"He…was left in squalor and poverty, with a very nasty temper, a fantastic amount of arrogance and pride, and a couple of family heirlooms that he treasured just as much as his son, and rather more than his daughter."
Albus Dumbledore on Marvolo Gaunt[src]

Marvolo Gaunt (fl. 1925) was a pure-blood wizard of the House of Gaunt and descendant of Salazar Slytherin. He was the maternal grandfather of Tom Marvolo Riddle, later known as Lord Voldemort, through his daughter Merope. Violent and bigoted, Marvolo died soon after being released from Azkaban, where he was briefly imprisoned for assaulting Ministry personnel.[1] He was also the owner of a large golden ring and Salazar Slytherin's Locket, both of which he prized as heirlooms of his pure-blood heritage.


Early life

"Salazar Slytherin's! We're his last living descendants, what do you say to that, eh? Don't you go talking to us as if we're dirt on your shoes! Generations of pure-bloods, wizards all — more than you can say, I don't doubt!"
—Marvolo to Bob Ogden[src]
Marvolo Gaunt's Ring

Marvolo Gaunt's ring

Marvolo was born into the pure-blood House of Gaunt; his son Morfin, and his daughter Merope Gaunt were the last descendants of Salazar Slytherin. Centuries of inbreeding caused poverty and a vein of instability and violence to flourish in the family. "This lack of sense coupled with a great liking for grandeur meant that the family gold was squandered several generations before Marvolo was born." As such, he and his children lived in poverty in a ruined cottage near Little Hangleton. There is no mention of Marvolo's wife, although it is likely that she was a cousin due to their family's inbreeding practice, and had either died or left him due to his squalor and violent behaviour.

Marvolo usually spent his time brandishing family heirlooms, including: A locket, a ring which he praised as much as anything, even his children. Marvolo had a loyal relationship with Morfin since they both shared some similarities, including belief in blood purity, being violent and being abusive towards Merope. Unlike his relationship with Morfin, Marvolo hated his daughter, whom he called a Squib as a slur since she could not perform magic correctly. In all probability this was due to the abuse she received from her father and brother; Marvolo frequently abused her while Morfin watched and laughed.


Marvolo Gaunt: "Should've made your presence known, shouldn't you? This is private property. Can't just walk in here and not expect my son to defend himself?"
Bob Ogden: "Defend himself against what, man?"
Marvolo Gaunt: "Busybodies. Intruders. Muggles and filth."
— Marvolo Gaunt shows his prejudiced, bigoted nature in a conversation with Bob Ogden[src]

Morfin, being mentally deranged and having little regard for secrecy, frequently used magic in front of, and upon, Muggles, with his father approving of his actions. This inevitably brought him into conflict with the Ministry of Magic. When the Head of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad, Bob Ogden, visited the Gaunts to address the issue, they resisted violently, with Marvolo justifying Morfin's actions and resistant to Ogden's calm attempts at discussion. Just as Ogden rose to leave, Morfin ruthlessly revealed that Merope had a romantic admiration for the Muggle he had attacked: Tom Riddle Sr. Marvolo became absolutely infuriated (seeing as they were purebloods and only associated with their kind) and attacked his "filthy little blood traitor" daughter, though Ogden stopped him from strangling her by using a Revulsion Jinx.[1]

Morfin in turn defended his father from further attacks by firing a storm of jinxes towards Ogden, leading him to run for his life. Ogden Apparated back to the Ministry and returned with reinforcements within fifteen minutes. Marvolo and Morfin attempted to fight, though were both overpowered and removed from the cottage. Both men were brought before the Wizengamot and sent to Azkaban, with Morfin receiving a three-year sentence, and Marvolo, because he injured several Ministry personnel, received six months.[1]


Morfin Gaunt: "She likes looking at that Muggle. Always in the garden when he passes, peering through the hedge at him, isn’t she? And last night —"
Marvolo Gaunt: "Is it true? My daughter — pure-blooded descendant of Salazar Slytherin — hankering after a filthy, dirt-veined Muggle?"
— the Gaunts discussing Merope’s infatuation with Tom Riddle Sr.[src]

Merope, once Marvolo and Morfin were safely in prison, found herself alone and free for the first time in her life, and her magical abilities, which were suppressed by years of torment from her father and brother, flourished. She took the opportunity to escape from the desperate life she had led. Using a Love Potion, Merope seduced and married Tom Riddle Sr..

After his time in prison, Marvolo returned to the cottage, arrogantly and foolishly expecting Merope to have dutifully awaited his return and be waiting with a hot meal ready on his table. Instead, he found the shack empty and abandoned, a clear inch of dust covering the inside. He also found Merope's note of farewell explaining what she had done.

Marvolo's shock was so great that he never mentioned her name or existence from that time forth. The shock of Merope's desertion was so great that it led to his early death. Other factors included him being greatly weakened by his time in prison, and he possibly never learned to feed himself. Marvolo did not live to see Morfin return to the cottage.[1]


Marvolo's prized signet ring was passed onto Morfin. Marvolo's name was used for his grandson's middle name — Tom Marvolo Riddle — who was born through Merope and Riddle Sr.. Tom Riddle would become better known as Lord Voldemort, the most dangerous Dark Wizard in history. Sixteen years later, Tom would seek out the shack for Marvolo to confirm his pure-blood heritage, only to find out the patriarch of the Gaunt family has passed away. Riddle ended up stealing Marvolo's ring from Morfin and turning it into a Horcrux.

