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Lord Voldemort (born c. 1927) is a fictional character and the archvillain in the Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling. He is an evil wizard bent on controlling the magical world and achieving immortality through the practice of Dark Magic. 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, the Death Eaters.
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 true name is 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 realized that she was a witch. She died soon after giving birth, but not before naming her baby Tom after his father and Marvolo after his grandfather. From information given in the books, his birth year has been estimated to be in 1927.
Tom Riddle attended Hogwarts from 1938 to 1945, where he was a member of Slytherin house. Riddle was a model student, perhaps even the best to have ever studied at Hogwarts. Riddle found the fabled Chamber of Secrets in his fifth year and opened it, unleashing the basilisk which lived inside. He managed to do this because he is the last surviving heir of Salazar Slytherin from his mother's side.
Unfortunately for him, on June 13, 1943, the basilisk killed one of the students, leading to widespread panic and worries that the school might be closed down. If that had happened, Riddle would have been returned to the Muggle orphanage where he spent the holidays indefinitely. To avoid this, he once again closed the Chamber and successfully framed Rubeus Hagrid, who was also a student at the time, for the attacks. Hagrid already had a reputation for taking care of large, monstrous animals and had been taking care of an Acromantula when this accusation was made. Riddle received an award for his supposed discovery of Hagrid's secret, but 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), Riddle 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, 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 and disbelief by other villagers.
His rise to power
Little more is known about Tom Riddle until he rose to power as Lord Voldemort in the 1970s. 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 headmaster of Hogwarts. Dumbledore is said to be the only person who Voldemort ever feared, and Hogwarts was one of the few safe places during that dangerous time.
During this time, the wizarding world was embroiled with suspicion and fear. One could never be sure who was on Voldemort's side and who wasn't. Voldemort and his followers used curses which could cause excruciating 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) has been confirmed to have been acting of his 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 Dark 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.
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 ...
Two boys fit the description within the prophecy: Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter. Voldemort's information about the prophecy was incomplete, given to him by an eavesdropping Death Eater. Voldemort later set out to kill Harry Potter, believing him to be the one referred to within the prophecy.
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. Lily tried to stop Voldemort from killing her son but was killed herself. Finally, Voldemort 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.
Harry survived because of his mother's sacrifice for him. This protection also saved his life from Quirrell later on.
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". Many Death Eaters were captured and sent to Azkaban prison.
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 another 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. Riddle then tried to drain Ginny's life-force out of her to allow himself to come into being outside the book. The plan of Riddle's memory were once again stopped by Harry, as recounted in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It is not known what would have happened had Ginny died, but J. K. Rowling has noted it would strengthen the present-day Voldemort.
Luckily for Voldemort, a series of incidents detailed in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban forced Peter Pettigrew, who had betrayed Harry's parents to Voldemort, 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 enough to allow him to perform magic by himself. He then used an ancient ritual of Dark Magic 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 Harry Potter fans suspect that this will eventually prove to be Voldemort's undoing, as the blood which now courses through Voldemort is Harry's own. After being reborn, Voldemort summoned the Death Eaters back to him, and attempted to kill Harry – but he escaped the Dark Lord yet again (see Characteristics).
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 senile, and was removed from several important posts. Harry, on the other hand, was accused of making the whole thing up for attention. 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 and his own Death Eaters) knew or 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 only copy of the prophecy was destroyed. Most of 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 apparently died. 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.
Voldemort is described as having chalk-white skin, cat-like red slits for eyes, and hands like spiders. The memory of Riddle had black hair – though the present-day Voldemort is bald – and is described as looking "handsome."
One of Voldemort's defining characteristics is his racist tendencies. He looks down upon Muggles (non-magical humans)– a hatred which seems to have began with his muggle father's bad treatment of his mother. He hates non-pure-bloods, despite the fact he is one himself.
Voldemort bears a certain physical resemblance to Ian McDiarmid's Emperor Palpatine from Return of the Jedi although—as Darth Vader is "more machine than man"—Voldemort appears to be "more magic than man". When first describing him to Harry, Hagrid noted that Voldemort might not have enough human left in him to die.
