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Lord Voldemort

Lord Voldemort is a fictional character, the arch-villain in the Harry Potter books. He is so feared by magical people that most refer to him as "You-Know-Who" or "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" rather than saying his name out loud. He is also referred to as the "Dark Lord", although generally only by his followers.

It is possible to break the name Voldemort into the French phrase "vol de mort" which has multiple translations. The most commonly cited is "flight of death", but other meanings include "flight from death" and "theft of a dead body." Voldemort's followers are called Death Eaters, and they are hiding from the Ministry of Magic. His ultimate goal is to achieve immortality through the practice of dark magic.

Table of contents
1 Early History
2 His Era
3 His Downfall
4 The Dark Years
5 The Second War
6 Characteristics
7 Voldemort in the Films
8 Voldemort's Name
9 External links

Early History

Voldemort was born Tom Marvolo Riddle (in the English version of the book; see below for information on other editions). His father (a non-magical person, or Muggle) turned his mother out of his home when he realised that she was a witch. She died soon after giving birth to Tom, but not before naming Tom after his father and Marvolo after his grandfather. From clues in the books, he is thought to have been born in 1926.

Tom attended the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he was a member of Slytherin house. Riddle found the fabled Chamber of Secrets in his fifth year, and, opening it, he let out the basilisk which lived inside. Unfortunately for him, the basilisk killed one of the students (see Moaning Myrtle), leading to widespread panic and worries that the school might be closed down. If that had happened, Tom would have been returned to an orphanage. To avoid this, he once again closed the Chamber with the basilisk inside, and tried to frame Hagrid, who was also a student at the time. Hagrid already had a reputation for taking care of large, monstrous animals; in fact, he had been taking care of an Acromantula when this accusation was made. Tom's plan succeeded, and Tom recieved an award for his supposed discovery of Hagrid's secret. Albus Dumbledore, the Professor of Transfiguration at Hogwarts at the time, wasn't convinced, and managed to get Hagrid a job at Hogwarts. So that some means of reopening the Chamber remained (and possibly as an attempt at immortality), Tom put his essence into a diary, which played a central role in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

After leaving school, he returned to the village where he was born, and murdered his father and grandparents. The only person to spot him was Frank Bryce, the gardener. Frank was suspected, as he was the only one who had keys to the house, and the door hadn't been forced and nobody else had seen Riddle. Medical evidence could not locate a cause of death, however, and so Bryce was let off by the police, although he was still regarded with suspicion by other villagers.

His Era

We know nothing more about Tom Riddle until he rose into power as the Dark Lord Voldemort. The full horror of his attempt at control has only been hinted at. The Ministry of Magic - led largely by Barty Crouch - worked against Voldemort, along with the Order of the Phoenix, led by Albus Dumbledore, then principal of Hogwarts. Dumbledore was the Professor of Transfiguration when Tom Riddle attended school, and he is said to be the only person who Voldemort ever feared.

During this time, the wizarding world was embroiled with suspicion and fear. You could never be sure who was on Voldemort's side and who wasn't. Voldemort and his followers used curses (see Unforgivable curses) which could cause excrutiating pain, instant death, or even allow a person to control another person. This third curse was the subject of much controversy, as many of the people who worked for Voldemort later claimed that his followers had been using this curse on them. Some of these people were later set free, and at least one (see Lucius Malfoy) have been confirmed to have acting in their own free will.

Voldemort had his own group of trusted aides: the Death Eaters, over whom he maintained control by continuous - and often brutal - punishment. The Death Eaters would employ the Death Mark, a green skull with a snake coming out of its mouth, as their symbol. This would be used to terrorise people - by causing it to appear above a house where they had killed people, for instance.

Despite the efforts of the Ministry and Dumbledore, Voldemort appeared to be winning, having infiltrated many of their organisations with his spies. The wizarding community was in shock and fear, and mutual suspicion was tearing it apart.

Then, in early 1980, Sybill Trelawney, great-great-grand-daughter of a famous psychic, entered a trance in the presence of Dumbledore and uttered a prophecy:

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches ... born to those who 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 ...

At the end of July, 1980, two boys who fit this description were born: Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter.

His Downfall

On October 31, 1981, Voldemort arrived at the home of James and Lily Potter, prominent members of the Order of the Phoenix, in Godric's Hollow. He killed James, and then tried to kill Harry. His mother tried to stop Voldemort but was killed herself. Finally, he used Avada Kedavra, the killing curse, on Harry Potter - a curse with no known counter-curse, no way of stopping it, and no known survivor.

But one-year-old Harry survived, with only a scar in the shape of a lightning bolt on his forehead. The spell somehow backfired on Voldemort, reducing him to a barely-alive shell of his former self. He ran out into the night, and wasn't heard from again for ten years.

The news of Voldemort's downfall spread fast through the wizarding community. Without his personal power to back them up, many of his supporters defected or gave themselves up. A few attempted to find him, but were unsuccessful. Overnight, Harry Potter became a celebrity for being "The Boy Who Lived".

The Dark Years

Voldemort settled in a forest, where even existence was a continuous stuggle for him. His only remaining ability was the ability to possess the bodies of others, and he frequently possessed snakes. Animal bodies made it hard for him to do any actual magic, crucial to regaining his body and strength.

