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"Hissy, hissy, little snakey,
Slither on the floor
You be good to Morfin
Or he'll nail you to the door.
"
—Morfin Gaunt speaking in Parseltongue[src]

Morfin Gaunt (c. 1900 – pre 1996) was a pure-blood wizard descended from Salazar Slytherin. He was the son of Marvolo Gaunt, brother of Merope Gaunt, and uncle of Tom Marvolo Riddle, also known as Lord Voldemort. He believed strongly in pure-blood supremacy and had an intense hatred toward Muggles.

He hexed Tom Riddle Snr (a Muggle who lived near his home in Little Hangleton) with painful hives because his sister was infatuated with him. After this attack his recklessness and disregard for wizarding law attracted the attention of Ministry of Magic officials, who sent Bob Ogden to speak with him. After a fight where he and his father assaulted a Ministry investigator, Morfin was imprisoned in Azkaban for three years. When he returned home his father and sister had already died.

In 1943 Morfin met his nephew, who murdered his paternal family and then altered Morfin's memory so that he believed he was the murderer and that he was proud of it. Morfin died in Azkaban, but not before Albus Dumbledore learned the truth about the Riddle murders.

Biography

Early life

"The son's quite mad, you should hear some of the stories they tell in the village —"
Tom Riddle Snr's opinion of Morfin[src]

Morfin lived with his father and sister in a shack near Little Hangleton. Generations of inbreeding in the House of Gaunt caused a defect in Morfin, rendering him mentally deranged and violent. He almost exclusively spoke in Parseltongue and frequently terrorised Muggles, including Tom Riddle Snr after Morfin noticed his sister watching him with interest. He, like his father, was abusive toward Merope.[3]

First imprisonment

"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... Hanging out of the window waiting for him to ride home, wasn't she? But I got him, Father! I got him as he went by and he didn't look so pretty with hives all over him, did he, Merope?"
—Morfin regarding his sister's infatuation with Tom Riddle Snr[src]
Morfin Gaunt in Azkaban

Morfin Gaunt during his imprisonment in Azkaban

Morfin's violent behaviour eventually led to the Ministry of Magic pressing charges against him; in particular for causing Tom Riddle Snr, a Muggle, to erupt with hives. Bob Ogden, head of the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol, was sent to summon Morfin to a hearing. Morfin greeted the wizard with his wand in one hand and a knife in the other, hissing in Parseltongue that he was not welcome. Ogden failed to understand until Marvolo appeared and restrained his son. Taking the discussion inside, Ogden explained that Morfin was summoned to a hearing on the 14th of September, but trailed off upon hearing Tom Riddle Snr and his companion Cecilia pass by, criticising the deplorable state of the Gaunt shack. Morfin almost rose from his chair with the presumed intention to attack Riddle again, but was restrained by his father.

Morfin then told his father in Parseltongue that his sister was infatuated with Riddle, causing Marvolo to start to strangle Merope, ignorant of the fact that a law enforcement officer was in his very house. Ogden used a Revulsion Jinx to separate them and Morfin reacted by firing spells at the Ministry official, including a jinx that caused yellow pus to flow from Ogden's nose. Ogden fled, then returned to the Gaunt residence with several wizards, who successfully restrained both Morfin and Marvolo, placing both under arrest. The Gaunt men were sent to the Wizengamot to stand trial, whereupon Marvolo was found guilty of abusive behaviour to his daughter and obstruction of justice. Morfin was found guilty of using a hive spell on a Muggle, resisting arrest, assaulting a Magical Law Enforcmeent Officer, as well as all the earlier crimes that were outstanding. In mid-to-late 1925, Morfin was sentenced to three years in Azkaban and his father Marvolo received a six-month sentence.[4]

While they were incarcerated, Merope married Tom Riddle, probably by using either the Imperius Curse or a Love Potion on him. She died soon after giving birth to a son, Tom Marvolo Riddle. Marvolo returned from prison to an empty house and died before his son was released from Azkaban.[3] When Morfin finally returned, he found his father dead, and learned that his sister has left the shack only to be abandoned in London by Tom Riddle. He, therefore, became the last heir to the Gaunt family and inherited the shack and the family signet ring, their last heirloom.

Over the years, Morfin lived in a much more deplorable state than ever, as Merope was no longer there to clean the house. Morfin let his hair grow to extreme lengths, seldom combing or styling it. He also rarely (if ever) cleaned his house, thus leaving the Gaunt residence in a state of extreme filth and squalor, with thick layers of dust and grime covering the place, and all the pots and utensils rusted through. Morfin's house was known for being poorly kept, filled with mould, clutter, and stale, half-eaten food which Morfin would take a long time (if ever) to dispose of. Despite the squalor of the Gaunt shack, Morfin had been more self-sufficient than his father. He had managed to care for himself (albeit rather haphazardly), and presumably found a source of income to earn a living, as there was no record of Morfin being in serious delinquency with Gringott's or like wizarding financial institution. With Merope's desertion, Morfin's opinion for her deteriorated further, as he insulted her for "marrying filth", and believed she deserved to be abandoned by her husband.

