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16 January 2007 @ 03:09 pm
Dumbledore's Failure  
I was reading Red Hen's Out On A Limb (I want to be Red Hen when I grow up! : ) and noticed in her discussion of what we know about Dumbledore something rather interesting.  As she points out, Dumbledore is big on second chances, and as she also points out he doesn't give one to Tom Riddle.

Now Red Hen notices that this is not in character for Dumbledore and comes up with two alternatives:
A. Dumbledore is acting out of character because that's what JKR needs to get the job done.
B. Something happened during that conversation that we don't yet understand, but will make Dumbledore's actions make sense.

I'd like to posit a third theory.  Dumbledore is acting in character, but in character for the Dumbledore of yesterday.  There's a huge hole that is Dumbledore Before Harry.  An even bigger one for Dumbledore Before Voldemort.  And from what we know of the accomplishments of Dumbledore, the Harry filtered version that's a mix between Santa, Disney's Merlin, with hints of Gandalf peaking out probably wasn't always the person he was.

So what do we know?  Dumbledore meets young Tom and is turned off within two minutes of conversation. Granted Tom's not all that likeable of a kid, and anyone who's dealt with unsavory characters can see that Tom's got a glowing neon warning sign flashing on and off over his head.  Dumbledore can see that Tom needs watching, not just for his own sake, but to protect others.  And Dumbledore does watch, but he does not shepherd.  He provides Tom with no guidance.  He sees an eleven year old in trouble and washes his hands of him.

What else do we know?  The Dumbledore of the present is known for being a trusting, guiding, redemption hound.  You were a rake, no problem, Dumbledore will give you a second chance.  Joined the Death Eaters, but now you're sorry; come to Hogwarts and teach (or come to Hogwarts for the TriWizard Tournament.)  Spent all year trying to kill me, and almost off two of your classmates; I'll hide you and your mom!  Practically get one of your classmates killed by tricking him to get near another one when he's totally out of control (and, as a side note, practically turn one of your buddies into a killer); no problem, finish out the year as if nothing happened.  Try to torture my pet student and get tricked into the Centaur's forest by your own greed; I'll go save you!

By the time we see him Dumbledore seems almost pathological in his need to give people second chances.  He's so trusting he routinely puts other people at risk.  After all, it's one thing for Hagrid to routinely bring his students into contact with critters that will kill them if given the chance; no one ever accused Hagrid of having an overabundance of brains.  But Dumbledore is supposed to be brilliant.

Other writers have bandied about the theory that Dumbledore's lack of care is the final nail in the coffin of Tom Marvolo Riddle.  I tend to disagree with this idea, but what if Dumbledore does not? 

Perhaps, in the Cave, Dumbledore's "It's my fault." mantra is his confession that he believes that if he had taken Tom under his wing he could have nipped the budding psychopath, and fostered the charming rose underneath.  Perhaps the potion allows him to see a vision of a future with Voldemort in charge.  Perhaps Dumbledore's "Not the Children." and "Kill Me." is part of a conversation he is having with the Voldemort in his head.  Perhaps I'm just tilting at windmills here...

But it is a pretty good reason for why Dumbledore forgives all these days.

Hylarnhylarn on January 16th, 2007 08:48 pm (UTC)
Plausible and possible. Given that Dumbledore is dead, I doubt we'll ever really find out if you're right, but it is possible.
polymorphously on January 16th, 2007 09:01 pm (UTC)
Hmm. I just assumed that Dumbledore was a very wise, insightful person, who was a sound judge of character. That is, he gave Tom Riddle no second chances, supervision laced with suspicion, and refused to grant him the DADA job because he knew how deeply warped and sociopathic he was. Everyone else is forgiven because they are essentially good people who can be redeemed and reformed.

kerylrkerylr on January 16th, 2007 09:31 pm (UTC)
I'd tend to agree with that characterization of Tom Riddle. I know I'd be watching him extra close and not feel a moment's regret at it. But that said, I don't know what Dumbledore thinks about his involvement (if any) in the creation of Lord Voldemort.

