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"Nobody wasted their breath pretending to feel very sad about the Riddles, for they had been most unpopular. Elderly Mr and Mrs Riddle had been rich, snobbish, and rude, and their grown-up son, Tom, had been, if anything, worse."
— Little Hangleton inhabitants regarding the Riddles and their murders[src]

Riddle was the surname of a wealthy Muggle family that lived in a manor house overlooking the village of Little Hangleton, of which they owned a great deal of. They lived fairly close to the wizarding House of Gaunt. They were murdered in 1943 by Tom Marvolo Riddle.

Family history[]

Riddle House Pottermore

Riddle House

The Riddle family was a very old Muggle family who had been established in the area around the Hangleton villages for quite some time. The family was very wealthy and owned much of the village of Little Hangleton, ruling over their lands from the handsome and large Riddle House. However, later members were known to be snobbish, arrogant and rude.

By 1943, the members of the Riddle family were generally disliked if not outright hated by the villagers that lived in the area. They were also hated by the members of the House of Gaunt, an ancient pure-blood wizarding family; the Gaunts loathed Muggles on principle, but the Riddles didn't endear themselves to the Gaunts by constantly mocking their poverty and mental instability.[1]

Tom and Merope elope[]

"The village of Little Hangleton enjoyed a tremendous scandal. You can imagine the gossip it caused when the squire's son ran off with the tramp's daughter, Merope."
— Explanation on how Merope was able to bewitch Tom Riddle[src]

Around 1925, Tom Riddle Snr had a possible lover by the name of Cecilia. Also around this time, Merope Gaunt began to have obsessive romantic feelings for him. When Morfin Gaunt discovered this, he cursed Tom with hives. He did this in order to make him less appealing to his sister, as well as the general hatred of Muggles that he had.[2]

Gaunt riddle

Merope Gaunt staring longingly at Tom Riddle

The Gaunt men were arrested by the Ministry and were sentenced to a period in Azkaban. Afterwards, Merope either dosed Tom with Love Potion or cast the Imperius Curse on him, thereby forcing him to marry her (Albus Dumbledore speculated that the former method was more likely). The scandal that erupted in the area was quite humiliating for the Riddles, though presumably delighted the villagers who despised them.

When Merope became pregnant, she ceased bewitching Tom, believing that he had come to genuinely love her, or would at least stay with her for the benefit of their child. Unfortunately, neither proved true; upon regaining his free will, Tom, having felt like he awoke from a nightmare, fled from Merope and returned to his family home. What reception he received was unknown, though his parents at least seemed to believe his tales that he'd been hoodwinked by Merope. Tom never spoke of the truthful circumstances for fear of being thought mad. Merope, alone in London, managed to find Wool's Orphanage, where she gave birth to a son. Shortly thereafter, Merope died due to childbirth complications, having lost the will to live. Before her death, she asked that the baby be named Tom Marvolo Riddle, for his father and grandfather.[2][3]

The younger Tom then spent the first eleven years of his life in the orphanage, completely unaware of the existence of the Wizarding world, although unusually aware of his magical ability for a child not born in it. In 1938, Riddle's future enemy Albus Dumbledore visited the orphanage to inform Riddle of the latter's acceptance into Hogwarts. 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.[3]

Upon entering the school, Riddle became concerned with learning about his heritage and began painstaking research on his father's name before eventually realising that he had never set foot in Hogwarts. After being forced to accept that his father was a Muggle and his mother a witch, Voldemort began to detest his given name. With only his middle name "Marvolo" to go on, which he knew from the orphanage was his maternal grandfather's name, Tom began researching through old book of wizarding families and learned of the surviving Gaunt line. 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 immortality and the creation of Horcruxes. In the summer of his sixteenth year, set out for Little Hangleton to find his relatives.

This would provide an unstable mixture for Riddle's adult personality and led to terrible events that would shape the history of the wizarding world for decades to come.[3][4]

Family's murder[]

"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."
— A maid finds the bodies of the Riddle family[src]

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, finding 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. Riddle did not disclose his identity during this meeting, but spoke Parseltongue to convince Morfin that he was not a Muggle. 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 who Riddle's paternal family was, Riddle Stupefied his uncle and stole his wand and the Gaunt ring.

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, 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. He confessed as much to the investigating Ministry, who did not bother to investigate further since Morfin had a previous history of assaulting Muggles, including the late Tom, and Morfin's wand had committed the murders. Morfin was carted off to serve a life sentence in Azkaban.


