Lord Voldemort, born Tom Marvolo Riddle, was the son of Merope Gaunt (a descendent of Salazar Slytherin) and Tom Riddle, a handsome, wealthy Muggle from Little Hangleton whom Merope ensnared with a love potion. When her husband found out she was a witch, he abandoned her while she was pregnant (HBP10). Tom’s mother died shortly after giving birth to him one December 31, living just long enough to name him Tom Riddle, after his father and Marvolo, after his grandfather.
Tom Marvolo Riddle, the half-blood orphan, was to transform himself into Lord Voldemort and take control of the Wizarding world by manipulating the festering relationship between pureblood and Muggle-born wizards. Eventually he would lose all – not because he lacked power, but because of his ruthless methods, his inability to love or trust anyone but himself, and his belief in his own infallibility. As he told Quirrell, he believed that “there is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.” (PS17).
The dark wizard known as “Lord Voldemort” was born in 1928 in an orphanage in London. His mother, a witch, and, according to Voldemort, a descendent of Salazar Slytherin, had fallen in love with Tom Riddle, a Muggle. Tom Riddle lived in a fine-looking manor that stood on a hill overlooking the village of Little Hangleton. The manor house was one of the largest and grandest buildings for miles around. When Voldemort’s mother told her husband that she was a witch, he abandoned her, returning to his parents’ home. As Lord Voldemort told the story, his father “didn’t like magic.” Voldemort’s mother died just after giving birth to him, living just long enough to name him Tom Riddle, after his father and Marvolo, after his grandfather. He was raised in a Muggle orphanage.
For the first eleven years of his life, Tom was raised in a clean but grim Muggle orphanage in London. As he got older, he began to steal things and appeared to cause “nasty” things to happen to the other children and to pets around the orphanage (HBP13).
At Hogwarts: 1938 – 1945
Once at Hogwarts, Tom was sorted into Slytherin House and swiftly became known as an unusually brilliant student. A handsome boy, he was much admired by everyone, with the exception of the Transfiguration professor, Albus Dumbledore. During the holidays, Tom had to return to the Muggle orphanage he despised.
Secretly, Tom was obsessed with his Slytherin heritage and with finding the ways he might cheat death. He found the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets in his sixth year and released Slytherin’s basilisk within it, killing a student named Myrtle. Slytherin had built the chamber deep in Hogwarts castle and kept it hidden from the other founders. He sealed it so that only his own true heir would be able to unseal the chamber and unleash the horror within to purge the school of “all who were unworthy to study magic.” During this time Tom had begun using a new name among his most intimate friends at Hogwarts. Contemptuous of the name of his “foul, common Muggle” father, he made an anagram of Tom Marvolo Riddle. The rearranged letters spelled “I AM LORD VOLDEMORT.” It was a name he hoped “wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak,” when he became the “greatest sorcerer in the world.”
On June 13, 1943, Tom staged the capture of another student, Rubeus Hagrid, and tricked Headmaster Armando Dippet into believing Hagrid and his giant spider Aragog were responsible for the attacks. Tom received an engravedtrophy for special services to the school, but he realized that Albus Dumbledore was keeping an “annoyingly close watch” on him and it was not safe to open the Chamber of Secrets again while he was still at school. Tom preserved himself in the pages of a diary with the hope that he would one day be able to lead another in his footsteps and “finish Salazar Slytherin’s noble work.”
Events at Little Hangleton: 1944-1945
Riddle didn’t learn the complete story of his birth until he tracked down and visited his uncle Morfin Gaunt the summer after Myrtle died. In revenge for his father’s abandonment and Muggle blood, he went to the Riddle mansion in Little Hangleton and murdered his father and grandparents (GF1). The Riddle’s gardener, Frank Bryce, later told police that on the day of the Riddle’s deaths he had seen a stranger; a teenage boy, dark-haired and pale, near the manor. The next morning a maid found Tom Riddle Sr. and his elderly parents dead in their drawing room, “still in their dinner things.” The Riddles were as cold as ice and each had a look of terror upon his or her face but had no sign of physical injury. The Riddles were buried in the Little Hangleton churchyard.
This last year at Hogwarts, Tom was Prefect, Head Boy, and received a Medal for Magical Merit. Albus Dumbledore later said of him, “Brilliant. Of course, he was probably the most brilliant student Hogwarts has ever seen.” Secretly however, Tom was researching Horcruxes and had come to the conclusion that if one Horcrux was good, seven would be better (HBP23). He made his first two Horcruxes with the murders of Myrtle and his father. He was only seventeen.
About this time, Albus Dumbledore defeated the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in a spectacular duel and became the only wizard that Riddle ever feared.
