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There is no good and evil, there is only power and those too weak to seek it!
~ Lord Voldemort to Harry Potter in their first meeting, and his most famous quote.
I'm going to kill you, Harry Potter. I'm going to destroy you. After tonight, no one will ever again question my power. After tonight if they speak of you, they'll only speak of how you begged for death. And how I being a merciful Lord...obliged.
~ Voldemort addressing his sadistic death threatening statement to Harry Potter.

Tom Marvolo Riddle, better known as Lord Voldemort or simply Voldemort, is the main antagonist of the Harry Potter franchise.

He is a psychopathic dark wizard that seeks to forever possess immortality, rule the world over all, exterminate all Muggles, slaughter those who oppose him and kill the one who is destined to put an end to his reign, being none other than his archenemy Harry Potter himself.

In the films, he was portrayed by Ralph Fiennes, who also played Amon Goeth in Schindler's List, in remaining five films; Christian Coulson (16-year-old) in Chamber of Secrets; and both Hero Fiennes-Tiffin (11-year-old) and Frank Dillane (15-year-old) in Half-Blood Prince. In The Philosopher's Stone, he was portrayed by Richard Bremmer in the flashback scene, but voiced by Ian Hart.

What Makes Him Pure Evil?

In General

  • While his Freudian Excuse gets him in-universe sympathy from Death Eaters, Dumbledore stresses that Harry, despite having similar backgrounds, never fell to evil like him, thus showing it wasn't just his background, but his choices, that made Voldemort the monster he became. Thus, his excuse is more a cautionary tale than a redeeming factor.
  • Though he cares about Nagini, it’s heavily implied the only reason why he cares for her is because she was one of his Horcruxes.
  • Is responsible for all of the psychological damage and PTSD inflicted upon Harry, damage which continued to scar him even as an adult.
  • His backstory of having been an orphan (though his father was technically still alive at the time) holds no merit in explaining his evil ways, seeing as to how Harry Potter went through the same thing but never turned out evil, especially since there was no indication he was ever mistreated by the orphanage caretaker. His parents abandoning him didn't make him a sociopathic tyrant.
  • Like the rest of his Death Eaters, he holds deep prejudice against Muggles, Muggle-borns, and other magical creatures.
  • As for Bellatrix Lestrange, both of them show no genuine romantic love for each other, with their partnership being a desire of evil and complete selfishness. Voldemort was incapable of feeling true love and possibly the only reason the two conceived Delphini was to continue his legacy, rather than out of actual love.
  • His actions were so vile, he became feared to the point that no one dared to even say his name. He also put a taboo on his name, teleworking to anyone who says its name, which likely would cause harm and even death to the person who said his name. He also rivaled Gellert Grindlewald, whose crimes were one of few who actually came close to being on par with Voldemort in terms of heinousness, yet still beat him with his lack of compassion and soul (literally and figuratively).

