Even the magical world of Harry Potter must have its villain and, for a being of pure evil, Lord Voldemort is a surprisingly complex character. Both in the book series and in the years following, author JK Rowling has revealed information on Tom Marvolo Riddle that will certainly shock the casual Harry Potter fan, and possibly even the most hardcore of Potterheads.
Born to suppressed witch Merope Gaunt and wealthy muggle Tom Riddle Sr., whom she tricked into marriage, Voldemort was conceived in the absence of love and raised in an orphanage. The inspiration behind his evil and his following rise to power, right down to his physical deterioration and ultimate downfall; Rowling had it mapped out from the very beginning, and we’ve dug out the most interesting facts about You Know Who that may just have snuck under the radar.
Here are the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Voldemort.
15. He Was Portrayed By Seven Actors
Voldemort himself refers to the number seven as the most “powerfully magical number.” Whether by a stroke of genius on Rowling and the producers’ parts, or simply by complete coincidence (probably that one), it just so happens that he was played by seven actors across the eight Harry Potter films alone.
We all know the Dark Lord as played by Ralph Fiennes, but through three separate flashback appearances, he was brought to life by Fiennes’ nephew Hero Fiennes-Tiffin and also Frank Dillane in The Half-Blood Prince, while Christian Coulson appears as young Tom Riddle in The Chamber of Secrets. Actor Michael Berendt also donned the make-up for a Half-Blood Prince flashback, only for his scenes to eventually be cut from the movie.
Richard Bremmer and Ian Hart make up Voldemort’s Sorcerer’s Stone appearances; Bremmer attempting to strike down baby Harry in another flashback sequence, and Hart providing Voldemort’s voiceover alongside his live-action role as Professor Quirrell.
14. The Foreign Translations Had To Change His Name
There exist over 30 translations of the Harry Potter novels, and pretty much all of them had to overcome the same major roadblock: the “I am Lord Voldemort” anagram. The language barrier meant that Tom Marvolo Riddle did not match up to the many translations of the phrase, and so his name was changed across the board.
For example, to anagram “Je suis Voldemort”, the French copy of The Chamber of Secrets changes Voldemort’s birth name to Tom Elvis Jedusor. While none has quite the same impact as Elvis, searching through Voldemort’s various middle names alone offers up some interesting results. Marvolo becomes Vorlost in German, Orvoloson in Italian, and Asmodom in Dutch.
Meanwhile, Scandinavia had a particularly hard time addressing the anagram. The Swedish version resorts to two middle names (Gus Mervolo), while Denmark made full use of the fact that he is named for his father, opting for Romeo G Detlev Jr. as Voldemort’s official title.
13. He Has Only Two Female Death Eaters
Though it is possible that there are some Death Eaters we never actually meet, a good majority of the ones we do meet are male. It’s hardly surprising that Voldemort, in his infinite prejudice, might be quick to judge women as the weaker gender. As we know, that is no more the case in the Wizarding World than it is in the real one; some of the most powerful magical characters in the series are women, but only two are Death Eaters.
Narcissa Malfoy, though she pledged herself to Voldemort (likely at the encouragement of her husband), was never officially branded with the Dark Mark, while Dolores Umbridge is not confirmed as a Death Eater, despite being just The Worst. That leaves Bellatrix Lestrange, who we know as being Voldemort’s most devoted servant, and Alecto Carrow, who taught at Hogwarts during Voldemort’s reign and summoned him to the school in The Deathly Hallows.
12. He Dies At Age 71
Born on New Year’s Eve in 1926, Voldemort died at Hogwarts on May 2, 1998. Ironically, having spent almost his entire life in search of immortality, and creating more horcruxes than anyone the wizarding world has ever known, Voldemort lived an average muggle life span, eventually meeting his end at age 71.
His appearance is never described as resembling an elderly man, while he looks the same age (if not younger) than several of the Order of the Phoenix in the films. This is perhaps due to the fact that he was left body-less for over 13 years, and so biologically speaking, he was only 58 when he was defeated by Harry in the Great Hall.
Still, his age should be almost double that of the Marauders. Lily and James, who died at 21, would have been just 38 had they been around for The Deathly Hallows. Despite being portrayed as older in the films, Sirius was only 36 when he was killed by Bellatrix, and Lupin was 38 at the Battle of Hogwarts.
11. “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” Was Inspired By The Kray Twins
The Kray twins may be best known nowadays for their depiction in 2015’s Legend, where they are both portrayed by Tom Hardy, but the infamous duo were a real-life threat to underground London back in the 1960s.