Transformation: 1945 – 1970
After leaving Hogwarts in 1945, Riddle surprised everyone by working at a dark magic shop named Borgin and Burkes on Knockturn Alley. His job there was to ferret out items of value and obtain them at the lowest price possible. He was very good at this, but he abruptly left this job and disappeared after he killed Hepzibah Smith for a gold locket that belonged to Slytherin, and the gold cup that belonged to Helga Hufflepuff (HBP20).
Riddle disappeared for over ten years. During this time he “traveled far and wide … sank so deeply into the Dark Arts,” “consorted with the very worst” witches and wizards, and “underwent so many dangerous, magical transformations” in his quest for power and immortality. When he returned he was known as “Lord Voldemort.”
First Rise of the Dark Lord: 1970s – 1981
By the early 1970s, Voldemort had a growing legion of thuggish followers he called “Death Eaters,” and he was so fearsome that few dared speak his name. Few people realized he was the same handsome and brilliant boy who had been so accomplished and well liked at Hogwarts. In addition to his Death Eaters, Voldemort formed alliances with dark creatures such as werewolves and dementors; he also controlled armies of Inferi (animated corpses).
Many of the witches and wizards who joined him came for a share of the power he offered, but increasingly many joined his following out of fear of reprisal. “The years of Voldemort’s ascent to power were marked with disappearances,” and increasingly open violence.
Each Death Eater bore a sign, the Dark Mark, a skull with a serpent protruding from its mouth like a tongue, burned into his or her left inner forearm by the “Dark Lord”; when they had killed, Death Eaters would send the same sign into the air, comprised of emerald stars blazing in a haze of greenish smoke, causing terror when it was seen.
Voldemort’s first reign of terror lasted eleven years. During this time, Voldemort and his minions attacked anyone who resisted or who defended the rights of Muggles and Muggle-born wizards, and marked the gruesome scenes of torture and murder with the Dark Mark lest anyone else think to stand in their way. Whole families were wiped out and many others went into hiding.
Overwhelmed by reports of deaths, disappearances, and torture in an atmosphere of terror, Bartemius Crouch, then Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, authorized Aurors to use the Unforgivable Curses against suspects, empowered them to kill rather than capture, and some suspects were handed to the dementors without trial. Still, the Ministry could not cope with the situation, so Albus Dumbledore began organizing the resistance, creating the group that became known as The Order of the Phoenix (OP6, 9).
The Order was frightfully outnumbered, however, and the Death Eaters were killing the members of the Order off, many times killing their entire families along with them. Lord Voldemort seemed “mightier than any wizard living,” and had achieved his goal; most of the wizarding world avoided saying his name, when they spoke of him at all they referred to him as You-Know-Who, or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
At the height of his power in the late 1970s, Voldemort was to recruit two young Death Eaters who would turn on him in different ways.Severus Snape and Regulus Black joined the Death Eaters for different reasons, but both of them came to realize that they could not support Voldemort’s methods or stand by when he hurt the ones they loved. Regulus, furious about Voldemort’s abuse of Kreacher, was to die trying to sabotage one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes (DH10), and Snape became a double agent for Dumbledore after Voldemort decided to attack Lily Potter (DH33). Ironically, Snape was the one who told Voldemort of the prophecy he overheard identifying a child who would have the power to vanquish the Dark Lord. Snape was horrified when Voldemort decided that the Potter’s child Harry was the child of the prophecy. Voldemort learned only part of the prophecy: that this person would be born at the end of July to parents who had survived three attempts to kill them. Voldemort realized that he must find and kill that child (OP37).
Dumbledore would not need Snape’s skills for many years to come; Voldemort’s physical body was destroyed when the Avada Kedavra curse he aimed at one-year-old Harry Potter rebounded on him. His mother Lily’s self-sacrifice seconds before had unexpectedly protected her son (PS1). Voldemort’s Horcruxes worked, but for nearly a decade he could only live by possessing the bodies of others (PS17). Many of his Death Eater followers were tried by the Wizengamot and sentenced to Azkaban.
Missing years: 1981-1994
After Voldemort fled, he hid in a forest in Albania, far from humans and from the Aurors he knew would still be searching for him, using the only power left to him, the ability to possess the bodies of others, he inhabited animals, snakes being his preference.
He waited, sleeplessly, forcing himself to exist second by second, expecting his faithful Death Eaters to try to find him and perform the magic that would restore him, but those Death Eaters who were not killed by Aurors or imprisoned in Azkaban were denying they had every been involved with Voldemort or claiming they had been cursed and forced to kill and torture against their will.
