Transcript – Episode 222



[Show music begins]

Kristen Keys: This is Episode 222 of Alohomora! for June 10, 2017.

[Show music continues]

Kristen: Hello, everybody, and welcome to this wonderful episode. Don’t forget, this is the original Harry Potter book club that you are listening to. Important fact. I am Kristen Keys.

Rosie Morris: I’m Rosie Morris.

Kat Miller: I’m Kat Miller, and our guest today is our lovely friend, Grace. Hello, Grace.

Grace Candido: Hey there!

Kat: Hey. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Grace: Thanks so much for having me. I was so excited for this episode.

Kat: Awesome. I know you’ve been on the show before, but remind our listeners who you are and your House and all that jazz.

Grace: Okay. I am Grace and I’ve been Sorted into Gryffindor, but I pretty much love all of the Houses. I know that my favorite character, Tom, is from Slytherin, so I associate with them a whole lot. [laughs] My husband keeps saying that I’m a Ravenclaw. What else? What other Harry Potter…? Okay, [my] Ilvermorny House…

Kat: Oh yeah, if that matters at all.

[Rosie laughs]

Grace: Yeah. [I’m in] Thunderbird. [laughs] So Gryffindor/Thunderbird. That’s the most stereotypical of them. [laughs]

Kat: Yeah, that’s not an uncommon one. Cool. We’re very happy to have you back discussing Mr. Tom Riddle today.

Grace: Thank you. I was on the Horcrux episode too. I feel like I’m just sort of continuing on the Tom path here.

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: Perfect, perfect.

Rosie: And this is the first time that we’ve really discussed the villain, Tom Riddle, in this much detail as well. So it will be really, really fun to delve into this topic.

Grace: Oh, I’m so happy.

Rosie: So if you guys out there have not [reviewed] your Tom Riddle facts, you might want to go away and look him up on the Lexicon or something right now. But we’ll do that during the episode as well, so just join in when you want.

Kristen: And don’t forget, this episode is sponsored by Marjolaine Martin on our Patreon page. Don’t forget that you can become a sponsor for as little as $1 a month. We will continue to release exclusive tidbits for sponsors, so thank you, Marjolaine, and don’t forget to help us out and become a sponsor yourself.

Kat: Thank you! Thank you so much.

Grace: That sounds like a really cool name.

Kat: She’s been a sponsor for a very long time, so thank her.

Grace: Thank you. Woo-hoo!

Kat: [makes kissing sounds] Kisses. Yeah. So as usual, before we get into our discussion, we like to present our overall impression and any focus questions that we want to talk about as far as our topic of Tom Riddle today goes. And this is definitely a broad topic but kind of narrow since it’s one person. He lived a long time.

[Rosie laughs]

Grace: And in wizard terms, it’s actually a short time.

Kat: It is.

Grace: Considering it could have been double what he had, but no.

Rosie: For someone so intent on trying to prolong his life and never die, he did the opposite, really.

[Kristen laughs]

Grace: He really did.

Kat: Yeah. He was only 71 when he died. Crazy. Well, I’m super duper interested in talking about the angle [of] if Tom Riddle should be pitied. And remember, listeners, we’re talking about Tom Riddle, not Lord Voldemort. So Tom Riddle. We’ve talked about [him] before in other episodes, but I’m super interested in that aspect of “Is he pitiable? Is he redeemable in any way?” So that will be fun to talk about.

Rosie: Yeah, as Kat said, we are looking at Tom Riddle rather than Lord Voldemort. We’re bridging the gap slightly toward the end. We’re going to go up to probably around the death of the Potters, so the fall of Voldemort the first time. But what I’m really interested in is the escalation of evil, how Riddle got from where he was at the orphanage to the ultimate acts of evil that he ended up doing as his older self.

Grace: Like the train ride of insanity? Pretty much.

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: Nice. That’s perfect.

Kristen: Sums it up.

Grace: And I am definitely interested in going into Tom Riddle as a character study and also lessons that can be learned from his insane life. [laughs]

Kat: He did have one of those, didn’t he?

Rosie: Definitely. So to start us off, we love going into names and our discussion of why these characters are called these things, and Tom Marvolo Riddle, the whole thing is about his name, really. As this was a plot point that was introduced a little earlier in the books, perhaps it’s not quite as subtle or developed as some of Jo’s later plans. Tom Marvolo Riddle was born on December 31, 1926. The name Tom is one of the most common English names. It doesn’t really have too much of its own personal meaning, but it is often used to present an average man – you know, the phrase “Tom, Dick, and Harry” – so for Tom to be a Tom means that he is nothing special, essentially. “Riddle,” obviously, is a deliberately puzzling word game or challenge, so that easily ties into the whole anagram aspect of his name. It becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, perhaps, with that title. And then we’ve got the middle name Marvolo, which is actually not a real name, as far as I can tell. It’s most likely created for the anagram idea by Jo herself. There are elements of “Malvolio” to it, which is the malcontent, antagonist character in [Shakespeare’s] Twelfth Night, for example, and we’ve got this history of negativity around that character. So that feeds into Riddle’s personality and also the Gaunt history that that name belongs to.

Grace: Also, I feel like Marvolo is a grand name. It sounds like “marvelous.”

Rosie: It does, yeah.

Grace: I feel like it almost implies royalty. Which is something that the Gaunt family would love tied to them.

[Kristen laughs]

Rosie: Not that they were particularly marvelous by that stage. [laughs]

Grace: No! Not by any stretch of the imagination. I also feel like him being born on December 31 is almost symbolic of the end of an era.

Rosie: Yes, the death of a year.

Grace: Oh yeah, definitely. And he’s almost stuck in that end of the era, like he’s going out with a bang. But Harry being born in the summer, as opposed to him being born in the middle of winter, is hugely symbolic of Harry bringing new life.

Kat: Well, yeah. I was just going to say, that’s the other thing too. The new year is symbolic of birth and rebirth and all of that stuff. So the fact that it’s December 31 speaks to rebirth, but it’s almost the opposite of rebirth, in a way. So that’s very interesting.

Grace: That’s true, yeah.

Rosie: The idea of death and resurrection, definitely.

Grace: Yeah, he did go [further] into immortality than anyone else. He resurrected himself.

Rosie: Yeah. It’s also quite interesting that Jo did pick December 31 for Tom, and then obviously Harry is July 31, as well as Jo. So you’ve got these almost equinox birthdays each half of the year. So they do bookend each other, in more ways than one.

Grace: That is super cool. If we’re going to go into him being a Capricorn, he shows a lot of Capricorn qualities.

[Grace and Rosie laugh]

Kat: I think you read my mind because I was just thinking, what sign is December 31?

Rosie: I actually looked up some horoscope details for it, and it said that he would be a very trusting character. Eh, that doesn’t apply.

[Everyone laughs]

Rosie: So yeah, it doesn’t quite work in terms of horoscopes and prophecies for birthdays, but I think the death symbolism is definitely easy to see.

Grace: Oh yeah. Maybe I’m remembering incorrectly. I did a really comprehensive chart for him, probably a year ago or so, because I’m insane. [laughs] I looked it up and they had all the planet meanings behind the December 31 birth, especially then. A lot of it had to do with him being very, very detail oriented, because if you have a lot of Capricorn in your chart, it means that you’re going to keep going back to certain details and trying to make sure that they’re absolutely perfect. So that might actually reflect more on his personality than anything.

Kat: Wow.

Grace: But it’s been a while. I might have to relook that up again.

Rosie: [laughs] We had a message from one of our Twitter followers, @Emma_Adorer – sorry if I pronounced your name wrong – talking about the fact that “In German his middle name is Vorlost, and I think it was clear from the beginning that he lost. Vor = pre,” so “pre-lost,” which is quite an interesting translation aspect. Obviously, Riddle’s name has been translated into all [the] different languages that the books have been translated into. We discussed that, I believe, when we actually did the Riddle episode way back when the “I am Lord Voldemort” anagram was first revealed. So take yourself back and listen to that episode from five years ago if you’d like [to] find out more. [laughs]

Grace: Oh my goodness. [laughs]

Rosie: Gosh, that was a long time ago.

Kat: It was a long time ago. Let’s see, we just posted it on our Facebook page. It was Episode 18.

[Kat and Rosie laugh]

Kat: Yeah. So the link is over on our Facebook page if you don’t feel like searching for it over at alohomora.mugglenet.com. But yeah, Episode 18. Holy crap.

Grace: My goodness. 18?

Kat: 210 or so episodes ago. Wow.

Rosie: It’s taken us this long to get back to his name.

[Kristen and Rosie laugh]

Grace: Also, I didn’t want to completely miss the whole Elvis name, you guys, the translation into Elvis as the middle name. [laughs]

Kat: It’s amazing. I love it.

Rosie: But I think what those translations do…

Grace: Oh my God. He’s the king.

Rosie: What the translations do prove is that these names are very much deliberately shaped toward the anagram rather than anything else, so they are a little bit forced in the translations. But as Emma pointed out, there are some interesting symbolisms in all of the different names, so it is still worth looking at.

Grace: Oh yeah, and with the German one, I was thinking when you were reading that out. I was like, “Oh, so he was lost before he even began.”

Rosie: Yeah, that’s an interesting idea as well.

Kat: So true. So true.

Grace: I mean, everything throughout all the notes that I’ve been going through, even rereading the stuff that you’ve written down, Rosie, it just seems like a lost cause, even from the start. It’s terrifying. I think that’s part of the reason why she’s such a champion for children in orphanages.

Kat: For sure, yeah. Tom and Harry definitely have fed into her need and her want to help children.

Grace: Yes. It’s heartbreaking.

Kat: Although none of them were probably children of a Love Potion.

Rosie: No. [laughs]

Kat: But you never know. [laughs]

Rosie: And of course, Tom is the child of a Love Potion, which in itself is a really interesting concept, especially based on what we know of Love Potions within Harry Potter. It’s very much a synthetic love. It’s one that’s not really felt beyond the influence of the potion. We obviously see the devastating effects it has on Ron when he is poisoned by it later on in the series. But the idea of creating a child through this false love, if we’re going with the idea of love itself being predestined and love being this most powerful magic that can protect Harry when Lily dies for it and all of that kind of thing, to actually create a child out of love (or false love) must have its own devastating imprint. And I think that is a clear idea that is pitched with this predestined, pre-lost idea of Tom being born from this concoction, almost. What do you guys think?

Kat: Well, it definitely makes you think about his earlier actions before… Okay, so when do children start to become accountable for their actions? [That] is really what the argument has been. At least a big one that I’ve seen surrounding Tom Riddle is that because he was born out of this Love Potion and not out of an actual pure loving relationship, how responsible is he for his actions, specifically earlier in life? Obviously, once he gets to Hogwarts, I think, personally, things change. But how much is it nature versus nurture?

Grace: Nurture, yeah. I feel like the question of whether or not he was conceived of a Love Potion is not one that’s really conducive to the idea of Harry Potter. I mean, I’ll just go out and say it. I don’t know if I should put a trigger warning before this, but Merope essentially rapes Tom.

Kat: Yes, she did.

