In the world of Harry Potter, fans know him by many different names: The Dark Lord, He Who Must Not Be Named, Tom Marvolo Riddle, and others. This evil wizard is, however, best known as Lord Voldemort. From his beginnings as a lowly orphan to the height of his power as a master of the Dark Arts to his ill-fated return to power, here are some facts you may not know about this remarkable literary character.
Despite his hatred for any wizards that aren’t pure blooded, Tom Marvolo Riddle is actually a half-blood. He was born to the witch Merope Gaunt and a Muggle father, Tom Riddle Sr.
Through the Gaunt family, Voldemort is actually a direct descendant of Salazar Slytherin, which is likely where he gets his Parseltongue abilities.
Voldemort also developed the unusual ability to possess living creatures, which is a testament to just how powerful of a wizard he was.
38. Romance Gone Wrong
Tom Riddle Sr. left Gaunt once she stopped using the love potion on him. She had stopped because she was now pregnant, and had hoped that he was genuinely in love with her. No such luck, and his Muggle father’s abandonment influenced Voldemort’s own hatred of Muggles.
37. The Only One He Ever Feared
Dumbledore was the only wizard Voldemort was ever afraid of. Even when he was the young Tom Riddle, Dumbledore saw through his facade to what he was: a boy who stole, abused his peers, and desired power above all else.
36. Slug Club
Despite Dumbledore’s misgivings about the orphan boy, Riddle was popular with many teachers. He was even a part of Professor Slughorn’s “Slug Club” of promising students. Of course, Riddle was just using Slughorn in order to find out more about magical secrets—including Horcruxes.
When he was killed in his final battle with Harry Potter on May 2, 1998, Lord Voldemort was 71 years old (if you count the years when his body was dead but he was not).
34. Character Creation
According to J.K Rowling, she did not actually have a complete back story for the character of Lord Voldemort when she first started writing Harry Potter. She wanted readers, like Harry, to slowly discover the truth about who Voldemort was over the course of the series instead of revealing too much at once.
33. You Know Who
In the years during and after Voldemort’s reign, the wizarding community avoids saying his name, calling him “You Know Who” or “He Who Must Not Be Named.” However, although Ron Weasley is poked fun at for often refusing to actually say “Voldemort,” in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Voldemort and his followers are able to magically track down anyone who speaks his real name out loud. So, like, Ron was on to something.
When Ralph Fiennes portrayed the movie version of Lord Voldemort, his nose was actually digitally removed in post-production instead of being covered with makeup.
Voldemort appears for the first time as an entire physical being in Goblet of Fire, and then only in the climax. While doing his research for the scene by reading Goblet of Fire, Fiennes joked that, “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.”
30. Power of Prophecy
While most fans watched in terror as Harry Potter faced one dangerous peril after another, most people don’t realize that the laws of magic ensured the only time Harry’s life was actually in danger was when he was facing Lord Voldemort himself.
Sybil Trelawney’s prophecy made to Albus Dumbledore states that, “The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies…and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives… the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies….”
Prophecies are never wrong in the Harry Potter world. They can be misunderstood or misinterpreted, but a true prophecy always comes to be. Therefore, the line “either must die at the hand of the other” ensures that Harry could only be killed by Lord Voldemort himself, and Lord Voldemort could only be killed by Harry.
29. He Knows All
Voldemort is thought to be one of the most talented Legilimens (Legilmency is the magical practice of navigating through another person’s mind and interpreting their thoughts) in the world, and can deftly read the minds of others. He’s also extremely good at Occlumency, and can protect his own mind from being read.
28. The Magical Hapsburgs
Voldemort’s birth and childhood were an utter nightmare, and they played a huge role in creating the monster he became—but his dark streak was nothing new in his family. His matrilineal line, the House of Gaunt, had a long streak of mental instability and violence, and their years of inbreeding only made this worse. It’s little wonder that the once powerful Wizarding family was reduced to squalor by the time that Voldemort was conceived.
27. A Gruesome Sight
As we learned in The Prisoner of Azkaban, a boggart will immediately take the form of a person’s greatest fear, and the same goes for Tom Riddle as well. J.K. Rowling has revealed that Voldemort would find himself looking at his own lifeless corpse if he encountered a boggart.