There has to be some reason he's so forgiving.
(no subject) - polymorphously on January 16th, 2007 09:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kerylr on January 16th, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - house_illrepute on January 17th, 2007 11:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Juliej_daisy on January 16th, 2007 09:17 pm (UTC)
Excellent, excellent theory. There's a lot of regret in the HP stories, isn't there? Dumbledore on trusting Quirrel, Ginny on trusting that diary (and Ron, Fred and George, and Percy not noticing she was possessed), Sirius on trusting Peter (and Lupin on not trusting Sirius), Harry on whatever he was feeling guilty about at the moment in B5, and Harry again on doing nothing about the HPB book. If we add Dumbledore to the cycle again, we'll have come full, regretful, circle.

Perhaps the potion allows him to see a vision of a future with Voldemort in charge.

I think that's a little too specific for Voldemort--he's not expecting anyone to find the Horcruxes, so he wouldn't foster the potion to act in a way only one person would be able to understand. My guess is that potion allows the drinker to envision their own "personal" world if they hadn't made their greatest, gravest mistake. But since Dumbledore's so influential, and so personally isolated at the same time, his world is the world.

Does that even make sense? LOL. Either way, great essay. I've read a few, and this is one of the only ones that I'll be thinking about even as I begin to read B7. :)
kerylrkerylr on January 16th, 2007 09:34 pm (UTC)
I didn't write that bit all that well.

I envision the potion as pretty much what you said, showing the person some sort of personal hell. In Dumbledore's case it's pleading with Voldie, perhaps about to see Hogwarts and all inside destroyed, or something to that effect.
tesktesk on January 16th, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC)
But it is a pretty good reason for why Dumbledore forgives all these days.

And he better did, in my opinion. Well, perhaps when it finally sunk in to him just how badly the whole thing with Tom turned out(I got your point regarding this, but I still think Dumbledore is responsible somewhat), he suddenly changed his attitude? And then became the saint Albus we are used to?
I'd be more than happy to think so. But I am not sure I really can. He DID take Hagrid under his wing, after all.

Interesting, nonetheless. And I, too, want to be Red Hen when I grow up:)
lilacsigil: hermionelilacsigil on January 17th, 2007 12:45 am (UTC)
Very solid reasoning! Dumbledore has lived a very long life, it would be quite disappointing if he had never changed. He doesn't seem like the type to be happy that he saw straight through that Riddle boy, more the type to wish that things had been different, and, critically, to change his own behaviour to that end.
focusf1focusf1 on January 17th, 2007 12:52 am (UTC)
I want to be Red Hen when I grow up! Join the queue!

And Dumbledore does watch, but he does not shepherd.

I personally believe, that Riddle becoming Voldemort, is not Dumbledore's fault, nor do I think that he could have done anything to prevent it from happening. I think that when we first encounter the young Riddle in the orphanage, he already has the makings of a sociopath/megalomaniac. There was an interesting essay on here a few weeks back (maryj59?) in which a discussion on young Tom really got to the core of things. In it the ideas went back and forth about Tom and was he a ready-made sociopath, or did others make him what he is? My view is, the inbreeding in his family gene-pool and the history of tempers and violence was already prevalent in Tom when Dumbledore went to meet him.

What I see in Tom when I first read about him is that he has made himself a victim of his circumstance (being orphaned and left in an orphanage). And ALL he sees in the future is how to gain a weapon (power) and how to use it against others. And thats exactly what he gets - he gets magic. And what a power to have and be able to use! In being given something, he was given the jackpot of all things.

In the discussion the parallel of Harry/Tom also came up. Harry, in a very similar situation (orphaned, no love) chose not to be a victim. Despite having been shown no love by his relatives, he saw the introduction of magic as an escape to better himself. Not as a tool to use over those who oppressed him.

And Dumbledore does watch, but he does not shepherd.

I think it all comes down to: It is our choices, ... that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

When Tom got to Hogwarts he would have been treated like every other kid, if not with more revere because he was such a handsome, orphaned, and exceptionally gifted young boy. I doubt anything bad happened to him at Hogwarts that could be blamed for him turning into Voldemort. I think Dumbledore is blameless, really no one is to blame but Voldemort himself. (This may have come out of me because I love Dumbledore and I can see no wrong in him!)