Grace: And that definitely has an effect on whether or not the child is loved in the first year of its life. But she wasn’t even around, and Tom wasn’t in a state where he could have even thought of having this child or raising this child. So it’s a broken relationship to begin with, and Harry did have that love in the first year of his life. So I think that it’s more so the question of whether the parents are able to love the child within the first year and whether that area of the brain is able to develop so that the child can have a fulfilling experience in feeling empathy toward other individuals. And Tom was predisposed genetically; at least I believe he was. It’s not confirmed, but it’s said that he’s a psychopath, so that would imply that, genetically, he doesn’t have the ability within his mind to feel human empathy. And that could be stemming from not necessarily the fact that he was conceived of a Love Potion or rape, but the fact that he wasn’t really genetically predisposed for it and he wasn’t loved in the first year of his life. So yes, he’s accountable for his choices and his actions, but those choices and actions were under a severe amount of stress, even before he was born.

Rosie: Yeah. So the nature versus nurture element and the idea of “Is anyone ever truly born evil?” definitely comes into this idea. Is it that he’s blemished by this situation in some way, or is it simply that any of this could have been redeemed had he been placed in a situation [that] would have been better for him once he was actually born?

Grace: I think without a doubt it could have.

Rosie: Yeah?

Grace: Yeah. But I don’t know if he would have ever been able to be… I don’t know what we would have considered – for your opinion – a fulfilled human being. I don’t know if he would be able to fulfill that because of years and years and years of inbreeding on the Gaunt side, tampering with the genetics that he currently has.

Rosie: Yeah, that’s true.

Grace: But I feel like, as an individual, he would have been able to lead a more fulfilling life that didn’t involve so much violence and terror, had he been able to have that loving relationship with parents.

Kat: Well, he wouldn’t have been afraid of death in the way that he was. Everybody has some sort of natural hesitancy about death and curiosity, and yeah, for some people there’s fear there as well. But Tom Riddle is – excuse the pun – mortally afraid of dying. He could not be more afraid of dying. And I feel like, yes, if he had a parent there, if his father hadn’t been a D-bag and his mother hadn’t died in childbirth, then there would have been no reason for him to feel abandoned.

Grace: Yeah, because all he was born with was his life. That’s all he has. He doesn’t have anyone to support…

Rosie: And his name.

Grace: His life and his name, yeah. So that’s definitely telling of where he takes his life from there on out. But also with the question of Tom Riddle, Sr., I’ve thought about this a great deal in that he’s always portrayed and villified by this. Essentially, he was a douchebag, but he was also drugged and raped for a good amount of time. So putting myself in that terrifying situation, would I have stayed? Hell no. I would have gotten out of there.

Rosie: He had no real involvement with Merope other than her adoring him from afar as well. So it wasn’t as if there was any relationship there before the Love Potion and before the Love Potion wore off. So as soon as he actually came back to his senses, he had lived this whole life that he had no awareness of or no control over any of the choices that he’d made. So it’s almost as if brainwashing had been wiped off, essentially, at that stage. So it must be extremely traumatic and extremely horrifying to actually find yourself in that situation. I don’t think really anyone could blame Tom Riddle, Sr. for actually removing himself from that situation and not really taking any responsibility for a child [whom] he didn’t even know he was creating, I guess, at the time.

Grace: Yeah. And I think that it’s hard to say because you don’t get a picture of Tom Riddle, Sr. before he’s murdered. [laughs] But I feel like he probably remained crippled by that experience for the rest of his life. He was essentially hiding in his parents’ house.

Kat: I guess it depends on how much he remembers. Because we don’t know too much about what happens when you’re on a Love Potion. [Is it] like the Imperius Curse, where your mind just goes blank and you don’t remember too much of the stuff? Or [is it] just like somebody is in your mind, forcing you to do these things and you remember it, and it’s some sort of mental torture where you can’t stop yourself from whatever you’re doing?

Grace: Oh, wow. Yeah.

Rosie: I’m fairly sure we see Ron being fairly confused by what he did and Harry reminding him and him feeling embarrassed after his situation. So presumably, there’s very little memory about it either.

Kristen: But that was also a very short amount, compared to…

Rosie: Yeah, exactly.

Kat: And that too, as far as the Love Potion that Ron ingested, I feel like that was probably not… I mean, I know it was strong because it said that it was strong, but I feel like somehow the longer you take it… Tom Riddle, Sr. presumably was years, right? Doesn’t it say years?

Grace, Rosie, and Kristen: Yeah.

Kat: Right. So I feel like that would have severely different effects on your body and mind than those couple of bonbons that Ron ate.

Grace: It could definitely blow your mind. Yeah. And one thing that irks me is that it’s played off as a joke in most of the series. It’s like, “Oh, look, they’re in love. Hahaha,” or “I’ll make him ask me to the dance,” or whatever. But it’s a terrifying potion that we’re talking about! This isn’t just a cutesy little thing; this is a rape drug.

Kat: Yeah. Well, Slughorn does say it is one of the most powerful or dangerous ones that'[re] out there.

Rosie: And it’s severely restricted for that purpose, isn’t it?

Kat: Yeah.

Rosie: I’ve always found it really surprising that the Weasleys were allowed to sell it in the shop.

Grace: Yeah!

Rosie: And that it was allowed to be smuggled in [in] perfumed bottles or whatever at Hogwarts.

Grace: That’s awful.

Rosie: I’m fairly sure there was a mention of it having extremely severe restrictions from the Ministry. So for Merope, who doesn’t really do much magic, for her to actually concoct it herself and then use it as well… Or maybe she bought it from someone. I don’t know. But yeah, her version of it is definitely the extreme Dark magic version of it rather than the tricks and stuff that the girls at Hogwarts seem to be doing on the boys. There'[re] probably boys at Hogwarts using it as well, but yeah, what we see of it.

Grace: I mean, it’s terrifying to think that Merope… That’s the only way that she’s able to connect with something that she might consider to be a loving relationship. And it just shows how stunted her understanding of what love is [is], and that’s sad within itself. I feel terrible for Merope because she’s just in this terrifying and horrible situation, and God knows what’s happening to her in that house.

Rosie: I think that’s why Tom Riddle, Sr. tends to be the one [who] is actually vilified for leaving her, because we have very deliberately been given this empathetic, sympathetic reaction to Merope. We’ve seen her struggle so much; we’ve seen her being mistreated by her family; we see her being definitely an abuse victim herself. And as an audience, as a viewer, as a reader, we want her then to be able to have a healthy relationship, even though she is Voldemort’s mother. We always want everyone’s life to turn out as well as it can. So for us to actually see her fall in love with someone, we want that to work. But then she does it in the completely wrong way, and there are some parallels between the Snape and Lily relationship here where one is very obsessed. Thankfully, Snape never went as far as Merope does.

Grace: Oh, thank God.

Kat: The one redeeming quality he has.

Rosie: [laughs] But equally, a very traumatic and a very horrific end to that situation. And Snape never recovers in the same way that Merope never recovers, and obviously, both of their love interests ultimately end up dying because of it. The idea of toxic love is really interesting and is really never explored in much detail in children’s literature. So it’s really interesting to see this alternative, negative aspect of love in a book within the backstory of a villain character, because if there’s any time you are going to explore such a negative force, it would be in the backstory of a negative character. So I think, although as sad and tragic and horrific as it actually is, it does work well as the formation of Riddle’s character. I want to put a very, very quick provisable… I’m not saying that anyone who was born out of a terrible situation like this will ultimately end up evil or anything like that; I’m really, really not. As we were saying earlier, the situation after Riddle’s birth is what really, truly forms him to who he is. It’s just really sad and tragic that he had this very sad and tragic element at the very origin of his story.

Grace: Yeah. And that’s actually a point that a lot of people draw back on. They always seem to think that just because he was conceived this way, that’s why he turned out the way that he did. And I can’t say that I see that on the same level, just because that would then imply that the series is condoning that sort of thinking, and I don’t think that that’s exactly what she’s going for. It’s supposed to be your choices that make you who you are, not what you’re born as. I think that it’s really poisonous to put that sort of spin on the events that happened.

Kat: Well, it has to have some bearing on his character because – you said it before too – he’s predisposed to these things, partially because of the family that he is born into, the things that are in his blood, his ancestry. So he may not have become that person purely because of those reasons, but it’s definitely there.

Rosie: It’s a contributing factor.

Kat: He’s predisposed to it, and he makes those choices partially because of the fact that his parents are gone but partially because that’s just who he is.

Grace: I can see things on your level. I don’t know if I necessarily agree wholeheartedly, but I definitely appreciate that.

Rosie: I think this is one of those things where you can fall on either side of the scale and it really doesn’t matter too much. Because it’s interesting.

Grace: I really see it as more symbolic.

Kat: Well, there’s definitely a middle ground and his personality comes from both sides. It really does come from his past and the family he’s born into, but a lot of it is the fact that he just has nobody. And the choices that you make when you’re alone that affect nobody other than yourself are very different [from] the choices you would make if you had other people in your life who[m] you had to think about.

Rosie: I also think because Tom ends up learning of his origin and learning of what actually happened to create him, that solidifies its influence on him. So yes, he’s definitely predisposed to it, but the knowledge of his predisposition again becomes that sort of self-fulfilling aspect. So maybe that’s the middle ground whereas…

Grace: Oh, that is true.

Rosie: Yes, he’s predisposed; yes, he’s also nurtured into it. However, a mixture of all of it together is what really creates him to be who he is.

Grace: That’s smart.

Rosie: There you go. [laughs]

Grace: Good going.

[Kristen laughs]

Rosie: So to move us on a little bit, we don’t really know too much about his life in between his birth and Dumbledore coming to meet him for the very first time while he is in the orphanage. We see that scene, obviously, where Dumbledore and Tom are talking in his room. We learn a little bit about his character from the nurses and the people working in the orphanage, and we learn that he has displayed some very odd behavior. To some extent, that’s normal for a magical child. We know that Harry had odd behavior and things as well. We know that’s a sign of magic from an early age. However, it is an element of fear that is felt by the other children that starts us thinking [that] Tom does seem to have this predisposition. He does seem to be exuding the Dark Arts aspect of magic early, and much earlier, it seems, than most wizarding children do. We don’t actually know too much about Malfoy at this age, but I’m assuming that his father would already have influenced him into using Dark magic, so thinking about these kinds of parallels…

Grace: It’s Dark magic fun times, guys. [laughs]

Rosie: Yeah, let’s go torturing some animals or something. I’m sure he did that.

[Grace and Rosie laugh]

Rosie: There is Dobby, sadly.

Kat: Yeah, I was just going to say, Dobby for sure. Draco probably beat the crap out of Dobby.

Grace: Aww.

Kat: Even if it wasn’t physically, emotionally and mentally. Because that’s just what he was grown up to think house-elves are there for, basically.

Grace: That’s so sad.

Rosie: But the difference here is that Tom didn’t have a Lucius Malfoy figure to influence him in that way. What he did have was an orphanage where all of the children are wearing a gray, dirty tunic as their uniform or clothing. He’s got this very small, tiny room where he’s got a wardrobe and a bed and that’s about it. He doesn’t seem to have many of his own possessions. Those that he [does have], he seems to have stolen from other people. This is not a happy, fulfilling childhood that we would hope for a child to have.

