You cannot compile a list of the biggest villains in literature and film and leave out the infamous Lord Voldemort. Having one of the most recognizable faces in film culture, Lord Voldemort is synonymous with the Harry Potter universe just as much as Harry Potter is, if not more. So, the puzzling question is why does this nefarious villain’s appearance resemble that of a snake?
Contrary to popular opinion that Voldemort looks like a snake because he is the Heir to Slytherin, his resemblance is attributed to him splitting his soul multiple times to make Horcruxes, which changed his physical appearance drastically.
If you are not familiar with Slytherin or Horcruxes, do not worry. In this article, I will dive deep into the origins of Lord Voldemort, Slytherin, and Horcruxes and how they are all connected. It goes without saying, the article will contain spoilers.
Who Is Lord Voldemort?
Lord Voldemort is a dangerous dark wizard and the main antagonist of the Harry Potter franchise. Frequently referred to as You Know Who, He Who Must Not Be Named, or the Dark Lord, he is the most feared wizard of his time and is often considered to be the most powerful wizard too.
The Dark Lord was born Tom Marvolo Riddle on 31st December 1926 and is the only son of Tom Riddle Senior and Merope Gaunt. His father was a Muggle and his mother a witch, thus making him a half-blood wizard. During childbirth, his mother died, and his father abandoned him, leaving him as an orphan who was raised in an orphanage run by Muggles.
As a young kid, Tom showed a high degree of magical ability way beyond that of other magical children, and he was able to use this to gain considerable control over them and even inflict harm on them. He was able to move objects with his mind, manipulate animals and speak Parseltongue. Tom considered himself different from other kids and wished to set himself apart from them.
Having a deep hatred for his father because of abandoning him, he disliked his own name so much that he changed it to Lord Voldermort which is an anagram for Tom Marvolo Riddle. In 1938, he was enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and selected by the Sorting Hat into Slytherin, one of the four houses of Hogwarts. During his time in school, he opened the Chamber of Secrets, its consequences being the death of one of the students, Myrtle Warren.
Tom was terrified of death, so much so that he believed his mother wasn’t a witch because if she was, she would have saved herself from death. This led him on a quest to find ways to become immortal, and as such, he learned about Horcruxes. Considered to be the most dreadful of all dark magic, a Horcrux is an object which contains a hidden fragment of the soul of a Dark Wizard.
So long as the object was not destroyed, the hidden soul fragment remained intact, thus providing an anchor for its owner in the world of the living despite any physical harm occurring to their body. This made the Dark Wizard essentially immortal. However, the act of creating a Horcrux involved committing deliberate murder, an act itself that damaged the soul of the perpetrator.
Due to the great importance Horcruxes served their creators, they were protected heavily from being stolen or destroyed using curses, counter-spells, and counter-charms. This made them extremely durable and required particularly potent magic to destroy them. There are only two known creators of Horcruxes: Herpo the Foul of Ancient Greece and Lord Voldemort himself.
The Horcruxes Of Lord Voldemort
Lord Voldemort intended to create six Horcruxes and thus have his soul split into seven parts. However, he unintentionally created another Horcrux on the night he went to murder Harry Potter. The seven Horcruxes are as follows:
1. Tom Riddle’s Diary – The first Horcrux, it was Tom’s personal diary, and it was created through the murder of Myrtle Warren. It was destroyed by Harry Potter by being repeatedly stabbed using a Basilisk’s fang.
2. Marvolo Gaunt’s Ring – The second Horcrux, it was an heirloom of the House of Gaunt, and it was created through the murder of Lord Voldemort’s father, Tom Riddle Senior. It was destroyed by Albus Dumbledore by being cut with Godric Gryffindor’s Sword.
3. Salazar Slytherin’s Locket – The third Horcrux, it was an heirloom of Salazar Slytherin’s household and was created through the murder of a Muggle tramp. It was destroyed by Ron Weasley by being stabbed with Godric Gryffindor’s Sword.
4. Helga Hufflepuff’s Cup – The fourth Horcrux, it was a magical cup made by Helga Hufflepuff (one of the founders of Hogwarts) and was created through the murder of Hepzibah Smith. It was destroyed by Hermione Granger by being stabbed with a Basilisk fang.
5. Rowena Ravenclaw’s Diadem – The fifth Horcrux, it was a relic of Rowena Ravenclaw (one of the founders of Hogwarts) and was created through the murder of an Albanian peasant. It was destroyed by Vincent Crabbe when he accidentally fell into Fiendfyre while in possession of it.
6. Nagini – The sixth Horcrux, Nagini was Lord Voldemort’s pet and was created through the murder of Bertha Jorkins. It was destroyed by Neville Longbottom through beheading using Godric Gryffindor’s Sword.
7. Harry Potter – the last Horcrux, Harry is considered a pseudo-Horcrux as he was not intentionally created using the Horcrux spell. He was created through the murder of his mother, Lily James Potter, as she died protecting him. It was destroyed by Lord Voldemort when he killed Harry Potter using the Killing Curse.
Salazar Slytherin was one of the founders of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and a pure-blood wizard regarded as one of the greatest wizards. He was also a Parselmouth meaning he possessed Parseltongue, the language of serpents, and the ability to converse with them.
Being of pure blood, Salazar despised Muggles and Muggle-born and proposed that Muggle-borns should not be accepted into Hogwarts, but the other three founders rejected this. This angered Salazar, who left the school afterward.
Before leaving, Salazar built a secret dungeon under Slytherin House called the Chamber of Secrets. In it housed a Basilisk, an ancient giant serpent that was supposed to purge all Muggle-borns from Hogwarts and could only be controlled by the Heir of Slytherin.
Slytherin, Horcruxes And How They’re All Connected.
When Lord Voldemort opened the Chamber of Secrets, he proved to be the true Heir of Slytherin, and his ability to speak Parseltongue further solidified this. Thus, most people have come to conclude that his snake-like appearance is due to his ability to communicate with snakes and being the Heir of Slytherin.
However, this is a misconception as the true reason is because of dehumanization, a side effect of creating Horcruxes. The more Horcruxes Voldemort created, the less human he became, both physically and emotionally. Despite the role snakes and serpents played in his resurrection during the Goblet of Fire Tournament, ultimately, it was the violent splitting of his soul and dark magic associated with it that changed his physical appearance.