26. Villains Are All-Too Real
J.K. Rowling has characterized Voldemort as a self-hating bully. As she put it, “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 his case, Voldemort crusades against non-pure-blood wizards, when he himself comes from a witch mother and a Muggle father.
25. Snake Eyes
Eagle-eyed Harry Potter fans would have noticed that the Voldemort of the films, as terrifying as he is, had one notable difference from the Voldemort of the books: his eyes. In the film, the Dark Lord’s eyes are blue, not red, and his pupils are round, not cat-like slits. David Heyman, the films series’ producer, felt that his eyes wouldn’t fill the audience with fear as they were initially described, so he made the call to make them an eerie, pale blue.
Voldemort is a cultural icon, so it’s no surprise that he’s been parodied in all kinds of media. The Simpsons episode “Treehouse of Horror XII” saw Mr. Burns’ take on the character as Lord Montymort, while The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy once featured a Lord Moldybutt, the arch-nemesis of one Nigel Planter.
23. Language Barrier
We all know that Voldemort came up with his alias by rearranging the letters of his birth name—Tom Marvolo Riddle is an anagram of I Am Lord Voldemort. This, however, presented an interesting challenge while translating the Harry Potter series into other languages. “I Am Lord Voldemort” is in English, and translations of that phrase wouldn’t spell out “Tom Marvolo Riddle.” Because of this, translators were forced to come up with different names for the wizard who’d become Voldemort. In German, his name is Tom Vorlost Riddle (Ist Lord Voldemort), in French, it’s the bizarre Tom Elvis Jedusor (Je suis Voldemort), but the best one is undoubtedly his name in Danish: Romeo G. Detlev Jr. (Jeg er Voldemort).
It’s a common theme throughout the Harry Potter series that no Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor lasts more than a year, and the job is thought to be cursed. In fact, this curse goes all the way back to when Tom Riddle was refused a job as the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor for a second time, this time by Dumbledore himself. So, did Voldemort actually curse the position? We never know for sure, but it sure sounds like something he’d do.
21. All in the Family
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.
20. The Three Brothers
We all have some conflict with family sometimes, but not as much as Voldemort had with his distant cousin, Harry Potter. He Who Must Not Be Named 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.
Riddle likely suffered from some form of kleptomania: When Dumbledore meets him at the orphanage, he regularly steals and hides the possessions of his fellow orphans, and Dumbledore has to remind him that this sort of behavior is not condoned at Hogwarts. Indeed, two of Voldemort’s Horcruxes, Slytherin’s locket and Hufflepuff’s Cup, are stolen from Hepzibah Smith, and a third Horcrux, the Gaunt signet ring, is stolen from his uncle Morfin Gaunt. Uh, he also killed both Hepzibah and Morin to get these trophies, so maybe stealing wasn’t exactly his worst bad habit.
18. Child Prodigy
Voldemort was only 16 when he created his first Horcrux.
17. Magical Psycho
Riddle murdered his father, grandmother, and grandfather after finding out about his half-blood heritage, and he then framed his uncle Morfin (who was a wizard) for the deed, a conviction that sent Morfin to Azkaban for the rest of his life.
16. Looks Are Deceiving
Riddle was Head Boy during his time at Hogwarts, and received the medal for Magical Merit.
After he graduated, Riddle approached the Headmaster to ask if he could stay on and teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. He was turned down; he was too young, and was told he could be considered for the role at a later date. Dumbledore, however, recognized Riddle as a threat, and convinced the Headmaster never to hire him.
14. Day Job
Though he was brilliant and received many offers to work for the Ministry of Magic, Riddle decided to work at Borgin and Burkes after graduation. Why? Well, he could convince wizards to sell him their old magical artifacts and heirlooms. Wonder what he’d need them for…
13. Lucky Number Seven
Voldemort’s seven Horcruxes, in case you lost count, were: his diary, Marvolo Gaunt’s ring, Salazar Slytherin’s locket, Helga Hufflepuff’s cup, Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem, Nagini the snake (later revealed to be a Maledictus in Fantastic Beasts: The Curse of Grindelwald), and, of course, Harry Potter himself.
