“In fact, in this tale of good versus evil, it would be easier to just let Voldemort be a tautology—he’s evil because he’s evil. Instead, Rowling grounds his evil in comprehensible human flaws, and shows that to defeat evil we not only have to fight it, but to try to understand where it comes from in the first place.”—Julie Beck.
You Know Who, He Who Must Not Be Named, Voldemort: All great titles for the wizard Tom Marvolo Riddle. Riddle ventured to the dark side from an early age and never looked back, eventually becoming the archnemesis of Harry Potter. Behind an exterior of a missing nose and pale skin there lies a human with a tragic backstory and checkered past. Here are 42 soul-splitting facts about Tom Riddle.
Tom Riddle Facts
The Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher position is like Chelsea’s management team, switching out every year. Dumbledore says it has only been so since Riddle was denied the position.
While adult Voldemort was played by Ralph Fiennes, one of the young versions glimpsed in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was played by Fiennes’ nephew, Hero Fiennes-Tiffin. Director David Yates chose the actor not just because of the name, but because of his resemblance to Ralph.
Although Voldemort was pretty big on the supremacy of pure bloods, he was actually half-blood. He had one muggle parent, but told his followers and the world that he was a pure-blooded descendant of Salazar Slytherin.
40. How Can I Help You?
At one time, if you walked into Borgin and Burke’s magic shop, you would have been greeted by Riddle’s (less reptilian) face.
Riddle worked at the shop during his teens and offered great customer service, while also using the knowledge he acquired to locate magical items. Some of these items later became his horcruxes.
We all have some conflict with family sometimes, but not as much as Riddle had with his distant cousin, Harry Potter. Riddle was related to Cadmus Peverell, one of the three brothers who were given the Deathly Hallows: the Elder Wand, the invisibility cloak and the resurrection stone. Cadmus received the resurrection stone, while the brother who receives the invisibility cloak, Ignotus, is related to Potter. Then again, J.K. Rowling has also confirmed that “nearly all” wizarding families are related to the brothers if you go back far enough.
38. Owner of a Lonely Heart
Tom’s wizard mother, Merope Gaunt, used her wizarding prowess to put Tom’s dad, Tom Riddle Sr., under her spell. Literally.
The spell required continuous doping and Merope eventually slipped up out of guilt, leading to Mr. Riddle walking out and getting most of the family’s money.
Merope gave birth to young Tom at an orphanage and then died one hour later from complications of childbirth.
37. Goody Two Shoes
Riddle served as a prefect during his time at Hogwarts, outwardly coming across as a model student. Meanwhile, he schemed for ways to get more power and manipulate professors, such as the manipulation that led Professor Slughorn to tell him about horcruxes.
36. You Mad Bro?
It was Riddle’s uncle, Morfin Gaunt, who let it slip that Riddle’s dad was a muggle. How did Riddle respond? He killed his dad, and his dad’s parents.
He then framed his uncle for the murders and had him sent to Azkaban. His uncle couldn’t really protest, since Riddle fiddled with his memories.
35. Keep it in the Family
As Game of Thrones has taught us—thanks, Cersei—the desire to keep a bloodline pure can lead to incest. In the case of Riddle, the Gaunt family was very close. Although Riddle wasn’t directly a result of incest, his mother’s bloodline has generations of it going back.
So your parents are gone and you’re in an orphanage. Do you try to make friends or do you torture the kids around you? If you’re Tom Riddle, you do the latter.
Riddle’s antics included using his parseltongue to creep people out and hanging another orphan’s pet rabbit. Riddle also took two orphans, Amy Benson and Dennis Bishop, to a cave and did some unethical things that have yet to be confirmed. Fan theories abound about the specifics.
33. In the Beginning
The Death Eaters began as Slytherin bullies that Riddle recruited. The group helped Riddle gain more influence in Hogwarts. The early group also served as underlings that could carry out acts that Riddle needed to distance himself from in order to maintain his teacher’s pet image.
According to J.K. Rowling, the T in “Voldemort” is supposed to be silent. Rowling dropped the news back in 2015. There are public examples of her saying the dark lord’s name like everyone else does, but Rowling says she only pronounces the T when engaging with fans.
Riddle excelled as a student at Hogwarts, becoming “the most talented’ student according to some sources. Riddle also got an early start on the dark arts. He created his first horcrux when he was 16 years old.
30. Mr. Worldwide
It’s pretty common knowledge that Tom Marvolo Riddle is an an anagram for “I am Lord Voldemort.” What’s more interesting is that this remains true for all sixty-eight languages the book has been translated in. Different languages might give Riddle different names, but they do so specifically to keep the anagram.
For example, the Dutch is: Marten Asmodom Vilign and “Mijn Naam (my name) is Voldemort.”
In the Dutch case, the last name of Vilign also means “evil.”
One of Riddle’s customers at Borgin and Burke’s was the witch Hepzibah Smith. It is this unfortunate customer that Riddle kills and steals another future horcrux from, the locket of Slytherin.
28. The Departed
J.K. Rowling looked beyond for inspiration for her character’s names. Specifically, some of them came from Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Kirk churchyard. Tom Riddell died when he was 72, while Tom Riddle died when he was 71. Fans began to leave flowers at Riddell’s grave following the revelation.
27. Bad Roommate
Moaning Myrtle has Riddle to thank for her death, since he is the one who opened the Chamber of Secrets and let the basilisk out while he was a student at Hogwarts.
26. Too Close
Remember that awkward hug Voldemort shares with Draco? Not scripted. Ralph Fiennes improvised.
25. Fifteen Minutes of Fame
Christian Coulson, who portrayed Riddle in The Chamber of Secrets, went through a six-month long audition process. The time was made worse by the hectic filming schedule, since the first film was being filmed during the audition process.
