o all those readers seeking to construct their own Horcrux, a font of deadly evil allowing the creator to preserve his life unnaturally, beware! Such meddlings in works man should not know split the soul asunder and mar the perpetrator for all time. They also so don’t work!
The following addresses a number of flaws in the Horcrux system, as demonstrated throughout literature and folklore.
Even the evil Overlord (eviloverlord.com) notices the futility of such a system, commenting thusly:
The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.
Well, with such a brilliant observation to start us off, let’s examine some scenarios:
Sauron creates a set of rings tied to his power, whose bearers must serve him. He then forges the One Ring, placing much of his power in a single alluring object.
Upside: When he’s defeated, he isn’t permanently destroyed and returns within a few thousand years.
Downside: Anyone can use it! Boromir, Frodo, Gandalf, Galadriel, and even Sam contemplate using Sauron’s power to destroy him and forge a new empire. Further, Sauron doesn’t notice Frodo has it, doesn’t notice the ring’s in Mordor, and doesn’t notice it’s being destroyed until it’s too late!
Davy Jones in Dead Man’s Chest removes his heart so it won’t pain him with emotion.
Upside: He’s safe from harm and emotion.
Downside: Jones turns into an unfeeling tyrant and neglects the job he’s entrusted with. Worse yet, people dig the heart up from its predictable buried location, and the East India Company controls him and forces him to do their bidding.
Numerous ogres, giants, and basilisks in European folklore hide their hearts inside an egg inside a chicken inside a swan inside a wolf…you get the idea. These are tale type 302, “The Ogre or Devil’s Heart in an Egg” with 260 versions around the world.
Upside: The hero can’t kill them
Downside: The hero always sneaks off and kills all the animals (which are mostly just hidden and flee rather than fight). He then can destroy the heart or trade it for the princess, or occasionally both. An intensive character study, evesdropping, or inteligence from a disgruntled slave generally reveals the location. (See Drink Down the Moon by Charles de Lint).
The Graeae of the Perseus legend pass a single eye and tooth around.
Upside: The three witches can share them and squabble over them equitably.
Downside: Perseus steals them for bargaining chips.
Medusa’s head petrifies heroes at a glance.
Upside: Instant weapon
Downside: Perseus kills her so he can take her head. Additional downside: many games and derivative works suggest showing Medusa a mirror and watching her turn herself to stone.
Dracula relies on a coffin with special earth where he can retreat each night.
Upside: He can’t be killed by conventional methods
Downside: bloodsucking, harassing young ladies in nightdresses, fear of sunlight and all the other unnatural side effects.
Many wizards place their power in a single item.
Upside: Sharing power with one’s buddies, additional strength and concentration.
Downside: The power frequently ends up in the wrong object: (See
“The Frying Pan of Doom” or Sorcery and Cecilia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot or The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede.)
Other Downsides: Often the villain steals this object. Thus, he can hold it for ransom, control the wizard, slurp up his magic, or do other unpleasant villanies.
Some creative wizards place themselves in an item.
(Sourcery by Terry Pratchett, The Mage Winds Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey)
Upside: Extended life past the usual expriation date.
Downside: As a “person” no longer living, the wizard can be overly controlling or insensitive with those still alive. Eventually, the wizard must recognize the need to let go. In Sourcery, the wizard’s young son refuses to take orders from his staff any longer and rejects it. Lackey’s magic sword (Need) is helpless without someone guiding her. She tends to fall asleep and be unable to commnicate if her bearer isn’t magically gifted.
Better yet, place someone else in an item
Upside: Extra power and/or advice
Downside: Slaves of lamps and mirrors are known for conforming to the letter of the order and not the spirit, or for betraying their masters as soon as possible. MOre than anything, they want freedom, and can only be strung along for a time
Sending one’s power into an animal familiar
Upside: Unique perspectives and skills (and occasionally cravings)
Downsides: Terry Pratchett’s frequent “borrowing” suggests a person who travels in an animal too long will lose all grasp of humanity, as does Mercedes Lackey’s exploration of bondbirds. Jennifer Robeson’s Cheysuli books add that if your animal companion dies, you die.
Splitting yourself into twins
Creating an unnaturally powerful offspring
(See Hart’s Hope by Orson Scott Card or The Fionavar Tapesrty by Guy Gavriel Kay)
Upside: As an heir, he can continue your legacy. Or in a pinch, he’ll make the most powerful sacrifice you’ve ever seen.
Downside: Frequently this magical child rebels against his father and helps the opposition.