Second defeat: 1991-1992
In the summer of 1991 Voldemort managed to possess Hogwarts professor Quirinus Quirrell, who was in Albania to get first hand experience with Dark creatures and got more than he bargained on. Once back in England with Quirrell, Voldemort kept his strength up by consuming unicorn blood, but he needed a more lasting solution (PS15). He decided to steal Flamel’s Philosopher’s Stone for the elixir it would make, but Dumbledore got to it first and hid it at Hogwarts. Voldemort (still sharing Quirrell’s body) and Harry met again in front of the Mirror of Erised when they both broke through the stone’s protections and battled for possession of the stone. There, Voldemort learned of a second layer of protection from Lily’s sacrifice: Voldemort could not touch Harry without intense pain. Dumbledore rescued Harry in time, and Voldemort abandoned Quirrell to die. Dumbledore and Flamel later destroyed the stone (PS17).
Voldemort had been once again thwarted by Harry Potter.
Second exile: 1992-1994
Lord Voldemort returned to his forest in Albania in failure. He was as weak as he had ever been and thought it would be too much to expect another foolish wizard to happen along, and he had given up hope that his faithful Death Eaters cared what had become of him.
But while Voldemort waited without hope, the diary in which he had preserved the “memory” of his “sixteen-year-old self” had been in the possession of Lucius Malfoy, one-time Death Eater, who took an opportunity, in August 1992, to slip the diary into a book purchased for young Ginny Weasley at Flourish and Blotts Bookstore. Ginny opened her heart to the diary and through it to Tom Marvolo Riddle and he became stronger and stronger “on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets,” and he was soon more powerful than Ginny and able to use her, without her knowledge, to open the Chamber of Secrets, release Slytherin’s basilisk, and have her act as his agent in Hogwarts.
Through her Tom learned of Harry Potter and his victory over Lord Voldemort, who was his “past, present and future.” When Ginny became frightened and attempted to dispose of the diary, Tom was delighted that it was found and opened by Harry. Tom was able draw him to the Chamber to attempt to rescue Ginny because he was, by this time, strong enough to leave the diary and wanted to learn from Harry the secret of his survival as an infant. Tom was amused by the similarities between himself and Harry and acknowledged that Lily Potter’s sacrifice was a powerful counter-charm, but concluded that it was “merely lucky chance,” that Harry survived and he proceeded to match his powers against Harry.
Assisted by Fawkes, the Sorting Hat, and the sword of Godric Gryffindor, Harry killed the basilisk but he was wounded by a basilisk fang which splintered off in his arm as the snake died. Tom was dismayed when Fawkes healing tears saved Harry, who then used the broken fang to defeat him by plunging it into the diary. The venomous fang burned a hole through the diary and the memory of Tom Marvolo Riddle passed screaming and writhing into nothingness. Harry Potter, “a skinny boy with no extraordinary magical talent” had again defeated Lord Voldemort.
The servant of the Dark Lord returns
By 1994, Voldemort had developed new plans to fully regenerate his body. He had also acquired two followers: Peter Pettigrew (on the run after his Scabbers disguise was broken) and the snake Nagini(soon to be a Horcrux). With Pettigrew’s help he made a temporary potion with unicorn blood and Nagini’s venom to achieve a rudimentary body (a scaly baby-like form). However, full regeneration required a potion made from bone from his father (easy), flesh from a servant (easy), and blood from an enemy (which would have been easy if he hadn’t decided to get it from Harry). Though he could have used the blood of any “foe,” Voldemort wanted Harry Potter, who had stripped him of power thirteen years before and he believed “the lingering protection his mother once gave him would reside in my veins too.”
|Object||Murder (BLC)||Date created||Hiding place||Broken by|
|Diary||Moaning Myrtle||murder in 1942; Horcrux created fall of 1943||Given to Lucius Malfoy||Harry (CS17)|
|Ring||Tom Riddle Sr.||1943||Gaunt house||Dumbledore (DH33)|
|Diadem||Albanian peasant||possibly 1945 (DH31)||Room of Requirement||Crabbe (DH31)|
|Cup||Hepzibah Smith||c.1946||Given to Bellatrix Lestrange||Hermione (DH31)|
|Locket||Muggle tramp||c.1946||Cave||Ron (DH19)|
|scar||rebounding curse||1981||(accidental; technically not a Horcrux)||Voldemort (DH34)|
|Nagini||Bertha Jorkins||1994||—||Neville (DH36)|
Together Voldemort and Pettigrew found an informant named Bertha Jorkins, tortured her for her knowledge, and killed her (GF1). Her murder was used for Voldemort’s last Horcrux, the snake Nagini. With the information taken from Bertha, Voldemort rescued Barty Crouch, Jr. and hatched an elaborate plan to bypass all of Harry’s protections and bring him to the Little Hangleton graveyard for Voldemort’s rebirthing. It worked. Harry and the “spare,” Cedric Diggory, were delivered to the graveyard, where Cedric was immediately killed. The potion worked too. Not only did Voldemort’s potion recreate his physical body, he could now touch Harry without excruciating pain. Voldemort called a conference of his surviving Death Eaters and demanded their renewed allegiance (GF32).
