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Merope Gaunt

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Merope Riddle (née Gaunt)
Biographical information
Born

c. 1907[1]

Died

31 December, 1926 (aged 19)
Wool's Orphanage, London

Blood status

Pure-blood

Marital status

Married

Physical information
Species

Human

Gender

Female

Eye colour

Dark

Skin colour

Pale

Family information
Family members
Wand

Unknown length, wood and core materials

Affiliation
House

Never attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Loyalty
"Harry realised that there was somebody else in the room, a girl whose ragged grey dress was the exact colour of the dirty stone wall behind her... Her hair was lank and dull and she had a plain, pale, rather heavy face. Her eyes, like her brother's, stared in opposite directions. She looked a little cleaner than the two men, but Harry thought he had never seen a more defeated-looking person."
Harry Potter looks at Merope in Bob Ogden's memory in the Pensieve[src]

Merope Riddle (née Gaunt), (c. 190731 December, 1926) was a pure-blood witch, daughter of Marvolo Gaunt, and sister of Morfin. She was a direct descendant of Salazar Slytherin and a Parselmouth. Merope lived in a shack with her father and brother, who mentally and physically abused her. Later on, Merope grew to have an obsessive love for Tom Riddle, a handsome and wealthy Muggle. When both her father and brother were imprisoned, she bewitched and married Tom, but when he recovered, he abandoned her and their unborn son. Merope ended up dying at an orphanage, soon after giving birth to her son, whom she had named Tom Marvolo Riddle.

Many years later, her son, with the name of Lord Voldemort, became the most dangerous Dark wizard of all time.

Biography

Early life

"Pick it up! That's it, grub on the floor like some filthy Muggle, what's your wand for, you useless sack of muck?"
—Marvolo to Merope when she drops a pot[src]

Merope Gaunt had lived in a shack near Little Hangleton with her father, Marvolo, and brother, Morfin. Generations of inbreeding left the Gaunts violent, mentally unstable, and poverty-stricken. Merope exhibited little magical talent in her early years, and as a result was mentally and physically abused by her father, who called her a "disgusting little Squib", among other things. However, this was actually a self-fulfilling prophecy, as Merope's magical abilities were suppressed largely because of her father's abuse. Based on this, as well as the family's poverty, it is unlikely that Merope attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, though she did have a wand. Merope seemed to be in charge of cooking and cleaning in her family home; it is unknown what happened to her mother.

However, Merope's magical ability flourished after her father and brother were incarcerated in Azkaban and she was free from their abuse; she showed herself capable of significant magic, enslaving Tom Riddle either with the Imperius Curse or a love potion..[2]

Marriage

"Once Marvolo and Morfin were safely in Azkaban, once she was alone and free for the first time in her life, then, I am sure, she was able to give full rein to her abilities and to plot her escape from the desperate life she had led for eighteen years... The village of Little Hangleton enjoyed a tremendous scandal. You can imagine the gossip it caused when the squire's son ran off with the tramp's daughter, Merope."
Albus Dumbledore[src]

At some point in her life, Merope secretly fell in love with Tom Riddle, an exceptionally handsome and wealthy Muggle, and the only child of Thomas and Mary Riddle, who lived nearby. Her father was livid when Morfin revealed this to him in the summer of 1925, and attacked her physically, but was restrained by Ministry official Bob Ogden. Ogden arrested both Marvolo and Morfin, who had cursed Riddle because his sister found him attractive. With her family gone, Merope made a play for Riddle. She left the shack with a farewell note revealing what she did, and her existence was never again mentioned by Marvolo.

Although Harry Potter, upon learning of these events, speculated that she might have used the Imperius Curse or a Love Potion on Riddle, Dumbledore believed that she most likely used a Love Potion because it seemed more romantic. In any case, Riddle became infatuated with her and they were married in late 1925, running away to London together.[3]

Harry: "The Imperious Curse?" Harry suggested "Or a love potion?"
Albus Dumbledore: "Very good. Personally, I am inclined to think that she used a love potion."
Harry and Dumbledore's speculations regarding Merope
  • Parselmouth: Like her son, brother, father, and famous ancestor, Merope had the ability to talk to snakes.
  • Dark Arts (Possibly): Harry Potter initially speculated that Merope used the Imperius Curse (which requires a powerful bit of magic to perform) to control Tom Riddle to fall in love with her. It is not improbable because of the history of Dark Arts within her family.
  • Potions (Possibly): Albus Dumbledore speculated that Merope used a Love Potion to have Tom Riddle fall in love with her, contracting Harry's earlier thought on the usage of the Imperius Curse, as the potion would seem more romantic. Dumbledore thought that it would be easy for Merope to persuade Riddle to have a drink of water containing a love potion on a hot day.
  • Love: Merope was one of the few members of her family who could feel true and unconditional love, as displayed by her love for Tom Riddle, Sr., a Muggle man, despite her family's traditional beliefs about Muggles. However, her love borders on obsession, to the point where she would use magic to subjugate her target, which was what led to her downfall and loss of powers when she naively and incorrectly believed her love would be reciprocated if she freed him of such enslavement. It was due to this that her magical powers were sapped when her love abandoned her and she fell into depression.

