World that Muggles are a danger? While they're excited about magic and anxious to join the wizarding world, they've got friends and families in the Muggle world. They spent the first eleven years of their lives knowing nothing of magic. That's a strong allegiance to Muggles that Muggleborns might never fully overcome. Unless, of course, a Muggleborn spent their first eleven years alone and unloved. Unless said Muggleborn formed no attachment or allegiance to his Muggle roots - in fact, learned to loathe them.

Sound familiar?

Tom Riddle was uniquely placed to both understand the power of Muggles. Many Muggleborns might've spent their childhood sheltered and unaware of the great harm Muggles can inflict on eachother. Growing up in London during WWII, he must have endured enough to make him at least cognizant of the threat Muggles posed. The summer of 1945, after which Tom disappears to begin researching Dark Magic and building up his crusade, is also marked by the dropping of the atomic bomb in Japan. At that moment, it became clear to all Muggles - and perhaps to Tom, too - that Muggles were capable of ending all life on earth. A frightening thought. Did it frighten Tom?


III. Wizarding society, and especially those most likely to be anti-Muggle, refused to believe that Muggles pose a true threat. Hence the real reasons for the war needed to be concealed.

Sorted into Slytherin, Tom must've been made immediately aware of prevailing wizard attitudes towards Muggles. Yet although Tom shared his hatred of Muggles with people like Lucius Malfoy, he would've noticed early a key difference. While Tom's hatred was tinged by fear, purebloods hate Muggles out of contempt. They key belief of purebloods is that Muggles were inferior, and they dislike Muggleborns because they degrade wizardkind. Given the biases of many of the "ancient and noble" houses and Rowling's mention of the Knights of Walpurgis in an interview, there is reason to believe that this hatred existed long before Tom Riddle created the Death Eaters.

But Tom was a clever boy. I propose that he realized that so long as their aims and actions were the same, the seperate motives of the purebloods and himself were unimportant. He allied himself with the Knights of Walpurgis, Slytherins and purebloods and people like the Blacks and the Malfoys, while never truly agreeing with all the tenets of their ideology. Although it is possible that he knew the power of the Muggles and simulataneously was repulsed by them, but little in the books show us a true "mudblood" bias.

As melannen shows in her essay Four Virtues of the Dark Lord, Voldemort is far less prejudiced against Muggleborns as a whole than one would expect:

If anything, his attitudes toward them are less prejudiced than our good guys'. Yes, he's exploited the pre-existing political schism, and his followers are certainly prejudiced, but as for the Dark Lord himself? He's disapproving of his minions' predilections for a "spot of Muggle-torture." There's his interaction with Frank Bryce, which shows no sign of distaste. "I am calling you a Muggle," said the voice coolly. "It means that you are not a wizard." Compare that to Hagrid's explanation to Harry, where he uses the word as a pejorative-- "A Muggle," said Hagrid, "it's what we call nonmagic folk like them. An' it's your bad luck you grew up in a family o' the biggest Muggles I ever laid eyes on."

If Tom doesn't share the anti-Muggleborn biases of his followers, he must have some other reason for leading them. Perhaps it's a megalomaniacal desire for power. But perhaps it's the protection of the wizarding world that plucked him from his Muggle hell and gave him a second chance at life.


Further considerations...

I suggest reading all of melannen's essay for more insight into Voldemort's character - she offers a convincing argument that he's not nearly as bad as you think, that in fact he doesn't even like to kill people. sinick wonders Just What Does Voldemort Want, Anyway? and realizes that Voldemort's goals just might have merit.

I'd also encourage anyone who reads this to poke as many holes as possibly in this theory, and I'll edit this essay to reflect criticisms as I go along.

(73 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:thinkatory
Date:July 11th, 2004 03:38 pm (UTC)
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Yes. Exactly. The hate for Muggles isn't the ideology, merely a political tool to get his demographic to agree with him. Also, we don't know all that much about the actual way Death Eaters are recruited, so it could be a campaign of fear--"We have to wipe them out before they wipe us out"--or a more hypocritcal campaign of duty--"We have to keep the wizarding world pure and honorable." Or a blend of the two. I do hope we see this in the future books, it could definitely shed light on the Dark Lord's motives.