Long before the movie, Rowling herself was all too aware of the Krays, and used them as inspiration for why certain people within the wizarding community prefer not to use Voldemort’s name. “In London there were a pair of 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,” she went on, “that you can convince someone not to use your name.” Voldemort would actually go a step further, putting a literal taboo on his own name in The Deathly Hallows, revealing the whereabouts of those willing to speak it.
10. He And Harry Are Related
“The pure-blood families are all interrelated,” notes Sirius in Order of the Phoenix. Though Harry and Voldemort themselves are half-bloods, both are direct descendents from notable pure-blood families; Harry from the Potters and Voldemort the Gaunts, both of whom descend from the Peverell brothers.
The Potters came about through the third brother, Ignotus Peverell, whose cloak is passed down through generations until it eventually reaches Harry. Cadmus Peverell, the second brother, is responsible for the Gaunts, meaning that Harry and Voldemort are very distant cousins. Both Marvolo Gaunt and Voldemort claim to be descended from Salazar Slytherin, which makes Harry a direct descendant of Slytherin himself.
Harry descending from Slytherin could have been a factor in the Sorting Hat’s preference to place him in that house, his ability to speak to snakes, and his wand sharing the same core as Voldemort’ – even before Voldemort brought about their connection by turning Harry into a horcrux.
9. His Name Is French For “Flight Of Death”
Though Rowling has never offered an exact explanation for Voldemort’s name, she has reinforced on several occasions that the “t” at the end of his name should be silent. As Rowling herself speaks French, this supports the idea that the name originates from France, where “mort” (with a silent “t”) translates as “death”, and the term “vol de mort” becomes either “flight of death” or “theft of death”. The former works in the sense that Voldemort represents death, and achieves unsupported flight through magic, and the latter makes sense in that Voldemort is stealing from death in his quest for immortality.
There are also possible origins for the name outside of France. The English word “evil” generates from the Proto-Germanic word “evol”, while “mors” is a Latin word for “murder”. Meanwhile, the Old Russian word “vuldimortdek” translates literally as “dark wizard”, and the Catalan translation of “vol de mort” can be interpreted to mean “death wish”.
8. He Cursed The Parseltongue Out Of Harry
The language of serpents makes its Harry Potter debut early on in The Sorcerer’s Stone, when Harry and a boa constrictor share an innocent conversation at a zoo. Not until The Chamber of Secrets, and Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, did we learn anything about its controversial past.
As seen through Voldemort and the Gaunts, Parseltongue is typically passed down through descendants of Salazar Slytherin (though Dumbledore did learn the language of his own volition, and Ron was able to imitate it well enough to earn he and Hermione safe passage to the Chamber of Secrets). As we know, Harry is a descendant of Slytherin, but his ability to speak Parseltongue is not a natural one.
Harry acquired Parselmouth status by inadvertently becoming a horcrux. Voldemort’s attempt to kill Harry in the Forbidden Forest succeeded only in destroying the horcrux within, and in Rowling’s own words, causes him to lose the ability: “And [he] is very glad to do so.”
7. He Plays A Major Role In The Cursed Child
Those who are still waiting to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child should look away now, as Voldemort’s role in the play-turned-transcript gives away a major turning point in the story. Though many still question the legitimacy of Cursed Child, anything that is signed off by Rowling should probably be taken as Harry Potter canon.
That means that Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange did indeed have a daughter shortly before their deaths, and Delphini, raised without parents just like her father before her, resurfaces years later to torment Harry and Albus Potter. When Bellatrix’s husband Rodolphus escapes from Azkaban to tell Delphini of her heritage, she poses as Amos Diggory’s niece, and convinces Albus and Scorpius Malfoy to travel back to 1981 and keep Voldemort from attacking the Potters.
Like her parents, Delphini is skilled in the Dark Arts, and is the last remaining Parselmouth after Harry loses the ability. She is eventually overpowered by Harry and Albus combined, and is sent to Azkaban for her crimes.
6. The Films Are Inconsistent With Who Does And Doesn’t Say His Name
Rowling’s attention to detail is a major factor in the ongoing success of the book series, but the films are not quite as careful. Whether by changing Harry’s eye color, replacing ultra-calm Dumbledore with “DID YOU PUT YOUR NAME IN THE GOBLET OF FIRE?!” Dumbledore, or simply by having the wrong characters speak You Know Who’s name, the films are not averse to taking liberties with the source material.
In the case of the latter, Voldemort’s name is spoken almost exclusively by Harry, Dumbledore, Sirius, and Lupin in the books (though other Order members become more open to the name as the books progress). In the films, Arthur Weasley says the name in The Half-Blood Prince, despite flinching at the word just three movies before.
