Voldemort, AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle, the Dark Lord, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, You-Know-Who, and the Heir of Slytherin, is a disturbed, ruthless - and complex - guy. In J.K. Rowling's books as well as the Harry Potter films based on her series, Voldemort is evil in every way: cruel, merciless, creepy, amoral, callous, power-hungry, narcissistic, a killer without remorse. But if you think he's diabolical in the films, he's even more depraved in the books, which include lots of additional details about his background.
Many of Voldemort's darkest moments throughout his life, both as a child and adult, aren't in the movies, perhaps because they're just too harrowing, depressing, or gruesome. But in a way, learning more about the depths of Tom Riddle's depravity offer insight into who he was and why he was so deranged, including information about his family of origin. Dark details that the movies left out won't make you feel sorry for Voldemort, but might help you understand him a little better.
Teenage Tom Riddle Murdering His Father And GrandparentsPhoto: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince / Warner Bros. Pictures
When Tom Riddle is around 15 or 16 and still a student at Hogwarts, during a summer break he visits the town where his mother grew up, Little Hangleton, to learn more about his family. He meets his depraved and mentally unhinged uncle, Morfin Gaunt (his mother Merope's brother), at the shack where they were raised by their father, Marvolo Gaunt, and learns about his own Muggle father.
Enraged to learn he has Muggle blood, Tom Riddle goes to the mansion where his wealthy father lives, and kills him along with his Muggle paternal grandparents. He then messes with Morfin's memory to make him think he was responsible, and Morfin ends up in Azkaban.
Even for Voldemort, that's a lot of parricide and treachery.Too intense for the films?
Voldemort Using The Cruciatus Curse On Harry In The Forest Even After He Thinks He's DeadPhoto: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 / Warner Bros. Pictures
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry gives himself up in the forest to Voldemort, who uses the Avada Kedavra curse on him. Harry then goes to the mysterious white misty place - what J.K. Rowling later called "a kind of limbo between life and death state" - to talk to Dumbledore, and ends up back in the forest lying on the ground, where Voldemort thinks he's no longer alive. In the book, Voldemort revels in his accomplishment. Although he thinks Harry is dead, Voldemort uses the Cruciatus Curse on him, jeering and taunting as he flips Harry's body three times into the air - just because he can.
The film leaves out this barbaric mockery.Too intense for the films?
Voldemort's Red EyesPhoto: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix / Warner Bros. Pictures
In the Harry Potter films, Voldemort's eyes are the color of actor Ralph Fiennes': blue. They often have red or black rings around them, as if he hasn't had enough sleep, but the irisies are a striking blue.
In the books, however, Voldemort has glaringly red eyes. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire describes his "red eyes, whose pupils were slits, like a cat's." And in Order of the Phoenix, he has "pitiless red eyes" and "scarlet, slit-pupiled eyes."
The filmmakers made a conscious decision, however, to not make Voldemort's eyes crimson. In one of the DVD extra features on the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire DVD, director Mike Newell explains:
And the red eyes, I think is a brilliant image in the book. Really successful. In the film, we ultimately felt, if you actually had red eyes, you couldn’t read what the eyes were expressing.
Producer David Heyman adds, "If you don’t believe an enormous chunk of the human being there, then he isn’t going to scare you."Too intense for the films?
Dumbledore Learning About The Harm Young Tom Riddle Inflicted On Fellow OrphansPhoto: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince / Warner Bros. Pictures
In the film version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry and Dumbledore take a trip back through the Pensieve to see Dumbledore's memory of meeting Tom Riddle for the first time as a young boy at the London orphanage where he grew up. Mrs. Cole, who runs the orphanage, tells Dumbledore that Tom has done "nasty things." Tom himself tells Dumbledore he can force animals to do what he wants, and make bad things happen to people who hurt him.
In the book, however, Mrs. Cole goes into more detail about Tom's nastiness, including his likely gruesome treatment of a pet: “Billy Stubbs’s rabbit... well, Tom said he didn’t do it and I don’t see how he could have done, but even so, it didn’t hang itself from the rafters, did it?”
She also refers to two fellow orphans who were “never quite right afterwards” after Tom took them to a cave on an outing. (This was also probably the cave where Voldemort later hides the locket Horcrux, so like some of the other places he hides Horcruxes, it probably has significance to him for something terrible he might have done there.)Too intense for the films?