Background

  • Even as a child, he would use his magic to harm the other orphans and stole their belongings for his own amusement and make the orphanage an enjoyable place for himself. He was also incredibly rude to Dumbledore when they first met, only returning the objects he stole because Dumbledore told him to.
    • This foreshadows him deciding to kill Hepzibah Smith for her fortune.
  • Murdered his father and paternal grandparents, his first direct victims.
    • While they weren't well-liked, his grandparents did not deserve to die. He also framed his uncle for the crime (while Morfin Gaunt was not a nice man who had a criminal record, he did not deserve to spend the rest of his life in Azkaban).
  • As a student as Hogwarts, he released the Basilisk in the school to kill all "Muggle-borns"-resulting in many being petrified and Moaning Myrtle getting killed, only stopping to prevent his role in the attacks from being discovered.
    • He framed Rubeus Hagrid and his Acromantula, Aragog, for the crimes he committed to throw suspicion off himself, which lead to Hagrid getting expelled. Hagrid would later be sent to Azkaban for two months for allegedly reawakening the basilisk.
    • While he didn’t want Hogwarts to be closed down, it was only because he wanted not to go back to the orphanage.
  • Placed a jinx on the Defense Against the Dark Arts position at Hogwarts that wouldn't allow a teacher to hold the job for more than a year purely out of spite for not being given the job by Dumbledore. This included Professor Lupin, even though he was well-liked among the students, though it also included Dolores Umbridge, who was extremely unpopular.
  • He had the house elf Kreacher test his protection of the Locket by forcing him to ingest the Drink of Despair, which causes horrific damage to the brain, and was prepared to let Kreacher be killed by the Inferi in the cave.
  • Murdered hundreds, if not thousands of Wizards and Muggles alike during the two Wizarding Wars.
  • When he was going to the Potter house, he considers killing a child when he steps in front of him and remarks on Voldemort’s “Halloween costume”, and only spares him because he was too busy and the child’s life was too insignificant.
  • Murdered Harry Potter’s parents and attempting to kill Harry himself, who was an infant at the time.
  • Created Seven Horcruxes in order to live forever, splitting his soul into each object. Each of these Horcruxes were created through murder. They are therefore considered among the darkest and most vile forms of magic.
    • His diary was made a Horcrux through the murder of Myrtle Warren. While it was not a direct murder, it did not disqualify him from creating a Horcrux.
    • Marvolo Gaunt's Ring was made a Horcrux through the murder of his father. Though murdering his father wasn't as evil as murdering Myrtle Warren, as his father was detestable and unpleasant, this did not mean he deserved to die, as it did not stop the Muggles from wishing to prosecute Frank Bryce for it.
    • Salazar Slytherin's Locket was made a Horcrux through the murder of a Muggle tramp.
    • Helga Hufflepuff's Cup was made a Horcrux through the murder of Hepzibah Smith, a woman who thought he was her friend, and let her domestic elf Hokey to take the blame. While Hokey was not penalized for accidentally killing her mistress, he still made her believe she was responsible.
    • Rowena Ravenclaw's Diadem was made a Horcrux through the murder of an Albanian peasant.
    • Nagini was made a Horcrux through the murder of Bertha Jorkins, though Dumbledore theorized otherwise.
    • Harry Potter was accidentally made a Horcrux through the murder of Lily J. Potter, the one Horcrux he wasn’t aware of.
  • Tortured Wizards and Witches, usually with the forbidden Cruciatus Curse or with painful, realistic illusions using Legillimency, inducing them with agony and only killing them once they were already begging for death.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

  • He manipulated Quirinus Quirrell, using his body as a host.
  • He ordered Quirinus to kill Harry during his Quidditch match.
  • He had Quirinus kill unicorns and drink their blood to sustain his weakening body. It is said that anyone who kills unicorns is cursed, since it is so utterly repulsive to kill such an innocent creature.
  • He abandoned Professor Quirinus Quirrell to die when he attempted to take the Sorcerer's Stone from Harry.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

  • He attempted to manipulate Harry and turn him against Hagrid by making him believe Hagrid had opened the Chamber of Secrets.
  • The soul of his Horcrux in the diary took possession of Ginny Weasley, draining her life force. He also made her open the Chamber of Secrets, unleashing the Basilisk and petrifying many students.
  • He had Ginny kill Hagrid’s roosters and force her to write messages on the wall using their blood, then took her to the chamber itself to lure Harry.
  • His Horcrux attempted to kill Harry Potter using the Basilisk.
  • He was not upset when the basilisk was killed by having a sword rammed through her mouth.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

  • He has Bertha Jorkins tortured to break the Memory Charm and reveal the information about Barty Crouch Jr., then kills her when her mind is broken beyond repair.
  • Murdered Frank Bryce for overhearing his plans, despite being incapable of stopping him regardless, as wizards would not likely believe him on account of being a Muggle, excluding Albus Dumbledore.
  • He ordered Pettigrew and Barty Crouch to kidnap Alastor Moody and have Barty impersonate him to take his place at Hogwarts.
  • He forced Barty Crouch Sr to obey him with the Imperius Curse.
  • He punished Pettigrew for allowing Barty Crouch Sr to escape and nearly foiling his plans by torturing him with the Cruciatus Curse.
  • He was responsible for Harry being in the Triwizard Tournament, where he nearly died during some of the events.
  • He had Pettigrew murder Cedric Diggory, an event that would horrify the students of Hogwarts and leave Harry with PTSD for the summer and following school year.
  • He used the Cruciatus Curse on his Death Eater, Avery, when he asked for forgiveness.
  • Tortured Harry with the Cruciatus Curse before attempting to murder him.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

