Male (as depicted in the Tales of Beedle the Bard)
Elder Wand (formerly)
To take people to the afterlife
- "And Death spoke to them."
- —The Tale of the Three Brothers
Death was a character used by Beedle the Bard in his famous tales. In 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.
- "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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
Secretly each of these objects was part of an elaborate scheme devised by Death to reclaim each of the brothers as his own. 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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
Death was furious when his magical powers were outdone or when he was outsmarted. 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. 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". 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.
Death was not one to take kindly to losing or being outwitted. 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. 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.
Death was furious when he felt he had been outsmarted or eluded when he felt he was due new victims. 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. Death, not wishing to betray any hint of his true intentions, begrudgingly took off his Cloak of Invisibility and gave it to Ignotus. 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.
Behind the scenes
- It is actually unknown what kind of being Death is.
- Death, as a character, appears in many other pieces of literature and mythology. He is also known as Thanatos or Letus.
- 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, although this does remain the most logical answer.
- 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.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (First mentioned)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Appears in flashback(s))
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (video game) (Appears in flashback(s))
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Mentioned only)
- The Tales of Beedle the Bard
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
Notes and references