Lord Voldemort (//, /-/ in the films;[a] born Tom Marvolo Riddle) is a fictional character and the main antagonist in J. K. Rowling's series of Harry Potter novels. Voldemort first appeared in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which was released in 1997. Voldemort appears either in person or in flashbacks in each book and its film adaptation in the series except the third, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, in which he is only mentioned.
|Harry Potter character|
|First appearance||Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997)|
|Last appearance||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007)|
|Created by||J. K. Rowling|
|Portrayed by||Richard Bremmer (flashback, film 1)|
Ian Hart (voice and likeness, film 1)
Christian Coulson (teenager, film 2)
Ralph Fiennes (adult, films 4–8)
Hero Fiennes-Tiffin (child, film 6)
Frank Dillane (teenager, film 6)
|Voiced by||Eddie Izzard (The Lego Batman Movie)|
Liam O'Brien (Lego Dimensions)
|Full name||Tom Marvolo Riddle|
|Alias||The Heir of Slytherin|
The Dark Lord
|Family||Tom Riddle Sr. (father)|
Merope Riddle (née Gaunt) (mother)
|Relatives||Thomas Riddle (paternal grandfather)|
Mary Riddle (paternal grandmother)
Marvolo Gaunt (maternal grandfather)
Morfin Gaunt (maternal uncle)
|Born||31 December 1926|
|Died||2 May 1998|
Voldemort is the archenemy of Harry Potter, who according to a prophecy has "the power to vanquish the Dark Lord." Nearly every witch or wizard dares not utter his name and refers to him instead with such expressions as "You-Know-Who," "He Who Must Not Be Named," or "the Dark Lord." Voldemort's obsession with blood purity signifies his aim to rid the wizarding world of Muggle (non-magical) heritage and to conquer both worlds, Muggle and wizarding, to achieve pure-blood dominance. Through his mother's family, he is the last descendant of the wizard Salazar Slytherin, one of the four founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He is the leader of the Death Eaters, a group of evil wizards and witches dedicated to ridding the Wizarding World of Muggles and establishing Voldemort as its supreme ruler.
- 1 Character development
- 2 Appearances
- 2.1 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
- 2.2 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- 2.3 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- 2.4 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- 2.5 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- 2.6 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- 2.7 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- 3 Appearances in other material
- 4 Portrayals within films
- 5 Characterisation
- 6 Family
- 7 Reception
- 8 In popular culture
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
In a 1999 interview, Rowling said Voldemort was invented as a nemesis for Harry Potter, and she intentionally did not flesh out Voldemort's backstory at first. "The basic idea [was that Harry] didn't know he was a wizard ... And so then I kind of worked backwards from that position to find out how that could be, that he wouldn't know what he was. ... When he was one year old, the most evil wizard for hundreds and hundreds of years attempted to kill him. He killed Harry's parents, and then he tried to kill Harry—he tried to curse him. ... Harry has to find out, before we find out. And—so—but for some mysterious reason the curse didn't work on Harry. So he's left with this lightning bolt shaped scar on his forehead and the curse rebounded upon the evil wizard, who has been in hiding ever since."
In the second book, Rowling establishes that Voldemort hates non-pure-blood wizards, despite being a half-blood himself. In a 2000 interview with the BBC, Rowling described Voldemort as a self-hating bully: "Well I think it is often the case that the biggest bullies take what they know to be their own defects, as they see it, and they put them right on someone else and then they try and destroy the other and that's what Voldemort does." In the same year, Rowling became more precise about Voldemort. She began to link him to real-life tyrants, describing him as "a raging psychopath, devoid of the normal human responses to other people's suffering". In 2004, though, Rowling said that she did not base Voldemort on any real person. In 2006, Rowling told an interviewer that Voldemort at his core has a human fear: the fear of death. She said: "Voldemort's fear is death, ignominious death. I mean, he regards death itself as ignominious. He thinks that it's a shameful human weakness, as you know. His worst fear is death."
