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"Voldemort Stupefied his uncle, took his wand, and proceeded across the valley to 'the big house over the way'. There he murdered the Muggle man who had abandoned his witch mother, and, for good measure, his Muggle grandparents, thus obliterating the last of the unworthy Riddle line and revenging himself upon the father who never wanted him."
— Description of the Riddle murders[src]

The murder of the Riddle family was committed by the future Lord Voldemort in 1943, when Riddle ventured to his parents' hometown of Little Hangleton in order to learn more about his heritage. When Riddle learned from his maternal uncle Morfin Gaunt that the former's father was a Muggle, the younger Riddle proceeded to the Riddle House. Once in the house, he murdered his father, paternal grandfather, and grandmother with the Killing Curse.[1]

The next morning, the rest of the villagers were genuinely stunned by the murders, despite their general disgust with the Riddle family. The local police were baffled by the murders, though Frank Bryce was initially blamed.[3] The Ministry of Magic, however, immediately recognised that the crime had been committed by a wizard, but arrested Morfin Gaunt, who had a history of magically tormenting Muggles for his own amusement, for the crimes.[1]

These murders turned out to be a pivotal event in wizarding history, as this was the first known act of multiple murder that Riddle had committed. In addition, the deaths of the elder generations of the Riddle family would become the prelude of the anti-Muggle campaign that the youngest Riddle would lead as Lord Voldemort.

Finally, this would lead to the creation of his second Horcrux.[2]



"All he had to go upon was the single name 'Marvolo', which he knew from those who ran the orphanage had been his mother's father's name. Finally, after painstaking research, through old books of Wizarding families, he discovered the existence of Slytherin's surviving line. In the summer of his sixteenth year, he left the orphanage to which he returned annually and set off to find his Gaunt relatives."
— Voldemort's quest to find his relatives[src]
Gaunt riddle

Merope Gaunt staring longingly at Tom Riddle Snr

Around 1925, Merope Gaunt, the mother of the younger Tom Riddle began to have romantic feelings for a man named Tom Riddle Senior, a Muggle who lived across town in the Riddle House. When Merope's father and brother discovered this, Morfin cursed Riddle with hives to make him less appealing to his (Morfin's) sister. Marvolo reacted by proceeding to choke his daughter for her lack of allegiance to the Gaunt family's beliefs about Muggles.[4]

For these and other crimes, the Gaunt men were arrested by the Ministry and were sentenced to Azkaban. Afterwards, Merope seduced Riddle with either the Imperius Curse or a Love Potion and married him. Both the Riddle and Gaunt families' reactions varied: The Riddles were uneasy with the fact that their son married a "tramp's daughter" while the Gaunts refused to acknowledge her existence ever again. Marvolo's shock, after he was released from Azkaban, was so great that it contributed to his death, or perhaps he simply never learned to feed himself. Morfin, after his own release, declared that his sister had disgraced the Gaunt name.

When Merope became pregnant with their son, she ceased giving the elder Riddle the enchantments out of a vain belief that Tom would genuinely love her. Upon regaining his free will, however, the elder Riddle abandoned his pregnant wife and returned to his family home.[4] Merope, however, managed to find Wool's Orphanage, where she gave birth to their son. Shortly thereafter, Merope died, due to the heartbreak of her husband's abandonment.[5]

The younger Riddle then spent the first eleven years of his life in the orphanage, completely unaware of the existence of the Wizarding world. In 1938, Riddle's future enemy Albus Dumbledore visited the orphanage to inform Riddle of the latter's acceptance into Hogwarts.[5] Immediately after this, Riddle became convinced that his father was a Wizard and that his mother was a Muggle out of the belief that the latter could not have died if she was a witch.[5]

Upon entering the school, Riddle became concerned about learning about his heritage. After learning of his descent from Hogwarts co-founder Salazar Slytherin, Riddle became interested in pure-blood supremacy and the Dark Arts. In particular, Riddle became obsessed with the creation of Horcruxes.[2] In addition, Riddle began painstaking research on his father's name before eventually accepting that he had never set foot in Hogwarts.

With only his middle name, "Marvolo", to go on, which he knew from the orphanage was his maternal grandfather's name, and after researching through an old book of wizarding families, Riddle learned of the surviving Gaunt line and in the summer of his sixteenth year, set out for Little Hangleton to find his relatives.[1] This would provide an unstable mixture for Riddle's adult personality and led to terrible events. It was around this time that Tom Marvolo Riddle gave himself the alias "Lord Voldemort" and begin to use it with his closest "friends", to spare himself of the reminder of his "filthy Muggle father".[6]


"Meanwhile, in the village of Little Hangleton, a maid was running along the High Street, screaming that there were three bodies lying in the drawing room of the big house: Tom Riddle Senior and his mother and father."
— After a maid found the bodies of the Riddle family[src]

Morfin Gaunt telling his nephew the truth about the latter's heritage

In the summer of 1943, Tom Riddle visited the village of Little Hangleton after tracing the source of his middle name. He first stopped at the Gaunt Shack, only to find his maternal uncle Morfin Gaunt, who had long been released from Azkaban. Morfin, upon seeing his nephew, threatened him with a knife and wand, believing the boy to be his father. Even though Riddle did not disclose his identity during this meeting, Riddle spoke Parseltongue to calm Morfin down.[1]

The two then discussed the whereabouts of Marvolo Gaunt (who had died years before), the elder Riddle, and Merope Gaunt. When Morfin revealed to Riddle that his (Riddle's) father was a Muggle, Riddle Stupefied his uncle and stole his wand and the Gaunt ring.[1]