Kat: And this is where the wonderful, wonderful, wonderful comparisons between Harry and Tom Riddle really start. Because basically, the first 11 years of their [lives], with the exception of that first year for Harry, are incredibly similar. Harry basically lives in an orphanage; he is treated as such. Yes, sure, [the Dursleys] feed him and they put clothes on him, [but] they don’t want him there. They don’t care about him; they treat him like crap. That’s what I imagine it is probably like for Tom growing up in that orphanage. He probably didn’t have friends because he was a little odd and a little dark. People probably didn’t talk to him very much; he was very much a loner. And there can be a lot of comparisons made about Tom and Harry in [those] first ten years of their [lives]. They’re both really abused in different ways.

Grace: Yeah, either abused or neglected. I know that there'[re] a lot of people [who] say that Tom Riddle was never abused because it was never outwardly stated in the books, and I can’t stress that enough. But also, we’re seeing the books from Harry’s perspective, and I don’t think Harry is really willing to pick up on these subtleties. Or maybe he is, but I’m not quite certain, from what we get from him, that he would see something like this. But I think one telling fact about whether or not Tom was abused is the fact that he tends to… Okay, actually, there'[re] two facts. One of them is that the first time that he sees Dumbledore, he instantly thinks that he’s being put into an institution. It’s like an association. It’s a question of, why does he associate figures of power with being put away somewhere?

Rosie: It’s as if he’s been threatened with it before.

Grace: Been threatened or it’s happened.

Kristen: Or verbally abused by all the people around him.

Grace: And the second telling factor is that it’s even stated in the books that he causes people pain. And pain isn’t something that someone is born knowing. I feel like pain is something that you learn can control someone else. So if he’s being threatened by someone and someone else has caused him pain, I’m not saying that they caused him such horrifying agony that he had to use pain, but maybe over the years he learned that pain is a way to control others and keep them away from him.

Kat: Pain doesn’t have to be physical either.

Grace: Yeah. So that’s a learned behavior.

Kat: It can be emotional or mental.

Rosie: There’s the famous incident with the rabbit that they discuss. And that idea of killing and torturing pets comes up a lot in terms of emotional and mental torture. And people might have seen Blindspot or any of these other things where they’ve got children who have been raised for violence in that way. And part of the training of… You’re given a rabbit, you use it as your pet, you look after it, and then you’re forced to kill it. That kind of thing is very much what Tom seems to have done with the other children in the institution in that he seems to have learned what they love and then taken it away from them so that they know that he is in control. Whether he did that just on his own, or whether he learned that from other influences within the institution as well… There’s generally a hierarchy of children, sadly, especially bullies. Bullies learn their bullying habits from other people, so Tom could have been bullied when he was younger than we see him in this scene and learned to defend himself by retaliating, by bullying back and by gaining more power and using his power in the way that he can. And that, I think, is where one of the main differences between Tom and Harry really turns up. Because if Tom was bullied… And we definitely see that Harry was bullied. Harry runs, Harry hides, Harry tries to seek refuge. He never really retaliates. The only time we really ever see him retaliate is the glass disappearing with the snake or…

Kat: And in […] Order of the Phoenix he starts too, but he’s also older there and more aware.

Rosie: Yeah, and obviously, angsty Harry has happened by then.

Grace: [laughs] Puberty hits hard, guys.

Rosie: And he’s had a few years of actually having to fight back against things within the school by that point as well, so he’s started to learn the fight-back response, rather than the flee response. What it seems like within Tom’s reaction, and Tom’s description here, is that Tom has never had the flee response, possibly because he’s had nowhere to flee to. If he’s stuck within the orphanage, and maybe the orphanage has its own school, he may never have really left that building other than on the trips that they take, so he’s never had an opportunity to run away, he’s never had an opportunity to hide. Everything is very open and controlled in a situation like that, so for Tom, the only choice is either to be beaten or [to] retaliate, and it’s very, very easy to see how he would become the child that he is at this point.

Grace: Oh, that is chilling.

Rosie: I know. Sorry. [laughs]

Kat: I have no idea – I thought maybe one of you would know – what exactly happens when a child is brought to an orphanage? I hate to make this comparison, but is it like when an animal is dropped off at the shelter, they find a foster family for this child for a little while? Because it’s a newborn baby. It needs constant care and attention. Do you guys know anything about that process?

Rosie: It depends on [the] orphanages. Obviously, orphanages today are a lot more advanced and caring than they would have been back then.

Kristen: They have a system of who’s on call and stuff, correct?

Rosie: Yeah, yeah.

Grace: Oh, that’s interesting.

Kristen: For immediate placements.

Grace: I didn’t know that.

Rosie: And they’ll have things like wet nurses and that kind of thing as well to actually care for newborns.

Grace: I wonder if it was different in that era.

Rosie: On the Harry Potter Lexicon, they’ve actually done a bit of research into what kind of orphanages were around at the time, especially in the vicinity of Tom Riddle’s childhood. And they found that the closest orphanage to Vauxhall Road, which is where the diary that he has for Chamber of Secrets, his Horcrux diary, was bought… So they’ve looked for orphanages in that vicinity, assuming that that’s where he would have bought it, because it was close to his home. And there was an orphanage called the Stockwell Orphanage that might have been based on where Tom Riddle grew up. Although that one, according to its charter, only had children through to the age of 14, so Riddle obviously grew up there and was there longer. Stockwell Orphanage also only had boys, so that was a bit different from Riddle’s orphanage. So there’s no actual, factual place that it was based on, but it would definitely be a little bit less workhouse-y, like Oliver Twist or anything like that. It’s not quite the horrific workplace, but it is very much a place where the forgotten children go, almost. Has anyone ever seen or read The Little Princess?

Grace and Kat: No.

Rosie: No? There’s a boarding school, but the main character is placed in this school while her father goes off to fight in the war, and sadly, during the war, her father is thought to be killed. And therefore, the school is not being paid, and the main character becomes an orphan, and she’s then forced to live in the attic and work at the school to pay for her board.

Grace: Oh my goodness. That sounds really interesting.

Rosie: Yeah. That’s the kind of time period that this is happening in, so that’s the kind of treatment that orphans actually received at that time.

Grace: Yeah, this is during the Depression era.

Rosie: Yeah, so it’s very much a place for the leftovers who can’t be cared for, sadly.

Grace: They are seen as leeches on the Depression-era society at this point. They’re not seen as much more than that.

Kat: Okay, so then his very, very early years, that first, three, six, nine, twelve months of his life, he basically would have been bounced around…

Rosie: Yeah, he would have been one of many, probably.

Kat: … between caretakers and wet nurses and whatever.

Rosie: Yeah, he wouldn’t have had anyone as a parental figure; he would have had almost like a teacher figure looking after a group of kids. It’s basically like a permanent nursery or kindergarten, where it’s one person to a group of kids, and they’re all just left to their own devices, generally, I would have assumed.

Kat: He just never really had a shot, really, is sadly what it comes down to.

Grace: Yeah, he really doesn’t react to respect figures very well at all.

Kat: No, and I imagine, too, that in a situation like that, it can’t exactly be easy and stress-free for the people running the orphanage, so I’m inclined to believe that there was some sort of abuse. And this is also the ’20s, remember that? Tom Riddle was born in ’26, so this would have been 1927, and times were very different almost 100 years ago. So I’m inclined to believe there’s abuse there.

Rosie: Yeah, we can see it slightly in the characters that we are presented with when Dumbledore turns up as well, aren’t we? He’s greeted by a young girl with a babe in arms, who quickly shuffles him off to the more authority figure, who is very much disinterested in the kids and is more interested in trying to ship them off and get them off her roster…

Grace: And drinking.

Rosie: … yeah, and drinking – than actually caring for them. So there’s definite neglect. And remember that neglect is a form of abuse as well. They don’t have to be beaten for it to be abuse. So Tom has been very, very much mistreated as, sadly, a lot of orphans definitely were at the time.

Kat: And were a lot of orphanages also called and treated as if they were asylums as well? I feel like that’s something that I’ve heard about.

Rosie: Possibly. I don’t know.

Grace: I can’t confirm on that one.

Kristen: Yeah, I’ve never heard of that one before.

Kat: We could do some more research, I guess.

Rosie: I think that idea of an institution, not necessarily a mental institution, but definitely that kind of official, organized…

Grace: A place for children to get passed off. Wow. Unhappy. [laughs]

Rosie: Yeah. From all this unhappy childhood, we see that Tom has become this violent, powerful child who really, really hates his name. Right from the off, right from his very first meeting with Dumbledore, we see that he doesn’t like who he is. He knows that his mother called him Tom Marvolo because of his father and her father, so he’s already got that aspect of the story from what she managed to tell his nurse. So obviously, the orphanage has told him that much. But he doesn’t know anything more, so Dumbledore is then having to fill in the gaps. And that very first meeting between Dumbledore and Tom could have been so different. It’s very, very interesting to see Dumbledore acting in this way, because we obviously see [that] it’s very, very different with Harry; we see it very differently [from] how Dumbledore seems to react with any of the other students at the school. He treats Malfoy with respect; he treats so many other kids with respect. So it’s odd that he would react so viscerally to Tom in this situation, which is perhaps another clue of this nature versus nurture. There’s something off about Tom that Albus was feeding off in that energy of that room. But it may also maybe talk to what Albus has experienced and his mental state in the time period that he actually went to the orphanage. So Dumbledore first visits in 1938, which is around the same time as Grindelwald is reaching full power in Europe. So obviously, Ariana has died, and the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald has definitely broken apart by this point already. So I think of this era as Dumbledore’s dark period, so before the 1945 battle with Grindelwald…

Kat: His Book 5, his Order of the Phoenix.

[Grace laughs]

Rosie: Yeah, this is his angsty Albus stage.

Grace: This is all-caps Dumbledore. [laughs]

Rosie: Which may go some ways into explaining why he acts in the way he does, but equally if we’re talking about the fact that Riddle has been mistreated so far in his life, Albus is another one of those people who mistreats him. This is not the way that you tell a child that they are different. And I think it really solidifies the interest in Dark magic, because the magic that Albus displays to him is not light magic in this scene.

Kat: Do you see this as being…? Okay, I guess I never read it that way.

Rosie: I don’t think it’s the origin of the interest in Dark magic; I don’t think that he would have never have been interested in Dark magic if Albus hadn’t done this. But I don’t think that Albus is necessarily showing him the alternative.

Grace: I think it’s a show of power; what he ends up doing is ultimately fire, which is destructive.

Rosie: Feeding into what he wants, yeah.

Grace: It’s almost like he’s showing off. Like, “I know you did something wrong; here, let me show you how I know,” and “I am more powerful than you in this way.” I think that’s the way that Tom saw it, essentially. Because he was pointing out exactly what Tom had stolen. Doesn’t he point out to Tom that there’s something in there that wants to get out? And a lot of people put the onus on Dumbledore for not leading Tom, but Dumbledore, in this state, was in a very fragile mental place. A lot of people just tend to point out that he should have led Tom around a little bit more and he should have let him stay at the school a bit more… I’m tripping over myself here; I’m sorry.

Kat: Okay, Dumbledore was also only a Transfiguration teacher.

Rosie: He’s no real authority figure.

Kat: He’s not Headmaster. He has no higher a job at Hogwarts than Hagrid did when Hagrid went to see Harry. Period. They’re on the same ground. So I think it’s… I can’t find the right word. But I don’t think it’s right to think that Dumbledore should have been the one to lead Tom Riddle. That’s not his job.