Throughout the series, Rowling establishes that Voldemort is so feared in the wizarding world that it is considered dangerous even to speak his name. Most characters in the novels refer to him as "You-Know-Who" or "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" rather than say his name aloud. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, a "taboo" spell is placed upon the name, such that Voldemort or his followers may trace anyone who utters it. By this means, his followers eventually find and capture Harry and his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. In the second book, Rowling reveals that I am Lord Voldemort is an anagram of the character's birth name, Tom Marvolo Riddle. According to the author, Voldemort's name is an invented word. Some literary analysts have considered possible meanings in the name: Philip Nel believes that Voldemort is derived from the French for "flight of death", and in a 2002 paper, Nilsen and Nilsen suggest that readers get a "creepy feeling" from the name Voldemort, because of the French word "mort" ("death") within it and that word's association with cognate English words derived from the Latin mors.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Voldemort makes his debut in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. In this story, Rowling introduces him as the Dark Lord who murdered Harry's parents, James and Lily, but as a result of his mother's love and willingness to sacrifice herself for him, baby Harry survives when Voldemort tries to murder him with a Killing Curse. Voldemort is disembodied, and Harry carries a mysterious scar on his forehead as a result. In the book, Voldemort unsuccessfully tries to regain his dissolved body by stealing the titular Philosopher's Stone. To achieve his objective, Voldemort uses Professor Quirrell's aid by latching onto the back of the latter's head. However, at the climax of the book, Harry manages to prevent Voldemort from stealing the stone.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
In the second instalment, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rowling introduces Tom Marvolo Riddle, a manifestation of a teenage Voldemort that resides inside a magical diary found by Ginny Weasley. In this book, Ginny is written as a shy girl with a crush on Harry. Feeling anxious and lonely, she begins to write into the diary and shares her deepest fears with the sympathetic Tom. However, at the climax of the story, when Riddle rearranges the letters in his name to write "I am Lord Voldemort", Riddle is revealed as a magical manifestation of the boy who would later grow up to become the Dark Lord. Riddle states he has grown strong on Ginny's fears and eventually possesses her, using her as a pawn to unlock the Chamber of Secrets, whence a basilisk is set free and petrifies several Hogwarts students. Harry defeats the manifestation of Riddle from the diary and the basilisk. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Albus Dumbledore reveals to Harry that the diary was one of Voldemort's Horcruxes.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Voldemort does not appear in the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, either in person or as a magical manifestation. He is, however, heard when Harry passes out from the harsh effects of a Dementor. Towards the end of the story Sybill Trelawney, the Divination professor, makes a rare genuine prophecy: "The Dark Lord lies alone and friendless, abandoned by his followers. His servant has been chained these twelve years. Tonight, before midnight, the servant will break free and set out to rejoin his master. The Dark Lord will rise again with his servant's aid, greater and more terrible than ever before. Tonight... before midnight... the servant... will set out... to rejoin... his master..." Though it is initially implied that the prophecy refers to Sirius Black, the book's ostensible antagonist, the servant is eventually revealed to be Peter Pettigrew, who, for the 12 years since Voldemort's fall, has been disguised as Ron's pet rat, Scabbers.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
In the fourth instalment of the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Voldemort appears at the start and the climax of the book. Rowling lets many seemingly unrelated plot elements fall into order. It is revealed that Voldemort's minion Barty Crouch Jr, disguised as Hogwarts professor Mad-Eye Moody, has manipulated the events of the Triwizard Tournament in Harry's favour. Voldemort's goal is to teleport Harry under Dumbledore's watch as a reluctant participant to the Little Hangleton graveyard, where the Riddle family is buried. Harry is captured and, after Pettigrew uses Harry's blood to fulfil a gruesome magical ritual, Voldemort regains his body and is restored to his full power. For the first time in the series, Rowling describes his appearance: "tall and skeletally thin", with a face "whiter than a skull, with wide, livid scarlet eyes and a nose that was as flat as a snake’s with slits for nostrils". Rowling writes that his "hands were like large, pale spiders; his long white fingers caressed his own chest, his arms, his face; the red eyes, whose pupils were slits, like a cat's, gleamed still more brightly through the darkness". It was revealed that, while in Albania, Pettigrew had captured the Ministry of Magic official Bertha Jorkins, who was tortured for information about the Ministry. After they learned that Barty Crouch Jr, a faithful Death Eater, had been smuggled out of Azkaban