Frank Bryce (August, 1917–16 August, 1994) was a Muggle who lived in the village of Little Hangleton, England. After serving in the Second World War, he returned to Little Hangleton and became the gardener for the Riddle family. He was the prime suspect of the family's murder, a crime he did not commit.
Two unidentified families lived at the Riddle house, but neither stayed long. A wealthy man later owned the house during Frank's last days, although he did not live at the house, being said to keep it "for tax reasons". Shortly before his 77th birthday, Bryce was murdered by Lord Voldemort after Nagini told Voldemort and Peter Pettigrew that Bryce was overhearing them discussing their plans to murder Harry Potter.
Frank was born in 1917 to a Muggle family. He lived in Little Hangleton along with Dot in his childhood: this makes it likely that Frank was born in the village. He was said to have been quite short-tempered as a child.
Second World War
In 1939, the Second World War started, and Frank was called into military service. He fought well for three years of the war, but his leg was wounded and remained very stiff even after it healed, so he left the armed forces afterwards, presumably because the wound made him incapable of fighting.
Gardener for the Riddles
By 1943, Frank returned to Little Hangleton with a great dislike of crowds and loud noises, and his leg was still stiff. Despite his injury, he started working as caretaker and gardener for the elderly and snobbish squire Thomas Riddle, who lived with his wife Mary and adult son Tom in the luxurious Riddle House on a hill overlooking the village, in which he was given a small cottage on the Riddles' property.
The Riddle murders
Around August, 1943, 16-year-old Tom Marvolo Riddle came to Little Hangleton in search of his family. Upon learning of his father's actions toward Merope and himself from his uncle, he decided to murder his father. That same evening, Frank Bryce saw Riddle climbing the hill towards the Riddle House but did not accost him or do anything, unaware of how his life would be forever changed by the boy. The next morning, the Riddles' maid found all three Riddles dead in their house's drawing room. The police arrested Frank as their main suspect, since he had the only key to the mansion and there had been no sign of forced entry, and he was taken to the neighbouring town of Great Hangleton for questioning. Though Frank explained that the last person he saw near the Riddle House was the dark-haired boy, nobody else had seen him and was sure that Frank invented him. However, the report on the Riddles' bodies was unable to determine the cause of their death, and Frank was released due to lack of evidence, although he was still widely suspected by his neighbours.
After the murders
Frank had no family, and continued to live a solitary disconnected life in his small cottage on the Riddle House grounds. He continued to be paid as the gardener by the house's succession of owners. As he aged, he was plagued by the pain in his leg, and by the vandalism of local boys, which he suspected was motivated by the belief that he was a murderer. The boys would usually throw rocks into the Riddle House, trample or ride their bicycles on the flowerbeds that Frank worked hard to keep smooth or even break in the House for a dare, then flee when Frank tried to pursue them, unsuccessfully due to his injured leg.
- "He was screaming so loudly that he never heard the words the thing in the chair spoke as it raised a wand. There was a flash of green light, a rushing sound, and Frank Bryce crumbled. He was dead before he hit the floor."
- — Description of the murder of Frank Bryce[src]
On 16 August, 1994, Frank Bryce, now nearing his 77th birthday, woke from the pain in his leg, and saw a light in the Riddle House, and he assumed the local boys had broken in and set fire to it. Not having a telephone or trusting the police since his arrest, Frank entered the house to investigate and was surprised to see not vandals, but Lord Voldemort, hidden from view, and his servant Wormtail, discussing various things that Frank was unfamiliar with. Going very deaf from old age, Frank listened with his better right ear, and though confused with terms such as "Muggles" and "Quidditch", he thought they must be codes, and he figured enough to learn that the master had killed a woman with amusement and were plotting another murder, directed to a boy. Frank thought he must report this to the police at once, but before he could successfully flee, he encountered Nagini, the snake.
When Nagini discovered Frank and reported him to Voldemort, the Dark Lord welcomed Frank into the room. In a failed attempt to bluff his way out, Frank said that his wife would notice his disappearance, but Voldemort saw through this deception and found that nobody knew that he was there. After challenging Voldemort to show his face "like a man", to which Voldemort replied that he was "much more than a man", Frank was horrified to see a mutilated body in the chair, which made him scream loudly. He screamed so loud that he never heard the incantation of the Killing Curse that took his life, nor did he live to learn that this gruesome form was the "dark-haired boy" he saw that killed the Riddle family and caused all the distrust in Frank for half a century.
In his home in Little Whinging, located two hundred miles from Little Hangleton, Harry Potter had a vivid dream in which he saw Bryce's murder in the moment it actually happened. As it usually occurred when he had such visions, his forehead scar hurt considerably.
- "He was a real wizard, then? Killed me, that one did... You fight him, boy..."
- — Frank Bryce's echo on Voldemort, encouraging Harry[src]
Frank's "disappearance" was reported in the Muggle news. Apparently none were aware that he had died, and it is also possible that his corpse was never found, as Voldemort and/or Pettigrew would have both been perfectly capable of disposing of it, in order to cover up their criminal activities. It is likely that his corpse was fed to Nagini, as a reward from her master for discovering the old man before he could report on their actions.
Roughly a year later, after Voldemort's rebirth, Frank's shadow reappeared in the Priori Incantatem caused by the duel between Harry Potter and Voldemort. Frank then realised that Voldemort was indeed a wizard, and supported Harry to defeat the Dark Lord in revenge for his demise. He, and the other echoes, helped Harry escape by distracting Voldemort.
Three years later, Frank's unjust persecution and death would be fully avenged when Harry finally defeated Voldemort at the Battle of Hogwarts, where Voldemort's Killing Curse rebounded onto him, ending his life once and for all.