Grace: Yeah, how was he supposed to sense that this poor kid was being abused, aside from just what he’s seeing on the outward angle of what’s going on within the institution? I wrote a few things down about this and that there are some people who argue that he really didn’t want to. When Albus first met him, it was pretty clear that Tom was developing a mindset that was extremely unhealthy, and he could have realized this and at least tried to take that step forward and not have him associate magic with power and immortality. And Tom was in a situation where he was vulnerable and alone, and he had no figure to look up to and respect, and Albus could have been that figure. London was under extremely heavy attack during the time that he was at Hogwarts, and Dumbledore could have made sure that he didn’t have to go back to London every single time, every single summer. And he showed serious signs of psychological issues, and Dumbledore could have helped him with that.

Rosie: Looking at it with modern understanding of psychology. Obviously, the books are modern, and they were written now and all that kind of thing, but if we are thinking about, okay, this was [the] 1920s. This was Dumbledore in the 1920s, not having the ideas of psychology that maybe we have today, not having the advances in understanding of mentality. We can’t really conflate Muggle and wizarding world and all that kind of thing, so there may have been more understanding and more sensitivity in Albus; if there was anyone who would understand, it more would be Albus because he has done his academic career by this point and he is very much interested in the sciences and interested in the magical sciences, as they were, [laughs] in what makes people tick. So yes to some extent, he could have intervened. But as Kat just said, it wasn’t really his role; he is just a class teacher. He didn’t actually have that much influence on Tom. He didn’t know Tom much more than just being his class teacher. It’s not like he was a Lupin figure or like he was a mentor to Tom. He literally just brought him to the school, who gave him that letter originally.

Grace: To a certain extent, I think he was afraid to do so. He just got out of a situation where he himself had been fooled into doing the Dark Arts and he didn’t even realize it because he was still reeling from heartbreak and love that he felt. So he sees this little crazy kid, and he thinks, “Oh, I’m just going to make this situation all the more worse if I impose my opinion on this kid.”

Rosie: That’s actually a really interesting idea.

Grace: “It’s far better if he just tries to grow.”

Kat: Exactly. Because Dumbledore right now is so down on himself. He is depressed, he feels that he failed, [and] he realizes he had all of the wrong ideas about who he wanted to be and where he wanted to go in life. And why? Why should he try to impose anything of his own values or wisdom onto this child when he is grappling with the fact that [he] was wrong for so long…

Grace: And he failed! And someone died…

Kat: … and that all the choices he made were wrong?

Rosie: And maybe that’s part of it as well.

Kristen: How’s he supposed to help somebody else when he can’t even help himself at this point?

Rosie: So you said he’s seeing this little crazy kid, or little evil kid. What if he actually saw some aspect of Grindelwald in there?

Grace: Oh, I definitely think so.

Rosie: This kid is meant to be attractive; he’s meant to be very powerful; there'[re] definitely elements of Gellert’s character visible within Tom as well, so maybe the show of power is him trying to stop it from advancing. He wants to actually scare him into not becoming the characters that he has himself and has seen himself. So maybe it was fear that he was trying to instill rather than power, but obviously, that backfired because of Tom being so interested in power.

Kristen: Bringing him to Hogwarts, maybe that was as much as he thought Tom needed to get him out of that situation of the home and bringing him here to a whole completely different environment. He might have thought that’s enough; that’s all he needed to do to help this kid.

Rosie: Especially when he seems to take to Hogwarts so well. He becomes very popular; he becomes very good at magic; he becomes all of these great things that the ideal wizard should be. It was just the darkness on the other side of it that maybe Dumbledore didn’t really know about too much at the beginning, and by the time he did know about it, it was too late.

Grace: And at that point – like we said – he was way too broken to be helping out anyone else.

Rosie: And busy. Because the war is still going on.

Grace: [sighs] Oh my God. So much drama.

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: I’m sure our listeners will have some really good, totally opposite thoughts of everything we just said.

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: As usual.

Rosie: So we’re at the orphanage. We’ve learned all of these things about Tom. He definitely hates his name, but he also thinks that it must have been his father who was the wizard because his mother was too weak to have been a witch, because she died and she left him in this situation. So we’ve got this interesting childlike view of “Oh, well if you have magic, that solves everything,” which is an element that we don’t really explore too much in the books because it seems to be true that we’ve got magic that can fix glasses; we’ve got magic that can do the dishes; we’ve got magic that can solve all of these things. But obviously, for Tom, the only real experience he’s had with his family was his mother dying. So if she was magic, then magic is useless in his view. Therefore, he obviously doesn’t think magic is useless because he can do the things that he can do, and he can see the power that is involved, which means that if his mother did have magic, it was a choice that she then died and abandoned him. So it almost makes it worse that his mother was the witch.

Grace: Yeah. And he can’t fathom someone choosing death.

Kat: I’m sure that there was no lack of death at the orphanage either. I’m sure that there were children who were dying all the time, succumbing to things as “normal” and “human” as the flu or smallpox or whatever diseases were rampant in the ’20s there. So I feel like Tom would also view that as weak as well. Just reinforce his beliefs, so to say.

Grace: And it also brings about the idea that death is the end, because these kids have nowhere else to turn either, and they ended up dying and basically being forgotten. So if he ends up succumbing to what he fears most, that’s what he has to look forward to, because there’s no one there to remember him.

Rosie: Death only results in negativity; therefore, death must be avoided at all costs.

Grace: Yeah. And there’s also no positive view that he can draw back on either. There’s no “death is the next great adventure.”

Kristen: It’s all so sad.

Grace: This is very depressing! It’s going to get worse from here.

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: It’s not going to be better.

Rosie: No, but we’ll try.

[Everyone laughs]

Rosie: So Tom then does discover he is magical, and obviously, he does join the magical world. We know that his wand is 13 1/2″ and made of yew, and obviously, it has the phoenix feather core, which we know comes from Fawkes the phoenix. So presumably, Dumbledore already has Fawkes and has donated both of these tail feathers to Ollivander’s wand business for him to have had this wand available at this time. Yew wood is quite interesting. It is a tree that is often associated with death. The idea in “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” in the original Chaucer tale that that comes from, Death is met underneath a yew tree, and yews often grow in graveyards and that kind of thing. So his wand itself is very full of death imagery.

Kat: There was a yew tree in the graveyard at Little Hangleton too, I believe.

Rosie: Yes. So yew has come up again and again with that imagery. It’s very interesting and very apt that that would be the wood for Tom’s wand. Again, sadly.

Grace: That’s so intriguing.

Rosie: [laughs] The idea of a 13″ wand as well is maybe quite intriguing. The idea that it is quite a long wand, very thin with a yew branch, but also the idea of 13 being unlucky. Maybe even 13 1/2. You’ve got that half, which seems unfinished. So maybe that also adds to the unluckiness of it. Overall, the phoenix feather part is the only bit that seems positive imagery out of this wand. But even then, phoenixes are death and rebirth, so we’ve got further death imagery involved.

Kat: I was just looking this up because I was really curious about the color of the wood, since in the film it’s depicted as a very white wand. And all of the images that I’m seeing of yew… which is true probably of most, but it is known for having large gnarly knots on the inside that are really dark, and then the wood itself is fairly light as far as wood goes; it’s slightly lighter than a pine. It’s pretty light-looking wood.

Grace: Oh, wow.

Kat: So I feel like that matches his personality pretty well too.

Grace: So it’s not bone white and looks like a bone? Like they do in the movies?

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: No, definitely not.

Grace: Like it’s carved out of human material?

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: It’s known to be pretty knotty, though. With a K. not an N-A.

Rosie: And that kind of imagery, though, with the idea of knots being known as hearts as well, so the idea of maybe black hearts within the white flesh of the tree, is quite interesting.

Grace: And lots of imperfections within an individual. That’s cool.

Kat: Love it!

Grace: That is pretty awesome.

Rosie: Yeah. So Tom then goes to Hogwarts with his new wand. We don’t know if he ever had a pet. [laughs] We don’t know about any of the other trappings of [his] first year at Hogwarts. But he does seem to…

Kat: I don’t think he would have a pet; he doesn’t seem like that type.

Rosie: No, and he probably wouldn’t be able to look after it at the orphanage or anything either, so…

Grace: Unless it’s a snake? Nah.

Rosie: He maybe found some snakes that he could adopt at Hogwarts.

Grace: Could you imagine that, though? If he had a tiny little garden snake he just kept around? That would be the cutest!

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: Like Pickett. He can carry it in his pocket.

Grace: Aww!

Kristen: Aww, that’d be the best.

Rosie: Well, by his second year, we do know that Tom had learned about the Chamber of Secrets and the monster within, so maybe that was him seeking a pet, and he decided to go down [unintelligible] and find and open it.

Grace: “I want one too!”

[Everyone laughs]

Rosie: Ahh, little pet Basilisk, so nice and cute!

[Everyone laughs]

Rosie: And much of his next three years [were] spent finding and opening that chamber, which, obviously, he then succeeds in doing. Ultimately, that then ends in the death of Myrtle, which interestingly counts as a murder by Voldemort – a murder by Tom – rather than a death caused by the snake.

Grace: The Basilisk.

Rosie: Yeah. So do you think that he deliberately set the snake on her rather than just calling it out and then it sees the first Muggle-born that it finds? Did he know that she was in the bathroom and he deliberately set it on her at that moment?

Rosie: In order for it to count as a murder?

Kat: Myrtle is super annoying, so maybe that was it?

[Everyone laughs]

Grace: How I picture Tom at this point in his life, because he just got to Hogwarts, he’s finally made some friends, he’s super popular, he’s handsome and charming, he knows what he’s doing, and for once, he feels like he’s at home somewhere. I feel like the first maybe three to four years of Hogwarts is just Tom and his merry band of jackasses going around and doing whatever they want at Hogwarts.

Rosie: [laughs] In a very Draco and Crabbe and Goyle way.

Grace: Yeah, but even more. Because they’re described as having somewhat of a dark glamour about them. I feel like it’s like Ocean’s Eleven, but they constantly just fail at doing everything.

[Everyone laughs]

Grace: It’s like they try to set the Gryffindor Tower on fire or something dumb like that. It’s just stupid kid stuff; for the first time in forever, he has people to speak with and plan things out with. But I feel like that probably changes from the first murder onward. I feel like his demeanor and goals probably change. At least a little bit, they shift. But that’s my own personal headcanon there, so take it with a grain of salt, whatever you want. I just think it’s really funny to think of. [laughs]

Kat: Yeah, I’ve always thought of those early years of Tom Riddle as him being very much just by himself. Like a Luna type character, where they are so in their head, and they know who they are and their goals and where they’re headed and what they want to do, that they don’t really feel like they need to be with other people.

Grace: Oh, that’s interesting.

Kat: They don’t need to have friends or have people around. Obviously, Luna does want those things, and she strives for those things, but the two of them are very secure with who they are, and they do have goals and things that they are passionate about, of course, obviously, Tom Riddle’s being significantly more dark than finding the Crumple-Horned Snorkack.

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: But regardless, I always equated the two of them as far as their “lonership status” at school.

Kristen: I feel like he found people, not as in friends like Draco did but just as followers. He was slowly trying to gain that following from an early-on age. I feel like he, like you said, [had] that Luna alone side, but he had those people still around him, and he’s not necessarily having conversations with them, but he’s talking to them to figure out things but not really actually taking any of their opinions into account. He just wanted to have them revolve around him.

