Lord Voldemort is the main antagonist of the Harry Potter franchise and undeniably one of the most iconic villains in modern popular culture. He pushed the limits of dark magic to the extreme in his quest for power and immortality, though he was ultimately defeated by the titular hero. Lord Voldemort, however, is not his real name, but rather an identity that he formed while he was still a student at Hogwarts.
It’s a name that most of the wizarding world refuses to utter, so it’s fair to say that he achieved exactly what he intended. Few knew or acknowledged that Lord Voldemort’s real name is Tom Riddle, a name given to him by his parents before he grew up in a muggle orphanage.
How Voldemort’s parents met
Despite being disappointed in his parents, Voldemort was not ashamed of his entire family lineage because, through his mother, he is connected to two of the most famous wizarding families. His mother was a witch named Merope Gaunt. Although she is a relatively ordinary woman with a tragic life, it is her last name that is significant. The Gaunts are descendants of Salazar Slytherin and Cadmus Peverell, the original owner of the Resurrection Stone.
Mérope had a very sad family life and suffered much physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her father Marvolo and her brother Morfin. Her only fleeting escape was to observe a handsome Muggle named Tom Riddle, who lived in a Muggle town near his family’s home. Tom Riddle was popular, rich, and handsome—everything Merope wasn’t. Marvolo and Morfin landed in Azkaban prison at the same time, leaving Merope home alone and free from abuse for the first time in her life. During this time, she somehow convinced Tom Riddle to marry her, and the two ran away and became parents to her. Dumbledore speculates that Merope was able to maneuver this by using a love potion against Tom of hers to magically compel him to love her.
What happened to Voldemort’s parents?
At some point after she became pregnant, but before the birth of her child, Merope must have stopped giving Tom the love potion. When Tom was freed from magic, he left his wife and his unborn child to return to his life in the Muggle world. Abandoned and heartbroken, it seems Merope gave up on magic entirely at this point. She was able to survive her pregnancy by selling priceless family artifacts for a paltry fraction of her value. Then, when it was time to give birth, she made her way to a Muggle orphanage where she lived long enough to name hers her son Tom Marvolo Riddle, after the father who abandoned them both and the father who abused them. her. She died shortly after.
Growing up in a muggle orphanage was difficult for young Voldemort, who found only satisfaction in torturing his fellow orphans. When he discovered that he was a wizard, his immediate assumption was that his father was a wizard and his mother was a muggle because he believed even then that magic could defeat death. Once at school, he vowed to learn about his heritage, only to come to the disappointing conclusion that his mother was a run-of-the-mill witch and his father was a Muggle. It was then that he abandoned his birth name in favor of his new name: Lord Voldemort.
However, it was not enough to shed his father’s name. Voldemort took things a step further when he murdered his father, as well as his muggle grandparents, for the sin of abandoning him, but more importantly, for being muggles. Voldemort used these deaths to frame his uncle Morfin for the crime and stole Morfin’s ring, which Voldemort would later turn into a Horcrux. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Voldemort has Wormtail use the bone of his father, Tom Riddle Sr., in the spell that returned Voldemort to his body. Voldemort had no more love for his parents than he ever had for anyone else.