Pettigrew and Barty Crouch Jr. are also among those to speak Voldemort’s name out of place. This is the biggest departure from the books, as rarely does a Death Eater refer to Voldemort as anything other than “The Dark Lord”, while none have mentioned Voldemort’s name directly.
5. His Boggart Is His Own Corpse
For someone so obsessed with his own immortality, it’s hardly a shock that Voldemort is confronted with his own dead body when he sees a boggart. This is information revealed by Rowling long after the LEGO video games had already misrepresented Voldemort’s boggart as Harry Potter himself. When hit by the Riddikulus charm, which is meant to transform your worst nightmare into something fun, boggart Harry would simply drop dead (Voldemort’s sense of fun is not quite the same as ours).
Voldemort is also unable to produce a Patronus. As noted by Lupin when Harry attempts to defeat his own boggart in Prisoner of Azkaban, a Patronus is a “positive force.” Snape, presumably due to his memories of Lily, is the only Death Eater capable of producing a Patronus. “They would not need Patronuses,” said Rowling. “A Patronus is used against things that the Death Eaters generally generate, or fight alongside.”
4. The Dark Mark Is Just A Protean Charm
Our introduction to the Protean charm comes via Hermione in The Order of the Phoenix. As Dumbledore’s Army is beginning to form, Hermione places the charm on each of the members’ coins, so as to directly communicate the time and place of their next meeting. She adjusts her own coin, and the others adjust accordingly. This also rings true where the Dark Mark is concerned.
Though it was always just assumed that the Dark Mark required some form of dark magic, it is nothing more than a Protean charm, burnt into the arms of Voldemort’s most faithful servants. Voldemort and his Death Eaters alike are instantly alerted if any of their tattoos are touched (fortunately, they must be pressed with forefinger or wand. Brushing your forearm against a cupboard would not accidentally summon the Dark Lord).
3. His Jinx On The DADA Teaching Post Came From Spinal Tap
While the magic behind the Dark Mark is at least explicable, no one knows quite how Voldemort managed to jinx the Defence Against the Dark Arts job at Hogwarts. As suggested by Dumbledore, Voldemort did indeed jinx the teaching post when he was rejected for the position, but neither the books nor the author who wrote them has offered any explanation as to how.
We may not know the incantation (or exactly what Voldemort would have pointed his wand at), but we know something about where the idea came from. “Older members of the audience will remember the Spinal Tap drummer,” joked Rowling, referring to the semi-fictional band whose drummers had a tendency to die in varying ridiculous ways, “I thought that every year we’ll have a different teacher.”
Incidentally, Professor Quirrell, who is described as having been at Hogwarts before the events of the books, was the Muggle Studies teacher in previous years, before stepping up to DADA for Harry’s first year at school.
2. His Book Death Was Filmed
Voldemort’s final moments in The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 stirred up plenty of controversy within the fandom. In the book, Rowling makes her intentions perfectly clear: “Tom Riddle hit the floor with a mundane finality.” The idea being that Voldemort, despite everything he had achieved magically, was nothing more than a man.
The film adaptation essentially disintegrates Voldemort, which not only goes against everything Rowling had set up, but given that there is no one there to see it happen, there must surely still be witches and wizard in the movie universe who still doubt Harry’s victory.
That said, the film had originally planned to follow through on Rowling’s vision. Set photos of The Boy Who Lived standing over Voldemort’s dead body are spread all over the Internet, with some reports suggesting that Voldemort’s movie death had been changed as a result of Osama bin Laden’s death earlier that same year.
1. Fantastic Beasts Will Likely End With Voldemort
1945 was a historical year for the wizarding world. Not only did Dumbledore defeat Grindelwald in one of the greatest duels known to wizard-kind, but at the same time, Tom Riddle was sitting his N.E.W.T. exams. He would graduate the same year, and his immediate destination, an Albanian forest, would become the birthplace of his very first horcrux.
The first Fantastic Beasts movie kicks off in 1926, the year Voldemort was born, and with Rowling recently confirming that the five-part series will span 19 years, the end just so happens to coincide with Voldemort’s graduation and subsequent rise to power.
Rowling has also stated that Dumbledore will make an appearance of his own, while his relationship with Grindelwald will also be explored. Though the lead-up to their epic encounter will most likely take center stage as the Fantastic Beasts sequels develop, it’s all but confirmed that Voldemort will play something of a role come the end of the series.
What did we miss? Leave your Voldemort facts in the comments!
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