Rosie: He’s like the Littlefinger from Game of Thrones. He attracts people to him but doesn’t really care about them. He sets out to find the Chamber of Secrets from his second year, so definitely within that first or second year, he’s not necessarily interested in friends and popularity and all that kind of thing. But he probably is interested in learning as much magic as he can, and he is interested in developing his power. For him to then find out something more about maybe his heritage or the creature that exists within the Chamber – or is rumored to – and then that mission that Slytherin originally set out on, to cleanse the school of Muggle-borns, I think from that second year, he must have turned darker, because you wouldn’t deliberately set out to open that chamber without necessarily wanting to fulfill that destiny that that chamber was supposed to have. So if you’ve made that decision to look for it, then you must be choosing to actually kill Muggle-borns.

Grace: Well, and also, that chamber symbolizes power. I feel like Tom, when he got to the school, he finds magic, and magic is the first thing that he’s been able to wield and that he feels like he’s part of. So I feel like even though he might have been almost obsessive about finding the Chamber of Secrets, I feel like he was obsessive about magic in general. As a student, he might have just been insatiable about finding new things to learn. And that’s why a lot of teachers probably loved him so much, because he just wouldn’t stop asking questions.

Rosie: In a very different way from Harry. [laughs]

Grace: Oh yeah. And I feel like when it comes to the question of him and his followers/friends/whatever, from his mindset, from his inability to feel human empathy, followers were friends. That’s basically how he thought of them, how he thinks of everyone else who isn’t him. So that’s as close as he’s going to get to it and within his own understanding and his own stunted way of understanding how humans work. Yeah, they were friends, but… yeah.

Rosie: We see that in what he actually ends up doing as well in that fifth year. So once Myrtle has died, and once he realizes that threat to his own security at the school, he very coldly calculates the situation and decides who[m] he’s going to frame the situation on, and that [ends] up being Hagrid. So he understands people’s fears about giants, and he very deliberately picks the person who[m] it wouldn’t even be questioned as to whether or not it really was Hagrid. Yes, there was a creature that Hagrid was looking after, and yes, it probably shouldn’t have been in the school, but no one’s even going to bother investigating that much because Hagrid is who he is. So Riddle has learned a lot not only about magic and power but also about people and power at this point and the insecurities and prejudices within the wizarding world as well as the Muggles. So he has very much become the powerful social figure at school and is pulling those social strings.

Grace: That he wanted to. And also, maybe this makes him look stupid, [laughs] but I feel like he definitely did not mean to kill Myrtle. We talked about this on the Horcrux episode, and I understand the fact that he actually might have plotted it out because he wanted to experiment as to whether or not he could use the Basilisk to kill someone and still use it for Horcrux-making.

[Grace and Rosie laugh]

Grace: [in a Southern accent] Making all them good ol’ Horcruxes. [back to normal voice] But I feel like he probably just happened to be trying to get in and out of the Chamber and she just happened to be there in an extremely unlucky situation. He just turns around and then she’s dead. [laughs] I don’t know.

Rosie: Something that’s always confused me about the Chamber of Secrets being opened before our Chamber of Secrets is that if they didn’t know what the creature was and it only ever killed one person, what was that creature doing in that first opening of the Chamber? Was it actually just Petrifying people in the same way as it was this second time?

Grace: That’s confused me too. You’re right.

Rosie: Yeah. Because if they were being Petrified, surely they would have researched the kind of creatures that could Petrify someone and then found out it was a basilisk. Because there'[re] not many things that could do that. So what was the wizarding world up to? Was it just that there was actually so [many] distractions going on with the war with Grindelwald that they weren’t really focusing on the school? Or was it open for a very, very short time and Myrtle was killed almost instantly?

Grace: I think it was a short time situation.

Kat: Yeah. I tend to believe that it was a one-and-done type of situation where Tom Riddle got lucky with the fact that Myrtle was there and got to kill somebody. And then the whole thing…

Grace: [laughs] I’m sorry, wait.

Kat: He obviously intended for it to stay open and for it to cleanse the school and all of that, but things started to happen once Hagrid got arrested. The Ministry probably started paying attention and he couldn’t open it again. Couldn’t let the monster back out, really.

Grace: All I’m picturing right now is [the] Basilisk’s first adventure! And then it comes out and instantly kills someone and then just goes right back in. [laughs]

Kat: I’ve been more wondering, what did that thing eat for 50 years?

Rosie: Rats.

Grace: The despair of human souls or something.

Kristen: Chicken?

[Grace and Kat laugh]

Kristen: Sewage?

Kat: Eww!

Rosie: At least in the film, there'[re] a lot of rat bones.

Kat: They talked about that on the last episode – the vanishing of the poo.

Grace: Eww!

Kristen: That’s where it went! [laughs]

Grace: No. I think that it was probably hibernating. If it’s that old, maybe it goes into some weird stasis state where it just chills there for a while.

Kat: Let’s hope it’s that one and not Kristen’s suggestion.

[Everyone laughs]

Kristen: Hey, it’s the truth. Sometimes the truth is gross.

Kat: [laughs] Indeed it is. Eww.

Grace: It’s just full of shit.

[Everyone laughs]

Rosie: So having killed Myrtle, essentially, in Year 5 of his Hogwarts career, Tom’s life really does take a dramatic turn at this point. He’s murdered someone – and it does count as his own murder – and essentially…

Kat: Yeah, did we answer that? I’m sorry. I don’t mean to interrupt, but why does that count as him killing Myrtle? I don’t get that.

Rosie: I think he must have deliberately set the creature on [her].

Kristen: He’s probably testing it out, making sure it does kill.

Kat: And I suppose, too, that it could be because he is directly controlling it.

Grace: That could be it, actually.

Rosie: In the same way as someone who sets an assassin on someone, ultimately, they are creating that murder.

Kristen: You’re still getting charged with murder.

Rosie: Yeah. He is still responsible for her death.

Grace: Even once removed, you’re still at least responsible in some way.

Rosie: Yeah, even if you don’t carry it out yourself. And we know that that definitely does count as his murder because that is the death that he is using to create the Horcrux of the diary. That was confirmed by Jo in her Bloomsbury interview that she did a long, long time ago.

Kat: The web chat, right?

Rosie: The web chat, yes. And almost immediately, but within the next year, we have seen that Tom goes off and tries to find his Muggle family. He finds the Riddles and ultimately murders them within that summer – and Morfin is framed for that murder. So he has met both sides of his original family, decided that both sides are beneath him at this point – both sides are in need of punishment – and ultimately, he enacts a death punishment for the Riddles and life imprisonment for his uncle.

Grace: Can I just say that, as terrifying as that situation is, how brilliant do you have to be to walk into a situation, put all of those pieces together, and then walk away scot-free? That’s terrifying and it’s horrible, but there’s no way I would have been able to use all of that to my advantage and do exactly what I wanted to do, even picking up Marvolo Gaunt’s ring at the end of it.

Rosie: [as Ollivander] “After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things. Terrible, yes, but great.”

Grace: Yeah. I would argue that Tom Riddle was… He’s so interesting, because he doesn’t have that terrifying power behind him yet. Lord Voldemort is blindly powerful by the end of his life. And I think Tom Riddle had to make up for not having that sort of power with all of his cunning, and I love that! That is so interesting.

Rosie: He’s incredibly intellectual at this stage. I think the later he goes on and the older he gets, and the more powerful he gets, the degradation of his soul…

Grace: The more humanity he loses.

Rosie: Yeah. But the splits of his soul really drive him insane and drive his mind into such focused venom that he stops being quite as cunning and calculated as he was able to be as a young man. So this is evil Tom Riddle at his prime, rather than at his most primal, as he becomes later on.

Grace: Yeah. This is mastermind Tom Riddle.

Rosie: [laughs] Yeah. Now I’m just picturing him as this little blue guy in the suit.

[Everyone laughs]

Grace: Yes! And with a taste for classic rock.

[Everyone laughs]

Rosie: So yeah, Morfin is framed for the murder of the Riddle family and is imprisoned until his death. So ultimately, Tom does cause the death of both sides of his family, leaving him a true orphan. And it is that same year that Tom actually talks to Slughorn about the possibility of multiple Horcruxes. I’ve got the quote of the description of Voldemort in that scene:

“Harry recognized Voldemort at once. His was the most handsome face and he looked the most relaxed of all the boys. His right hand lay negligently upon the arm of his chair; with a jolt, Harry saw that he was wearing Marvolo’s gold-and-black ring; he had already killed his father.”

So Harry obviously knows that story and the murder has to have taken place before Tom is talking to Slughorn. So there'[re] two possibilities here. Actually, there'[re] three possibilities. Either he hasn’t created any Horcruxes yet and is just thinking about it and thinking about the possibility and will then go on to create the diary and the ring soon after, or he’s already created the diary and that has proven to not be enough for him and now he’s done these other murders so he might as well use them for something. Perhaps he can create more Horcruxes and he wants to make sure that that’s possible and then he will go and create the ring. Or he’s done both of them and he’s checking that he’s still okay, that the multiple Horcruxes thing hasn’t damaged him too severely, and if it’s safe to go on and carry on up to his magical seven. What do you guys think in terms of the timeline here? Because obviously, it’s not confirmed. Why do you think that Tom decided to have this talk with Slughorn rather than just going ahead with his plan?

Kat: I think he was afraid of failing; he was afraid of dying. I think that he wanted to be sure that what he was going to do wasn’t going to further harm himself. Because we know he’s afraid of death. He’s afraid of dying; he’s afraid of being alone and moving on, so to say. And I think that he would have wanted to check to be sure that this was going to work before he took the risk, because that is a big risk. Because if he did die, he would have already had to use one of his saves, one of his Horcruxes.

Grace: The fail-safe.

Kat: Yeah. And Tom Riddle is not dumb. He is an incredibly accomplished, very smart wizard. And anybody knows that you got to do your research before you do the project.

Grace: Got to do your homework. Yeah, I think I side with you on this one. I think that the first two possibilities are probably more probable than the third one, which is that he already made two of them and is just checking. Just me personally, I think he already made the diary, and I think he was thinking about the ring. And this is a strange period in his life, because it’s still not entirely clear who[m] he murdered first. In my mind, I feel like it would have been more fitting for Tom to have targeted his father first, but maybe just by chance, he happened to kill Myrtle first in the bathroom. Because we’re getting a lot of our information on Tom’s life through Dumbledore, and Dumbledore did not know what was going on most of the time. So I feel like a lot of these events could be interchangeable.

Rosie: So we definitely know that Myrtle was killed.

Kat: First.

Rosie: Yeah, first. Because it was during his fifth year, and the conversation with Slughorn and the ring was during the sixth. So Myrtle definitely died first.

Grace: Oh, okay. Cool, I’ll stand corrected on that. [laughs]

Rosie: But within the other murders, we don’t know whether it was the Riddles and then Marvolo or the other way around. So maybe he went in search of his mother’s side first and his Slytherin heritage. Maybe he wanted to say, “Hey, guys, look, I opened the Chamber of Secrets; I’m the true Slytherin guy. Oh, wait, you are creepy and keep nailing snakes to the door.” Maybe he went seeking…

Grace: [laughs] He expected this whole regal situation.