and was privately confined at his father's house, they killed her. With Pettigrew's help, Voldemort creates a small, rudimentary body, corporeal enough to travel and perform magic, and formulated a plan to restore his own body by capturing Harry. A portion of the plan had been overheard by Frank Bryce, a gardener, whom Voldemort then killed. Voldemort then completes his plan and returns to life in his full body as a result of the ritual with Harry's blood. He then summons his Death Eaters to the graveyard to witness the death of Harry as he challenges Harry to a duel. However, when Voldemort duels Harry, their wands become magically locked together due to the twin Phoenix feather cores of the wands. Because of a phenomenon later revealed as Priori Incantatem, ghost-like manifestations of Voldemort's most recent victims (including Harry's parents) then appear and distract Voldemort, allowing Harry just enough time to escape via Portkey with the body of fellow-student, Cedric Diggory, who was murdered by Pettigrew on Voldemort's orders.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Voldemort appears at the climax of the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, having again plotted against Harry. In this book, Harry goes through extreme emotional stress, and according to Rowling, it was necessary to prove that Harry is emotionally vulnerable and thus human, in contrast to his nemesis Voldemort, who is emotionally invulnerable and thus inhuman: "[Harry is] a very human hero, and this is, obviously, there’s a contrast, between him, as a very human hero, and Voldemort, who has deliberately dehumanised himself. […] and Harry, therefore, did have to reach a point where he did almost break down." In this book, Voldemort makes liberal use of the Ministry of Magic's refusal to believe that he has returned. Voldemort engineers a plot to free Bellatrix Lestrange and other Death Eaters from Azkaban and then embarks on a scheme to retrieve the full record of a prophecy stored in the Department of Mysteries regarding Harry and himself. He sends a group of Death Eaters to retrieve the prophecy, where the Order of the Phoenix meets them. All but Bellatrix are captured, and Voldemort engages in a ferocious duel with Dumbledore. When Dumbledore gets the upper hand, Voldemort attempts to possess Harry but finds that he cannot; Harry is too full of that which Voldemort finds incomprehensible, and which he detests as weakness: love. Sensing that Dumbledore could win, Voldemort disapparates, but not before the Minister for Magic sees him in person, making his return to life public knowledge in the next book.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Voldemort does not appear in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, although his presence and actions are felt: he once again declares war, and begins to rise to power once more. He murders Amelia Bones of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and begins to target members of the Order of the Phoenix, including Emmeline Vance.
Rowling uses several chapters as exposition to establish Voldemort's backstory. In a series of flashbacks, using the pensieve as a plot device, she reveals that Voldemort was the son of the witch Merope Gaunt and a Muggle called Tom Riddle. Riddle abandoned Merope before their child's birth, soon after which Merope died. After living in an orphanage, young Riddle met Dumbledore, who told him he was a wizard and arranged for him to attend Hogwarts. Riddle was outwardly a model student, but was in reality a psychopath who took sadistic pleasure in using his powers to harm and control people. He eventually murdered his father and grandparents as revenge for abandoning him. The book also discusses Riddle's hatred of "Muggles", his obsession with Horcruxes, and his desire to split his soul to achieve immortality. Rowling stated Voldemort's conception under the influence of a love potion symbolises the prejudicial circumstances under which he was brought into the world.
In the main plot of the book, Voldemort's next step is to engineer an assault on Hogwarts, and to attack Dumbledore. This is accomplished by Draco Malfoy, who arranges transportation of Death Eaters into Hogwarts by a pair of Vanishing Cabinets, which bypass the extensive protective enchantments placed around the school. The cabinets allow Voldemort's Death Eaters to enter Hogwarts, where battle commences and Dumbledore is cornered. Hogwarts professor (and re-doubled agent) Severus Snape uses the Killing Curse against Dumbledore when Draco could not force himself to do so.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Voldemort furthers his quest for ultimate power. He disposes of the Minister for Magic and replaces him with Pius Thicknesse, who is under the Imperius Curse. Establishing a totalitarian police state, he has Muggle-borns persecuted and arrested for "stealing magic" from the "pure blood" wizards. After failing to kill Harry with Draco's father Lucius Malfoy's borrowed wand (to avoid the effect of Priori Incantatem), he goes on a murderous search for the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand ever created, seeing it as the weapon he needs to overcome Harry's wand and make him truly invincible. He goes on a quest that takes him out of the country to Gregorovitch's wand shop, where he kills the old wandmaker. His journey also takes him to Nurmengard, the prison where Gellert Grindelwald is kept, and he kills Grindelwald as well. He finally locates the Elder Wand and steals it from Dumbledore's tomb.
