Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Characters/Igor Karkaroff
|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Character|
Role in the Books
We first meet Igor Karkaroff when the representatives from Durmstrang Institute arrive at Hogwarts to take part in the Triwizard Tournament. After disembarking from their ship which has surfaced in the lake, Karkaroff greets Albus Dumbledore civilly enough, but his smile doesn't reach his eyes, which stay cold and watchful. He asks if they could proceed indoors as one of his students, Viktor, seems to be catching a bit of a cold.
As they depart after dinner, Karkaroff happens to bump into Harry Potter. He is evidently quite taken aback to realize who he has run into, and as he has halted in the doorway, he is preventing anyone from getting past him. The logjam is broken up by Alastor Moody, who Karkaroff evidently recognizes; they quite plainly don't like each other, and Karkaroff seems to be somewhat afraid of Moody.
When Harry's name comes out of the Goblet of Fire, making him the fourth of the three Triwizard Champions, Karkaroff is angry, saying that either Durmstrang (and Beauxbatons) should be allowed to submit additional names, until each school has two champions, or he will depart from the contest with all his school. Moody again interrupts him, saying that just as Harry is bound to compete, so is Viktor Krum, the Durmstrang champion; and Ludo Bagman, one of the two Ministry judges, says that the Goblet has gone out and will not re-ignite until the next Tournament.
Harry overhears Karkaroff talking to Snape in the Rose Garden at the Yule Ball. Karkaroff says that something is getting darker, more distinct, and Snape asks if he is planning to run. Karkaroff does not directly answer, but instead inquires Snape's plans. Snape says he has nothing to fear. Harry wonders how Snape and Karkaroff came to be on first-name terms. (As a side note to US readers: Traditionally, in the UK, you would not use someone's first name until you knew them quite well. Throughout these books, we see people speaking to other people in personal conversations using last names only; though this is most common with teachers speaking to students, it appears with teachers talking among themselves as well. Whether this is common practice in the UK at present or not, we do see that the wizarding world in many ways is somewhat archaic, and may have kept this tradition.)
Karkaroff appears one day in Harry's Potions class, apparently trying to corner Snape, who he believes has been avoiding him. Harry deliberately spills some armadillo bile to give him an excuse to stay late and eavesdrop. As soon as the other students have gone, Karkaroff indicates something on his forearm and says it is getting more distinct. Snape notices Harry and sends him away before he can overhear anything else.
When Harry looks into the Pensieve, the first of Dumbledore's memories that Harry experiences is Karkaroff attempting to bargain his way out of Azkaban. Before the full Wizengamot, he names several people as Death Eaters: Travers, who he also accuses of the death of Marlene McKinnon and her family, Mulciber, and Antonin Dolohov, each time being met with the statement that the Wizengamot has already arrested them. He also names Severus Snape, though Dumbledore refutes this, saying that Snape had turned against the Death Eaters before Voldemort fell. He does eventually name Augustus Rookwood, the first name which the Wizengamot is not aware of.
Voldemort, upon his return, summons his Death Eaters. While he is not named, we believe Karkaroff is one of the ones who has left his service and will need to be disposed of. When Harry returns to Hogwarts, Karkaroff is nowhere to be found. Ron asks how the Durmstrang students are going to get back to school if Karkaroff is missing, and Viktor Krum says that the students had done most of the work on the outward trip anyway.
On Harry's birthday, we hear that the body of Igor Karkaroff has been found in a shack in the North, with the Dark Mark floating over it.
In Snape's memories, we learn that Karkaroff's plan to run away, should Voldemort return, had been voiced to Snape at Christmas of Harry's fourth year, the year of the Triwizard Tournament, and that Snape had passed this information on to Dumbledore.
Karkaroff would seem to be a very weak reed to entrust with anything. We see, in Dumbledore's pensieve, his willingness to minimize his own punishment by exposing others as Death Eaters. We can see that he does not believe he will be safe if Voldemort returns, either from Voldemort or from those Death Eaters he has betrayed. His running away when Voldemort announces his return is no surprise to us, as the conversation overheard in the rose garden at the Yule Ball shows his fear and how Snape expects him to react.
We also note Karkaroff's bias towards his own school and towards individual students in his school. It seems that the only student Karkaroff believes has a chance at the Tournament is "Viktor", and the remainder are present only because he has to bring a few others for the sake of appearances. This, of course, would leave him totally unprepared should the Goblet of Fire select some other candidate.
Relationships with Other Characters
Karkaroff and Severus Snape were evidently Death Eaters together under Voldemort in his first rise to power. Despite Dumbledore's testimony that Snape was working on the Ministry side, Karkaroff continues to trust him, coming to him for counsel when the Dark Mark begins to reappear in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Snape's counsel seems ineffective, as we learn later that Karkaroff had planned, as early as December, to run away if Voldemort returned; and he actually did run when Voldemort returned in June.
Karkaroff is written to be largely opaque. From his first appearance, he is wary, revealing little of himself other than his caution and fear. From Moody's comments at that time, we learn that he may have been a Death Eater in Voldemort's previous rise to power; in Dumbledore's Pensieve, we see that not only was he convicted for being a Death Eater, but he was high enough in the ranks to know names of other Death Eaters, and was willing to betray them in return for a reduced sentence. These two together explain his extreme wariness; having betrayed his co-conspirators, his life is only safe while the Ministry's power remains unchallenged. If Voldemort were to regain power, there is little chance he would survive. Knowing this, and knowing that he cannot be certain that he knows all the Death Eaters, or all those he injured by exposing Death Eaters, he must keep himself aloof to save his own life, even before Voldemort returns to power.
It is because of this, presumably, that Karkaroff is one of very few characters in the series who remains resolutely two-dimensional. Clearly, he cannot let other characters know his inner thoughts, because to reveal them could doom him. As a result, he cannot reveal his inner self to the reader either. All we ever learn about Karkaroff is that he is biased towards one of his students, Viktor Krum; that he is a coward and willing to betray others for his own ends; and that he fears for his life, and plans to run, should Voldemort return.
We note that Karkaroff's evident favoritism for Krum also seems to extend to bullying his other students. This portrayal, entirely typical for a coward, adds to the perception of Karkaroff's cowardice.
- Where did Karkaroff's loyalties lie? Was he still loyal as a Death Eater, or had he turned to the good side, like the Malfoys had claimed about themselves? Or is there a third alternative? What does his death at the hands of the returned Death Eaters suggest?
During the scenes in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where Karkaroff and Snape are seen to be talking, we share Harry's belief that Snape is a Death Eater; we know that Karkaroff had been previously, first due to Sirius' revelations, and later from the scene that Harry views in Dumbledore's Pensieve. The reader may wonder why Karkaroff feels able to confide his worries to Snape, given that Karkaroff was present when Dumbledore stated that Snape had been working against Voldemort. It is actually because of that statement that Karkaroff discusses the Dark Mark with Snape; he believes that Snape either betrayed Voldemort, or was in a position to betray him, before Voldemort's fall, just as Karkaroff had betrayed Voldemort's followers afterwards. Both are aware that should Voldemort return, such betrayal could be literally fatal. Karkaroff believes that both he and Snape are refugees from Voldemort's organization, together determining what to do as evidence mounts of Voldemort's strength increasing. Karkaroff seems perplexed by Snape's apparent lack of fear at the prospect, a lack of fear which we only later understand to be the result of Snape's tested belief in his own ability to deceive Voldemort as to where his loyalty actually lies.