Then, in the early 1990s, Voldemort found Hogwarts' Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Quirrell, passing through the forest. Seduced by thoughts of power and glory, Quirrell agreed to serve Voldemort. He took Voldemort to London and attempted with his help of Voldemort to steal the Philosopher's Stone, which would have allowed Voldemort to not only regain his former power, but to become immensely long-living. His plans were thwarted by Harry Potter, as recounted in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

Voldemort returned to his hiding place, angry that his Death Eaters had forsaken him, and afraid that he wouldn't be able to find a wizard to possess. He spent the next two years in hiding. In this interim, Death Eater Lucius Malfoy attempted to send the memory of Voldemort (stored in his diary) into Hogwarts, by giving it to a young girl named Ginny Weasley. This memory avatar of Voldemort managed to manipulate Ginny into opening the Chamber of Secrets once again, nearly killing a number of students, and then tried to drain her life-force to allow him to come into being outside the book. This memory's plans were once again stopped by Harry, as recounted in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Luckily for Voldemort, a set of incidents detailed in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban forced Peter Pettigrew to leave hiding and to go in search of Voldemort. While searching for his one-time master, he kidnapped Bertha Jorkins, from whose mind Voldemort learned enough to formulate the plan he executed in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In the course of this plan, Voldemort first created a primitive body for himself, extremely rudimentary but still large to allow him to perform magic by himself. He then managed to recreate the body he had before his curse rebounded at the beginning of the first book. Harry's blood formed a part of this process of rebirth, preventing the effect which caused Voldemort to almost die when he first tried to kill Harry. Many Potter fans suspect that this will prove to be Voldemort's undoing. After being reborn, Voldemort summoned the Death Eaters back to him, and attempted to kill Harry - but he escaped the Dark Lord yet again.

The Second War

At first, the Ministry of Magic refused to believe that Lord Voldemort had risen again. The Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, began a process of defaming Dumbledore and Harry (the only non-Death Eater witness to the ceremony). Dumbledore was accused of being old, and was removed from several important posts. Meanwhile, Lucius Malfoy managed to gain large influence within the Ministry through heavy donations.

In opposition to Voldemort, Dumbledore reformed the Order of the Phoenix, and set it up in Sirius Black's old home - Number 12, Grimmauld Place, London. He also sent envoys to the giants and other non-human magical creatures who Voldemort might lure onto his side.

Meanwhile, Voldemort was waiting and plotting carefully. Only a handful of wizards (the members of the Order) believed he was back, allowing him a free hand in his schemes. He managed to coerce the giants to support him, and some believe that he has managed to bring at least some of the Dementors into his fold.

Towards the latter half of the book - after engineering a plot to spring some of the Death Eaters from Azkaban - Voldemort embarked on a scheme to kill Harry, as well as retrieve the Prophecy regarding Harry and Voldemort, stored in the Ministry's Department of Mysteries. His plot failed, and the prophecy was destroyed. The Death Eaters he sent to execute his plan fell into the hands of the Order of the Phoenix.

Just as the Order appeared to be winning, however, Sirius Black fell into a strange doorway in the Department of Mysteries, and is believed dead. Overcome with anger and grief, Harry tried to chase and torture Bellatrix Lestrange, the Death Eater responsible for Black's death. Lestrange was saved by Lord Voldemort, however, who appeared and tried to kill Harry, who in turn was saved by Albus Dumbledore.

This led to a wizarding duel, in which Voldemort and Dumbledore battled each other, until finally Voldemort vanished, taking Lestrange with him. He was seen by the Minister of Magic, however, who finally accepted that Voldemort was back. At the end of the book, the Ministry of Magic is preparing to take him on once again.


One of Voldemort's defining characteristics is his racist tendencies. He looks down upon non-human magical creatures (such as house-elves), and especially despises Muggles - a hatred which seems to have began with his muggle father's bad treatment of his mother.

He is also a Parseltongue - a wizard who can talk to snakes. This is an ability he has inherited from his ancestor, Salazar Slytherin, and which he passed to Harry when he tried to kill him.

Voldemort also has a tendency to forget seemingly minor details, something which has lead to his undoing on several occasions. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone he states that he had forgotten the ancient magic which protected Harry from him, after his mother had died to protect him; in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets he forgets that the tears of the phoenix have healing powers. The Harry Potter Lexicon suggests that the glint in Dumbledore's eye in the Goblet of Fire when Harry tells him that Voldemort has some of his blood in him is another of his memory-slips.

Many of these characteristics are shared by Harry, possibly as a result of the failed curse which gave him his scar. This was how Harry got the ability to speak Parseltongue.

Voldemort is described as being having chalk-white skin, cat-like slits for eyes, and hands like spiders.

Voldemort in the Films

In the films, Voldemort has yet to be seen in his full glory. In The Philosopher's Stone he is merely a face on the back of Quirrell's head. This was acheived in the film as a computer generated image voiced by Richard Bremmer.

In the second film, Voldemort appears as a memory of his younger self (i.e. Tom Riddle). In that film he was played by Christian Coulson. Voldemort doesn't appear in The Prisoner of Azkaban, so he won't be in the third film.

Voldemort's Name

Voldemort's real name is Tom Marvolo Riddle; in the second book he explains that Voldemort is derived from an anagram of his name:


In translated versions of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Voldemort's true name is changed to accommodate the anagram:


External links