Later, Voldemort finds out that Harry and his friends are hunting and destroying his Horcruxes when informed of their heist on the Lestranges' vault at Gringotts in search for Hufflepuff's Cup. After offering the occupants of Hogwarts mercy if they give up Harry, he assembles a large army and launches an invasion of the castle, where Harry is searching for Ravenclaw's Diadem. Voldemort orders his pet snake Nagini to execute Snape, believing it would make him the true master of the Elder Wand, since Snape killed Dumbledore. He then calls an hour's armistice, in exchange for Harry. When Harry willingly walks into Voldemort's camp in the Forbidden Forest, Voldemort strikes him down with the Elder Wand. However, the use of Harry's blood to resurrect Voldemort's body proves to be a major setback: while Harry's blood runs in Voldemort's veins, Harry cannot be killed as his mother's protection lives on now in Voldemort too. Instead, Voldemort destroys the part of his own soul that resides in Harry's body. Voldemort forces Rubeus Hagrid to carry Harry's apparently lifeless body back to the castle as a trophy, sparking another battle during which Nagini, his last Horcrux, is destroyed by Neville Longbottom. The battle then moves into the Great Hall, where Voldemort fights Minerva McGonagall, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Horace Slughorn simultaneously. Harry then reveals himself and explains to Voldemort that Draco became the true master of the Elder Wand when he disarmed Dumbledore; Harry, in turn, won the wand's allegiance when he took Draco's wand. Refusing to believe this, Voldemort casts the Killing Curse with the Elder Wand while Harry uses a Disarming Charm with Draco's, but the Elder Wand refuses to kill its master and the spell rebounds on Voldemort who, with all of his Horcruxes destroyed, finally dies. His body is laid in a different chamber from all the others who died battling him.
Rowling stated that after his death, Voldemort is forced to exist in the stunted infant-like form that Harry sees in the King's Cross-like Limbo after his confrontation with Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest. Rowling also mentioned that, despite his extreme fear of death, he cannot become a ghost.
Appearances in other material
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, it is revealed that Bellatrix gave birth to Voldemort's daughter Delphi in Malfoy Manor before the Battle of Hogwarts. Twenty-two years later, Delphi poses as Cedric's cousin and manipulates Harry and Ginny's second son Albus Severus Potter, his friend, Draco and Astoria Greengrass's son Scorpius Malfoy into stealing a prototype Time Turner with which she hopes to resurrect her father. Using the Time Turner, Scorpius accidentally creates an alternative timeline where Voldemort killed Harry at the battle and now rules the wizarding world. In an attempt to achieve this future, Delphi travels to Godric's Hollow on the night Voldemort killed Harry's parents, hoping to avert the prophecy that led to her father's downfall. After receiving a message from his son, Harry, together with Ron, Hermione and Draco (who by now has become friends with Harry after they join forces to save their respective sons) transfigures himself into Voldemort so that he can distract Delphi, allowing them to overpower her. The real Voldemort kills Harry's parents as prophesied, and Delphi is sent to Azkaban.
Portrayals within films
Voldemort appears in seven Harry Potter films, namely Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. Several actors have portrayed him in his varying incarnations and ages.
In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Voldemort's manifestation is as a face on the back of Quirrell's head, an effect achieved by computer generated imagery. Ian Hart, the actor who played Quirrell in the same film, provided the voice and the facial source for this character. Voldemort also appears in a scene in the Forbidden Forest where he is seen drinking the blood of a unicorn. As Voldemort's face was altered enough by CG work, and Hart's voice was affected enough, there was no confusion by Hart's playing of the two roles. In that film, he was also shown in a flashback sequence when he arrived at the home of James and Lily Potter to kill them. In this scene Voldemort is played by Richard Bremmer, though his face is never seen. His next appearance would be in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as the 16-year-old Tom Marvolo Riddle (portrayed by Christian Coulson).
