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What is a Horcrux?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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The term horcrux is an invention of J.K. Rowling, first mentioned in the sixth Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Creating a horcrux occurs when one rips the soul by committing an intensely evil act, such as murder. The portion of the soul ripped away is then encased in some type of meaningful object. Thus, if the physical body of a person with a horcrux were destroyed, the person would still not be dead, unless horcrux containing the piece of soul was also found and destroyed.

Rowling uses the term to explain why Voldemort managed to survive a backfired killing curse when he attempted to kill the one-year-old Harry. Much of the sixth book deals with Headmaster Dumbledore instructing Harry on the horcruxes that Voldemort likely created. These horcruxes kept Voldemort alive, though lacking in a body until the end of Book Four, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Through the sixth book, Harry learns that of all places most dear to Voldemort, Hogwarts, the school of witchcraft and wizardry, was the most so. Thus, objects from the school founders are likely places for Voldemort to conceal horcruxes. Dumbledore also suggests that Voldemort created not one horcrux, but more likely seven. As a result, Harry’s final goal is not only to vanquish Voldemort, but to destroy the remaining horcruxes as well.

So far, two horcruxes have been removed. Harry destroyed one in the second novel, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in the form of a diary that Tom Riddle/Voldemort made when he was about 16. Dumbledore destroys another at the beginning of the sixth novel. This suggests five more horcruxes remain to be destroyed.

From Book Six, we know that a locket belonging to Salazar Slytherin, one of the founders of Hogwarts contains a horcrux, though it is not hidden where Voldemort thinks. A fake horcrux contains a note from R.A.B. saying he has taken the real horcrux. R.A.B. is probably Regulus Black, and the locket is probably in a cabinet at the house Harry inherits from Sirius Black, Regulus’ brother and Harry’s godfather.

One other horcrux is probably contained in a cup belonging to Helga Hufflepuff, another founder of Hogwarts. Possibly, Voldemort’s snake, Nagini, contains another. This leaves two more to be found, possibly in objects owned by the other two Hogwarts founders, Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. Some have also suggested that Harry himself, as an intended victim of Voldemort's crimes, may be a horcrux, possibly leading to Harry's own death as a part of Voldemort's defeat.

By creating a horcrux and tearing the soul, the wizard becomes less human. Creating one horcrux is bad enough. Creating seven is horrendous in the Harry Potter world, since the person becomes increasingly less human, and operates with a tiny disfigured soul. When Dumbledore gives this knowledge to Harry, he suggests that because Voldemort has only a bit of his soul left, Harry has some advantage. Harry fights with a pure and complete soul, thus possessing power that Voldemort “knows not,” as Book Five suggests.

There are some theories on online Harry Potter sites, however, that Dumbledore may have created a horcrux himself, however, when he defeated the evil wizard Grindenwald. Most suggest the horcrux may be located in Dumbledore’s faithful phoenix, Fawkes. This is questionable at best, but may suggest that Dumbledore is not actually dead.

However, Dumbledore has always suggested that the natural progress of life leads to death, and refers to it as “the next great adventure,” at the end of Book One. It seems unlikely Dumbledore would tear his soul in this fashion since he values the whole and pure soul above all else.

What can be said of the horcrux is that it is metaphoric for the destruction that occurs to the soul when one commits an evil act and fails to repent in any fashion. The remaining horcruxes are likely to figure largely in the final book of the Harry Potter series, since they are the key to completely defeating Voldemort.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon283888 — On Aug 07, 2012

O.K. so Harry is a horcrux that Voldemort accidentally created when he killed the Potters and the curse rebounded off Lily and destroyed his body.

Voldemort was unaware of this thus the reason why he killed Harry with the killing curse, although the reason why he actually survived was because Voldemort tried to kill him with the elder wand, and as Harry explains at the end of the last film, it never belonged to Snape (Voldemort didn't know this). The wand's master is Harry. So basically, Voldemort tried killing Harry with his own wand, and since wands don't allow the killing of their master from a different wizard, the curse killed the part of Voldemort's soul inside Harry instead of killing Harry. "close analysis of the films". The book may be different as I haven't read the books. But that's how I see it.

By anon131862 — On Dec 04, 2010

that is because voldemort was unaware that harry was a horcrux.

By anon117349 — On Oct 10, 2010

well i don't think so that harry is one of the horcrux, because if he is then why would voldemort kill him? and as pro, dumbledore said that voldemort is himself the seventh horcrux. Read the sixth part very well.

By Dumbledore — On Jul 23, 2010

To all harry potter fans: harry potter is a horcrux because lord voldemort made six horcruxes, making his soul so unstable that on the night that he murdered the potters, when lily sacrificed herself to protect harry, the curse rebounded on voldemort and a part of voldemort's soul was left behind and it locked itself on the only living thing in the room: harry.

Like Albus Dumbledore said, Voldemort knew that among all his victims, one would rise up and fight back. harry potter was that one. When voldemort's soul locked itself on to him, it gave him uniquely dangerous weapons to do the job. he gave harry parseltongue, the ability to see into his mind and the ultimate protection: lily's love.