Personality and traits
Frank was described to have a "horrible temper" since he was a child. He was rather unsociable and solitary; according to the Riddles' cook, he "never wanted to mix". After his experiences during the War, he developed a great hatred of crowds and loud noises. When the time finally came to take action, he managed his fear much easier; in 1994, despite being terrified of the deformed murderer who was sitting in a chair in the Riddle House, Frank confronted him when he was caught eavesdropping. Upon his temporary return to Earth, during the duel between Harry and Voldemort, he seemed to have a dry acceptance of his death. Bryce supported the former, despite never meeting him before, while distracting the latter in revenge for killing him.
- Cottage - This cottage was Frank's permanent residence and was not very far from the graveyard.
- Walking stick - Due to his leg injury, Frank owned and used a walking stick and took it with him wherever he went. He dropped it in the Riddle House, when he saw Voldemort's shrivelled and shrunken body, leaving its fate unknown.
- Kettle: In the kitchen of his cottage, Frank owned a standard metal non-electric kettle, which he mundanely used for boiling water to make tea and refill his hot water bottle over his oven hob.
Little Hangleton residents
Ever since Frank returned from his military services, he preferred the quiet life, avoiding relationships with the residents of Little Hangleton. He lived a disconnected career, refusing the Riddles' cook offers for a drink. After the murder of the Riddle family, the townspeople suspected Frank to be the murderer, and despite his release due to lack of evidence, they nevertheless remained distrusting of him, looking down on him for daring to remain in the village. Children would often trample the garden he worked to keep clean, running away before he could catch up with them.
- Lord Voldemort: "You heard everything, Muggle?"
- Frank Bryce: "What’s that you’re calling me?"
- Lord Voldemort: "I am calling you a Muggle. It means that you are not a wizard."
- Frank Bryce: "I don’t know what you mean by wizard. All I know is I’ve heard enough to interest the police tonight, I have. You’ve done murder and you’re planning more! And I’ll tell you this too, my wife knows I’m up here, and if I don’t come back —"
- — Frank Bryce bravely confronting Lord Voldemort in the Riddle House[src]
Frank first saw the teenage Lord Voldemort approaching the Riddle House during the summer of 1943. He had no way of knowing that this boy would be the one to forever taint his reputation within Little Hangleton, for murdering the Riddles. The police did not believe Frank's alibi of seeing Voldemort approaching the house, but due to lack of evidence, they released the gardener.
Over half a century later, Frank would come face-to-face with Voldemort inside the Riddle House, not knowing that he was the very same boy he saw approaching the place. Overhearing Voldemort's discussion with his servant Wormtail, Frank learned that Voldemort is a remorseless madman who killed a woman, that he plotted to kill a boy, and that he must be informed on to the police. However, Frank was caught by Voldemort's pet snake, Nagini, who reported to her master the gardener's presence. Invited into the drawing room where Voldemort and Wormtail resided, Frank courageously faced the murderer, trying to bluff that his wife would know of his absence. However, Voldemort easily saw through Frank's bluff, knowing that no one knows of his whereabouts and that he had no wife. When Frank challenged Voldemort to face him "like a man", he was utterly horrified at the mutilated, rudimentary body he saw, as Voldemort cast the Killing Curse to end Frank's life.
Although Bryce had no idea who Harry Potter was, he knew the boy would be in danger when he overheard Voldemort's plot to kill him, and attempted to call the Muggle police on the Dark Lord, in an attempt to protect the boy. The night Bryce was murdered, Harry experienced a vision of the event which manifested through a dream, likely due to his connection to Lord Voldemort.
During his temporary return, Bryce supported Harry in the duel against Voldemort.
The name "Frank" comes from a Germanic name which referred to a member of the Germanic tribe, the Franks. The Franks settled in the regions now called France and the Netherlands in the 3rd and 4th century. They derived their tribal name from the name of a type of throwing axe that they used. The name was brought to England by the Normans. Notable bearers include author L. Frank Baum (1856–1919) and architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959).
Behind the scenes
- Frank was portrayed by the late Eric Sykes in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
- Frank is one of only five characters in the Harry Potter book series whose thoughts have been disclosed by the narrator, the others being Harry Potter, Vernon Dursley, the British Prime Minister and Narcissa Malfoy. However, Tom Riddle's viewpoint is shown via Potter. Other scenes depict Severus Snape, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, and Albus Dumbledore, but these scenes do not appear to be told from anyone's point of view in particular.
- Albus Dumbledore incorrectly suspected that Frank's death was used by Voldemort to turn Nagini into his final Horcrux, but it was officially stated that Bertha Jorkins's death was used instead. However, as Jorkins was omitted from the films (and she did not appear in the stream of people who appeared in the Priori Incantatem), Frank's death might have been used instead in the film timeline. However, this still leaves in question how Voldemort knew about the Triwizard Tournament. So Bertha may have been present off-screen, but not killed with Voldemort's wand, perhaps by Nagini instead.
- In the book, Frank is invited into the room and killed when he demands Voldemort to show himself. In the film, Voldemort does not tell Wormtail to beckon Frank, but tells him to stand aside and merely kills Bryce on the spot where he was standing.
- In the film, Frank has only one line of spoken dialogue: "Bloody kids!". He also screams in fear before his death.
- Frank Bryce's role in the story is replaced by a milkman in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Mentioned as "old Muggle man")
- Wizarding World
Notes and references
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 1 (The Riddle House)
- Harry left for the Weasleys' fourteen days (two weeks) before 1 September; this was 17 August. However, Bryce was murdered the day before Harry left - the 16th.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 2 (The Scar)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 34 (Priori Incantatem)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36 (The Flaw in the Plan)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4