Second imprisonment and death

"Whatever Morfin Gaunt was, he did not deserve to die as he did; blamed for a crime he didn't commit."
Albus Dumbledore on Morfin's death[src]
HBP chapter 17 BW

Morfin's first and last meeting with his nephew.

Morfin's teenage nephew came to Little Hangleton to learn about his family in the summer of 1943, and was far from impressed when he saw Morfin's living conditions. He met Morfin, who thought that this stranger looked "mighty like that Muggle", referring to the elder Tom Riddle. He told him an incomplete story of what transpired between the man and Merope, which infuriated Riddle Jr to the point of seeking revenge. After stunning Morfin, Tom went to Riddle's home and murdered his father, grandfather, and grandmother with the Killing Curse, using Morfin's wand. He covered up his crimes by altering Morfin's memory, causing him to believe he was the killer.

When the Ministry of Magic investigated the crime, Morfin freely bragged and admitted to it and was sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban. They checked Morfin's wand to see what its last spell was, and saw that it was the Killing Curse. Coupled with a straightforward confession and a criminal record, the Ministry did not bother to delve into any possibility of someone trying to frame Morfin.

Before leaving, Tom also took the family signet ring from Morfin and wore it like a trophy at Hogwarts, which led Morfin to lament how his father would kill him for losing the ring for the rest of his life. It was eventually turned into one of Tom's Horcruxes and returned to the shack from where it was taken.

Albus Dumbledore sought Morfin out in prison, and, due to the difficultly of extracting the true memory of his meeting with his nephew, determined that his memory had been tampered with. Dumbledore immediately used the true memory to appeal for Morfin's release from Azkaban. Unfortunately, by that point Morfin was weakened to such an extent that he died before he could be exonerated. With no family network to claim his earthly remains, the Minstry simply had the Dementors bury Morfin's corpse beside the fortress alongside the other prisoners who expired within its walls.[3]

Postmortem

Despite all of Morfin's faults, Dumbledore was among the few who believed that he did not deserved to die as he did, framed for a crime he did not commit, and paying with his life for what Voldemort did. When Morfin's fate was noted to Harry Potter, Harry himself was enraged at the Ministry's sloppy protocols, believing they had wrongfully condemned Morfin to an undeserved end.

Morfin's injustice would ultimately be avenged when Harry defeated Voldemort in the Battle of Hogwarts, where Voldemort's own Killing Curse rebounded and killed him. However, prior to his death, Voldemort sired a daughter, Delphini, with his loyal servant Bellatrix Lestrange, posthumously giving Morfin a grandniece.

Physical description

"The man standing before them had thick hair so matted with dirt it could have been any colour. Several of his teeth were missing. His eyes were small and dark and stared in opposite directions."
—A negitive impression of Morfin[src]

Morfin was described as having thick hair matted with dirt, missing teeth, and small dark eyes that stared in opposite directions, the latter suggesting signs of strabismus. Harry Potter thought such an appearance could be humourous, but instead Morfin looked frighteningly deranged.[3]

Upon meeting Bob Ogden, a Ministry of Magic representative, Morfin brandished both a wand in one hand and a short, bloody knife in the other. After his sister's departure and father's demise, Morfin eventually let his hair and beard grow so long that it covered his eyes and mouth. He wore the family signet ring on his right ring finger until his nephew took it.

Personality and traits

Generations of inbreeding in the Gaunt family caused numerous defects within Morfin, rendering him an overall violent and deranged individual. Morfin shared the same ideology with his father and liked to torture and hex Muggles, without caring about the law, the community, or anyone else, except for his father, whom he respected, because they were both violent and pure-blood supremacists. As Merope was a blood traitor, Morfin was very disrespectful and abusive to her. After her departure from the shack, he brutally insulted her and called her a thief for stealing the locket heirloom. Furthermore, Morfin was sadistic, as he liked to torture snakes, nailing them to the door, despite his ancestor's affinity towards them. At least one snake of his suffered this fate and he threatened a second with it.

The Gaunt residence degraded into further squalor when Morfin lived by himself. Morfin had been dependent on Merope to care for the house, albeit not to the extent his father had been. After his sister's death, Morfin had no choice but to be the new housekeeper, although he did a very poor job at it as his home was filled with clutter, mould, and half-eaten food that he took a long time to motivate himself to dispose of some of the mess. Morfin, being a social outcast from the wizarding world, presumably did not throw many parties at his home nor have many guests, and as such felt little need to keep up appearances. One of his few guests, Tom Riddle, was disgusted by Morfin's slovenly appearance. Riddle had not anticipated meeting a vulgar slob when he met the Gaunt patriarch, his image of the heads of pure-blood families being akin to the likes of their ancestor or the House of Black.

