As anyone who has read ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard knows, The Warlock’s Hairy Heart is the darkest of these tales. Many parents refused to read it to their children and some children had even been traumatized by it.
What makes this my favorite tale (its darker theme aside, since I always enjoy those), is how it adds to our perception of Albus and Gellert’s relationship. This tale was one that Kendra was telling Albus when he was young and, interestingly, it is used as a cautionary tale about the dark arts, which makes the irony of Albus’ situation with Gellert even greater.
The story is about a skilled and beautiful warlock who considered attachment and love to be a weakness and removed his own heart with dark magic (so that he wouldn’t feel). When he overheard a discussion that made clear that he wasn’t envied and admired for his loneliness he decided to pursue a relationship. She invited a young maiden to his home along with her family and tried to woo her by using the lines of a poet. She was fascinated but stated that she could only believe him if he had a heart. He showed her his severed heart which had wrinkled and become hairy because of the separation and neglect and she asked him to put it back in his body. However his heart had become bestial and drove him to take a human heart to replace his own and become whole again. Nevertheless when he cuts the maiden’s heart out his own heart resists and doesn’t allow him to use magic. Ultimately he committed suicide by cutting his own heart out, and died fallen on the maiden’s body with one heart in each hand.
Albus’ own commentary is extremely enlightening:
The hero in this tale, however, is not even interested
in a simulacrum of love that he can create or
destroy at will. He wants to remain for ever
uninfected by what he regards as a kind of sickness,
and therefore performs a piece of Dark Magic
that would not be possible outside a storybook: he
locks away his own heart.
Since this kind of magic is impossible, I read this as a metaphor. Let’s parallel Gellert with the young warlock. He lacked empathy and according to Rowling Albus’ feelings were not reciprocated. So we might assume that Gellert had ‘locked away his own heart’, which may not be some sort of magic but contributed to the dark path he chose.
It addresses one of the greatest, and least
acknowledged, temptations of magic: the quest for
[…] Beedle’s hero is not seeking to avoid death, he is dividing what was clearly not meant to be divided – body and heart, rather than soul – […] -TToBtB
[…]for the legend said that the man who united all three objects would then be truly master of death, which we took to mean ‘invincible’. -Deathly Hallows.
I definitely think that Gellert tried to render himself emotionally invulnerable before aiming for invincibility.
The young warlock in this story, for instance, decides that falling in love would adversely affect his comfort and security. He sees love as a humiliation, a weakness, a drain on a person’s emotional and material resources.
This is how I see Gellert. He would have felt this way and he would know how to use love to drain other people… and it gets more interesting. When beautiful, young Gellert, met a young man that fascinated him he had he urge to make that connection deeper. He met his family, pretended that he did not hate Abe and pointed out that if he and Albus rule Ariana wouldn’t have to hide(the warlock invites the maiden’ s family along with her), he manipulated Albus emotionally and ideologically like the warlock tried to manipulate the maiden’s feelings with the (false on his tongue) words of poets. The maiden was aware of the darkness in the warlock but she still chose to trust him and believe in his heart. Albus in turn sensed Gellert’s darkness but closed his eyes.
When Gellert’s heart ‘functioned’ again (when he felt emotions that were foreign to him) he could not care for Albus in the healthy way he needed. In his tempted attempt to possess Albus’ empathetic heart he ended up tearing it out by attacking Aberforth and leading up to the three-way fight.
And now we are in unmapped territory. We have the equivalent of the warlock carving out the maiden’s heart but nothing similar to him tearing his own heart out a second (and last) time. So far severing one’s own heart from his body has been used as a metaphor.
The warlock could not have his heart in a pure state and was tortured by the intensity of his twisted feelings so he chose to not feel at all. In this line of thought, Gellert would have seeked to get rid of this weakness that had risen in him and was not getting him anything. But he wouldn’t be able to shut down his emotions as he did before or to be healed through Albus’ love/heart. But as Dumbledore comments, magic does not allow a wizard to tear out his heart and live. Enter Fantastic Beasts. Gellert’s pale and tired complexion and his eterochromia lead many to believe that he might have experimented on himself or even created a horcrux. To no one’s surprise, in the commentary of the story Dumbledore mentions that the separation of body and heart in order to not feel emotional pain sounds a lot like the idea behind horcruxes: “The resemblance of this action to the creation of a Horcrux has been noted by many writers. .”.
What if Grindelwald, knowing that he couldn’t get rid of his heart, decided that splitting his soul was the next best thing in order for him to not be distracted by any hint of regret and to become both invulnerable and invincible?
But of course horcruxes do not shut one’s emotions down completely. Vildemort was an emotional child despite splitting his soul in 8 pieces. Compared to that? One split is nothing.
I think that (since there are hits about Gellert throwing the duel) his feelings would have come to the surface when he was faced with the choice to kill Albus. That would have lead in an epic way to his imprisonment and to his slowly building remorse and (as follows if he had indeed created a horcrux) to his soul being put together when he fully experiences it.
“They say he showed remorse in later years, alone in his cell at Nurmengard. I hope that it is true. I would like to think he did feel the horror and shame of what he had done. Perhaps that lie to Voldemort was his attempt to make amends … to prevent Voldemort from taking the Hallow …” “… or maybe from breaking into your tomb?” suggested Harry, and Dumbledore dabbed his eyes.
This very random connection was brought to you thanks to a very cinematic and Gothic dream (of young grindeldore and the Dumbledore family acting out the tale) that yours truly had two nights ago, after not having read the story in 4-5 years. There’s too much shipping-angst for Rowling to make it canon, but if any of the wonderful fic writers ever wrote this I would 100% read it.
Y'all up here acting like Snape spent his entire life in Danger because of his spywork? No. He joined the Death Eaters willingly after Hogwarts and only worked as a Spy for about 9 months (probably shorter) during the 1st war and then 3 years during the 2nd war. He had a nice, comfortable life inbetween under Dumbledore’s protection at Hogwarts. He was the only one to blame for any discomfort and unhappiness he experienced in those almost 14 years of safety. He was bitter and decided take it out on the rest of the world.
You know who did brave a horrible life full of loneliness, poverty, negligence and cruelty at the hands of those who wrongly feared and marginalized him? Remus Lupin. Who by the way also worked as a Spy for Dumbledore by living among werewolves (including the man who bit him) who supported Voldemort. Note, he LIVED among these werewolves. Always in danger of being torn apart and murdered on the spot, whereas most of Snape’s spylife involved him sulking around Hogwarts tormenting kids… Safe. And Remus lost EVERYTHING…but he smiled. Always smiled. Always put others first and never took anything for granted. It took tremendous amounts of bravery for Remus to just go about everyday life.
But no Snape’s the bravest of them all. I’m not bitter.
We are pleased to inform you that, once again, it is September the first. Unfortunately, that means that for yet another year, you not have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed our commiserations in the form of a signed note reading ‘sorry muggle’, and a picture of Peeves laughing at you.
Term begins today. Too bad you’re not going to be here.