Voldemort is also a Parselmouth: a wizard who can talk to snakes in their own language, Parseltongue. This is an ability he has inherited from his ancestor, Salazar Slytherin (of whom he is the last living descendant), and which he unwittingly passed to Harry when he tried to kill him.
Voldemort also has a tendency to forget seemingly minor details, 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.
Voldemort's magic wand is made from yew wood (a wood associated with immortality and that gives poisonous sap), is thirteen and a half inches long, and has the feather of a phoenix at its core. More specifically, a feather from Albus Dumbledore's pet phoenix, Fawkes. Unusually enough, Fawkes gave one more feather to be used in a wand; the wand belonging to Harry Potter. Because the two wands essentially have the same core, they cannot work properly when used against each other. If they are nevertheless forced to battle, what will happen is Priori Incantatem or the "reverse spell effect", where each wand will try to force the other to regurgitate shadows of the spells it has cast in reverse chronological order. All of this played an important part in Harry Potter's escape from Voldemort at the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and it might be significant in the books to come.
Voldemort in the films
In The Chamber of Secrets, Voldemort appears as a memory of his younger self, Hogwarts student Tom Riddle (who is played in the second film by Christian Coulson ).
Voldemort does not appear in The Prisoner of Azkaban, and so does not appear in the third film.
In The Goblet of Fire, which is the first time Voldemort will be seen in his full glory, he will be played by Ralph Fiennes. The assumption is that this casting will be preserved when The Order of the Phoenix is filmed but no information is currently available.
People seem less touchy about hearing Voldemort's name in the films than in the books.
- TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE → I AM LORD VOLDEMORT
As many other names in the Harry Potter novels, "Voldemort" seems to have French origins. Indeed, "Vol de la mort" means (rather appropriately) either "Flight of death" or "Theft of death" (as the word "vol" has two meanings in French).
In translated versions of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Voldemort's true name is changed to accommodate the anagram:
|Catalan||TOD MORVOSC RODLEL||SÓC LORD VOLDEMORT|
|Czech||TOM ROJVOL RADDLE||JÁ LORD VOLDEMORT|
|Danish||ROMEO G DETLEV JR||JEG ER VOLDEMORT|
|Dutch||MARTEN ASMODOM VILIJN||MIJN NAAM IS VOLDEMORT||My name's Voldemort|
|Finnish||TOM LOMEN VALEDRO||MA OLEN VOLDEMORT||I am Voldemort|
|French||TOM ELVIS JEDUSOR||JE SUIS VOLDEMORT||I am Voldemort; "Jedusor" is pronounced as "Jeu du sort", stroke of fate.|
|German||TOM VORLOST RIDDLE||IST LORD VOLDEMORT||Is Voldemort|
|Greek||ANTON MORVOL HERT||ARHON VOLDEMORT||Lord Voldemort: "NT" in Greek can be pronounced as "D"|
|Greek spelling||ΑΝΤΩΝ ΜΟΡΒΟΛ ΧΕΡΤ||ΑΡΧΩΝ ΒΟΛΝΤΕΜΟΡΤ|
|Hebrew||TOM VANDROLO RIDDLE||ANI LORD VOLDEMORT|
|Hebrew spelling||טום ואנדרולו רידל||אני לורד וולדמורט||I am Lord Voldemort: the word lord is transliterated from the English and not translated.|
|Hungarian||TOM ROWLE DENEM||NEVEM VOLDEMORT||My name's Voldemort|
|Italian||TOM ORVOLOSON RIDDLE||SON IO LORD VOLDEMORT|
|Norwegian||TOM DREDOLO VENSTER||VOLDEMORT DEN STORE||Voldemort the great|
|Portuguese||TOM SERVOLEO RIDDLE||EIS LORD VOLDEMORT||Here's Lord Voldemort|
|Spanish||TOM SORVOLO RYDDLE||SOY LORD VOLDEMORT|
|Swedish||TOM GUS MERVOLO DOLDER||EGO SUM LORD VOLDEMORT||This sentence, however, is in Latin, and not Swedish|
|Turkish||TOM MARVOLDO RIDDLE||ADIM LORD VOLDEMORT|
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