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Voldemort is initially only heard, possessing the scratchy, weak voice heard in the first film. By the film's climax, however, he appears in his physical form for the first time, played by Ralph Fiennes. As in the book, Voldemort is shown clad in dark black robes, being tall and emaciated, with no hair and yellowish teeth; his wand has a white tone and the handle appears to be made of bone; his finger nails are long and pale blue while his toe nails appear to be infected. Unlike in the book, his pupils are not cat-like and his eyes are blue, because producer David Heyman felt that his evil would not be able to be seen and would not fill the audience with fear (his eyes do briefly take on a snake-like appearance when he opens them after turning human, but quickly turn normal). As in the book, the film version of Voldemort has snake-like slit nostrils with the flesh of his nose significantly pressed back. Ralph Fiennes' nose was not covered in makeup on the set, but was digitally removed in post-production. In this first appearance, Voldemort also has a forked tongue, but this element was removed for the subsequent films.
Fiennes stated that he had two weeks to shoot the climactic showdown scene where he is gloating over a terrified Harry, played by Daniel Radcliffe. Fiennes said with a chuckle: "I have no doubt children will be afraid of me now if they weren't before." In preparation, he read the novel Goblet of Fire, but jokingly conceded: "I was only interested in my scene, and I had to go through thousands and thousands of other scenes which I did, dutifully, until I got to my scene and I read it many, many, many, many, many times and that was my research." Fiennes reprised his role as Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2.
Fiennes's nephew, Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, portrayed Tom Riddle as a child in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. By the time filming arrived Christian Coulson was 29, and not considered suitable to return as the adolescent Riddle. Thomas James Longley was originally scheduled to take over the role, but last minute renegotiations saw Frank Dillane cast instead.
After he regains his body in the fourth book, Rowling describes Voldemort as having pale skin, a chalk-white, skull-like face, snake-like slits for nostrils, red eyes and cat-like slits for pupils, a skeletally thin body and long, thin hands with unnaturally long fingers. As mentioned in the first chapter of the seventh book, he also has no hair or lips. Earlier in life, as seen through flashbacks contained in the second and sixth books, Tom Marvolo Riddle was handsome and tall with pale skin, jet black hair, and dark brown eyes. He could charm many people with his looks. The transformation into his monstrous state is believed to have been the result of creating his Horcruxes and becoming less human as he continued to divide his soul. In the films, Voldemort's eyes are blue with round pupils.
Rowling described Voldemort as "the most evil wizard for hundreds and hundreds of years". She elaborated that he is a "raging psychopath, devoid of the normal human responses to other people's suffering", and whose only ambition in life is to become all-powerful and immortal. He is also a sadist who hurts and murders people—especially Muggles—just for pleasure and joy. He has no conscience, feels no remorse or empathy, and does not recognise the worth and humanity of anybody except himself. He feels no need for human companionship or friendship, and cannot comprehend love or affection for another. He believes he is superior to everyone around him, to the point that he frequently refers to himself in the third-person as "Lord Voldemort". Rowling also stated that Voldemort is "incredibly power hungry. Racist, really", and that if Voldemort were to look into the Mirror of Erised, he would see "Himself, all-powerful and eternal. That's what he wants."
Rowling also stated that Voldemort's conception by influence of Amortentia—a love potion administered by his mother, a witch named Merope Gaunt, to the Muggle Tom Riddle—is related to his inability to understand love; it is "a symbolic way of showing that he came from a loveless union—but of course, everything would have changed if Merope had survived and raised him herself and loved him. The enchantment under which Tom Riddle fathered Voldemort is important because it shows coercion, and there can't be many more prejudicial ways to enter the world than as the result of such a union".
Like most archetypical villains, Voldemort's arrogance leads to his downfall. He also suffers from a pathological fear of death, which he regards as a shameful and ignominious human weakness. However, while he had many traits of a megalomaniac, he did not have all, as one common trait associated with megalomania and narcissists was shifting blame. Voldemort admitted he paid an expensive price in attacking the parents of Harry Potter, and carefully studied what went wrong when reorganizing his Death Eaters, ultimately placing the blame upon himself. According to Rowling, his Boggart would be his own corpse. Rowling also said that the difference between Harry and Voldemort is that Harry accepts mortality, and thus Harry is in the end stronger than his nemesis.