  • Broke his followers out of Azkaban and enlisted the Dementors, which would go across England and drain the happiness of Wizards, Witches and muggles. While he was extremely happy about their escape, it was only due to pragmatism.
  • He used the Imperius Curse to force Broderick Bode to retrieve the prophecy, but the attempt ended up causing him permanent psychological damage.
  • He sends false images of Voldemort torturing Sirius in the Department of Mysteries to Harry, which would cause Harry to go to try and rescue Sirius and lead to his death.
  • When Bellatrix Lestrange murders Sirius Black, Voldemort, taking advantage of Harry's fury at that moment, instates him to kill her, and when he doesn't, says he is weak (movie).
  • In the Department of Mysteries, attempted to kill Harry again and dueled Dumbledore in his attempt to murder his teacher. He then possessed Harry in order to have Dumbledore kill Harry as a means to put an end to Voldemort.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

  • Attempted to force Fudge to resign and when he refused, attacked the Brockdale Bridge, murdering many people in the process.
  • Ordered his Giants to cause mass destruction in England, destroying property and murdering many more people.
  • Gave Draco the practically impossible task of murdering Dumbledore as a way to punish Lucius for his repeated failures. Though Draco was fairly sadistic for a bully, he was nowhere near that evil to have such a fate, not to mention the task took a significant toll on his mental health.
  • He is responsible for the death of Dumbledore, a major ally who was heavily looked up upon by not only Hogwarts, but the wizarding world itself. Again, another example of Voldemort's callous trait, as he didn't care how stressed it made Draco and even Snape, to perform the murder.
  • Murdered Amelia Bones and her entire family in order to replace her with a puppet, giving him control over the Ministry of Magic.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

  • Once he took over the Ministry of Magic, he had them promote hate speech against Muggles and a pure-blood supremacist agenda.
  • He took Lucius’ wand as an act of spite for him having gotten his Diary Horcrux destroyed through his negligence, even though Voldemort had never told Lucius what it really was and Lucius had only gotten rid of it when he believed Voldemort had been killed.
  • Murdered Bathilda Bagshot and used her as a trap for Nagini to capture Harry and kill Hermione.
  • Abducted and murdered Charity Burbage for teaching about Muggles and believing in equality between Muggles and Magics.
  • Had Mykew Gregorovitch tell him about Grindelwald stealing the Elder Wand and then killed him anyway. He did the same to Florean Fortescu, who gave him information about the Elder Wand, only for him to kill him afterwards.
  • Murdered Grindelwald for mocking him to his face (novel). Again similarly like his father, though Grindlewald was an evil tyrant, his murder is not a redeeming quality, and he’d already shown some remorse for his crimes and spent decades imprisoned.
  • He broke into Dumbledore’s tomb and stole the Elder Wand.
  • Murdering his followers for their failure, such as when he killed Griphook and others for failing to protect a Horcrux. He also murdered an entire room of goblins and people, possibly even the snatches and/or Peter Pettigrew.
  • Although it seemed as he was honorable as he gave Peter Pettigrew a silver hand to replace his original one. He secretly designed the hand to strangle him to death should Pettigrew consider showing the slightest mercy to his enemies or betraying him as he did Harry’s parents, proving the only reason he gave it to him was to ensure control over him (book) and even by just counting the movie, his generosity is only to get more wizards to side with him for a reward in return rather than a legitimate redeeming quality.
  • Killed Pius Thicknesse, his own follower, merely for interrupting him (movie).
  • Killed Severus Snape, who he thought was still one of his most loyal servants who'd given him vital victories and killed Dumbledore, believing it would give him total control over the Elder Wand, and while he said he regretted doing it, showed no sadness or remorse over Snape's death.
  • Forced Harry to turn himself in to save his friends, then mercilessly killed him. Then, when he arrived with Harry's body at Hogwarts, lied that Harry had attempted to flee and save himself purely out of spite to ruin his reputation and frame Harry as a coward.
  • When Neville refused the offer to join the Death Eaters, he prepared to kill Neville before being interrupted.
  • After Bellatrix was murdered by Molly, Voldemort furiously attempted to kill her. Though he was angry at her demise, it’s more than likely he was only upset at the loss of such a powerful and loyal Death Eater.
  • Upon learning of the Elder Wand's true allegiance, he planned to kill Draco once he finished dealing with Harry.
  • Even when given the chance by Harry to end things peacefully and show remorse for his actions, he refused to even entertain the notion and attempted to kill Harry once again.