Coulson says the original slate had thousands of potentials, which eventually got narrowed down to three, and then to one.
Coulson’s 15-minute scene then took seven weeks to film.
24. Method Acting
Coulson’s upbringing actually had some parallels with Riddle’s. Coulson went to a “Hogwarts-y” boarding school and also relates to feeling like an orphan while at the school since his parents were abroad.
Coulson also says he had the outward appearance of a model student while also being quite mischievous. Coulson doesn’t give specifics on the mischief but hopefully it wasn’t as bad as Riddle’s.
23. Cut Down
Like the book, the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince film was supposed to show all of Dumbledore’s memories about Riddle. According to screenwriter, Steven Kloves, the director insisted on trimming them down because he wanted to focus on Voldemort’s rise to power, without getting hung up on his past as Riddle.
22. Tom Bates
Although Riddle is obviously a violent, angry fellow, there is also evidence to support the claim he is a serial killer. Serial killers have very specific tell-tale signs, and Riddle actually fits most of them. There is the obvious lack of empathy, violence, and feeling of superiority. Then there’s also his tendency to take trophies from his victims and his harming of animals.
21. Not Quite My Tempo
Eddie Redmayne, who now plays Newt Scamander in the Fantastic Beasts series, auditioned for the part of Tom Riddle in The Chamber of Secrets. He was rejected after reading one line.
When a young Dumbledore visits Riddle in the orphanage in The Half-Blood Prince, there are seven stones lined up on Riddle’s windowsill.
The number is the most powerful in magic in the Potterverse, and also coincides with the pieces of Riddle’s soul.
19. Nailed It!
Ralph Fiennes knew his Voldemort makeup was on point when he made a child cry. Allegedly, the child of a script supervisor was reduced to tears when Fiennes walked past him.
18. Thanks Dad
Although Tom Riddle did everything to disown his muggle father, he still needed a bone from his dad to get his body back. He also tied Harry Potter to his dad’s grave shortly after returning.
17. Thanks for the Memories
After shipping his uncle off to Azkaban, Riddle also took his family signet ring. The ring was a trophy of his crime, and later served as a horcrux.
16. Home Sweet Home
Tom’s mother Merope Gaunt grew up in a rundown cottage. The space was shared with her dad, Marvolo, and her Uncle Morfin. The abuse she suffered at the hands of her housemates, along with the poverty, probably contributed to her decision to bewitch a muggle and run away.
15. Good Deal
Although Riddle was a handful as he got older, he was apparently an angelic baby. Mrs. Cole, the head of the orphanage, notes that Riddle rarely cried when he was a wee lad. You’d think he would have been adopted out.
14. No Thank You
Riddle earned an award for Special Services to the School during his time at Hogwarts. Surprisingly, the award is still on display in the trophy room: Ron had the pleasure of cleaning it during detention in The Chamber of Secrets.
Harry and Ron discover one of Voldemort’s horcruxes hidden in a cave. This is the same cave where Riddle earlier traumatized two of his orphanage peers. This fit in with Dumbledore’s belief that Riddle would use items and locations of special significance when creating and hiding his horcruxes.
12. Coincidence, I Think Not!
The name Riddle adopted later in life, literally means “flight from death” in French.
Vol (flight), de (from), mort (death). “Vol” can also mean theft.
11. Unite the Seven
According to Potter lore, Riddle was the first wizard to use more than one horcrux; splitting his soul into seven pieces.
Creating a horcrux also requires an act of murder, which Riddle took care of in spades.
10. Shouldn’t ‘a Said That
Riddle and Hagrid both attended Hogwarts at the same time. Riddle also framed Hagrid for opening The Chamber of Secrets. Hagrid was expelled, his wand was broken and he was forbidden from using magic.
Riddle is the last descendant of Salazar Slytherin, meaning the bloodline dies with him since he didn’t have children. That is, unless you count The Cursed Child (I don’t).
Apparently, Riddle was complimented on his Halloween costume by a child once. This happened when Riddle was on his way to kill Harry’s parents. In a rare act, Riddle didn’t bother killing the child who insulted him.
7. That Guy Is Poison
Harry and Riddle both share wands with a phoenix feather core, but the types of wood are different. Harry’s wand is made from holly, which is traditionally believed to repel evil. Riddle’s wand uses yew wood, and yew sap is poisonous.
6. Professor Riddle
Riddle originally wanted to teach once he graduated, specifically for Defence Against the Dark Arts. The headmaster at the time, Armando Dippet, declined due to Riddle’s age, and it was probably a good call. When Riddle returned up ten years later to try again, Dumbledore shut him down quick.
5. Happy New Year
Riddle was born on December 31, 1926, and I bet his New Years resolutions always had something to do with the dark arts.
4. Kray Kray
The idea behind someone being so feared that no one wanted to utter their name comes from real English history. Rowling used the notorious English gangsters the Kray twins as inspiration, since their reputation allegedly led to people avoiding using their names.
A man willing to use horcruxes clearly wants to avoid death. J.K. Rowling has said that Tom Riddle’s boggart would likely be his own lifeless corpse. Sweet dreams.
2. What is Love?
Riddle was conceived while his dad was under the influence of a love potion. Aside from a range of issues that come with parental abandonment, Riddle is also physically incapable of understanding love, due to his mother’s tampering with his dad.
1. Did J.K. Write That??
According to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Bellatrix secretly had a daughter with Lord Voldemort during their time at Malfoy Manor. Whether you decide this is canon or not is your decision, to be honest, since it does seem rather uncharacteristic of Voldemort to care about anyone enough to procreate with them.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26