I would love to know if there was a prophecy made that saw the rising of Voldemort happening....Maybe that would be some inside knowledge that Dumbledore may have had.
bewarethesmirkbewarethesmirk on January 17th, 2007 02:23 am (UTC)
Perfectly expressed!
(no subject) - kerylr on January 17th, 2007 03:29 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - focusf1 on January 17th, 2007 03:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - house_illrepute on January 18th, 2007 12:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ctrent29 on September 30th, 2013 06:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Lynnetlynnet on January 17th, 2007 01:13 am (UTC)
I think this is a great theory. It would answer the contradiction we're given in the books, that choices matter, except for Voldemort, who is never given a choice. If Dumbledore feels that he denied him that choice, that could explain a lot.

Ultimately, Voldemort is responsible for his own actions, as are we all, but our actions are influenced by the actions of others. I don't think Dumbledore feeling, or even being partially responsible for who Tom Riddle eventually became at all negates Tom's total responsibility for his actions.
focusf1focusf1 on January 17th, 2007 03:54 am (UTC)
Dumbleedore does give Tom a choice. He tells him that he can come with him to Hogwarts but in choosing so must return all the items he has stolen. He also tells him he has been, "using [his] powers in a way that is neither taught nor tolerated at our school." and should he make the choice to come to Hogwarts, he will have to refrain from doing so.

Tom, obviously, accepts the conditions but from his future actions we can say, had no intentions of abiding by them.

There is a choice made.

Also, Dumbledore does not tell anyone at all about Tom's previous tempermental history. He gets a fair second chance when he arrives at Hogwarts, the teachers love him moreso because of the "selective" information they have been given by Dumbledore - that Tom is just an orphan, a very clever, gifted, handsome one at that.

Another choice been made.

Dumbledore gave Tom the chance to start over, and although Tom took it, he USED it to suit his own purpose. This therefore, comes down to abusing trust, power and making BAD choices.
(no subject) - sistermagpie on January 17th, 2007 04:36 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - changclaire5 on January 23rd, 2007 07:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - focusf1 on January 24th, 2007 12:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
Class 1 Demonwolfsbaine on January 17th, 2007 02:34 am (UTC)
he could have nipped the budding psychopath,

Can you stop budding psychopath’s by taking them under your wing?

Are they not defined as untreatable and incurable because they have?

"no concerns for the feelings of others and a complete disregard for any sense of social obligation. They seem egocentric and lack insight and any sense of responsibility or consequence. Their emotions are thought to be superficial and shallow, if they exist at all. They are considered callous, manipulative, and incapable of forming lasting relationships, let alone of any kind of love.(Wikipedia)


"It is thought that any emotions which the true psychopath exhibits are the fruits of watching and mimicking other people's emotions. They show poor impulse control and a low tolerance for frustration and aggression. They have no empathy, remorse, anxiety or guilt in relation to their behaviour. In short, they truly are devoid of conscience. However, they understand that society expects them to behave in a conscientious manner, and therefore they mimic this behaviour when it suits their needs. (Wikidpedia)

Seems to fit with Tom/LV’s personality very well and when your as old as Dumbledore, you have seen a thing or two and very likely can see that second chances for some people are not an option.

Given this, there is nothing DD could have done, there are things he may think he might have done, but that doesn't mean that they would have worked.

Making a case for DD having a need to give people a second chance in life from only partly disclosed information is building a premise on shifting sand. The list of digressions that DD has seen fit to give people a second chance for, hardly fall into the same category as Tom Riddle’s.
kerylrkerylr on January 17th, 2007 03:13 am (UTC)
Personally I don't think there is anything Dumbledore could have done short of kill Tom Riddle that would have stopped him from becoming Voldemort.

But just because you know Riddle is a psychopath, and I know Riddle is a psychopath, does not mean that Dumbledore knows Riddle is a psychopath, or that if he does, that he believes that a person can be beyond redemption.

Also, at the time of their first meeting, Tom Riddle had stolen a few items, bullied some kids, maybe hurt/scared some of them, and killed a pet rabbit. Compared to what Dumbledore was willing to forgive Umbridge, Sirius, Snape, and Draco for this is very minor.