Trivia

  • Lord Voldemort was slightly more evil in the books than he was in the films, as shown in the flashback scene in Half-Blood Prince where he says "I do bad things to those who are mean to me". In the books, he says "I can do bad things to people who annoy me" implying that he bullies other children, as opposed to being bullied by them. He also didn't use the hand he gave Wormtail to kill him nor killed Gellert Grindelwald after asking him about the Elder Wand's whereabouts (because, unlike the book, Grindelwald revealed to him the location of Elder Wand).
    • It should be noted, however, that Voldemort's crimes remain mostly the same, allowing him to still qualify as Pure Evil in the film version as it has slightly lower standards.
    • This is countered by a heightened level of extremism in the films. In the books, his plan is to take over the Wizarding world and enslave the Muggle world, whereas in the films, he plans to commit genocide, intending to kill all Muggles and non-pure-blood wizards.
    • In addition, Wormtail's death by suffocation was originally intended to be shown in Deathly Hallows: Part 1, but it was dropped because the filmmakers felt it would have been too intense for younger viewers. It's very likely that Voldemort still intended to use Wormtail's hand against him if he ever stepped out of line.
  • As the first villain to be introduced in the series (other than the Dursley’s), he sets the standard for evil in the franchise.
  • Voldemort has four debatable validations that could disqualify him as Pure Evil:
    1. He's unable to feel love because he was conceived under the influence of a Love Potion, which could insinuate that he has moral agency issues. However, it's made clear several times throughout both the books and the movies that he at least understands the concept of positive emotions while not actually feeling them personally and can even exploit them to lure others into traps (e.g. Harry risking his life to rescue his godfather Sirius). In addition, many of his evil traits such as pure-blood supremacy and desire for power and intended genocide did not come from the Love Potion and instead came from him. After all, no other wizard is stated to become as evil as Voldemort, despite the inevitability of some of them being the result of Love Potions, showing that Voldemort personally was uniquely evil and of his own right.
    2. He might've had some twisted care for his late mother Merope, as the sixth book depicts his eyes turning red when Hepzibah Smith unwittingly implies that she was a tramp who might've stolen Slytherin's locket, and he killed his father at least partly for abandoning her. However, since Merope died before her son ever got a chance to know her personally, those examples could simply be out of personal pride than anything else. And although Word of God doesn't count when it comes to PE criteria, even J.K. Rowling has said that he never loved anybody once in his whole life as Tom or Voldemort. So it possible that he never really loved his mother as he did everything for himself and hated the word family. He makes it clear in the Goblet of Fire that he only killed his father so he can avenge himself and for being given a stupid name. He also praises his mother focusing Dark Magic on his father.
    3. He called off the attack on Hogwarts, claiming he didn't want any magical people to die and told them to dispose of their dead with dignity. However, this was more likely due to him wanting to lure Harry out to face him directly by guilt-tripping him with the deaths of his friends and due to him wanting to recruit students from Hogwarts, both of which ended up happening. Also the tone in his voice made it clear he was just trying to lure Harry to him out of shame.
    4. One could argue that his death in the final movie was played for last-minute sympathy, as somber music plays in the background while he slowly disintegrates and reacts with despair. However, since nobody mourns his death in-universe, that's doubtful. If anything, it most likely played due to the final conflict finally being over for Harry or meant to be a moment showing the ultimate recompense for Voldemort's crimes. Please note that in the book, his death is not played sympathetically at all.

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See Also
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