Riddle then proceeded to the Riddle House and found his father, grandfather, and grandmother in the drawing room. It is unknown if there were any words exchanged with the Riddles, although Riddle would heavily imply it years later, but the youngest Riddle used his uncle's wand to cast the Killing Curse on his father and grandparents. Riddle then returned to the Gaunt Shack and altered Morfin's memory, causing Gaunt to believe himself to be the murderer, and returned the wand to the unconscious man, but took the family signet ring from Morfin before leaving.[1]


"You stand, Harry Potter, upon the remains of my late father. A Muggle and a fool... very like your dear mother. But they both had their uses, did they not? Your mother died to defend you as a child... and I killed my father, and see how useful he has proved himself in death..."
— Lord Voldemort on the murder of his father[src]

After the attack, the Riddles' maid ran across the town, screaming about the corpses of the Riddle family. The Muggle police were baffled about the deaths of the Riddles, since there were no visible signs of damage (from the Killing Curse) on any of the bodies. The only signs shown were the looks of horror on the lifeless faces of the family, leading to wonders of whether they were scared to death. The deaths of the Riddle family greatly shocked the other denizens of Little Hangleton, despite the fact that most of the villagers resented the Riddles for their arrogance and wealth.[3] The Riddles were later interned in the town cemetery.[7] Since it was unknown that Tom Riddle Senior had sired a son, the Riddle House was purchased by a succession of owners, none of whom ever physically occupied the House.[3]

In addition, the police at the nearby town suspected Frank Bryce, the Riddle family's gardener, of being the murderer. Bryce remembered seeing a "dark-haired and pale" teenage boy climbing the hill on the night of the murders, which the police did not believe at first. Even though the police dropped the charges due to lack of evidence, the cloud of suspicion hovered about Bryce for the rest of the life until he himself was murdered by the same teenage boy (by then known as Voldemort), decades later.[3]

However, the Ministry instantly deduced that a wizard must have murdered the Riddles. The Ministry's first suspect was Morfin Gaunt, who had cursed the younger Riddle nearly eighteen years before. Upon being interrogated, the Ministry did not bother to use Legilimency or Veritaserum. The reason why was that Morfin, still under the effects of a spell that created false memories, confessed himself to be the murderer, showing pride in "killing" the Riddles, and willingly allowed himself to be arrested, along with his wand having the record of casting the very Killing Curses that murdered the family. All that had bothered him was the fact that he lost his father's ring, which were said to be his last words. Morfin then spent the rest of his life locked up in Azkaban.[1] Meanwhile, Tom Riddle began to wear the Gaunt ring as a trophy around Hogwarts. He would later use the ring as one of his Horcruxes, using his father's murder as a prerequisite for splitting his soul, and hid it away in the Gaunt Shack.[2]

Little Hangleton graveyard Pottermore

Little Hangleton graveyard

Over half a century later, Riddle, by then known publicly as Lord Voldemort, returned to the Riddle House while being tended to by his servant Peter Pettigrew and while discussing the former's return. When Voldemort's plan came into fruition roughly a year later, Pettigrew used some of the bones of Tom Riddle Senior as part of an ancient potion that returned the Dark Lord to his former glory.[7] Immediately afterwards, Voldemort told Harry Potter, who was kidnapped as part of the same ritual, about how he had killed his own father and paternal grandparents.[8]

Sometime after Morfin's arrest, Albus Dumbledore, seeking information regarding to Voldemort and having learned of Merope Gaunt, realised Voldemort's uncle was the last living blood relative and managed to secure a visit to Azkaban in order to interrogate Morfin Gaunt. Upon discovering the true memory suppressed under the false one, Dumbledore realised that Morfin was wrongly charged, and used it as evidence for Morfin's release from Azkaban. However, before the Ministry could reach their decision, Morfin succumbed to his heavily weakened state from the gruelling prison and died.[1]

B4C32M1 Voldemort rises in Little Hangleton graveyard

Voldemort returning with the addition of Tom Riddle Snr's bones

Before the 1996–1997 school year, Dumbledore, while researching possible locations for Voldemort's Horcruxes, decided that a good hiding spot would be the abandoned Gaunt shack. Dumbledore was correct, as he had found the ring Horcrux, which also contained the Resurrection Stone. During the course of that year, Harry and Dumbledore discussed the Riddle family's murder and other areas about Voldemort's past in order to learn about the Horcruxes.[1] The Riddle family would ultimately be avenged for their murders decades later in the Battle of Hogwarts when their murderer was killed in combat by Harry Potter, whom had suffered a similar tragedy as the murder of the Riddles, when their murderer had also murdered his own parents.

While Riddle had committed these murders ultimately to erase the Riddle family from existence, he would engage in actions in his later life that would ironically result in the survival of the bloodline into the 21st century, ultimately reintroducing what he had hoped to eliminate. Through his lover Bellatrix Lestrange, Tom Riddle sired a child, Delphini, posthumously giving Mary and Thomas Riddle a great-granddaughter. Delphini was likely imprisoned in Azkaban for murdering Craig Bowker Junior and attempting to illegally alter reality with a Time-Turner.[9]


Notes and references[]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 17 (A Sluggish Memory)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 23 (Horcruxes)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 1 (The Riddle House)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 10 (The House of Gaunt)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 13 (The Secret Riddle)
  6. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 17 (The Heir of Slytherin)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 32 (Flesh, Blood and Bone)
  8. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 33 (The Death Eaters)
  9. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Act Three, Scene Twenty-one