There's the Voldemort/Hitler parallel, but... it doesn't work, because Voldemort doesn't hate all Muggles for what his father did to him, only his father. Also, most of the proof that Hitler was Jewish is now considered apocryphal.

The International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy, enacted in 1692, not only keeps knowledge of magic from Muggles but also shields magical folk from knowing about Muggles.

Not necessarily. There's Muggle Studies and also, when Sirius Black was around, there was talk about guns in the Prophet. Ron knows about guns, I believe. I mean, there's no way they can help having some leak in, but it does seem like the wizarding world would probably have noticed the A-bomb.
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From:tabellae
Date:July 11th, 2004 08:44 pm (UTC)
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As I said in the essay, guns existed well before the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy, although certainly not with the same deadliness and efficiency as the current models. But regardless, I do believe some information has come through since then - like "eckeltricity". :) What I mean is that since the primary channel of information is Muggleborn, most of the information coming in is harmless.
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From:skalja
Date:July 11th, 2004 05:27 pm (UTC)
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Except, of course, that Voldemort is no longer right the moment he takes the steps he's been taking - torture, murder, extortion, yadda yadda. Sorry - you've organized some no-brainer but frequently unspoken aspects of Voldemort's methods and possible motivations in a very eloquent way, but eh. Personally, I'm puzzled (and sometimes a little disturbed) by Potterfandom's penchant for extreme moral ambiguity/Death Eater sympathizing that goes hand in hand with "good guy" bashing (not that you're doing the latter, I just notice it a lot in general). Yes, all is not well in the default wizarding world, but that doesn't mean we all need to go and root for the bad guys, either. *shakes head*
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From:saeva
Date:July 11th, 2004 08:07 pm (UTC)
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But by the same merit, we hear the 'good guys' doing the same thing -- legally. I think, for me, the leg that side had to stand on was knocked right out from under them when it was legalised for Aurors and the like to use Unforgiveable Curses on suspected Death Eaters during the first war.

There is no good side in this, when both sides are doing this sort of thing, only a side each reader agrees with more.

- Andrea.
(Deleted comment)
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From:wikdsushi
Date:July 12th, 2004 09:31 am (UTC)
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Yes! Thank you! I've been arguing this position for two years now. My stance has always been that Voldemort's position is sound, but his methods are flawed. It's the difference between violent retalliation in response to a threat and education reform to teach how to handle said threat. (Then, imagine Tom M. Riddle, Professor of Muggle Studies.)

I'd go into further detail, but I fear the pollen count has made consistent thought a bit difficult. :/ Kudos! And thanks again for putting this into such a concise format!
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From:tiferet
Date:July 12th, 2004 10:02 am (UTC)
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Exactly. Also, I think poor Tom was a bit of a nutter.
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From:neotoma
Date:July 12th, 2004 10:09 am (UTC)
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I wouldn't say *Voldemort's* goals have merit, as Voldemort's main goal seems to be immortality for himself (and he's gotten pretty far along that road, as even being disincorporated doesn't kill him). His interest in the Stone, his experimetn with the diary, and finally his re-incarnation via cauldron and rite all point to Voldemort being self-centered in pursuit of this goal.

The goals of the Wizardly separatists, on the other hand, may have some merit. They want to preserve their culture from much large culture surrounding them, and they've decided the best way to do that is to be hidden. Their methods, though, have ranged from stupid to horrific -- the near complete ignorance of the general Wizard population about Muggles and Muggle culture is very stupid for a minor culture, and it only gets worse from there.

The descent into terrorism and civil war is actually working against the goals of the separatists. Every skirmish is another chance that Muggles will finally be clued in, and every death on *either* side destroys Wizarding culture just a tiny bit more.

Frankly, given that Voldemort seems to hate the Wizarding World as much as he hates Muggles, if not more, I'm not surprised that the results of the Death Eater movement is actually counter to his supposed goals.
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From:tabellae
Date:July 12th, 2004 10:38 am (UTC)
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I don't think that his quest for immortality and the goals I outlined above are mutually exclusive. Both indicate a burning desire for survival above all else: personally for Voldemort, through the Stone or the Diary, as well as for the Wizarding World as a whole, through his politics.