When Voldemort tried to duel with Harry he got another surprise: his and Harry’s wands shared the same core (one of Fawkes’ phoenix feathers), and neither one could overpower the other. This created the conditions for Priori Incantatem, and Voldemort grew more and more fearful as the shades of Voldemort’s last victims were pulled from his wand. With help from the shades of Harry’s mother and father, Harry was able to escape to safety with Cedric’s body (GF34).
The Prophecy beckons & the Ministry panics
After this debacle, Voldemort became determined to gain an edge over Harry. He remembered theprophecy that Snape had overheard so many years before and decided to concentrate on solving the mystery that was Harry Potter before re-launching his takeover. His efforts centered on the official record of the prophecy known to be stored in the Ministry of Magic’s Department of Mysteries. For this and other reasons, Voldemort orchestrated the escape of ten high-security prisoners from Azkaban Fortress in January 1996. Among the freed Death Eaters was Augustus Rookwood, who had in the first war served as Voldemort’s spy within the Department of Mysteries.
The prophecy wasn’t an easy thing to steal; attempt after attempt failed, and Voldemort’s anger mounted. Eventually Voldemort tricked Harry into coming to the Department of Mysteries and had a select band of Death Eaters led by Lucius Malfoy waiting to snatch the prophecy orb once Harry found it (OP34). This plan failed too, for many reasons, but mostly overconfidence. Malfoy didn’t get the prophecy soon enough and it was destroyed in the battle. And even though his Death Eaters outnumbered Harry and his school friends two to one, they couldn’t do what they needed to before members of the Order of the Phoenixarrived to even the numbers. In the ensuing battle between the Death Eaters on one side and members ofDumbledore’s Army and the Order of the Phoenix on the other, the prophecy sphere was destroyed.
The battle seemed over when Dumbledore arrived and deftly captured most of the Death Eaters, until Voldemort then appeared and attacked Harry directly. Dumbledore found them in the nick of time and drew Voldemort into battle. Eventually, Dumbledore wrapped Voldemort in a suffocating mass of water, and Voldemort disappeared. For a few seconds, it appeared that Dumbledore had won. When Harry broke cover, Voldemort possessed him and dared Dumbledore to kill the both of them. Voldemort’s possession was so excruciating that Harry became certain of death and his thoughts turned to the loved ones he would soon see again. Unexpectedly, this surge of love and longing was anathema to Voldemort and forced him out of Harry’s body. Voldemort was able to touch Harry and possess him, but Harry’s loving heart and acceptance of death proved to be inimical to Voldemort (OP37). The Dark Lord had lost his chance to hear the whole prophecy, and nearly a dozen of his most elite Death Eaters were captured and sent to Azkaban.
The Minister of Magic publicly admitted that Voldemort had returned in an interview with the Daily Prophet at the end of June, after the battle in the Department of Mysteries. Consequently, Voldemort no longer has a reason to be discreet in his activities to avoid public disclosure, as that is now a fait accompli.
Dumbledore must die
Voldemort then began to plot Dumbledore’s assassination and the takeover of Hogwarts. Toward this end, he made sixteen-year-old Draco Malfoy a Death Eater, and told him to kill his Headmaster and get a small army of Death Eaters into Hogwarts. Draco’s worried mother added some extra insurance – she secretly made an Unbreakable Vow with Severus Snape for Snape to protect Draco and kill Dumbledore if Draco failed (HBP2).
It took the whole school year, but Draco nearly did it. He created an entrance into Hogwarts with vanishing cabinets, and managed to corner Dumbledore and disarm him. Dumbledore knew Draco was no murderer, though, and convinced him to lower his wand, at which point Snape arrived and fulfilled his vow (HBP28). What Voldemort didn’t know was that before he died Dumbledore had learned about the Horcruxes, shared the information with Harry, and that the ring Horcrux had already been destroyed. (Voldemort already knew about the diary.)
A silent coup
With Dumbledore out of the way, Voldemort finally had the freedom he needed to take over the Ministry and Hogwarts, and to try once and for all to kill Harry. First, he freed Lucius Malfoy and the others from Azkaban. He then set up a base of operations in the Malfoy mansion, and organized the infiltration and silent coup of the Ministry (DH1); Severus Snape, ascendant in his Master’s eyes for the murder of Dumbledore, was made the Headmaster of Hogwarts. Snape had also brought crucial information about when the Order of the Phoenix was going to move Harry from safety at 4 Privet Drive. On the given day, Voldemort and his Death Eaters were ready and waiting, but instead of one Harry and a heavy guard, there were seven guarded look-alikes, and Voldemort was thwarted again (DH4).
