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Death (The Tale of the Three Brothers)

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DH1 Death 02
Death
Biographical information
Born

Amortal

Died

Amortal

Physical information
Gender

Male (as depicted in the Tales of Beedle the Bard)

Magical characteristics
Wand

Elder Wand (formerly)

Affiliation
Occupation

To take people to the afterlife

Loyalty

Death

"And Death spoke to them."
The Tale of the Three Brothers

The being known as Death is the embodiment of the universal phenomenon marking the end of physical life, and may or may not literally exist. The best–known account of the entity is known as "The Tale of the Three Brothers", and was made famous by Beedle the Bard. According to this story, he was the one who witnessed the three Peverell brothers defy him by successfully crossing a deadly and dangerous river using magic. He was upset because he could not take them for his own, so he offered to give each brother an artefact of great power. The Peverell brothers chose the Elder Wand, Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility. These items later became known as the Deathly Hallows.

Biography

Peverell brothers

"He pretended to congratulate the three brothers upon their magic, and said that each had earned a prize for having been clever enough to evade him."
—Hermione Granger reading the Tales of Beedle the Bard[src]

Death is a minor antagonist featured in the last of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, The Tale of the Three Brothers.[1] In the story, the three Peverell brothers (Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus) are featured out travelling the world, when at twilight they came to a treacherous river, one that had been known to claim many lives when attempting to cross it.[1] The Peverells, who were powerful wizards, merely whipped out their wands and created a bridge out of thin air, and casually began to cross the river, when they were met by a black hooded figure midway across, blocking their path.[1]

Untitledlll

The three Peverell brothers with their "gifts".

This figure was none other than Death himself, who is outraged that he has been cheated out of new victims, due to their magical abilities, and equally enraged that he cannot take them as his own.[1] But Death was cunning and pretended to congratulate the brothers on being powerful enough to elude him, before offering each of them a prize for their skill. When Death made it clear that he would not let the brothers pass across the bridge without him fulfilling each of their personal desires, the wizarding siblings decided to go along with Death's offer, but each for different motives and reasons.[1] Death proceeded to give the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility to each of the brothers, a collection of items that would come to be known in time as the Deathly Hallows.[1]

Revenge

"Then Death stood aside and allowed the three brothers to continue on their way and they did so, talking with wonder of the adventure they had had, and admiring Death's gifts. "
—Tale of the Three Brothers[src]

Secretly each of these objects was part of an elaborate scheme devised by Death to reclaim each of the brothers as his own.[1] Indeed, as the story progressed, each of the brothers in turn lost his life at the indirect hands of his own gift (Antioch being murdered due to the lust created by the Elder Wand, and Cadmus having committed suicide upon seeing the Resurrection Stone's limitations), restoring to Death's clutches two of his victims.[1]

DH1 Death 04

Death

Ignotus's fate

"But though Death searched for the third brother for many years, he was never able to find him."
—Tale of the Three Brothers[src]

However, the Cloak of Invisibility enabled Ignotus to elude Death for a good many years, and finally when he had reached a ripe old age and lived a happy, long life, he took off the Cloak, gave it to his son, and departed the "mortal coil" with Death as an old friend, but on his own terms and not those of Death.[1]

Physical Appearance

In Beedle the Bard's story, Death was described as an imposing hooded figure - this motif is typical for many depictions of death in literature: a skeletal figure garbed in an ancient dark robe, minus the scythe. It was stated in the story that he also has wings that he can retract from his attire as a means of flight so he could stalk on his victims.

Personality and traits

"He was angry that he had been cheated out of three new victims, for travellers usually drowned in the river. But Death was cunning."
—Excerpt from The Tale of the Three Brothers.[src]
DH1 Death 03

Death greets the Peverell Brothers

Death is portrayed as a character who does not like to be on the losing side of anything. However, as was said in the tale, he was cunning enough to acknowledge the difficulty in claiming the lives of those who can call upon magic to their aid, as the Peverells have done when they summoned the bridge over the river, and because of that, he was willing to pull off a ruse of friendship by offering the brothers their personal desires, intending to use such endeavours for his own ends and beat the brothers in their own game. He is shown to be angered when anyone eludes him, denying him his fresh victims, and he is described as having "grudgingly" given Ignotus his own Cloak of Invisibility, knowing that he has probably been outsmarted by the most humble of the brothers.[1]

In both instances, he is described as being agitated when he feels he has been cheated or beaten at his own game; in this case being outsmarted by Ignotus. He is also shown to be a very cunning character, plotting an elaborate scheme using the Deathly Hallows to reclaim each of the brothers for himself.[1]

However, he is not beyond being outwitted, as demonstrated when Ignotus sees through his façade and turns his scheme on its head, by asking for something that would make it impossible for him to be followed by Death.[1]

It was also stated by Ron that Death occasionally gets tired after stalking his targets for so long, especially if they see him coming; which is why he relies on his Cloak of Invisibility to sneak up on them unawares.