By anon79573 — On Apr 23, 2010

it is silly because if it is true and harry is a horcrux, why would voldermort want to kill a part of himself, hmm? Beats me.

By anon59433 — On Jan 08, 2010

that was the best book ever. so what did you guys like?

By anon10253 — On Mar 23, 2008

well i think that the way the book ended was a bit queerish because throughout volume 5 and 7 every one knew harry had to die. yet he lives happily ever after even though he lost many friends in the process because of him. im not sure but i think that's messed up.

By tweetybird — On Aug 30, 2007

I know! I'm so happy! Tol'ja he was a horcrux! WOO HOO! that was the best book EVER. so what did you guys like?

By LunaLovegood — On Aug 30, 2007

Now that I have read the last book, I now know that HARRY IS A HORCRUX!!!!!!!! Sorry, but I had to get that off my chest!!!

By tweetybird — On Jul 20, 2007

OK Luna, I have a question for you. Why are you trying to get a hole in a METAL cap? anyway you have to either stab it with a needle, knife, or you have to use a drill and get in there, or if all else fails, put on a PLASTIC cap. oh well

For q number 2, use a headband, if it makes your hair get out of your face then it will also help get it out of your front shoulders. Hey you gotta tell me EVERYTHING about this party, you no my real address, so tell me tell me tellme please! Im really excited. anyway potter head, what I was saying was that MAYBE Harry got these transported powers from V's SOUL.

Because if his trophy made rons slugs come back, then why can't Harry be oddish? hmm? i dunno. keep in touch.

By LunaLovegood — On Jul 18, 2007

Who said that the snake was attacking who? Harry said that it was like he was attacking Mr. Weasley as the snake. He did inherit a lot of Voldemort's powers, but when Snape was teaching Harry Occlumency, Harry caught Snape off guard and saw stuff from his memory! I am still divided, but I have a really random non-related question for you guys.

I am dressing up as Luna for the Harry Potter book opening, and actually I have two questions: How do I get a hole through a metal bottle cap?, and How do i keep my hair behind my back when it is just below shoulder length?

Please reply to both of my questions and views on Harry-is-a-Horcrux or not stuff!

By PotterHead82 — On Jul 17, 2007

I honestly don't think that Harry is a Horcrux...Because when he had the vision of Mr. Weasley being attacked he said that he was the snake attacking him. I think that he inherited a lot of Voldemorts powers and reading minds and controlling them is one of them. Remember when he was training with Snape? Harry was also able to penetrate Snape's mind and see his memories. So I think that Harry is able to see what Lord V. Is doing or thinking and since he doesn't know how to control it that's why he thinks they are just visions. So I doubt that Harry is a Horcrux

By tweetybird — On Jul 16, 2007

OK im back. and i got info from this other site. What if another one of the horcruxes was...OK you guys remember when Ron got the "slugs" in book two, right? he got better, but when he did his "Filch" punishment of cleaning the trophies do you remember how he got to one trophy and the slugs started over again? And did you know that Tommy got an award for something-but-i-don't-no-what and he got his own trophy? That could be one of the horcruxes, guys!! post what you think im digging for clues at the last minute.

By anon2549 — On Jul 16, 2007


What if V doesn't know that H is a horcrux? That could have happened during the unsuccessful murder attempt, couldn't it? I definitely think Harry is a horcrux, but the waiting is almost over!!

By LunaLovegood — On Jul 15, 2007

Yes, tweetybird has a point, but if Harry was a Horcrux, why does Voldemort keep trying to kill Harry if he has a piece of his soul in him! Also, in the fifth book, when Harry sees Mr. Weasley's attack through the serpent's eyes, I had reason to believe this whole Harry-is-a-Horcrux stuff. So, I am divided on the matter. Until the seventh book, that is!!!!!!!

By tweetybird — On Jul 14, 2007

Oooo, I have a thought. It just came to me, what if Harry is one of the Horcruxes? I mean, he has a scar, and the scar has some of Voldemort's powers in it (reason for parseltoungue, etc..) So it can be a possibility. Oh dear, if Harry's a Horcrux, then that means Harry has to die. Oh snap.

By anon998 — On May 10, 2007

I wouldn't say that horcrux ['work/life anchor'...' life line' ?] are particularly unqiue to HP.

While intent and creation details may differ this sort of thing has been common in fantasy settings for quite a time.


The One Ring of Sauron of the Lord of the Rings fame acted as one as just one of it's many characteristics/powers. Sauron could not be completely 'undone' (or at least banished from Middle Earth) until his ring was unmade.

Dungeon and Dragons: Liches (powerful undead magic users) would seal their souls inside an artifact (called a 'phylactery' in DnD) and until that artifact was destroyed the Lich could never be truly destroyed. Sound familiar?

Creation of the artifact seems to vary but many Dungeons and Dragons stories do indeed involve murder as part of at least some of the methods for entering into Lichdom.

DnD Lich artifacts in particular may even have been inspired with the related aspect of the One Ring -- I haven't researched this but it would be interesting to investigate.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
Learn more
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