Ironically, Riddle's framing of his uncle caused the extinction of the pure-blood House of Gaunt. Morfin's subsequent imprisonment ruined any idea of the final patriarch of the Gaunts continuing the bloodline. Admittedly, Morfin would have probably been the last patriarch even if he lived a free man. Morfin's penury, as well as his vulgar attitude, violent disposition and slovenly personal appearance, did not make him a very desirable catch to witches looking for husbands, and Morfin's pure-blood supremacist views limited his own pool of potential mates considerably.

Having his memory modified by his nephew, Morfin came to be proud of committing murder and allowed himself to be incarcerated without a struggle as he once had against Ogden. His only regret was the loss of his father's final heirloom, which caused Morfin's leftover sanity to slip away as he would spend the rest of his life muttering how his father would kill him for losing the ring.

Magical abilities and skills

"There was a loud bang, and Ogden was on the ground, clutching his nose, while a nasty yellowish goo squirted from between his fingers."
—Morfin non-verbally hexes Ogden[src]
"Darling" whispered Morfin in Parseltongue"
—Morfin speaking to his sister[src]
  • Parseltongue: As with the rest of his family (His ancestor, father, sister and nephew), Morfin inherited the magical ability to speak to snakes from their ancestor. Morfin was very proficient with the language, enough to communicate with his family with it.
  • Duelling: Morfin had some notable skill in duelling and in martial magic. His quick flurry of hexes was enough to send Bob Ogden running for his life, and later was responsible for injuring some of the reinforcements who Ogden brought back soon after. He was however unable to defend himself against his nephew when the latter stunned him as part of his frame up.
  • Nonverbal magic: Morfin was furthermore highly proficient at casting many spells non-verbally, a skill which is particularly difficult and complex to master. He was in particular capable of casting many of his foul hexes and jinxes non-verbally, such as when he cursed Tom Riddle Senior or when he cast numerous hexes at Bog Ogden, both times without saying any incantations. This implies that Morfin was in fact a highly skilled and powerful wizard because of his expertise and talent in non-verbal spell-casting, despite his deeply malicious and hateful personality.

Possessions

  • Wand: Morfin wielded a wand of unknown core, wood type and length. He used it mainly to terrorise his muggle neighbors. It was briefly confiscated when he was sentenced to three years in Azkaban, after which it was returned to him. His nephew "borrowed" the wand to kill the Riddles, which incriminated Morfin. Upon his life sentence to Azkaban, the wand was permanently confiscated, and most likely buried with him upon his death.
  • Knife: Morfin wielded a knife in conjunction with his wand, usually in a threatening manner against people he dislikes.
  • Gaunt Shack: Once Marvolo has died, Morfin inherited the family's shack, which he took extremely poor care of, allowing a very unhealthy mess to accumulate. When Morfin was sentenced to life in Azkaban and died there, the shack was left abandoned until his nephew used it to hide his Horcrux.
  • Family signet ring: Along with the shack, Morfin inherited the family signet ring from his father, which was passed down through generations, starting from Cadmus Peverell. Morfin wore it on his right ring finger, until his nephew took it from him. The loss of this final heirloom led Morfin to insanely lament for the rest of his life how his father would kill him for it. Voldemort would eventually transform this ring as his second Horcrux, and return it to the very shack it was taken as a hiding place. Albus Dumbledore found the ring and eventually destroyed it, and Harry Potter left the stone within the ring somewhere in the Forbidden Forest. In his entire time of wielding the ring, Morfin never knew of it's status as one of the three Deathly Hallows, specifically the Resurrection Stone.

Relationships

Family

"Dishonoured us, she did, that little slut!"
—Morfin in regards to his sister[src]

Morfin's relationship with his family was mixed. He seemed to tolerate and maintain a tenuous relationship with his father. Morfin was very loyal to Marvolo and the family ideals about blood purity as they were both pure-blood supremacists and Marvolo was gentle enough to converse with his son in Parseltongue. He also protected his father when Bob Ogden fired a Revulsion Jinx at Marvolo to stop him from strangling Merope. However, had Marvolo been alive when Morfin lost his father's heirloom ring, their relationship would most likely have turned into a strained one, to say the least. Even though his father had died, Morfin still continued to lament how his father would kill him for losing the ring; of course, with Morfin's mental instability, this could have contributed to the delusional state he became in Azkaban. Nothing is known about Morfin's relationship with his mother since she is never seen or mentioned.