Regulus Black died in his effort to destroy one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes, Slytherin’s locket. It seems Voldemort never found out about this betrayal.
11. No Need for Parseltongue Now
After the fateful night when Voldemort killed the Potters and tried to kill Harry, his physical form was, as we all know, destroyed. But how did he live after this? His ghostly form took up residence in snakes while he nursed his wounds and regained his power. Nonetheless, the creatures weren’t ideal for magic, and his cohabitation with them shortened the reptiles’ life spans.
10. Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Brooms
Voldemort somehow figured out how to fly without a broom, and even taught Professor Snape how to do it as well. However, this goes against magical law, which states that only objects that have been charmed can levitate. C’mon, though, this is a guy who inhabits snakes.
9. Silent Killer
Voldemort is one of only two wizards who have been known to apparate silently. The other wizard? Albus Dumbledore of course.
8. Dark Plans
Some fans have come up with a theory that the curse on the Defence Against the Dark Arts position at Hogwarts was actually an ingenious plan by the Dark Lord. Yes, he was bitter that he wasn’t allowed to take up the post, but that’s not the only explanation for the curse—he also may have created it to ensure that young witches and wizards would be ill-prepared to face him as he rose to power. The constantly shifting cast of characters meant that no single, good teacher could get a foothold, so the students wouldn’t be properly trained in combatting the dark magic of Voldemort and his followers.
7. Garden of Evil
Voldemort left an enormous pile of bodies behind him in his rise to power, but one of his most tragic victims was one that he left alive. After he killed his muggle father and grandparents, their gardener, Frank Bryce, was accused of the crime. Since there was no evidence (the Killing Curse does not leave a mark, so the Riddles’ deaths could not be proven as murder), Bryce was never convicted, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t suffer for the crime. The World War II veteran was cast out of the community, and he was forced to spend the rest of his life as an outcast, living by himself, tending the grounds of the people he’d wrongly been accused of killing. Of course, Voldemort would eventually return to finish the job, killing Bryce in The Goblet of Fire.
6. With a Name Like That, She Has to be Evil
Voldemort comes from a long line of evil, sadistic witches and wizards. Not only was he descended from Salazar Slytherin, another of his ancestors was a sinister witch named Gormlaith Gaunt. Living in the 1600s, Gormlaith killed her her sister and her Sister’s husband, then kidnapped their five-year-old daughter, Isolt.
5. A Piece of History
Unlike so many stories from Voldemort’s family history, the tale of Isolt and Gormlaith has a (somewhat) happy ending. After over a decade of mistreatment from her aunt, Isolt stole Gormlaith’s wand and fled to the New World, where she founded the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the American equivalent to Hogwarts.
4. Pukwudgie Pride
Gormlaith would eventually meet her end while seeking revenge on her niece. She traveled to the New World in search of Isolt, but she ended up getting more than she bargained for—she was killed when Isolt’s friend, William the Pukwudgie, shot her with a venom-tipped arrow. For his heroics, one of Ilvermorny’s four Houses was named after William.
3. Papa Voldy
All kinds of horrific acts took place at Malfoy Manor when the Dark Lord Voldemort made it his headquarters during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but the book didn’t show the most shocking event of all. It’s revealed in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child that during this time, Voldemort actually conceived a child with Bellatrix Lestrange. Their disturbing union, based on power rather than love, produced a daughter named Delphi who would go on to threaten the entire Wizarding world.
2. Say What?
We’ve all been pronouncing Voldemort’s name wrong this whole time! J.K. Rowling, in one of her famous Twitter retcons, revealed that the final “t” in Voldemort is silent—like the French word for death, mort. That’s right, it’s been Voldemore the whole time (or at least since Rowling tweeted).
The fact that Merope Gaunt seduced Tom Riddle Sr. with a love potion had chilling consequences for their son. It should come as no surprise, but even before he was Voldemort, Tom Riddle was physically incapable of feeling love—it simply wasn’t in his DNA. Because he was conceived while his father was under the influence of a love potion, Lord Voldemort simply did not have the ability to feel, or even understand, the emotion of love.
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