Magical abilities and skills

DH1 Elder Wand

Death giving The Elder Wand to Antioch Peverell.

"So Death crossed to an elder tree on the banks of the river, fashioned a wand from a branch that hung there, and gave it to the oldest brother."
—Death[src]
  • Wand maker: Death is able to create powerful wands, as he created the most powerful wand to ever exist, the Elder Wand.
  • Tracing: Death is able to track people easily if they are not under magical concealment, as he tracked down Antioch and Cadmus Peverell to bring them to their deaths.
  • Resurrection: Death is able to bring dead people back to the living world through the Resurrection Stone. However, as there is no true way to bring dead people back, this method only brings them in a spectral state, and they are not truly among the living.
  • Manufacturer: Death is able to create three powerful objects: the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility.
  • Flight: Death is able to hover and levitate using his two wings.

Relationships

Antioch Peverell

"So the oldest brother, who was a combative man, asked for a wand more powerful than any in existence: a wand that must always win duels for its owner, a wand worthy of a wizard who had conquered Death!"
—Tale of the Three Brothers[src]
Antioch Peverell with the Elder Wand

Antioch receives the Elder Wand from Death.

Death was furious when his magical powers were outdone or when he was outsmarted.[1] Therefore he sought revenge upon the Peverell brothers who had eluded him. So when he pretended to have congratulated them and gave them a choice of a prize, Antioch decided to humiliate Death by asking for a wand that was worthy of a wizard who had conquered Death.[1] So Death followed him until he stopped to stay at an inn. Antioch then boasted loudly that he had snatched the Elder Wand "from Death himself".[1] Therefore, Death took his life for his own in the form of another murderous wizard who lusted for the Elder Wand's power and killed Antioch to get it.

Cadmus Peverell

"Then the second brother, who was an arrogant man, decided that he wanted to humiliate Death still further, and asked for the power to recall others from Death."
—Tale of the Three Brothers[src]
3brothers02 woman

Cadmus longs for his lost love.

Death was not one to take kindly to losing or being outwitted.[1] Therefore he sought revenge upon the Peverell brothers after their twilight encounter. So when he pretended to congratulate them and gave them a choice of a prize, Cadmus, who was an arrogant man, decided that he wanted to humiliate Death still further, and asked for the power to recall others from Death. So Death followed him back to his home, where he attempted to use the stone to bring back his lost lover who had died an untimely death.[1] Sadly, the limitations of Cadmus' gift ended up being his downfall. However delighted he was at first to see the woman he loved, he was dismayed to find that it was only a pale imitation of her: the dead did not truly belong in the living world. In the end, Cadmus hanged himself so he could truly join her. Death had taken Cadmus's life for his own just as he had done with Antioch.[1]

Ignotus Peverell

"And then he [the third brother] greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, as equals, they departed this life."
—Tale of the Three Brothers[src]
Death, Ignotus Peverell and the cloak of invisibility

Death gives Ignotus the Cloak of Invisibility.

Death was furious when he felt he had been outsmarted or eluded when he felt he was due new victims.[1] Therefore he sought vengeance when the Peverell brothers defied him when crossing the fateful river. So when he pretended to congratulate them and gave them each a choice of a prize, Ignotus, who did not trust Death by any means, requested the power to leave that meeting without being followed by Death, rather than ask for something that furthered his own desires.[1] Death, not wishing to betray any hint of his true intentions, begrudgingly took off his Cloak of Invisibility and gave it to Ignotus.[1] Ignotus used the Cloak of Invisibility to hide from Death, successfully eluding him for many years. Finally, when he was an old man and had lived a happy, long life, Ignotus took off the Cloak, passed it on to his son, and went with Death as an old friend, but on his own terms and not those of Death.[1]

Behind the scenes

"...I think it more likely that the Peverell brothers were simply gifted, dangerous wizards who succeeded in creating those powerful objects"
Albus Dumbledore's speculation.[src]
Death flight

Death takes flight.

  • Assuming he even exists, Death's classification, as a being or otherwise, is unknown, and he clearly does not belong to any "species" with members besides himself.
  • Death, as a character, appears in numerous other pieces of literature, mythology and other fiction. He is most commonly otherwise known as the Grim Reaper.
  • Albus Dumbledore, however, speculated that these artefacts weren't truly given to the brothers by Death. He completed his reasoning by saying that it was far more likely the brothers were simply very gifted wizards and they succeeded in creating the three objects. It is, however, unproven by anybody either way, although this does remain the most logical answer.[2]
  • Death strongly resembles a Dementor with its cloak on, whether this is coincidental or not is unknown. It should be noted, however, that the Dementors as designed for film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban were based off classic personifications of Death.[3]
  • In strong contrast to its portrayal in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Death will be portrayed in the film adaptation of The Tale of the Three Brothers by nine-year-old Emma Campbell, and will be dressed in robes of white. This change was the idea of director Brandon Doyden, who wanted the character to look innocent, as to emphasize that Death "isn't necessarily the bad guy".[4]

Appearances

Notes and references



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