Morfin, on the other hand, was physically and verbally abusive towards his sister, Merope like his father was. He would enjoy seeing her being abused by their father and even mocked her romantic feelings of Tom Riddle Snr when he noticed her watching him. He also laughed when Marvolo tried to attack her when he revealed that she was in love with the Muggle who lived on the hill over their village when Bob Ogden visited. After Morfin was imprisoned in Azkaban, Merope was very pleased to be free from her abusers. While incarcerated during his three-year sentence, his sister married Riddle Snr, but Tom later left her while pregnant with their only child. Morfin even said that Riddle Snr leaving Merope served her right for 'marrying filth' and robbing them of Salazar Slytherin's locket, and called her a "little slut" who dishonoured him and Marvolo.

Tom Riddle Snr.

"Ar, he left her, and serves her right, marrying filth!"
—Morfin talking about his sister and her Muggle husband[src]

It is unknown if Morfin had met Tom Riddle Snr in person, but it is known that Morfin watched him from a far distance before he hexed him because he noticed his sister romantically looking at him. He most likely hated him even more when he found out that the two had gotten married. Because Morfin joined his father in teasing his sister about being a likely Squib, he probably did not know she had the competence to enchant Thomas Riddle. Despite his hatred for Riddle, Morfin was in agreement that Tom Riddle did the right thing in leaving Merope, albeit with a sense of schadenfreude as he caused heartbreak to Merope. Many years later, Morfin was framed for murder by his nephew by causing him to believe he killed his brother-in-law and his parents; Morfin's memory was modified to make him feel proud of the action.

Tom Marvolo Riddle

Tom riddle cos2

Tom Marvolo Riddle, later to become Lord Voldemort, his half-blood nephew

Morfin's relationship with his nephew, Tom Riddle is unknown. They did not know each other well since Riddle had spent his life in a Muggle orphanage and Morfin most likely never knew about his sister's pregnancy nor made any effort to claim guardianship of his sole blood relative. Riddle didn't care about Morfin and deliberately framed him for murdering the Riddle family. Tom's disdain for his uncle Morfin may have been disgust at his squalor or disdain that he never tried to raise him (akin to his father's ignorance), or a combination of both. By taking Marvolo Gaunt's Ring from Morfin, he rendered his uncle to become depressed with losing the last family heirloom for the rest of his life.

In the summer of 1943, Morfin seemed to not know that he had encountered his half-blood nephew (the son of his 'blood traitor sister' and the 'filthy Muggle' he attacked 18 years earlier). At the moment he saw Riddle, he thought it was Tom Riddle Snr but then realised it wasn't because he suddenly started speaking Parseltongue. Although Gaunt answered Riddle's questions, he got rather annoyed that the boy even would walk in to start asking such things. After having his memory modified by his nephew, Morfin did not remember anything from the night before and was wrongfully convicted by the Ministry of Magic for the murder of Tom Riddle Snr and his parents. It could be surmised that after Albus Dumbledore discovered the truth and reinstated Morfin's proper memory of the Riddle murders, did Morfin Gaunt realise he had come into contact, and been tragically deceived, by his sister's only son. It's unknown if Morfin lived long enough to see that his nephew grew up to be Lord Voldemort, or if he would've known them to be the same person.

It's also quite possible that it was indeed Riddle's intent to put an end to the House of Gaunt. Disgusted by the vulgar appearance of Morfin, Riddle could have been motivated to finish this "disgrace" connected with Salazar Slytherin, so that Riddle himself would carry on the Slytherin legacy alone.

Etymology

  • The name Morfin is a variaton of "Morfey", an Anglo-French surname meaning "ill-omened," or "ill-fated". This could be a reference to either Morfin being "fated" to die for crimes that he did not commit, or how he was effectively the end of the House of Gaunt.
  • Morfin could also come from a variation on Morpheus, the Greek god of rest and dreams, from which the word morphine, a powerful drug administered to people undergoing major surgery to dull pain, dervies. In a sense of irony, Morfin's life was the antithesis of that name, being one of constant physical and emotional pain, partly of his own doing, but chiefly due to being bamboozled by his own nephew.

Behind the scenes

  • Morfin and his family and even his memory of his encounter with his nephew were omitted from the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. His entire backstory was ultimately cut from the film series, where Albus Dumbledore describe his ring as being Merope's.

Appearances

Notes and references

  1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 10 (The House of Gaunt) - "His eyes were small and dark and stared in opposite directions."
  2. Pottermore
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  4. While her brother and father are incarcerated, Merope Gaunt married Tom Riddle and gave birth to their son ("But not until a year after they were married." HBP Ch. 10) on 31 December 1926. As Marvolo returns to an empty house after six months in Azkaban, the earliest date of sentencing is around July 1925 and the latest is around December 1925.


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