Now that the Ministry was under his control, Voldemort set about creating a police state. Propaganda was disseminated promoting suspicion and fear of Muggle-born wizards to justify stripping them of their wands and their rights. Everyone had to prove their ancestry and neighbors were encouraged to inform on neighbors. Voldemort also encouraged wizards to use magic openly against Muggles. Voldemort’s regime is best symbolized by the Ministry’s new motto “Magic is Might” and the statue installed in the Ministry’s entrance: a gargantuan black carving of a witch and wizard enthroned upon masses of naked Muggles (DH12).
The Elder Wand and the Horcruxes
Voldemort had another problem to solve: how to find a wand that would be effective against Harry. He had known for several years that due to the twin cores that his own wand of yew and phoenix feather wouldn’t work, so first he tried Lucius Malfoy’s wand, but it was destroyed (DH4). Then, by torturing Ollivander (a captive of Voldemort’s for over a year), Voldemort learned of an invincible wand called the Elder Wand, the Wand of Destiny, or the Deathstick, and he set about trying to find it. He tracked it first to the European wandmaker Gregorovitch(DH7) , then to Gellert Grindelwald, (still imprisoned at Nurmengard) (DH24), and then, to Dumbledore. Voldemort went to Hogwarts, split open the tomb, and took possession of the wand from Dumbledore’s dead hands (DH24).
The Battle of Hogwarts
When Harry, Ron and Hermione broke into Gringotts and stole the Hufflepuff cup from the Lestrange family vault (DH26), Voldemort finally realized that Dumbledore and Harry knew about the Horcruxes and frantically began to visit all his hiding places to no avail: the ring was gone, as was the locket. Counting the diary and the cup, four Horcruxes were gone, leaving only the Ravenclaw diadem and Nagini between him and ignominious death (or so he believed). Voldemort gathered his army and attacked Hogwarts where the diadem was hidden, but Harry got to it first (DH29).
Before unleashing his army, Voldemort gave the teachers and students at Hogwarts an ultimatum: give Harry up, and the school would be untouched. Of course, they didn’t. The midnight deadline passed, and the school was attacked by Death Eaters, werewolves, giants andAcromantulas, with Voldemort commanding from the Shrieking Shack. Harry sought him there and witnessed Voldemort’s cold-blooded murder of Severus Snape simply for the reason that he thought it would give him a stronger connection with his new wand. While Voldemort left to deliver another ultimatum to Hogwarts, Harry collected Snape’s seeping memories and took them to Dumbledore’s Pensieve to experience them (DH33).
Finally, Harry knew why Snape hated James, why Voldemort initially tried to spare Lily, and how well Snape had protected Harry’s life. He also learned that he himself contained a Horcrux and that his life had to be sacrificed if Voldemort was to truly die. Harry put on his Cloak of Invisibility, invoked the Resurrection Stone, and walked with the shades of his dead family and friends to Voldemort, who quickly killed him (DH34).
In reality, Voldemort only killed the Horcrux inside Harry, and Harry was sent to a place between life and death. There, he was able to speak with Dumbledore and see what remained of Voldemort’s soul – a horrible, flayed infant-like creature whimpering in pain. Harry made the decision to go back into battle to see if he could weaken Voldemort further, or kill him (DH35). He was aided by a surprising ally: Narcissa Malfoy was told to make sure Harry was indeed dead – which she confirmed even though she could feel his heart beating – once Harry whispered to her that Draco was still alive and safe.
Even the display of Harry’s apparently dead body could not bring the valiant forces inside Hogwarts to surrender. Molly Weasley defiantly slew Bellatrix, Neville Longbottom beheaded Nagini, Voldemort’s last Horcrux, and Harry revealed himself and slew Voldemort (DH36). Voldemort died once and for all. He was the last surviving descendent of Salazar Slytherin.
Students of the subtle science of wandlore will discuss the final duel between Harry Potter and Voldemort for years to come. After Dumbledore’s death, the true master of the Elder Wand was not Snape, but Draco, who disarmed Dumbledore in the tower at Hogwarts. Then, once Harry disarmed Draco while at the Malfoy mansion, Harry became the true master and it would not harm him. When Harry used the Expelliarmus during the duel, it called the Elder Wand to its true master, and bounced Voldemort’s Avada Kedavra back and killed him.
What remains of Voldemort’s sorry soul exists in the “flayed baby” form Harry saw at King’s Cross (BLC).
Birth name: Tom Marvolo Riddle. While in school, Riddle rearranged the letters in this given name into "I am Lord Voldemort [...] a name I knew wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak, when I had become the greatest sorcerer in the world!" (PS17)
Birthdate: Dec. 31 (HBP13), c. 1926 (formula: events of 1943 referred to as "fifty years ago" in 1992). [more information on Voldemort's dates]
Died: May 2, 1998 (DH36, YL).
