A memory of the sixteen-year-old Tom Riddle writes the words “Tom Marvolo Riddle” in thin air with Harry’s wand inside the Chamber Of Secrets. He waves his wand and the letters rearrange themselves to form “I am Lord Voldemort”.
This cryptic anagram was another stroke of brilliance by J. K. Rowling, but it also gave a whole new layer to the handsome, quiet, charming and intelligent boy who was once a prefect in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft And Wizardry.
Tom Riddle had been a very odd child, according to the staff in the Orphanage where he grew up…he hardly ever cried even as a baby.
He liked to be by himself right from his childhood, and once he discovered his magical powers, though he did not know of their full extent, he exercised them to have his own way. He scared the other children, killing their pets, taking away their favourite things, terrorising them in mysterious caves. He was convinced he was ‘special’, right from when he was a child. He liked to feel that he was superior to others, and perhaps from this sprung the desire to be above other mere mortals, to be immortal.
His inherent hatred for his father who had abandoned him even before he was born probably lent fuel to his belief that muggles were less than magical people. His mother, who had been a witch, had died right after he had been born…she had chosen to give in to the mortal weakness of death. Tom Riddle believed he was above such weaknesses.
His Achilles’ Heel, in the end, turned out to be this fear of death and the urge to conquer it – he chose to make himself inhuman in exchange of supposed victory over death.
J. K. Rowling has stated that since he was conceived under the effects of a love potion, he was unable to feel love. Thus, he was abnormal right from when he was born – incapable of feeling normal human emotions and of being able to reciprocate them.
As Dumbledore once said, he never had friends. He had some followers, admirers. He was a loner, he trusted no one. The only living being he seemed to feel any amount of affection for was his snake, Nagini.
He manipulated situations from a very young age, like framing the innocent and naïve Hagrid for a crime he had never committed and getting him expelled for the same. He used his charm on Professor Slughorn to get information on horcuxes, a branch of the darkest magic, and killed his own uncle to make his first horcrux with the newfound knowledge.
He sought means to make himself immortal, murdering anyone who stood between him and his dreams of establishing his ultimate superiority over the world. He broke his soul into pieces, creating horcruxes – objects in which he stored the pieces of his soul. The existence of these horcruxes ensured that he couldn’t be killed, for the other pieces of his soul were safe and unharmed.
Once he completed his goal of creating 7 horcuxes, for he believed that 7 was the most magically powerful number, he damaged his soul beyond repair. He seemed no longer human, with snakelike features having replaced his completely distorted and previously handsome face.
Love, he believed, was a weakness. To him, greatness lay in power – there was no good or bad, there was only power and those too weak to seek it.
Tom Marvolo Riddle effortlessly transformed from a small, lonely orphan to an evil, manic, power-hungry Dark Lord. The dormant evil in him ever since he was a child bloomed into an insane urge to bury himself into the Dark Arts, to explore them beyond anyone had ever done before. He was indeed great, in his own way – a supremely powerful wizard who simply chose the wrong path.
He prized his ability to inflict fear in others…he was a racist in magical terms, placing ‘purebloods’ above all others, despising muggles and those of muggle descent.
He feared death, and so he chose to channel this fear into those who were innocent, and good. He lacked the ability to feel. He held as much disregard for his followers as he did for his enemies. He had transformed himself into being so inhuman that he was beyond remorse.
As it turned out, it was his complete ignorance towards things he did not understand or chose to ignore the powers of, that led to his downfall.
In the end, Lily Potter’s love for her son won over the most powerful Killing Curse. Severus Snape’s undying love for Lily turned him into the most dangerous spy, creating the biggest setback to his rise to power. Harry Potter’s love for his friends, for all the good in the world, his willingness to die for his friends – to make the world a better place, defeated his inhuman hunger for world domination and rendered him powerless.
His quest to become immortal was in vain, for no great power is invincible if someone is willing and daring enough to stand up to it.