Rosie: Yeah. He expected the heritage of the Chamber of Secrets and the glory that came with that and instead found a hovel. So ultimately, he was so disappointed in what he found. Maybe then he went to look for the Riddle side of his family and found some boring Muggles in an old house and ultimately found that to be…

Grace: I mean, he found a whole manor. If anything, he was expecting that grandeur from the Slytherin side and did not get it, and that maybe even pissed him off even more.

Rosie: Yeah. And especially because by that point, he was totally against Muggles because of the Slytherin aspect of it all and the Chamber of Secrets. So for Muggles to have that much power…

Grace: And also maybe even the abuse from his childhood.

Rosie: Yeah. So to see the Muggles having the family that the wizards should have had, maybe again that solidifies their exit. Ultimately…

Kat: Morfin was the only one in the house at that time anyway, right?

Rosie: Yes, because Marvolo has already died.

Kat: Right. He’s already died.

Rosie: And also, Merope died when Tom was born, so… And it’s Morfin [who] talks about Riddle and says that Riddle was up in the big house, I think.

Grace: Oh yeah, because Tom looks exactly like his father. He looks exactly like that pretty Muggle.

Rosie: So yes, Marvolo must have been found first. But whether or not he…

Kat: I’m inclined to believe that he went searching for Morfin, found him, [and] questioned him. Because he did not know who his father was. He has no idea.

Rosie: Other than the name, yeah.

Kat: So he would have had to get that information from Morfin by reading his memories and looking through all of that stuff. Knocked him out or something.

Rosie: I don’t think he needs to do that; I think Morfin told him. He was the boy from the big house up the road, remember?

Kat: Oh yeah. Probably. So [he] went and killed them and then came back and framed Morfin.

Grace: Yeah, I don’t think there’s too much of uncertainty on that. But I feel like the mindset that must have happened… Because Tom Riddle growing up in an orphanage, as we’ve discussed, he’s only ever seen people who look different from him. He’s never had anyone even remotely close to his genetics near him. To see his own face, a bit older, looking back at him must have been this sort of weird, terrifying experience.

Kat: Terrifying.

Grace: Yeah. Almost like [a] revolting experience, probably, to see. “Oh, this guy is definitely my father. That’s my face!”

Rosie: And again, such a Black Mirror experience for the Harry and Tom parallel. Harry is constantly told that he looks like his father. Tom never had that and yet does. When Harry sees his father’s image in the Mirror of Erised or the photographs, he is proud to see it and he lives up to his expectation and wants to be like his father. Ultimately, the Prisoner of Azkaban scene proves that he thinks he sees his father – and actually, it’s [Harry] – and he feels almost heroic in that role when he actually goes on and saves Sirius. But for Tom, to actually see himself being reflected and to have no connection in that image…

Grace: Yeah. And also looking back on how Tom, Sr. might have been at this point – because there’s no confirmation on how he was – I can’t imagine that mentally he’s in the best of places, having been raped for years and just in this awful mental state. So he’s in fear. He’s weak, as Tom, Jr. would see it.

Rosie: And maybe he rejects him in that state as well. So Tom, Sr. sees himself reflected in a younger self and rejects that and says, “No, you’re the child of this situation” and therefore, is rejected for being who he is.

Grace: Yeah, and for what he’s born of.

Rosie: Yeah. So this discussion actually really interestingly links us in to our next point, which was, Tom is very popular among Slytherins because of his looks – because he’s handsome, because he’s charming, because he is very much the classic leading man – looks like this role [in] the film of Hollywood Hogwarts.

[Grace laughs]

Rosie: For that appearance to actually come from his father as well, in the same way as he turns against his name – maybe that’s why he turns against his looks. Maybe he’s also hated, and feels hate, for his good looks. Because although he can use them for manipulation and trust, Grace, as you’ve said here, he ultimately decides that his power wants to come from something else. Do you want to go into [that]?

Grace: Yeah. It’s hard to say, because you really don’t get his viewpoint on his good looks, but I think we can judge by the fact that he has gone so violently in the other direction. He sees his good looks as only a means for manipulation and gaining trust from people who might have power to offer to himself. And he never sees it for any sort of attraction or for sexual purposes.

Kat: Yeah, right, Cursed Child lovers!

[Everyone laughs]

Grace: I’m sorry. I’m going to go at this from the perspective of just the seven books.

Rosie: But he does use it for manipulation, at least for…

Grace: Hepzibah.

Kat: Yes, indeed he does.

Rosie: [He] very much plays up that role of her boy-toy interest, although he never actually acts on that. But he is very aware.

Kristen: No, not as far as we know, thank God.

Rosie: And then he uses that for his benefit.

Grace: I think he sees that there’s no real value in that attraction, aside from just creating more adoration around him, and he saw fear as a viable means of control. I don’t know exactly what this means. As a trigger warning, it could tie his attractiveness to some sort of sexual assault that might have happened when he was younger, but there’s no way that I can actually pin some sort of event to that. It’s just the fact that he so violently goes away from his good looks and from people wanting him that maybe he never wanted that ever again in his life.

Kat: I think that he compares… Because he did see his father, and he sees his father in his reflection – in his beauty, so to say, in his attractiveness – and I think that that makes it significantly less desirable for him. He doesn’t want to be anything like his “filthy Muggle father.” He doesn’t want to be anything like him, and that includes being attractive.

Rosie: Ultimately, that appearance was the downfall of his mother as well. So he may tie into there as well.

Kat: Exactly. So as he starts to make the Horcruxes and his condition deteriorates, he probably pushes that even a little bit further and for all we know, helps it along and helps him really transform from that handsome Tom Riddle to Lord Voldemort.

Rosie: I think the fact that it is such a snake-like appearance that he ultimately has to show some of his own personal influence. I don’t think it would have been the Horcruxes themselves that created a snake-like visage. That is Voldemort choosing to associate himself with ultimate Slytherin with [the] ultimate symbol of the snake.

Grace: Oh, absolutely. I feel like he definitely made that conscious decision to get rid of his good looks and become something terrifying.

Rosie: Yes. And that transition happens while he is away from Hogwarts. So during his seventh year, he was made Head Boy, [and] he used that popularity [and] that attractiveness to his benefit while at school, while in a situation where appearances seemed to matter so much. He uses it again to convince the Gray Lady to tell him the location of the diadem. Ultimately, she then loses trust in herself and we see that storyline come to its halt in Harry’s seventh year. But he applies to work [at] Hogwarts at the end of the year when he graduates, is denied due to being 18, and ultimately sets out to become the kind of figure that he wants to be. He goes and works in Borgin and Burkes – he stays there for 15 years, actually – and during that time, is searching for these other elements, Hogwarts founder items. The year that he graduates Hogwarts is the year that Dumbledore does actually defeat Grindelwald, so we’ve got a bit of power vacuum happening. The previous all-powerful Dark Lord has been defeated, and perhaps this is [the] ten or fifteen years where Riddle is researching how Grindelwald maybe rose to power, learning, gaining his followers, and starting to put together the Death Eaters from his friends at school.

Grace: Yeah, this would have been one of his prime moments for actually networking.

[Kristen laughs]

Grace: Because he’s moving around high society in order to sell and to buy these items – and probably steal a few, to be honest with you. [laughs] Aside from the main two.

Rosie: Yeah. And it’s Borgin and Burkes as well, so they’re Dark items.

Kristen: Shady people.

Rosie: Not good things.

Grace: Yeah. They probably knew about it, but he was bringing in so much money, they were just like, “Well, we can just give him a few, I guess.”

Rosie: I’m sure they’re not good characters in themselves, so they would have probably helped him, not necessarily to become who he became, but they wouldn’t have batted an eye at any darkness that was happening. So eventually, he does find Hepzibah Smith, who [has not] one of these items, but two. She has the cup…

Grace: Jackpot.

[Kristen laughs]

Rosie: … and she had the locket. But I don’t think he would have killed her if it weren’t for the story that she tells. He definitely would have taken the items and he probably would have framed Hokey for it, but ultimately, her death is sealed when she bad-mouths his mother. Because as much as he thinks that she was weak, as much as he has learned to hate her as a character, perhaps…

Grace: For her weakness, yeah.

Rosie: Ultimately, this is a woman who could have helped. This [is] a woman who could have done something – and a witch [who] could have intervened and saved his mother and saved him. All of this heartache and things that have led up to his life here at the age of… I think he must have been 27 or approaching 30. And he’s not had a good life. We know all of this with what we’ve already discussed. And to hear someone then criticize his mother for being so desperate that she would sell this item means that he has to give this back to its rightful owner, meaning himself, and this witch must die.

Kat: I think it’s interesting that you think even partially that it’s in defense of his mother. I think it is 100,000% only about the locket. I think that if she only had the cup, he probably would have just let her live, framed Hokey, or done something. But the fact that she had the locket, he was desperate for that because he knew that that’s his. That’s supposed to be his. “You stole that from me” is probably his mindset in that moment. And I honestly think he would have done anything to get his hands on that locket – not so much the cup. I mean, I’m not saying anything bad, but it’s just Hufflepuff. It’s important to him.

Rosie: [laughs] Oh, Kat, now you’re in trouble.

[Grace laughs]

Kat: You know what I mean. It’s important to him because it’s Hogwarts, but it’s not as important to him as that locket.

Rosie: Because he already had the ring, so he didn’t actually need another Slytherin thing. But that locket should have been his, and therefore, he needs it.

Kristen: Yes. He had that.

Kat: Well, the ring isn’t Slytherin[‘s].

Grace: The ring is the Gaunts’, yeah.

Kat: It’s his ancestry.

Rosie: But the Gaunts are pure-blood Slytherin.

Kat: Right, but it’s not one of the four Houses. It’s not connected to Hogwarts and the founders.

Rosie: Yeah. It’s not actually his item. Sure.

Grace: But it’s connected to him, which makes it just as majestic in his eyes, I’m almost certain. Also, I love both of these theories a lot. I hadn’t even stopped to think about them, but they’re great. I figure that it just seemed like the most calculating thing for him to do. It seems useful for him to kill off this woman [who] had literally been annoying him with advances for years now. Put her in her place. Go ahead. He’s powerful enough at this point where he doesn’t need to be in Borgin and Burkes. He can take what he needs and just go. But I actually love the thought that goes behind both of your theories here as to why she had to die in the end.

Kat: So she continued to show him objects over the years. She called him over to show him these things, so they had some sort of trusting relationship between the two of them. He had definitely visited her before. There was some sort of rapport there. And I truly, truly think that if she didn’t have that locket, he would have continued to nurture that relationship to see what else she had, to see what else he could get out of her: “What else can I take from you? What else can I steal from you and leech from you?” But the second she showed that locket, it was done. Her fate was sealed.

Grace: Well, I don’t know if he stole anything. Maybe he was just shopping up until that point.

[Kristen laughs]

Grace: He was like, “She’s going to keep showing me stuff. At some point, I’m going to strike gold. So if I just keep acting really charming and being really handsome…” He just keeps being the Disney prince, basically.

[Kristen laughs]

Rosie: I wonder if she has gossiped about her items before. Not necessarily the locket but definitely the cup.

Kristen: The cup, yeah.

Grace: Oh, without a doubt.

Rosie: Because she’s so proud of it. So maybe he was playing the long game here and he was really only indulging her because he wanted this item, and he was just waiting for her to show it and just happened to get two for the price of one.

Kristen: Cha-ching! [laughs]

Kat: I find that very plausible. Very plausible, for sure.