Magical abilities and skills
Rowling establishes Voldemort throughout the series as an extremely powerful, intelligent, and ruthless dark wizard, described as the greatest and most powerful Dark Wizard of all time. He is known as one of the greatest Legilimens in the world and a highly accomplished Occlumens; he can read minds and shield his own from penetration. Besides Dumbledore, he is also the only wizard ever known to be able to apparate silently. Voldemort was also said to fear one wizard alone, Dumbledore.
In the final book, Voldemort flies unsupported, something that amazes those who see it. Voldemort, like his ancestral family, the Gaunts, is a Parselmouth, meaning he can converse with serpents. This skill was inherited from his ancestor, Salazar Slytherin. The Gaunt family speak Parseltongue among themselves. This highly unusual trait may be preserved through inbreeding, a practice employed by the Gaunt Family to maintain their blood's purity. When Voldemort attempts to kill Harry his ability to speak Parseltongue is passed to Harry through the small bit of the former's soul. After that bit of soul is destroyed, Harry loses this ability. In a flashback in the sixth novel, Voldemort boasts to Dumbledore during a job interview that he has "pushed the boundaries of magic farther than they had ever before". Dumbledore states that Voldemort's knowledge of magic is more extensive than any wizard alive and that even Dumbledore's most powerful protective spells and charms would likely be insufficient if Voldemort returned to full power. Dumbledore also said that Voldemort was probably the most brilliant student Hogwarts has ever seen. Although Voldemort remains highly accomplished and prodigious in skill, he is enormously lacking and highly inept in the most powerful magic, love. This inability to love and trust others proves to be Voldemort's greatest weakness in the series. Voldemort initially voices scepticism that his own magic might not be the most powerful, but upon returning to power, he admits to his Death Eaters that he had overlooked the ancient and powerful magic which Lily Potter invoked and that would protect Harry from harm.
On her website, Rowling wrote that Voldemort's wand is made of yew, whose sap is poisonous and which symbolises death. It forms a deliberate contrast to Harry's wand, which is made of holly, which she chose because holly is alleged to repel evil.
Rowling establishes in the books that Voldemort is magically connected to Harry via Harry's forehead scar. He disembodies himself when his Killing Curse targeting Harry rebounds on him, leaving the scar on Harry's forehead. In the books, and to a lesser extent in the films, Harry's scar serves as an indicator of Voldemort's presence: it burns when the Dark Lord is near or when Voldemort is feeling murderous or exultant. According to Rowling, by attacking Harry when he was a baby Voldemort gave him "tools [that] no other wizard possessed—the scar and the ability it conferred, a magical window into Voldemort's mind".
Note: The names 'Thomas' and 'Mary' Riddle are taken from the films. The Potter Family is not shown.
|Voldemort family tree|
The Riddle family, an old gentry family, consisted of old Thomas and Mary Riddle and their son, Tom Riddle, Esq. They owned over half of the valley that the town of Little Hangleton lay in, and Thomas was the most prominent inhabitant of that town. They lived in a large house with fine gardens, but were unpopular amongst the local residents due to their snobbish attitudes. Tom, apparently the only child of Thomas and Mary, indulged in the typical pursuits of the upper class in the first half of the twentieth century, socialising with attractive women of his class, riding horses, and enjoying his status in the town.
Rowling revealed in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that young Merope Gaunt made efforts to get as close to Tom as she could, peering at him through the windows and bushes at every opportunity. Morfin noticed his sister's affection for Tom and hexed him as he rode by, covering him in hives. This breach of wizarding law, and the ensuing violent struggle with Ministry of Magic officials, led to Marvolo and Morfin being imprisoned in Azkaban. As surmised by Dumbledore, once Merope was alone and no longer dominated by her father, she could make her move for Tom. Merope offered Tom a drink laced with a love potion as he rode by one day without his attractive companion, Cecilia. He became infatuated with Merope and they eloped. Within three months of the marriage, Merope became pregnant. Merope decided to stop giving Tom the love potion, having come to the belief such enchantment of a man was tantamount to slavery. She also revealed her witch status to Tom, believing either that he had fallen in love with her on his own or he would at least stay for their unborn child. She was wrong, and Tom quickly left his pregnant wife and went home to his parents, claiming to have been "hoodwinked" and tricked into marrying Merope. Tom Marvolo Riddle, their son, was born on 31 December 1926 and was left to grow up in an orphanage, as Merope had died soon after giving birth.