And, of course this is building on shifting sand, everything regarding Dumbledore's motives is similarly based because he lived about 150 years and we've seen at most 6.5 of them. The article this is a response to is an exercise in "Extreme Theory," and so is this. We don't know, and probably will never know if anything I've written here has any value other than sounding cool. But it was a fun exercise in extra-canon logic.
(no subject) - focusf1 on January 17th, 2007 04:01 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kerylr on January 17th, 2007 01:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thelastgoodname on January 17th, 2007 06:29 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - house_illrepute on January 18th, 2007 12:11 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - estland on January 18th, 2007 08:48 am (UTC) (Expand)
Nobody's laughing now: HP - Dumbledore-puff's lemonslavinialavender on January 17th, 2007 03:20 am (UTC)
Ooooooh. This is good. I just read two-thirds of the Red Hen essay (until the Snape-loves-Lily section, which I just can't bear because that's been my long-standing OTP), and I love your take on it, actually more than where Red Hen left it. Great job, I'll be quoting and linking and memorying and such.

Oh, and this in particular made me laugh: Spent all year trying to kill me, and almost off two of your classmates; I'll hide you and your mom!

John Heaton: harry potterjheaton on January 17th, 2007 03:43 am (UTC)
One might argue that Dumbledore gave Riddle a second chance by not pursuing the issue of who opened the Chamber of Secrets back in the 1940s. Diary!Riddle said Dumbledore always suspected Riddle was behind the attacks, and "kept an annoyingly close watch" on him thereafter to see if he'd changed his ways. But when Riddle showed up at Hogwarts to interview for the DADA position, Dumbledore saw he hadn't changed, except for the worse, and only then gave up on hoping for it. Just a thought.
kerylrkerylr on January 17th, 2007 12:34 pm (UTC)
Could be, and that's way more leniency than I would have given Riddle. If you can expel Hagrid on such flimsy evidence, then I think you could have gotten rid of Tom as well.

But as Focus1 points out Voldie in the Muggle world on his own with even less training and control is a very scary idea.
(Anonymous) on January 17th, 2007 11:59 am (UTC)
i think u r absolutly wrong about dumbledore...i mean he is gr8..n it is nice that he gives second chances...cz he only gives them to ppl who actually deserve them! i mean look at your examples!
they all actually turned out to e awesome ppl ri8??
kerylrkerylr on January 17th, 2007 01:02 pm (UTC)
i hope u r kidding. hard to tell in text-speak. if not...

umbridge = psycho bitch

draco = budding death eater. Used the magical equivalent of firing a machine gun in the Great Hall while filled with students to try and kill Dumbledore.

narcissa = her name says it all

snape = based on cannon we don't know if he's good or not yet.

Sirius = cool guy, and turns out to have been o.k. But he never really learns any impulse control. Actually taking some heat for almost killing Snape, and making Lupin into a killer could have helped that.

Lupin = only second chance who really deserved one and used it well.

Hagrid = Good guy, heart of gold, never learns that some critters really are dangerous. Continues to put others at risk because of this.

Mundungus = keeps stealing things, traffics in illegal substances.

Rita Skeeter = keeps making life a hell for Harry as long as she can. It's Hermione who stops the endless second chances. Do you really think Dumbledore couldn't have kept her out of Hogwarts had he really wanted to?

I'm not saying that Dumbledore isn't great. This isn't meant to belittle him, just explain a glaring lack of continuity between Dumbldore of yore and Dumbledore now.
(no subject) - etrangere on January 17th, 2007 04:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kerylr on January 17th, 2007 06:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - etrangere on January 17th, 2007 07:08 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Eli/Ellie/ellie_nor: hpqfacellie_nor on January 17th, 2007 07:08 pm (UTC)
Ooh, good one. I can like Dumbledore a bit more again now (well, apart from his whole down-on-Merope thing).
★★ Gabriel Artisan ★★house_illrepute on January 17th, 2007 11:53 pm (UTC)
oh man! aside from a wonderfully written theory, you linked us to the site i had been looking for since last month! BOOKMARKED!! and thanks!