Rosie: Which, then again, shows this cold, calculating, intellectual Riddle [whom] we were used to in the ten years previous to this.

Grace: Aww, he’s so smart at this point! I love it. He’s a great villain! Oh my God!

Rosie: [laughs] But then he disappears for another ten years!

Grace: He does.

Rosie: So he’s got what he wants. He uses Hepzibah’s murder to create the cup Horcrux and ultimately just kills a Muggle tramp to create the locket. Which is quite interesting that at this point he no longer cares about who[m] he kills, and [he] no longer [uses] ritualistic killings in order to create these items. Now the impetus is just “I need to create a Horcrux, so I’m going to murder whoever I can.” This is also shown when he creates the diadem. During that ten-year gap, he actually kind of fully takes on that persona of Lord Voldemort. He is in Albania, he finds the diadem, and he murders an Albanian citizen in order to create the diadem Horcrux. So this is the point where our Tom Riddle discussion technically should end, but it feels like we’ve got this far in the journey that we can’t stop here.

[Grace and Rosie laugh]

Grace: Let’s keep the insanity train rolling!

Kat: We can wrap it up with some “modern” Tom Riddle. Yeah, sure.

[Grace laughs]

Rosie: Tom is still in existence in some form, because obviously, Dumbledore still knows him as Tom and still applies his name to him in the next scene where we actually see Voldemort arrive.

Grace: This always confuses me. How many people knew that Lord Voldemort was Tom Riddle?

Kat: Very few, according to Dumbledore.

Rosie: But that doesn’t really make sense, because Tom was so famous and was using his Voldemort name, at least among his friends, previously. So I guess maybe if only his friends and only a select couple of teachers – maybe Dumbledore and his spies – knew the name, then the inner circle would know not to use it. And therefore, [they] forget about it, or at least put it at the back of their minds, and they never bring it forward again. So then Voldemort can use it as a piece of power. And if he is so visibly changed, I guess it’s quite difficult to associate the person [whom] you’re seeing now with this boy [whom] you saw ten [or] twenty years ago. Because this is the second ten-year gap in our timeline. There [were] ten years between [Tom] graduating Hogwarts and Hepzibah’s murder, and now there'[re] ten years between Hepzibah’s murder and Voldemort reappearing. So this is Voldemort [at] age 37 applying to work at Hogwarts once more, this time under Dumbledore as Headmaster. And again, a little section from the books. It says, “He was no longer handsome Tom Riddle. It was as though his features had been burned and blurred; they were waxy and oddly distorted, and the whites of his eyes now had a permanently bloody look, though the pupils were not yet the slits that Harry knew they would become. He was wearing a long black cloak, and his face was as pale as the snow glistening on his shoulders.” So he’s not full snake here, which is quite interesting.

Kat: Right. Also, this is a reminder that all of the adults in Harry’s life – his parents, Lucius, Snape, all of them – were at Hogwarts at this time. So 1971 is when Lupin started, because Dumbledore became Headmaster just before that, and Lucius was already… I think it was Year 4 or 5… No, it must have been [Year] 5 because he had a prefect badge, I’m pretty sure. So think about the fact that if Voldemort had gotten that job, how different their lives at Hogwarts would have been.

Kristen: That’s crazy.

Grace: Yeah. And also, I know it seems like it would have been this horrifying thing, but Dumbledore would have been able to keep an eye on Tom. I don’t know if he would have been able to do much, but it’s one surefire way of making sure that he’s not constantly out plotting at this point.

Rosie: Yeah, that is an interesting idea. If Dumbledore had hired Tom, would the Second War have happened in the same way? Because ultimately, it is Voldemort being turned away from the castle and then going off and creating the war that…

Grace: Makes the drama-filled tizzy.

Kristen: He would have shaped these young minds into something different.

Rosie: Yeah. I mean, ultimately he would have been creating generations and generations of Dark wizards, and he would have created a lot of followers for himself. So ultimately, he would have become probably a dictator figure in the same way. But would it have happened in quite as much of a Death Eaters versus Order of the Phoenix way if he had been allowed to [teach]?

Grace: When the enemys are in the walls, basically?

Rosie: Yeah.

Grace: When he started to convert people from within the school. So that’s another terrifying element of having him as a teacher. I could see why he would have been turned away. I mean, there’s an argument for both points. Maybe Dumbledore, at this point, changed as an individual. Maybe he could have tried to change Tom. There’s always that question. But it’s really hard to say, just because Tom is very far gone at this point. Is he too far gone?

Rosie: I think so.

Grace: That’s always the question.

Rosie: The fact that he’s now had this visible change… Although actually, at this point, I don’t think it is his choice. The burned and blurred and waxy, bloody eyes, they’re not something that he has chosen to do. The snake aspect of it – the slit pupils and the nose, eventually – I think he would choose to do himself. But I think here we’ve got more of a Dorian Gray situation where the appearance is starting to match the destruction of his soul. So his soul has been burned and blurred and is distorted and is permanently bloody, and therefore, so is he.

Grace: I mean, maybe. Poetically, that makes sense, but I feel like from the story’s standpoint, he had made four Horcruxes before and he still looked fine. So I mean, it’s possible that they started to reflect badly on his actual physical person, but I feel like this is still an act of choice. I feel like he’s on the path of actively choosing to become this thing.

Rosie: So this is him at the stage of five Horcruxes?

Grace: Yes.

Rosie: Previously, when he was looking fine, he’d only created two because we don’t see him after he creates the locket and the cup or the diadem. So this is the first time that we see him after the ring. And I believe there [are] some elements of looking slightly off in his description when he’s with Hepzibah. I haven’t got the information with me, unfortunately, but there’s…

Grace: I think it was just that he was pale and more handsome than before. It said that that boyhood look that he had had finally left him, and he looked the most handsome that Harry had ever seen him. So I really do think that it was an active choice, but there’s nothing in the text to support my theory, so it very much could be that the magic was affecting him.

Kat: There’s no reason it can’t be both.

Rosie: There’s nothing in the text to support any of our theories. It’s just us reading into it.

[Kristen and Rosie laugh]

Rosie: Yes, we do know that Voldemort uses this trip to the school to actually hide the diadem within the castle, within that room that he thinks that no one knows about. He also at this point supposedly curses the Defense Against the Dark Arts job, and Dumbledore says…

Kat: Oh, he’s also looking for a Gryffindor object. Don’t forget.

Rosie: Oh, true, yes.

Grace: He’s scouting it out. He’s shopping again. Voldy goes shopping.

[Kristen and Rosie laugh]

Rosie: But ultimately, [he] never finds one.

Grace: Womp, womp. [laughs]

Rosie: And supposedly, no [Defense Against the Dark Arts] teacher stays at the school for more than a year after that, so that’s 25 years’ worth of teachers before Harry joins the school.

[Grace and Kristin laugh]

Grace: It’s like a spinning door. It’s ridiculous.

Kristen: Pretty sick.

Kat: And I want to remind everybody who’s going to be “but, but,” Quirrell was the Muggle Studies teacher before DADA, so don’t bring that up, because you’d be wrong. Just a reminder from your [friendly neighborhood] Ravenclaw.

Rosie: I want to know who these 25 other teachers were.

[Grace laughs]

Kristen: Yeah, I’m very curious.

Grace: And what happened to them.

Rosie: What happened to them?

Kat: Well, they didn’t all die. Some people just left.

Rosie: Maybe that’s what’s feeding the Basilisk.

Grace: They all explode.

[Kristen and Rosie laugh]

Rosie: 25 years of Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers.

[Grace laughs]

Kat: A steady diet of Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers. Perfect.

[Grace and Rosie laugh]

Grace: Those poor things.

Kat: That was dark, Rosie. That was dark.

Rosie: Sorry.

[Kat, Kristen, and Rosie laugh]

Grace: It’s a dark quip, guys.

Rosie: It seems so ridiculous. I think this has got to be another one of those “Jo didn’t quite do the math” situations.

Kat: Well, that’s the thing. She didn’t trap herself into a timeline until she mentioned Nearly Headless Nick’s 500th deathday, and then she gave it a date. And that day, that mention in Chamber of Secrets, is what set up the entire timeline of the entire Harry Potter universe, the entire wizarding world. So no, she had no idea. She didn’t think about that because she wasn’t attempting to write a timeline. She was just writing a novel, and she made an “oopsie” and happened to mention a date.

Rosie: So we are stuck in this timeline. We have got these 25 years’ worth of teachers, but we’ve also got this time period where Voldemort has been gaining power for the last ten years while he’s doing this disappearing trip to Albania. He’s come back and has been reconnecting with some of his old schoolmates. And presumably, he also uses this trip to start almost recruiting new Death Eaters, because as you said, Kat, Lucius is at the school at this point, and we know that – obviously – Lucius and Bellatrix and all of that gang will eventually become Death Eaters despite how much younger they are than Voldemort himself. They are essentially 15 to 20 years younger than him. So perhaps he spends his time on this day actually talking to some of the Slytherins in the House and recruiting those, or they’ll come to him later. We’re not really clear on that.

Grace: I mean, aren’t they already connected to him because he knew their parents? Wouldn’t he have known about them? They were probably raised to believe that he had the right ideas.

Rosie: Yeah, or at least he uses the ideas that they were borrowing.

Grace: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just a bit more crazy.

Rosie: Yeah, I guess it depends on how dark and anti-Muggle the Slytherin House and the Slytherin families were at that point. So without that rallying leader, did they actually all share quite as militant an ideology as they would later on? I’m not sure [about] that. I’m trying to think back to the Pottermore information on Malfoy’s family. I can’t remember what it says about Lucius, his father, if there’s anything at all.

Kat: About what? In regard to…?

Rosie: About whether or not they are quite as dark as Lucius and the family become.

Grace: Well, I’m certain that Tom exacerbated that situation to the nth degree. Yeah, I mean, they really were a ready force for him. Wonder what they would have done had they known that he was half-blooded? And how was he really able to hide that?

Rosie: Well, no one knows who his father is.

Kat: He’s an heir of Slytherin. He doesn’t have to hide it.

Kristen: Yeah, his parents are passed away.

Grace: Well, true, but he would have had to learn a lot about the magical culture very quickly and have to do so without people…

Kat: I don’t think he had any problem doing that.

Rosie: I think he knows the Gaunt name, so he can flaunt that. And no one really knows what happened to the Gaunts to an extent, probably. Although they would have known about Morfin going to jail, they don’t necessarily know about Merope, and they don’t know who Merope’s husband or partner would have been [who] would have created the child. So ultimately, as long as he can use the name Gaunt – and that is on the Black family tree – he’s fine. And no one would expect the Gaunts to marry or to have children with Muggle-borns, so he doesn’t have to explain himself to that extent.

Grace: That is a great point.

Rosie: Good. [laughs] So during this interview, Dumbledore actually mentions that he knows that Voldemort has created a band of followers and that they are called Death Eaters. And within a few years of the denial of this job, the Order of the Phoenix has then been formed to fight against Voldemort, including all of the figures [whom] we see in the photograph that Sirius shows to Harry. Is it Sirius [who] showed it to Harry, or is it Lupin? I think it’s Sirius.

Grace: That was Mad-Eye Moody, wasn’t it?

Rosie: Oh, that’s Moody.

Kat: It’s Mad-Eye in the book, Sirius in the film.

