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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.


 
 
 
(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.
Anne-Elisa: Bring on the Angstetrangere on January 17th, 2007 04:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, what a cute troll you were answering.

Can I nitpick with you? I'm just itching to do it. Ignore me if it annoys you, it's not important ^^

narcissa = her name says it all
Name me one line in canon that shows that Narcissa is a narcissist. Any one. So far all we've seen of her was someone admitedly snobbish, bored at Quidditch, who didn't want her child to go to Dumstrang, who sent sweets to her son, who begged on her knees for someone to save her son, and who defended her husband when he was verbally attacked. I don't see the narcissism :p

Lupin = only second chance who really deserved one and used it well.
Yeap, 'cause dissimulating crucial knowledge that may help imprisonning a dangerous escaped convict is so very responsible. I love Lupin, but trustworthy he is not always.

Mundungus = keeps stealing things, traffics in illegal substances.
Maybe he was Dumbledore's official delivery of the later. Would explain much ^^ (lemon drop traffic, anyone?)

Anyway, I rather like your theory in general. I think it works greatly with Dumbledore admitting to Harry he hadn't expected to care for him so much. I think Dumbledore was probably a very remote, distant person for most of his life.
kerylrkerylr on January 17th, 2007 06:20 pm (UTC)
You're right, not only is there no cannon to show Narcissa is particularly narcissistic, but we do see her from Harry's point of view which is not exactly unbiased.

She does put up with and appears to like Malfoy Sr. and Jr. so she's got bad taste in men, but that's not a sin.

I'm assuming that JKR is trying to tell us something about her, without having to actually develop the character; hence the name. But for all I know JKR just thinks a pretty pale lady should be named after a pretty pale flower.

Good point on Lupin as well, but look at the rest of the second chance bunch. I'd say he did better with his than the rest of them. Plus, he's not keeping Sirius a secret to protect him, but to get a chance to kill Sirius himself and settle the murder of three people he held dear.

I'd love to know what Sirius was up to between the "Werewolf Caper" and his capture by the Aurors. Somehow he got himself in a situation where James did not chose him as his secret keeper, and Lupin was willing to believe he had joined the DE's and killed two of his best buddies, and one of said buddies' wife. That's a pretty far way to fall from best pals for life.
Anne-Elisa: Narcissaetrangere on January 17th, 2007 07:08 pm (UTC)
Yay, I'm glad I've succeeded in defending Cissa's name.

I'm assuming that JKR is trying to tell us something about her, without having to actually develop the character; hence the name.
It's possible, but if it is so, it doesn't appear to be how she portrayed her in the text. Actually I find Narcissa to be a remarkably well rounded, complex and gray character for one appearing in so few scenes.

but look at the rest of the second chance bunch.
Oh, I don't disagree with your main point, and you're right for most of them. I just wanted to nitpick. (What can I say, I was bored at work)

I like your interpretation of why Remus is keeping that secret. That's a very very sexy interpretation. Hmmm vengeful, ruthless Remus.

Somehow he got himself in a situation where James did not chose him as his secret keeper, and Lupin was willing to believe he had joined the DE's
I think that canon is pretty clear that James chose Peter rather than Sirius at Sirius' express demand, which shows James really did trust Sirius. Remus however had better reason to distrust Sirius. He was never as close to him as James had been, for one, and Sirius had already betrayed him once ^^. I think that fandom tends to misrepresent Sirius and Remus as much closer than they were. Maybe the key there is also what Remus himself was doing during that time. And yes, the first war is definitly my favourite period of the setting, so much things to explore there!