The main antagonist of the Harry Potter series is Lord Voldemort, who is far from a generic villain. The character was given his own fleshed-out background that made fans see him as Tom Riddle, the identity he had been born with, along with the circumstances of his birth and why Voldemort became the fiend he ultimately was. Having been the son of muggle Tom Riddle Sr. and witch Merope Gaunt, who had tricked the former into marrying her through the use of a love potion, Voldemort's future was always destined to take a dark turn.
To truly understand the character, though, it's best to take a trip through his entire timeline to see where he started, how he rose to power, and the way is eventual defeat came about.
1926: Tom Marvolo Riddle Is Born Under Tragic Circumstances
In March 1926, the now married Merope Riddle enjoys her wedded bliss, with more happiness to experience when she learns she's become pregnant by Tom. Unfortunately for Merope, this would be shortlived as she gives in to her guilt for keeping Tom under her thrall with love potions and takes a chance on being truthful to him. Tom, after finally snapping out of his reverie, doesn't return her feelings and isn't willing to stay in the marriage for their child either, following which he abandons his wife and unborn son.
On 31 December 1926, Merope approaches the full term of her pregnancy but has lost the will to live. Weak and helpless, she stumbles into Wool's Orphanage in London, where the matron, Mrs. Cole, takes her in. Due to the combination of Merope's lack of willpower and the fact that she had stopped using magic, she succumbs to her demise shortly after giving birth to her son. As her final wish, the baby boy is named Tom Marvolo Riddle after his father and grandfather.
Tom Marvolo Riddle's birth is under tragic circumstances as the boy is left to be cared for by the orphanage and could never experience love due to his conception through the use of a love potion.
1938: Tom Riddle Is Visited By Dumbledore At The Orphanage And Offered A Place At Hogwarts
By 1938, the 11-year-old Tom Riddle is a misfit at the orphanage, having made no friends or loved ones during his time there. Moreover, he has cultivated a fearful image of himself due to an incident in the Summer of 1937 after forcing two children, Dennis Bishop and Amy Benson, to accompany him to a cave by the seashore where he committed an act so horrifying that the children were left traumatized. By this point, Tom has realized he has special abilities and abuses them by stealing items from other orphans to collect as trophies.
In August 1938, Albus Dumbledore visits Wool's Orphanage under the guise of being a teacher for children with special abilities. When he's alone with Tom, Dumbledore reveals his true nature as a wizard and the Transfiguration teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The initially skeptical Tom, who earlier believed he was being sent to a juvenile institution, instantly accepts Dumbledore's offer to attend Hogwarts, revealing the knowledge of his powers but inadvertently exposes his hostile nature to Dumbledore in the process. Dumbledore forces Tom to return the stolen items to the children and gives him instructions to purchase materials needed for Hogwarts.
The same month, Tom goes to Diagon Alley where he receives the wand meant for him at Ollivander's. Made of yew wood with a phoenix feather core, the wand is extremely rare and powerful as its feather comes from Fawkes the Phoenix who belongs to Dumbledore. With only two feathers provided by Fawkes in his lifetime, the yew wood wands are "brothers" and can never function properly around each other.
On 1st September 1938, Tom arrives at Hogwarts and is immediately sorted into Slytherin House by the Sorting Hat. As soon as he began his time as a student, Tom began looking into the history of the Riddle name but is dismayed to find that it has no links with the magical world. In the same year, Tom learns of the legend of the Chamber of Secrets and begins to search for it. When he's forced to abandon the search for traces of the Riddle name at Hogwarts, Tom finds out that Marvolo was his grandfather and his ancestor from the magical line, along with uncovering the fact that he's descended from Salazar Slytherin.
Upon linking the connection between Slytherin and the Chamber of Secrets, Tom decides to honor his ancestor's wish of eradicating Muggle-Borns from Hogwarts - in the process developing prejudicial views about non-magical people - and vows to find where the Chamber is hidden.
1942: Tom Riddle Murders His Father And Grandparents And Frames His Uncle
In July 1942, during his summer holidays, Tom tracks down his maternal family in Little Hangleton and learns his grandfather has died while his uncle Morfin lives in a disheveled state of poverty. Tom is dismayed to find out that the only magical family member he has is a sorry excuse for a wizard and is angered when Morfin reveals that Tom Riddle Sr lives nearby. Tom attacks his uncle and modifies his memory after stealing the Gaunt family ring, following which he proceeds to visit his father and paternal grandparents whom he murders out of revenge.
In the same month, Morfin confesses to killing the Riddles due to Tom's memory charm and is sent to Azkaban where he dies. Around the same time, Tom uses the murder of his family to split his soul apart and turn the ring into a Horcrux.
In September 1942, Tom is made Prefect of Slytherin House and confirms from Professor Horace Slughorn that a soul can be split into seven pieces and resolves to make more Horcruxes.
1943: Tom Opens The Chamber Of SecretsPhoto: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets / Warner Bros. Pictures
In May 1943, almost five years after beginning his search, Tom finally finds the Chamber of Secrets, whose entrance is hidden in a second floor girls' bathroom, and uses Parseltongue to tame the Basilisk within. Over the next few weeks, the Basilisk injures several students at the school, leading to talks over Hogwarts shutting down.
On June 12th, 1943, Myrtle Warren hears Tom summoning the Basilisk, who orders the snake to kill her.
On June 13th, 1943, Myrtle's death expedites the process of closing down Hogwarts, prompting Tom to abandon his plans for the Chamber of Secrets. He uses his knowledge of Rubeus Hagrid's harboring of an Acromantula to frame him as the Heir of Slytherin and the Acromantula as the monster. Tom is unable to capture the spider but his confrontation of Hagrid -- and the prejudice of the Ministry of Hagrid's status as a Half-Giant -- is believed to be true and Hagrid is expelled from Hogwarts while Tom is given a Special Award for Services to the School for catching the culprit.
In September 1943, Tom uses the murder of Myrtle to turn his diary into a Horcrux.