Rosie: Yes, sorry. There you go. Oh dear, I’m conflating things. Not good.

[Grace laughs]

Rosie: That Mad-Eye shows him. Including, of course, the Longbottoms, including the Potters, including all of that band, so essentially anyone who is at Hogwarts at the time and people [who] had graduated before that to get some older fighters in there as well. Seems to have been included in this battle or at least the ones [whom] we know about. There were bound to be other people as well [who] weren’t Order of the Phoenix [members] or Death Eaters, but it seems that the Gryffindors definitely were on the Order side, and the Slytherins seem to be the Death Eaters. What were you Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws doing at the time? Come on, guys. We don’t know who you are.

Grace: Just chilling.

[Grace and Rosie laugh]

Kat: Just being the lesser, crappy Houses, obviously.

[Grace and Rosie laugh]

Rosie: We have 13 years between that job interview and the ultimate prophecy sequence coming to life. So that is 13 years of darkness, of fighting, where Voldemort is gaining power, where he is causing terror. We only ever see a year or two, really, of Voldemort in power during Harry’s lifetime, and that seems so dark and terrifying that to live with that for 13 years really shows why people were so afraid of him. And I think we don’t often think about how long that time period was. Again, this is going by the timeline that we have worked out based on the mentions in the book. There’s no actual mention of “Yes, he was in power for 13 years.” But the way that the actual counting on works out says that that was the amount of time. If you actually think about the wars that we have got in the real world, no war really lasts that long, or at least [not] the official wars. So it would have been a very, very dramatic, very scary time, and you can clearly see why the Order of the Phoenix [was] fighting so hard against it. If we’re saying that Lupin and that year group were maybe in their first year of Hogwarts when this interview was taking place, we can then count on maybe seven years if they were graduating before they actually joined [the] Order of the Phoenix. So ultimately, the actual war part where that fighting was happening is perhaps seven years long. Whether or not they were fighting the whole time, we don’t know. But we do know that that time period must have been very…

Grace: I mean, terrifying. They’re children, essentially, and they’re being sent into battle. They’re being sent into battle against seasoned fighters. The Death Eaters weren’t anything to laugh at. I think Voldemort had trained them himself, the first crew of them, and then that first crew probably trained the children [who] had joined up.

Rosie: And they do tend to be older as well. The Death Eaters [whom] we know about seem to be older by a few years than the Order members [whom] we know about, other than perhaps Regulus.

Grace: These are people [who] have lived within a magical world. Whereas a lot of the other people are ones [who] joined in. So I mean, there [are] a lot of different advantages that the Death Eaters did have, aside from money and power, that they went into this with. So Voldemort has created this force. They’re almost-ready forces that he had made, waiting for him to get back from his ten-year hiatus where he was looking for the diadem. It’s like, “I’ll be right back, guys. Just hold things down for me.” [laughs]

Rosie: With the Second War, we tend to think of these as very young children fighting, and they probably were a few years younger. They were the seventh years and the students of Hogwarts [who] were actually fighting in the Battle of Hogwarts, but they are fighting against Death Eaters who were original, First War Death Eaters, and there'[re] very few original Order of the Phoenix members actually existing by the time we get to that battle. So although Harry does ultimately end [up] killing Voldemort in that First War, and that ends the First War, the Death Eaters were winning. So many more Order members seem to have lost their lives than Death Eaters that we know about. There [were] probably losses on both sides. The inner sanctum of Voldemort’s circle seem[s] to have survived a lot better than Dumbledore’s Order.

Grace: Yeah, and I mean, the battle premise that they were working from is totally imbalanced, because what can you consider playing fair at this point? The Death Eaters were torturing and killing, whereas the Order members were just trying to capture, as far as we know. How much can you defend yourself against when these people are willing to tear you down in every way? They weren’t playing by the same rules, and I think that was one of the reasons as to why they were winning. Another reason was probably [that] they had Voldemort training them, and Tom Riddle himself was just brilliant at fighting. I don’t think Dumbledore was really training anyone. [laughs] He was just trying to take down Tom.

Rosie: That’s the sad issue that we actually face at this moment in our real world, the idea of “how do you stop terror?” How do you stop violence and fighting? The Order and the path that Jo is teaching us is this order of peace and of justice and of right. And yes, there will have to be battles, and there will have to be fighting, but ultimately, it shouldn’t be about killing the other side. It should be about capture. It should be about not lowering yourself to the same situation of fighting terror with terror. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be about the [number] of people you can kill in order to succeed. A battle is not won on who has the larger death count.

Grace: Yeah, it just creates an opposing terrifying dichotomy. If you’re just killing the enemy who’s trying to kill you, everyone ends up dead.

Rosie: And in this situation, we see that 13 years after this job interview, Voldemort learns about the prophecy. He learns about this child with the power to vanquish him, the thing that he ultimately fears, and chooses to target the half-blood family of the Potters as a result. Pettigrew obviously betrays the Potters. And we end up seeing Voldemort going to attack, killing James, offering Lily her life due to Snape’s promise, but when she refuses to stand aside, he attempts to kill Harry, and his own body is killed in that process, essentially. The Killing Curse does work, but it rebounds on him and [he] ultimately kills himself. But due to the Horcruxes, the fragment of soul that is left is without a vessel and flees to the forests of Albania once more.

Kat: And the body formerly known as Tom Riddle is gone forever.

Rosie: It is indeed, which is why this is where our Tom Riddle discussion ends, because the next time we see him he is no longer in Tom Riddle’s body. Ta-da. It worked, I think.

[Everyone laughs]

Grace: He’s got a new one. He needs a shiny new body.

Rosie: With no nose.

Grace: It’s all snakey. Snakey and powerful.

Kristen: It’s not a human body. And we want to thank Grace for being on the show and discussing one of her favorite characters with us today. Thank you.

Grace: Aww, thanks, you guys. It was a really wonderful experience.

Kat: Cool. Yeah, that was definitely a really good episode. I loved that we covered – oh, gosh – [55] years of Tom Riddle.

Rosie: So much. [laughs]

Kat: In two hours.

[Grace laughs]

Kat: It’s awesome.

Rosie: Isn’t it amazing that we can actually do two hours’ worth of discussion on something that isn’t really in the books, though?

Kristen: I want to know those gap years.

Grace: I know. So many feelings we’re going through.

Kat: Yeah. Oh, and by the way, people are probably going to comment this too, since Kristen, you just mentioned it, those gap years. So that fan-made, Voldemort origin story film. Guys, be really careful with that because it is not greenlit by Warner Bros. They have not given them the okay to make this. They basically have said, “We’re not going to sue you, but if you make any money, you’re done.” So just be really careful, guys, if you support it or share it or any of that stuff because it’s a wishy-washy, wishy-washy situation.

Rosie: It’s the same as fan fiction. They approve of it being created, but they don’t necessarily approve of it in an official sense. No money can be made. You’re not…

Grace: Oh, that’s interesting.

Rosie: Yeah, so they allow it in terms of “they like fan creativity,” but you are not allowed to use any of the trademarks. You’re not allowed to use anything in a profit-making sense for good reason. That’s intellectual property. There’s no reason why you should be allowed to make money from that. In the same way that we don’t make money from this show. Everything that we do from Patreon and all of that goes straight back into the funding of the show and creating content for you. It’s not for any profit-making business.

Kat: Also, the trailer has really big factual inaccuracies in it, so why would you watch it anyway?

[Kristen laughs]

Rosie: Obviously, they haven’t been listening to Alohomora! to do their research.

[Grace laughs]

Kat: Obviously not, so right off the bat, it’s wrong. So whatever, you can watch it if you want, but…

Rosie: We support creativity.

Kat: … just wanted to warn our listeners.

Grace: [laughs] He’s my favorite character. How can I not watch this?

Rosie: Fair enough. And if you guys have a favorite character, you’ll have to wait for another topic episode on characters or suggest one of your own in the future. But our next episode will be a chapter revisit, but we’re not going to tell you which one. You guys have got to watch our social media so that you can listen to the old episode covering that chapter and read up on our second go-round so that you can find out what we will be doing. But yeah, definitely look for us on all of the normal social media platforms to find out what it will be.

Kat: Yeah, and if you want to be on any future episode, chapter revisit or topic and the like, you can head over to the “Be on the Show!” page on alohomora.mugglenet.com and submit to be on one of our lovely episodes, or you can also suggest a topic for future episodes or even a chapter if there’s a chapter you really are dying for us to revisit. You think we didn’t do it justice the first time around, maybe your favorite host wasn’t on the first time around, any of those things, submit them. We want to hear them. And to be on the show, you don’t really need anything fancy – just a set of headphones that have a built-in microphone is all good. No fancy equipment or anything like that needed.

Kristen: And don’t forget you can contact us on our many social media sites. We’re on Twitter @AlohomoraMN [and] Facebook at facebook.com/openthedumbledore. And just don’t always forget to check out our website at alohomora.mugglenet.com.

Rosie: And just one more very quick reminder to check out our Patreon page. That is patreon.com/alohomora. You can sponsor us for as low as $1 a month, just to help us keep this show going and bring all of this fabulous, in-depth content to you guys out there.

Kat: And I suppose this is probably a very apropos place to talk about this because we’ve been talking about the fabulous Tom Riddle for the last two hours, is that if you haven’t been following MuggleNet Live, our event that is happening this September 1, the date of the epilogue, guys. 19 years later. That’s this year. That’s this September 1. We just announced that the amazing Tom Riddle from Chamber of Secrets, Mr. Christian Coulson, is going to be joining us [at] MuggleNet Live.

Grace: Oh my God. I’m so excited.

Kat: Which is crazy exciting. Yeah, so now we have seven really fabulous guests announced, and we have at least one more. So definitely head over to mugglenetlive.com and check that out. It’s going to be a massive party. We have all sorts of crazy fun things going on, besides just being in the Wizarding World with almost nobody. The talent will be roaming around for free. There’s no extra charge for photographs and autographs, all that stuff. We’re going to have panels. We’re going to have scavenger hunts with awesome prizes because we have some really cool partners that we’re working with, like Funko and Insight Editions and Tervis. We’re also going to have trivia, and it’s going to be an incredibly fun night. There are very few tickets left, so don’t hesitate. Definitely get one now. And as long as Kristen and Rosie show up, we’re all going to be there.

Grace: Yeah. Kat can attest to this. When I heard about Christian Coulson, I flipped out. That changed everything. [laughs] Oh my God, I just got my tickets, you guys, so I want to meet everybody. I want to meet all the nerds.

Kat: We are all nerds. That I can assure you.

Rosie: There’s a 90% chance of an Alohomora! meet-up with all of us. So please, please, please do come and join us if you can.

Grace: Aww, it’s going to be incredible.

Kat: Yeah, it will be really fun. Probably not on the night of, just because we’ll be working and busy and stuff. We’ll make it happen if we’re all there or even if we’re not. If most of us are there…

Kristen: Yeah, if most of us are there.

Kat: … something’s going to happen, so just saying. If you care about meeting us dorks.

Rosie: [laughs] We’ll just have a little [unintelligible].

Kristen: And with that note, it is time for us to say goodbye.

[Show music begins]

Kristen: I’m Kristen Keys.

Rosie: I’m Rosie Morris.

Kat: And I’m Kat Miller. Thank you for listening to Episode 222 of Alohomora!

Rosie: Open the Dumbledore.

[Show music ends]