Name source: Tom's mother lived long enough to name him 'Tom' after his father, 'Marvolo' after his grandfather (CS13).
Other names: 'Lord Voldemort,' 'You-Know-Who,' 'He Who Must Not Be Named,' 'The Dark Lord,' 'T.M. Riddle' (on diary), 'Tom.' Dumbledore says that Tom began using "Lord Voldemort" a few years after he began his schooling at Hogwarts (HBP13).
Other name meaning: 'Voldemort'= flight from death (French) (JKR).
Name pronunciation: VOL-duh-more (the final 't' is silent, according to JKR in an interview). Film pronunciation: VOL-de-mort.
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named: Rowling got the idea for this from two 1950s London gangsters called the Kray Twins. "The story goes that people didn’t speak the name Kray. You just didn’t mention it. You didn’t talk about them, because retribution was so brutal and bloody. I think this is an impressive demonstration of strength, that you can convince someone not to use your name. Impressive in the sense that demonstrates how deep the level of fear is that you can inspire. It’s not something to be admired." (TLC). As soon as Voldemort took control of the Ministry in 1997, he reinforced this fear by putting a taboo on speaking his name. Anyone brave enough to say 'Voldemort' would have their locations immediately revealed to "snatchers" or other enforcement squads who would come and take you into custody (DH).
Ancestry: Half-blood (CS13); descendent of Salazar Slytherin (CS17).
Mother: Merope Gaunt (HBP10), who died in London one hour after giving birth (GF33 & HBP); she was a descendent of Salazar Slytherin (CS17).
Father: Tom Riddle, a Muggle from the village of Little Hangleton who abandoned Merope because he discovered she was a witch (CS13, CS17; GF33); described as anti-magic, rich, snobbish & rude (GF1).
Childhood: 1926-1938, Raised in a Muggle orphanage in London (CS13; GF33, HBP13). Orphanage was clean, but meager: a bare courtyard and grim, square building surrounded by high railings (HBP13). Head matron was Mrs. Cole. Mrs. Cole recalls that he was an odd baby -- he rarely cried, and as he got older he appeared to cause "nasty" things to happen to the other children and to pets around the orphanage. Also stole things: a yo-yo, a silver thimble, and a harmonica ('mouth organ').
Paternal grandfather: Mr. Riddle, also of Little Hangleton.
Maternal grandfather: Marvolo Gaunt, a descendent of Salazar Slytherin (HBP10).
Aunts, Uncles: His maternal uncle was Morfin Gaunt (HBP10).
Children: None (WBD2004).
Pet(?): Large snake named Nagini (GF1).
Obsession with his heritage leads to patricide: At Hogwarts, Tom was obsessed with his heritage. Although he knew since his first year that he was the Heir of Slytherin, he didn't learn the complete story until he tracked down and visited his uncle,Morfin Gaunt during the summer of 1943. Morfin told him that his father was a Muggle and his mother was a descendent of Slytherin. At this point, Tom Stunned Morfin and went to Riddle House where he murdered his father and grandparents. Before leaving Little Hangleton, Tom went back to the Gaunt shack and stole the gold Slytherin ring. It is unknown how, but Tom also bespelled Morfin into confessing to the crime. Morfin was convicted for the murders and sentenced to Azkaban (HBP17).
Boggart: "death, ignominious death .... He would see himself dead." (TLC)
Greatest desire: In front of the Mirror of Erised, Voldemort would see "Himself, all-powerful and eternal. That's what he wants." (TLC)
As a 16-year-old Tom Riddle: described as having jet black hair (CS13); "tall, black-haired boy" (CS17); "handsome" (CS18); "dark" eyes (HBP).
Distinguishing features: long fingers; high-pitched, cold laugh (CS17).
Voldemort in his late 20s: When Voldemort visited Dumbledore about 10 years after leaving school, he was no longer handsome. His deathly pale face looked "waxy and oddly distorted, and the whites of the eyes now had a permanently bloody look." (HBP20)
Before Wormtail’s rebirthing potion ("baby" form): "had the shape of a crouched human child, except that Harry had never seen anything less like a child. It was hairless and scaly-looking, a dark, raw, reddish black. Its arms and legs were thin and feeble, and its face – no child alive ever had a face like that – flat and snakelike, with gleaming red eyes" (GF32).
After Wormtail’s rebirthing potion: described as "a man, tall and skeletally thin." His face was "whiter than a skull, with wide, livid scarlet eyes and a nose that was as flat as a snake’s with slits for nostrils" (GF32).
"Voldemort looked away from Harry and began examining his own body. 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" (GF33).
"Unnaturally long fingers" (GF33).
At Battle of the Dept. of Mysteries: "Tall, thin, and black-hooded, his terrible snake-like face white and gaunt, his scarlet, slit-pupiled eyes staring" (OP).