"A team of doctors had examined the bodies and had concluded that none of the Riddles had been poisoned, stabbed, shot, strangled, suffocated, or (as far as they could tell) harmed at all. In fact (the report continued, in a tone of unmistakable bewilderment), the Riddles all appeared to be in perfect health — apart from the fact that they were all dead. The doctors did note (as though determined to find something wrong with the bodies) that each of the Riddles had a look of terror upon his or her face — but as the frustrated police said, whoever heard of three people being frightened to death?"
— Muggles commenting on the unusual deaths of the Riddles[src]
Little Hangleton graveyard Pottermore

Little Hangleton graveyard, where the Riddles were laid to rest

The murdered Riddles were discovered the next day by a maid in their employ, who ran screaming from the premises and roused the entire village. The Riddle gardener and subsequent caretaker, Frank Bryce, was accused of the murders since the house showed no sign of forced entry and he was the only one with a key. However, the postmortem on the Riddles was unable to determine the cause of death (the Killing Curse leaving no discernible effect) and the police were forced to release Frank, though the villagers remained convinced of his guilt from then on. As for the Riddles themselves, they were laid to rest in the Little Hangleton graveyard, though nobody bothered to even feign sadness at their demise since they had been most unpopular, and the Riddle House was passed through a succession of ownerships before being abandoned, the murders having left a stain on the property's history.[4]

Tom Marvolo Riddle soon abandoned the name of his "filthy Muggle father", instead using an anagram to declare himself Lord Voldemort.[5] Although Lord Voldemort died in the Battle of Hogwarts in 1998, he managed to sire a daughter, Delphini, with his loyal servant Bellatrix Lestrange, thus allowing the Riddle, Slytherin and Gaunt families to survive. Delphini is currently entombed in Azkaban for her crimes of murder and attempting to illegally alter timelines. This ensures the continuation of the Riddle family in the female line, at least.

Family members[]

Person Birth/death Notes
Thomas Riddle 1880-1943 Mary Riddle's Muggle husband and Tom Riddle Snr's father. Murdered by his grandson in 1943.
Mary Riddle 1883-1943 The Muggle wife of Thomas Riddle and the mother of Tom Riddle Snr. Murdered by her grandson in 1943.
Tom Riddle Snr 1905-1943 The Muggle son of Thomas and Mary Riddle. He was married to a witch, Merope Gaunt, under the influence of a Love Potion. He had a son, who murdered him in 1943.
Merope Riddle (née Gaunt) 1907-31 December, 1926 The abandoned pure-blood wife of Tom Riddle Snr, whom she married because Tom was under the effects of a Love Potion. She died during childbirth on New Year's Eve in 1926.
Tom Marvolo Riddle 31 December, 1926-2 May, 1998 The half-blood son of Tom Riddle Snr and Merope Gaunt. He later became the most feared Dark Wizard in history under the pseudonym of Lord Voldemort. Died in his final duel with Harry Potter in 1998.
Delphini 1998- The secret child of Lord Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange. She later plotted to change history but was stopped by Harry Potter and his son Albus and was sent to Azkaban for her crimes.

Riddle family tree[]

Peverell family
Slytherin family
Cadmus Peverell
(fl. 1214)
Salazar Slytherin
(fl. 993)
(many generations)
House of Gaunt
(many generations)
Steward family
Corvinus Gaunt
(fl. 1700s)
Gormlaith Gaunt
(d. c. 1634)
Rionach Gaunt
(d. 1608)

(d. 1608)
Martha Steward
(d. c. 1632)
(many generations)
Noctua Gaunt
(d. c. 1890)
Mr Gaunt
(fl. 1890s)
Mrs Gaunt
(fl. 1890s)
Isolt Sayre
(c. 1603—c.1703)
James Steward
(c. 1603—c.1703)
Riddle family
(fl. 1890s)
Ominis Gaunt
(b. 1874/1875)
Chadwick Boot
(b. c. 1618)
Webster Boot
(b. c. 1620)
Martha Steward
(b. c. 1634)
Rionach Steward
(b. c. 1634)
(unclear relationship)
Calderon-Boot family
Boot family
Thomas Riddle
Mary Riddle
Marvolo Gaunt
(d. late 1920s)
Tom Riddle
Merope Gaunt
Morfin Gaunt
House of Black
Lestrange family
Tom M. Riddle
Bellatrix Black
Rodolphus Lestrange
(b. c. 1953)
(b. c. 1998)


A riddle is a statement or question with a double or veiled meaning, and they were very common to Old English literature and poetry. This may also be in reference due to the fact that the Riddle family died in inexplicable circumstances for the Muggles living in Little Hangelton. Riddle games also appear frequently in folklore and mythology as a matter of life and death, such as in the tale of Oedipus and the Sphinx and in the opera Turandot. The term "world riddle" was also used by philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche to encompass the idea of the meaning of life. This could all allude to the mysterious and hidden origins of Lord Voldemort, who disliked and hid his Muggle ancestry, and who was obsessed with life and death.


Notes and references[]

  1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 1 (The Riddle House)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 10 (The House of Gaunt)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 13 (The Secret Riddle)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 20 (Lord Voldemort's Request)
  5. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 16 (The Chamber of Secrets)