But you're right that some of the Death Eater movement is going counter to his goals. Perhaps he thought he could better control his DEs.
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From:the_gentleman
Date:July 12th, 2004 10:22 am (UTC)
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*applauds*

Voldemort's aim really does seem to be immortality, and everything else is merely supportive of that. It's people such as Malfoy and Fudge who try to utilise this to either maintain or permanently establish the status quo. Over at civilitas, my Macnair was using Voldemort as an attempt to overthrow the flawed governmental process of the Ministry and establish a new, proto-fascist government that couild iron out the inefficiency of a half-Muggle Ministry. People like Malfoy are more concerned with blood than the laws, and above them is Voldemort, who has literally shed his humanity to become something more. A God among insects, really, which I think is why he doesn't kill people unless he has to- as if killing them messily is too much a bother, imbuing too much humanity on his victims.

Immortality would also give him further motive for distaste/hatred of Muggles- he was so nearly one of them, and if he had been he would have had no chance of immortality. Or at least physical immortality- narcissam has pointed out that Voldemort is the most Christian-influenced of the characters in the books, because his rebirth was so obviously a reversal of Christian symbolism. He's been born through death once before- his mother died after giving birth- and this probably coloured his outlook on life. In a one-shot I'm working on, Dumbledore is trying to teach him the value of loyalty (partly through really pervy sex, but also through chatting) and Tom comes to see death as the ultimate betrayal- abandoning your responsibilities to the world through death.

In the case of Tom- is it the fact that he's the last heir of Slytherin that drives him? As the last of both his Muggle and wizarding lines, there's definitely a desire to continue at least one- and perhaps his Pureblood acquaintances have shown that merely having children is nothing near as strong a legacy as they believe it to be.

However, I suspect that in the first war, he really was interested in maintaining Pureblood supremacy. Power probably appealed to him, as he had so little in his formative years in the orphanage- combine that with the idea of him having noble, even royal blood, and establishing himself as a dictator would perhaps be a draw.

In the end, though, I think we'll have to wait for JK to explain his motives and modus operandum in the coming books. There's too much ambiguity between his motives, desires and past to be completely certain that Voldemort works the way we think he does for the reasons we say...
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From:tabellae
Date:July 12th, 2004 10:43 am (UTC)
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I never considered the reverse-christian symbolism of Voldemort's births before. That sounds fascinating - do you know if it's been elaborated on anywhere?
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From:amberdiceless
Date:July 12th, 2004 01:33 pm (UTC)
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Hrm. So you're saying in a nutshell that Tom's philosophy is "Muggles are bloody dangerous people; they do all sorts of horrible nasty things to one another, and what's to stop them doing similar horrible nasty things to us? Let's take them out with extreme prejudice, before they get the chance."

If I were to compare that attitude to any real world leader's, it sure as hell wouldn't be Hitler...
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From:amberdiceless
Date:July 12th, 2004 01:35 pm (UTC)
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[Pardon, should have mentioned that I found y'all via the Daily Snitch.]
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From:tabellae
Date:July 12th, 2004 03:23 pm (UTC)
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... what a very good point. And that sits well with me, since I find both Voldemort and any sort of doctrine of pre-emptive war to be morally wrong.
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From:adjectivegirl
Date:July 12th, 2004 03:36 pm (UTC)
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Hee. Can't imagine who you're talking about.

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From:mirabilelectu
Date:July 13th, 2004 05:22 am (UTC)
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You're not kidding...
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From:ataralas
Date:July 12th, 2004 02:46 pm (UTC)
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(in from the snitch)