After death: what is left of Voldemort's soul exists as the "flayed baby" Harry saw at King's Cross (BLC).
Years: 1938-1945; fees paid by Hogwarts assistance fund (HBP13).
What did Tom know before his first year? Riddle did not know about his heritage, but he had discovered his powers: "I can make things move without touching them. I can make animals do what I want them to do, without training them. I can make bad things happen to people who annoy me. I can make them hurt if I want to." Tom had also discovered that he was a Parselmouth. After Dumbledore told him he was a wizard, Tom assumed that his mother was a Muggle and that he got his magic from his father (HBP13) (see also Voldemort timeline).
When did Tom find out he was the Heir of Slytherin? Tom-in-the-diary (Tom at the end of his 5th year) tells Harry "even I was surprised how well the plan worked. I thought someone must realize that Hagrid couldn't possibly be the Heir of Slytherin. It had taken me five whole years to find out everything I could about the Chamber of Secrets and discover the secret entrance" (CS17). Tom must have discovered he was the heir and that the Chamber existed very soon after his arrival for his first year at Hogwarts.
Artifacts: Diary created in 1943 at the beginning of his 6th year (CS, HBP). Dumbledore noticed that Tom liked to collect trophies: things he had taken from his victims, or stolen outright (HBP13), Slytherin ring, Slytherin locket, Hufflepuff cup (HBP20).
Awards, etc.: Prefect (1942); Medal for Magical Merit; gold shield-shaped award for "Special Services to Hogwarts" kept in the trophy room; Head Boy (1944).
Excelled in studies: According to Dumbledore, "He was one of the most brilliant students Hogwarts has ever seen" (CS18).
After leaving Hogwarts in 1945, Riddle began working at Borgin and Burkes on Knockturn Alley. His job was to ferret out items of value and obtain them at the lowest price possible. He suddenly left this job and disappeared after he killed Hepzibah Smith for a gold locket that belonged to Slytherin and a gold cup that belonged to Helga Hufflepuff (HBP20). Related page:Horcruxes.
WAND, POWERS, ETC.
Wand: yew wood, 13 ½" long, core consists of one of Fawkes’ (phoenix) feathers (PS5). Beginning in 1997, uses a series of wands in an attempt to circumvent Harry's wand:
Skills: Parselmouth (CS), Legilimens (OP24).
Boggart: Death, which he sees as something shameful (TLC).
- Horcruxes to split his soul.
- The "Dark magic" rebirthing potion (unicorn blood, Nagini’s snake venom, bone from his father, flesh from Wormtail, and blood from Harry) (GF32, GF33). Voldemort deliberately used Harry’s blood because he wanted Lily’s "lingering protection" magic in his blood too (GF33).
Voldemort formed the Death Eaters (formerly the "Knights of Walpurgis") in the ten years after he left Hogwarts. The earliest known members (c. 1956) were Antonin Dolohov, Mulciber, Nott, and Rosier.
Death Eaters and other followers: See the page on the DEATH EATERS
Who is Voldemort's favorite? Voldemort sends others to do his bidding, but he essentially works alone. In Dumbledore's words, "You will hear many of his Death Eaters claiming that they are in his confidence, that they alone are close to him, even understand him. They are deluded. Lord Voldemort has never had a friend, nor do I believe that he has ever wanted one." (HBP13)
On the other hand, Voldemort seems to have an "inner circle" whom he summoned to the Little Hangleton graveyard (GF32) or referred to there as being faithful: Lucius Malfoy, Peter Pettigrew, Avery, Macnair, Crabbe, Goyle, Nott, Bellatrix and Rodophus Lestrange, and Barty Crouch, Jr. (GF32). Severus Snape was also part of this trusted circle (HBP2).
Moaning Myrtle (indirectly by Basilisk), his father & grandparents, Hepzibah Smith, Frank Bryce, Susan Bones' grandparents (BN), Dorcas Meadows (OP9), Lily and James Potter, Bertha Jorkins (Wormtail with Voldemort's wand on Voldemort's orders),Cedric Diggory (Wormtail with Voldemort's wand on Voldemort's orders), Charity Burbage, 'Mad Eye' Moody, Gregorovitch, Gellert Grindelwald, Severus Snape.
Amelia Bones (opinion of Cornelius Fudge HBP1).
"It Will Happen Tonight."
"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 that ever he was. Tonight ... before midnight ... the servant will set out to rejoin his Master..." (Sybil Trelawney, PA16)
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 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. (Sybil Trelawney, OP37)
Other canon notes and references
The name was chosen by Tom Marvolo Riddle in his new identity as a Dark wizard. He chose this name as an anagram of his given name, Tom Marvolo Riddle, because he didn't want to be known by his Muggle father's name (he rearranged the letters to form the phrase "I AM LORD VOLDEMORT") (CS17). Riddle was already using this name in secret while a student at Hogwarts among his closest Slytherin friends.
