David Russell Mosley
3 July 2017
The Edge of Elfland
Manchester, New Hampshire
I am, once again, in the midst of my annual read of the Harry Potter series. I’ve reached Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (which I wrote about last year here). Every time I read this book I struck, rather uncomfortably, by certain similarities between myself and boy-Voldemort.
When Dumbledore shows Harry his memory of first meeting ten-year-old Tom Riddle we see not only Voldemort’s nascent secretive and domineering side, but also his desire to be unique. Dumbledore telling him he was a wizard only confirmed what he already knew about himself: that he was special. I am very much afraid that had Dumbledore walked through my door when I was child and told me I was special, I would have believed him in an instant.
I don’t know whether it had to do with being adopted, being raised as an only child (despite having half-siblings and adopted-siblings), but I was always ready to believe there was something different about me. This manifested itself in many ways. For quite some time it manifested itself as hypochondria (not any formal kind). I was always ready to believe that I was ill and with something rare. Maybe it would even kill me and then I’d get to find out what people really thought of me. In Junior High I played the eponymous Tom Sawyer in our production of the musical based on Twain’s famous work. I was always drawn to the funeral scene. I longed to know what people really thought of me; who might be in love with me but unwilling to say it; who regretted being mean to me. Later it led me to contemplate suicide and write about it in notebooks on bus trips. I would leave the notebook open nearby someone, usually a girl, to get her attention and her sympathy. Just as often, this side of my sickness would lead me to rebuff advances to make me feel better. There are images trapped in my brain of the things friends and others (again, mostly girls) would do to try to get my attention, to make me feel better. But these I must leave aside.
And this, I think, is the difference between Harry, Riddle, and myself. Harry needed Hagrid to tell him, not so much that he was special, but that he wasn’t nothing, which is what his Aunt, Uncle, and cousin had essentially taught him. Riddle needed reminding of his commonness. He rejects his birth name both because of its commonality–”There are a lot of Toms” he says at one point–but also because it associates himself with his “common” (albeit rich) muggle father. By having neither Hagrid nor Dumbledore, and by truly failing, I learned the humility Riddle never did and Harry didn’t need to. And so, while like Voldemort I was, and often am, ready to believe that I am different, that I am special, my life has done a decent job of reminding that, thankfully, I am no one particularly special, at least not in comparison to others. All praise be.