felicitys_mindfelicitys_mind on January 20th, 2007 11:35 pm (UTC)
I don’t follow that Dumbledore washed his hands of young Tom Riddle. Dumbledore found from Mrs. Cole and Tom himself that Tom had been using magical powers to control and hurt but without understanding that he was using magic, and he unnerved and confronted Tom by causing the box of stolen trophies to rattle. Dumbledore then gave very clear guidance that Tom was to return the items with apologies to the owners, that Tom had “no doubt inadvertently” been using his powers in a way that was not taught nor tolerated at Hogwarts, and that Tom would from that moment be subject to the laws of the Wizarding World and would be punished for breaking them. When Tom started at Hogwarts, Dumbledore gave him a chance to start over on the right foot by withholding information about Tom’s past behavior from the other members of staff:

“Though he had shown no hint of remorse, it was possible that he felt sorry for how he had behaved before and was resolved to turn over a fresh leaf. I chose to give him that chance.” HBP17

Why didn’t Dumbledore make an effort to cultivate a personal relationship with Tom for the purpose of molding him? Because Tom didn’t want it and Dumbledore had no reason at that point to believe he needed it. Tom didn’t want Dumbledore’s assistance when he made his first trip to Diagon Alley, and Dumbledore said he knew Tom always regretted spilling so much to Dumbledore during their interview at the orphanage and was ever afterwards very guarded with Dumbledore. Plus, it would have been unprecedented for the headmaster of the school to single out a student for that kind of attention when there was no evidence in the early years that Tom needed more than the scare and directives that Dumbledore had given him in the orphanage.

From Tom’s behavior at Hogwarts (“He seemed polite, quiet, and thirsty for knowledge”), there was no reason to believe Tom hadn’t taken the chance Dumbledore gave him. He drew the attention and sympathy of the staff for being a handsome, talented orphan and was surrounded by admirers from his own and higher grade levels. His behavior was good enough that he became prefect and Head Boy. There was never any evidence to connect Riddle to wrongdoing at the school. And in the Slug Club particularly, he had the flattering attention of his head of house who was open about wanting to help Tom secure a privileged position in the WW.

Young Tom did not need to be taught the difference between right and wrong; he needed to be reminded of the difference and warned of the consequences for choosing wrong over right, which is exactly what Dumbledore did before giving Tom the chance to make a fresh start. So how were Dumbledore’s actions with regard to Tom’s bad choices different from his actions after the werewolf caper when he gave Sirius a second chance and swore Sirius, Lupin, James, and Snape to secrecy about the episode? He gave Sirius a chance to start over and prove himself worthy of the second chance; there is no evidence in the text that Dumbledore took Sirius under his wing after that and became his personal moral guide and mentor any more than he had with Riddle (and Riddle was never caught tricking a fellow student and rival into a potentially fatal situation!).
kerylrkerylr on January 21st, 2007 03:08 am (UTC)
All of your points are good ones, and I agree that Dumbledore did all that he could with Tom Riddle. The question is, does Dumbledore think so, especially seeing how Tom turned out?

Really, we don't know what Dumbledore thinks about his role, if any, in the creation of Lord Voldemort. He may be totally satisfied with how he treated Tom. And, if he is, I'd say he's more than welcome to feel that way. If he's not, it may explain something about why and how he treats those who have come later.
(no subject) - felicitys_mind on January 23rd, 2007 09:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kerylr on January 26th, 2007 06:28 pm (UTC) (Expand)
ebailey140 on January 24th, 2007 07:02 pm (UTC)
Actually, I took Tom's "the old arguement" line when he was trying to get the DADA job as indicating that Albus had tried to get through to Tom on several occasions, to no avail.

Jo's faith figures into her work, so she's said. This is also a Hero's Journey story. Both require the Hero to learn unconditional love and conquor their fear of death. Note what two things Tom was unable to do that made him into Voldemort.

Albus, of course, still wondered what he could have done differently to prevent all of this. Tom's self destruction isn't just affecting him, after all, but resulting in the destruction of so many other lives.
cheryl_bites: Furrycheryl_bites on January 29th, 2007 03:23 am (UTC)
Jo's faith figures into her work, so she's said. This is also a Hero's Journey story. Both require the Hero to learn unconditional love and conquor their fear of death. Note what two things Tom was unable to do that made him into Voldemort.

*Intrigued* Could you link me to this?