Readers first learn about the doom of the Riddles in the beginning of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Tom Riddle, Esq. and his parents were murdered by Tom Marvolo Riddle. The Riddles' gardener Frank Bryce was blamed for the murders in the Muggle world, though he was never charged or tried, while in the wizarding world Morfin Gaunt was framed for them and died in Azkaban prison.
In the film adaptation of The Goblet of Fire, Voldemort's grandparents were given the names Thomas and Mary Riddle.
Most of the exposition of the House of Gaunt's background occurs in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, through the medium of Dumbledore's Pensieve. The Gaunts were once a powerful and influential family, and are the last known descendants of Salazar Slytherin. However, an infamous vein of mental instability and violence that was reinforced by cousin marriages intended to preserve the pureblood line had reduced them to poverty and squalor, as shown in the Pensieve's "memory" that Harry and Dumbledore witnessed. Like Salazar Slytherin, the Gaunts spoke Parseltongue. At the time of the story, the Gaunts owned hardly any assets save for a ramshackle shanty in Little Hangleton, which stood in a thicket in a valley opposite the Riddle House. Like the Riddles, the Gaunts were also unpopular with the local residents, but for the opposite reason; their squalor was looked down upon and the vicious behavior of the Gaunt men earned them a reputation for being vulgar and intimidating.
Marvolo Gaunt was the last Gaunt family patriarch. He was sentenced to a short term in Azkaban for his and his son's assault upon a Ministry of Magic official; this affected his health and he died soon after returning home. His signet ring passed to his son, Morfin Gaunt, who was convicted of assaulting a Muggle, and later died in Azkaban, convicted this time as a party to the murder of Tom Riddle Sr and Riddle's parents by his nephew. The real culprit was discovered much later by Dumbledore, who visited Morfin in Azkaban to gather information about Voldemort. After Dumbledore successfully extracted Morfin's memory of his encounter with his nephew, he tried to use the evidence to have Morfin released, but Morfin died before the decision could be made. Morfin being the last male Gaunt, the House of Gaunt ended with his death.
Merope Gaunt (//) was the daughter of Marvolo, sister of Morfin. Harry's first impression of her was that she looked "like the most defeated person he had ever seen", probably because she lived in raggedness, squalour, and abuse. She married Tom Riddle Sr and became pregnant within three months of the wedding. It is suggested that she tricked her husband into loving her by using a love potion, but when she became pregnant, she chose to stop administering the potion. It is implied that Merope had grown tired of living the lie and thought that her husband might have grown to love her, or that he might have stayed for the sake of their unborn child; however, he left her. Desperate, Merope wandered through the streets of London. The only thing she had left was the heavy gold locket that had once belonged to Salazar Slytherin, one of her family's most treasured items, which she sold for a small amount. When she was due to give birth, she stumbled into a Muggle orphanage, where she gave birth to her only son, Tom Marvolo Riddle. She died within the next hour.
Gormlaith Gaunt was a 17th-century descendant of Salazar Slytherin, and like Salazar, a Parselmouth. Her wand was that which once belonged to Salazar himself. Educated at Hogwarts, Gormlaith lived in Ireland in the early 1600s. In about 1608, Gormlaith killed her estranged unnamed sister, and her sister's husband, William Sayre (a descendant of the Irish witch Morrigan), and kidnapped their five-year-old daughter, Isolt Sayre, raising her in the neighbouring valley of Coomcallee, or "Hag's Glen", because she felt that her parents' association with Muggles would badly influence Isolt. Fanatical and cruel, Gormlaith used Dark magic to isolate Isolt from others, forbade her a wand, and did not allow her to attend Hogwarts as she herself had, disgusted that it was now filled with Muggle-borns. After twelve years with Gormlaith, Isolt stole Gormlaith's wand and fled to the Colonies and settled in Massachusetts, where she founded the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. When Gormlaith learned of the school, she pursued her niece in Massachusetts, where she was killed by Isolt's friend, William the Pukwudgie, with a venom-tipped arrow.