"volatus" = Latin for flight.
"de" = Latin for away from, from.
"mort" = Latin for death.
The name is pronounced with a silent final 't' (VOL-de-more) (NPC, Scholastic website, JKR:Tw). In an interview with The Orange County Register on 26 October 1999, ("Enchanted with Potter Literature: Fans line up for hours to get their books signed" by Valerie Takahama), Rowling responded this way to the question of pronouncing Voldemort's name:
"Is it Voldemort?" "Or Voldemor?" someone asked about Harry's evil nemesis.
"I say 'Voldemor' but I'm the only one," replied Rowling, pronouncing the name with a silent "t."
VOLDEMORT in the FILMS
"Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone:" Voldemort (in the flashback) is played by Richard Bremmer; in the Mirror of Erised scene he is voiced by Ian Hart.
"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:" Tom Riddle is played by Christian Coulson (left).
In "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," and both parts of the film version of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," Voldemort is played by Ralph Fiennes (right).
Sociopath or Psychopath
Discussants on Episode 11 of the Mugglenet Academia podcast discussed whether Voldemort should be considered a sociopath or psychopath in the modern understanding of these conditions. Dr. Louise Freeman stated that Voldemort is a classic psychopath. --Hufflepuffskein
"The Voldemort Effect"
TheHogwartsProfessor.com featured a post in November 2015 regarding the coining of the phrase, "The Voldemort Effect" by Maajid Nawaz on the "Lateline" television program. During an interview about the modern Islamic community and Islamic terrorism, Nawaz suggests that "The Voldemort Effect" describes the fear of naming a frightening threat such as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter story or Islamic terror in current global affairs. John Granger of TheHogwartsProfessor.com noted that this use of a reference from the Harry Potter series in relation to current international issues demonstrates the broad reach of Harry's story and the relevance of JKR's messages in modern life today. John Granger often uses the concept of "shared text" to describe the phenomenon of Harry Potter serving as a common ground among so many people living around the world and wishing to make analogies that a wide range of individuals will understand. --Hufflepuffskein
Lord Voldemort is an interesting character for many reasons. One intriguing reason relates to the literacy alchemy of the Harry Potter series discussed by John Granger and guests on Episode 23 of the Mugglenet Academic podcast. Literacy alchemy borrows themes from the classical and medieval practices of alchemy which held the primary goal of transforming mundane or vulgar materials, such as lead, into pure and ideal materials, such as gold, or creating the philosopher's stone for everlasting life (obvious Harry Potter connections). Psychologist Carl Jung suggested that alchemy is a metaphor for the process of "individuation" or developing Self, or personhood. As a physical practice, metaphorical process, or literary device, alchemy involves three successive stages: the nigredo, the albedo, and the rubedo. The nigredo is a blackening or decomposition whereby all ingredients are combined to form a uniform black matter, or a shadow in the metaphorical sense. The albedo is a whitening, illumination, or purification turning the dark to light and dividing the subject of the alchemical process into receptive elements. The rubedo is a reddening that involves the unification of the purified elements into a new whole, of gold or of an elixir of life in the case of the philosopher's stone. In alchemical scholarship, the rubedo stage has absorbed an original third stage called the citrinitas (or yellowness) reflecting the dawning of the sun or an awakening.
There are many examples of literacy alchemy in the Harry Potter series, indeed, Harry's entire journey can be understood as an alchemical process.
Rochelle Deans suggests that Voldemort's journey in the books follows a reverse alchemical process whereby he begins as a pure evil, elemental spirit possessing Quirrell (rubedo), becomes more complex though still as a spirit from the diary and a more physical threat by proxy of supporters such as Wormtail (albedo), (re)composes into physical form in the Little Hangleton graveyard (nigredo), then becomes a blackening mental presence, or shadow, in Harry's mind though still corporal (nigredo), is illuminated or compartmentalized in terms of his history and motives by Dumbledore and Harry in the pensieve visits (albedo), and eventually returns to the elemental and pure evil soul/spirit (baby at King's Cross) for which Dumbledore says no help is possible (rubedo).
Interestingly, prior to these events that occur within the time frame of the seven novels, Voldemort undergoes an evil, bastardized version of the alchemical process through the creation of his horcruxes. Traditional alchemy targets purification, and even everlasting life, for good or well-meaning purposes. Through his horcruxes, Voldemort purifies himself and attempts to live eternally for evil and power-seeking purposes. While JKR has never revealed how she envisioned horcrux creation, it is interesting to consider whether alchemical processes factored into the stages or requirements.
Other characters with significant alchemical connections in the series include: Rubeus Hagrid, Albus Dumbledore, Sirius Black, and Harry Potter himself. --Hufflepuffskein