I can accept that Muggles pose a fatal threat to the wizarding world. I can accept that a violent revolution might be in order to rid the wizarding world of Muggles/and or Muggleborns. However, that begs the question, what do you do with all the Muggleborn wizards that will continue to be born every year? If its not known until they are ten or eleven that they are wizards, what are you going to do with them? Kill them? Deprive parents of their child after eleven years? That, to me, seems worse than the state of the wizarding world, its anachronisms, prejudices, and hierarcies included.
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From:tabellae
Date:July 12th, 2004 03:27 pm (UTC)
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I'm not sure. Perhaps Voldemort intends to ignore them entirely - perhaps he believes that Muggleborns are distantly related to purebloods and figures they'll stop occuring. Perhaps he's got a plan of kidnapping the children. I wouldn't put it past him - if the Voldemort of my essay is the right one, then he's proved himself to be absolutely ruthless in the quest for his goals.
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From:adjectivegirl
Date:July 12th, 2004 03:39 pm (UTC)
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I think this is a great essay, especially in the sense that it connects Tom and Voldemort rather than keeping them diametrically opposed. Neither may much like each other, but Tom's childhood during practically the worst modern England had to endure definitely made a difference.
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From:tabellae
Date:July 12th, 2004 03:51 pm (UTC)
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The disconnect between Tom and Voldemort was one of the driving forces in making me write this essay. I basically thought, "Why would a clever boy like Tom believe such idiocy as Voldemort spouts when he knows better than any wizard what Muggles are capable of?"
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From:no_remorse
Date:July 12th, 2004 06:13 pm (UTC)
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I have post somewhere on the subject of the house-elf plot and why the elves "like to serve." My basic point was that the house-elf plot is the Muggleborn allegory version 2.0. Only this time we get to see the other side's reasons and truths.

The problem with the muggleborn/racism metaphor is that it is so ultra-obvious, yet so removed from reality that you don't have to apply Rowling's metaphor on real life racism, if you don't want to. The reason why it is so removed from reality, is that that bad guys don't get to voice their (reasonable) objections to muggleborns - everything is boiled down to "mudblood, die, die."

Personally I believe that reasoning the muggle(born) phobia with the fear and security risk, they pose, would be potentially make the muggleborn/racism metaphor very, very much applicable to real life. So much that it would be a political statement. Alas,unfortunately that's not the case. < /ever so slightly tangential>
From:arwencordelia
Date:July 12th, 2004 09:11 pm (UTC)
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Personally I believe that reasoning the muggle(born) phobia with the fear and security risk, they pose, would be potentially make the muggleborn/racism metaphor very, very much applicable to real life. So much that it would be a political statement.

That's a really good point, and not entirely tangential, I think. Voldemort must have started somewhere...Sirius' brother Regulus was drawn in by Voldemort's ideas. It wasn't until he joined that he found out belonging to this group meant killing and torturing other human beings.

What better way to recruit followers that to exploit a fear of something that really is a potential threat. People tend to be fear things they know little about, as well... and we all know how knowledgeable wizards are when it comes to Muggles.
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From:demeter918
Date:July 13th, 2004 12:24 am (UTC)
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I generally agree with your points, but I have some strong, negative feelings on several points you make. The camp for Voldemort's position is smaller and inevitably, more on the defensive since the majority of the fandom will always side with the conventional good. Questioning whether Dumbledore and his 'right' is a good thing; don't get me wrong there. Saying only one point of view is right is not only boring, it creates an absolutism that can border on eventual fanaticism.

On a personal level, I feel a great deal of sympathy for Voldemort. On an intellectual level, I find him fascinating and moreover, with some rational ideas that have a great deal of base. However, no matter his reasons, the outcome of doing what he has chosen to do is a great deal of grief and violence. His reasons are rational (to a point) on paper, but in reality, they don't work that way. A lot like 'the side of good', actually.

But... to be biased; great piece. ^_^ I love to see essays that tackle something different than the canonically-accepted version of Voldemort=pure evil.
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From:tabellae
Date:July 13th, 2004 10:04 am (UTC)
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Perhaps I'll edit it to make clear that I in no way support the violent methods of the Death Eaters - several others have commented saying that I appear to, and that wasn't my intention at all. While I tried to keep moral judgements out of the piece, if pressed I would judge his aims as reasonable but his methods as abhorent.
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From:cerulean_eyes
Date:July 13th, 2004 01:02 am (UTC)
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nothing constructive to say, but... i found this really interesting. :)
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From:quivo
Date:April 24th, 2006 03:26 am (UTC)
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Just thought I'd comment even though I'm very late to this party, just so I could say that your essay's definitely made me think. Such a sad spiral of prejudice, isn't it? It's funny how Tom/Voldemort immediately sort of takes the combative stance of, "well, we'll make sure that NO muggles or muggleborns can destroy us/rat us out by doing such-and-such" instead of trying to think of a way to solve it that didn't involve so much fear and distress. For me, the wizarding world JKR's created is based so much on fear and hiding that even questions like this that might have other more appropriate long-term solutions are immediately jumped on with such combative, "keep the outsiders out" fervor.

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