MYTHTERY: Voldemort Is Incapable of Love
CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses sexual assault and may be triggering to readers who are abuse or assault survivors. If you or someone you know is in crisis or dealing with abuse, you are not alone, and we urge you to seek help by contacting RAINN (National Sexual Assault Hotline) or the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Voldemort is incapable of love because he was conceived via a Love Potion.
From podcasts to TikTok, this theory frequently pops up in discussions about Voldemort. The idea is accepted as canon by much of the fandom. However, an investigation into this Mythtery throws its validity into question.
First, the books may be examined. After Quirrell’s defeat, Dumbledore introduces the idea that love is the dark wizard’s chief weakness: “If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love” (SS 299). This quote might give birth to this theory that the Dark Lord is incapable of knowing love. However, with the little context given here, all that can be explicitly gleaned is that Voldemort does not understand love, such as Lily Potter’s. The reason is not yet addressed, though this concept is often revisited.
Fast forward seven books to Harry and Dumbledore’s final conversation: “That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing” (DH 709). Here, Dumbledore’s verbiage is more specific. The phrasing explains this as more of a choice or lack of effort than a magical impossibility. Dumbledore never suggests that Voldemort was born without the same capacity for love as anyone else.
Thus, it would appear that nurture rather than nature has made Voldemort who he is. The book Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince focuses on Voldemort’s background, including his conception. Merope Gaunt, an abused member of an impoverished family descended from Salazar Slytherin, fell in love with affluent Muggle Tom Riddle, Sr. on sight. Dumbledore speculates that Merope used a Love Potion to seduce him. The implications are horrifying; if true, this means that Voldemort’s father was a victim of rape, which gives Tom Riddle, Sr. one of the most tragic stories in Harry Potter.
Voldemort’s supposed loveless nature could be connected to the fact that his soul is split into Horcruxes, but this is never confirmed. His upbringing is sometimes compared to Harry’s: Both were raised by uncaring Muggles who couldn’t understand magic. If this is why Voldemort does not love, then Harry should be affected similarly. One could also compare Voldemort to Merope. Signs point to a grim home life for Voldemort’s mother, but she could and did love.
Young Tom was isolated until Dumbledore arrived. But even as he joined his fellow wizards, Voldemort was still different from his peers as a Muggle-raised Parselmouth with a checkered past. His Hogwarts years were also punctuated by his discovery that he was descended from the outcast among the Hogwarts founders. His depressing backstory combined with the poor company of future Death Eaters and an obsession with his status as heir of Slytherin set him up for his villainous future.
The Mythtery that Voldemort couldn’t love is not yet proven by any of these quotes or events from the books. It is often said that Voldemort’s inability to love has been confirmed by author J.K. Rowling. However, a clear, concise statement on this matter has yet to be found.
The best source for this theory comes from a Q&A-style web chat with J.K. Rowling on Bloomsbury.com. A transcript of this web chat was preserved on the Leaky Cauldron’s website in 2007. In the chat, the author was directly asked about this theory, though the answer is a bit murky:
Ravleen: How much does the fact that [V]oldemort was conceived under a [L]ove [P]otion have to do with his nonability to understand love is it more symbolic
J.K. Rowling: It was a symbolic way of showing that he came from a loveless union – but of course, everything would have changed if Merope had survived and raised him herself and loved him.
J.K. Rowling: The enchantment under which Tom Riddle fathered Voldemort is important because it shows coercion, and there can’t be many more prejudicial ways to enter the world than as the result of such a union.
The keyword here is “symbolic.” Again, there is no concrete statement here confirming that Voldemort could not experience or understand love. Rowling’s answer lines up with the facts laid out by Dumbledore: The “loveless union” between Merope and Tom Riddle, Sr. was one-sided and came to an end when the magic veil of a Love Potion was lifted. Indeed, the author plainly subscribes to the opposite of this theory: Had Merope survived childbirth and lovingly raised her baby, then Rowling says he would have been nurtured into a different man. Rowling’s follow-up message leans a little more into the theory but still gives no solid support. She emphasizes the significance of the forced union yet still fails to close the matter.
Ultimately, what qualifies as canon can be decided by readers, but there is no confirmation supporting a magical or natural inability to love due to Voldemort’s conception by a Love Potion. While there is some merit to the idea that he lacks understanding or experience of love either by choice or by circumstances, this Mythtery is rated as mostly false.
One final editorial word on the matter concerns the implications of this theory if it continues to perpetuate in the fandom. What message does it send to readers who were conceived under means of coercion and sexual assault? Any type of loveless relationship? What about arranged marriage, surrogacy, or sperm donation? What would this mean for Queenie and Jacob’s relationship in Fantastic Beasts? It’s a relief that there’s no concrete support for the idea that a loveless union blocks one from loving. Furthermore, this idea would cheapen the story and negate the weight of the moment when Harry urges Voldemort to feel remorse. Voldemort becomes a much more interesting villain when he is not relegated to pure evil.
– Myth Managed
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