Several people have drawn a parallel between Voldemort and some politicians. Rowling has admitted that Voldemort was "a sort of" Adolf Hitler, and that there is some parallel with Nazism in her books. Rowling also compared Voldemort with Joseph Stalin. Alfonso Cuarón, director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban compared Voldemort with George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein, as the two of them "...have selfish interests and are very much in love with power. Also, a disregard for the environment. A love for manipulating people." Andrew Slack and the Harry Potter Alliance compare media consolidation in the US to Voldemort's regime in Deathly Hallows and its control over the Daily Prophet and other media saying that "Once Voldemort took over every form of media in the wizarding world, Dumbledore's Army and the Order of the Phoenix formed an independent media movement called 'Potterwatch'. Now the HP Alliance and Wizard Rock have come together to fight for a Potterwatch movement in the real world to fight back against Big VoldeMedia from further pushing out local and foreign news, minority representation, and the right to a Free Press." Julia Turner of Slate Magazine also noted similarities between the events of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and the current War on Terror. She said that Voldemort commits acts of terrorism such as destroying bridges, murdering innocents, and forcing children to kill their elders.
Voldemort has also been compared with other characters within fiction, for example Sauron from The Lord of the Rings; they are, during the time when the main plot takes place, seeking to recover their lost power after having been considered dead or at least no longer a threat, and are also so feared that they are sometimes unnamed.
IGN listed Voldemort as their seventh favourite Harry Potter character, calling him "truly frightening". In 2014, Watchmojo.com ranked him #7 on their "Top 10 Harry Potter Characters" list, while they ranked him #1 on their "Top 10 Most Evil Harry Potter Villains" and "Top 10 Most Gut-Wrenching Harry Potter Deaths" lists two years later.
In popular culture
Several campaigns have used Voldemort to compare his evil to the influence of politicians, large media and corporations. "Lord Voldemort" is a nickname sometimes used for Peter Mandelson. Voldemort is also a recurring theme among wizard rock bands. Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock! is the second album from Harry and the Potters, and the character is mentioned in songs such as "The Dark Lord Lament" and "Flesh, Blood, and Bone".
Voldemort has been parodied in various venues. In The Simpsons 13th season's premiere, "Treehouse of Horror XII", Montgomery Burns appears as Lord Montymort. A parody of Voldemort appears in The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy as Lord Moldybutt, an enemy of Nigel Planter (a parody of Harry). Voldemort also appears in the Potter Puppet Pals sketches by Neil Cicierega. One of the episodes including him was the seventeenth most viewed video of all time as of 2008 and the winner for "Best Comedy" of the year 2007 at YouTube.
“Continuing the Magic”, an article in May 21, 2007 issue of Time, includes mock book covers designed by author Lon Tweeten, laced with pop culture references. One of them, the "Dark Lord of the Dance", shows Voldemort teaming up with Harry on Broadway. In the MAD Magazine parodies of the films, the character is called Lord Druckermort, a backwards reference to the magazine's longtime caricaturist Mort Drucker. In Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 1969, a young Tom Marvolo Riddle (introduced as "Tom", whose middle name is a "marvel" and last name is a "conundrum") appears, and becomes the new avatar of Oliver Haddo at the story's conclusion. In A Very Potter Musical, Voldemort is played by actor Joe Walker.
In a segment celebrating British children's literature at the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in London, an inflatable Voldemort appeared alongside other villains, The Queen of Hearts, Captain Hook, and Cruella de Vil, to haunt children's dreams, before the arrival of a group of over thirty Mary Poppins who descended with their umbrellas to defeat them.
Voldemort appears in The Lego Batman Movie as one of the prisoners in the Phantom Zone that Joker recruits to take over Gotham City. Though Ralph Fiennes is featured in this movie as the voice of the British butler Alfred Pennyworth, he does not reprise his role as Voldemort. Instead, Voldemort is voiced by Eddie Izzard.
- According to Rowling, the 't' in "Voldemort" is silent, as it is in the French word for death, "mort", and Jim Dale pronounced it as such in the first four U.S. audiobooks. After the release of the film version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, where the characters pronounced the "t", Dale changed his audiobook pronunciation accordingly. Stephen Fry pronounced the name including the "t" for all the UK audiobooks.
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