Physical appearance

"An elderly man had come hurrying out of the cottage, banging the door behind him so that the dead snake swung pathetically. This man was shorter than the first, and oddly proportioned; his shoulders were very broad and his arms overlong, which, with bright brown eyes, short scrubby hair, and wrinkled face, gave him the look of a powerful, aged monkey"
Harry Potter's impression of Marvolo Gaunt when he sees him in Bob Ogden's memory in the Pensieve[src]

Marvolo is described as being shorter than his son, though oddly proportioned; his shoulders were very broad and his arms rather long for his body type. This, along with his bright brown eyes, short scrubby hair, and wrinkled face, made him look like a powerful, aged monkey like his ancestor, Salazar Slytherin.[1]

Personality and traits

"Marvolo Gaunt was an ignorant old git who lived like a pig, all he cared about was his far as he was concerned, having pure blood made you practically royal."
Harry Potter in 1998[src]

A violent, arrogant man, due to both genetics and his Gaunt upbringing, Marvolo placed the utmost importance on his heritage, leading him to be derisive of his daughter's seeming lack of magical ability and furious with her infatuation with a Muggle. He was cruel and bigoted, calling Bob Ogden a Mudblood, without actually knowing his blood status, and completely indifferent to the Ministry's authority. His violence has led him to the point of being murderously unloving towards his daughter, though he respected his son enough to have a fair conversation with him. His hate for his daughter rendered him to treat her nothing short of a slave, and refused to acknowledge her existence ever again when she betrayed their clan, which may be one of the contributions that led to Marvolo's death. Another possibility is Marvolo simply never learning to feed himself, making him completely reliant on Merope to survive, despite his hatred towards her. According to Dumbledore, Marvolo cherished his family heirlooms as much as his son, and more than his daughter.[1]

Magical abilities and skills

"Get in the house. Don't argue."
—Marvolo speaking to Morfin in Parseltongue[src]

Parselmouth: Like his ancestor, son, daughter and grandson, Marvolo had the ability to speak to snakes from their ancestor and even communicated with his children that way.

Martial Magic: It is said that he injured some of the Ministry wizards that Bob Ogden brought back with him leading to his arrest.



Marvolo's relationship with his children was terrible. He seemed to tolerate and maintain a tenuous relationship with his son Morfin, who was furiously loyal to Marvolo and his family's ideals, while just as unstable and violent. On the other hand, Marvolo seemed to have no care whatsoever for his daughter Merope, whom he derided as being a Squib and expected to do all the cooking and cleaning. He and Morfin were both emotionally and physically abusive towards Merope, to the point of actually attempting to murder her in front of a Ministry official. Marvolo also conversed with his children in Parseltongue.[1]

Marvolo never saw Merope again after he was imprisoned since she abandoned the shack for good, which led to her father to never speak of her existence again either. Despite genuinely hating Merope to the point of attempting to execute her for her crimes against the family's belief, Albus Dumbledore speculated that her abandonment was what contributed to Marvolo's early death, either due to the shock or that he never learned how to feed himself (as he had foolishly believed that Merope would be dutifully wait for his return from prison with a hot meal on the table). This shows that he is at least dependent on her for survival. Marvolo never saw Morfin again either after being released from Azkaban since Marvolo died before his son's sentence was complete; his family signet ring, the last heirloom, was left for Morfin to wear.

Tom Riddle Sr.

It is unknown if Marvolo and Tom Riddle Sr. had met in person, but it is known that Marvolo despised him very much. When Morfin revealed that Merope was in love with him, Marvolo became furious and angry since he was a pure-blood supremacist and didn't want any non-pure bloods into his family lineage. Marvolo presumably considered him more disgusting when he found out that Merope had run off witth him after being released from his 6-month sentence in Azkaban. Riddle Sr. also seemed to be one of the causes of Marvolo's death, because since Merope left the house, Marvolo was unable to take care of himself or because of his shock of a pure-blood/Muggle romance and he died.

Tom Marvolo Riddle/Lord Voldemort

Tom Riddle: "Where is Marvolo?"
Morfin Gaunt: "Dead. Died years ago, didn't he?"
— Morfin informs the young Tom Riddle that Marvolo is dead[src]

Marvolo had never met his grandson, Tom Riddle since he had died by the time Voldemort was born. But in the summer of 1943, when Voldemort set off to find his Gaunt relatives, using his middle name to connect to the family, and he expected to find Marvolo but instead found only Morfin. The deteriorating condition of the household had deeply disappointed the young Tom.


  • The name Marvolo may be derived from Malvolio, which loosely translates into "ill will" in Latin. It is also the name of a character from William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Malvolio is a Puritan who despises all kinds of fun and games, perhaps alluding to Marvolo's extreme prejudice and cruelty.
  • The word gaunt is defined as "haggard, drawn and emaciated" and "bleak, desolate".[2]

Behind the scenes

  • The name "Marvolo" changes in some translations so that the "TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE" anagram can translate.
  • The flashback of Marvolo Gaunt that Dumbledore shows Harry does not appear in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, likely for timing restrictions. However, it was included in the original draft of the script.
  • In the sixth film, Marvolo's ring is said by Albus Dumbledore to have belonged to his daughter, but in a deleted scene of the next movie, the ring is said by Harry to have belonged to Marvolo and the locket to Merope.


Notes and references

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