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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.

★★ Gabriel Artisan ★★house_illrepute on January 18th, 2007 12:03 am (UTC)
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.

Didn't Rowling say that the part of Hogwarts was her own commentary on the typical British boarding school (at least during her school years)...?

Maybe this is part of her belief that you DON'T treat everyone the same? And, could the way he handled Harry be the result of him realising this 'simple fact', if indeed it is a fact?

I mean, Dumbledore didn't learn of Tom's craziness as a child when we did (in HBP); he'd known it for a long time. Do you really think treating a child with obvious mental problems as if he's regular Joe Blow Hufflepuff the correct way to go about things?

If your child was attacked in school by a kid and you found out that the professors -- or at least one professor -- knew about it, would you abide the excuse of 'well, it's about choices... and we were treating him like we treated everyone else?'

Ultimately, I agree that we are mostly to blame for how we behave, what we do, and the decisions that we make... but, unless some new information comes about in HP:DH that we don't already know, it's safe to say that Dumbledore was negligent in handling Riddle, who was already showing signs of being a psychopath by his 11th birthday.

'I'll be watching you...'


I like Dumbledore, too. But I like him because he is NOT the all-wise, all-knowing sage most people think he is. He is a human with magical powers, who made many mistakes. He made mistakes with Riddle... He made mistakes with Harry. The only mistake he didn't make was in giving Snape a second chance, methinks.