Relationships

Family

Morfin Gaunt: "She likes looking at that Muggle. Always in the garden when he passes, peering through the hedge at him, isn't she? And last night — Hanging out of the window waiting for him to ride home, wasn't she?"
Marvolo Gaunt: "Is it true? My daughter — pure-blooded descendant of Salazar Slytherin — hankering after a filthy, dirt-veined Muggle?"
Morfin and Marvolo Gaunt discussing Merope's infatuation with Tom Riddle Sr. in Parseltongue.[src]

Merope's relationship with her father and brother was a violent one. Her father, Marvolo, placed the utmost importance on his heritage, leading him to be derisive of his daughter's seeming lack of magical ability and furious with her infatuation with a Muggle, all the while treating her like a slave, forcing her to do all the housework. Morfin also made fun of Merope's romantic feelings for Tom Riddle, and laughed while watching Marvolo abusing her.

She was physically and emotionally abused by her family, and as a result was timid and miserable for most of her life, traumatized to the point of being unable to perform magic. Upon discovering that Merope was a blood traitor, Marvolo went as far as to attempt to murder her in front of a Ministry official. She grew bolder and happier once Marvolo and Morfin were sent to Azkaban, and displayed enough cunning and magical skill to brew a love potion. However, Marvolo was shocked when he learned that Merope had left the house, despite never loving her to begin with, and never mentioned her name or existence ever again, and this was probably a shock that led to his death (or possibly due to Merope no longer feeding him, as he never learned to feed himself). Morfin then felt that Merope had betrayed him and Marvolo, for marrying that "filthy Muggle".

Tom Riddle Sr.

"I believe that Merope, who was deeply in love with her husband, could not bear to continue enslaving him by magical means. I believe that she made the choice to stop giving him the potion. Perhaps, besotted as she was, she had convinced herself that he would by now have fallen in love with her in return. Perhaps she thought he would stay for the baby's sake. If so, she was wrong on both counts. He left her, never saw her again, and never troubled to discover what became of his son."
Albus Dumbledore on Merope's tragic relationship with Tom Riddle Sr.[src]

Tom Riddle was a handsome and wealthy Muggle, who lived near Merope's house. He originally looked down and made fun of Merope and her family because of their poverty, their strange shabby appearances, and their exceptional disabilities. Merope then used a Love Potion on Tom, and the two eloped, she eventually became pregnant with Tom's child.

Dumbledore had theorized that Merope who was deeply, truly in love with her husband, could not bear to continue enslaving him by magical means, and made the choice to stop giving him the potion, convincing herself that he might have truly fallen in love with her of his own accord, or even if he had not, he would stay with her for their child's sake. This turned out to be a fatal mistake. The indifferent, insensitive, and self-involved Tom left his wife and unborn son, claiming he had been "hoodwinked" and "taken in". It was speculated among his neighbours that he had been tricked into thinking he was the father of her unborn child. Merope was heartbroken and devastated by this abandonment, to the point of losing the will to live, and later died giving birth to his son.

Tom Marvolo Riddle

"I remember she said to me 'I hope he looks like his papa', and I won't lie she was right to hope it, because she was no beauty — and then she told me he was to be named Tom, for his father, and Marvolo, for her father — yes, I know, funny name, isn't it? We wondered whether she came from a circus — and she said the boy's surname was to be Riddle. And she died soon after that without another word."
Mrs. Cole to Albus Dumbledore.[src]
TomRiddle

Tom Marvolo Riddle in his sixth year at Hogwarts

After marrying Tom Riddle Sr., Merope became pregnant with her first and only child, Tom Marvolo Riddle. After her husband left her, finally being freed from the influence of the Love Potion, Merope became depressed, and when her child was born, she died soon afterwards, not wishing to live anymore, and not wanting to use magic to save her life. She told Mrs. Cole that she wanted her son to be called Tom, after his father, Marvolo, after Merope's father and that the child's last name was to be Riddle. Merope also hoped that her son looked like his father. Merope got her wish; Tom Marvolo Riddle was described as looking very like his father, who was very good looking.

Tom Riddle grew up at Wool's Orphanage, not knowing about his family members. When Albus Dumbledore visited Tom, and told him that he was a wizard, Tom hoped that it came from his father, but was disappointed to find that he got it from the maternal side of his family, when he was told by his uncle, Morfin Gaunt, that it was his mother who was a witch, and his father was a Muggle. He stole his uncle's wand, then killed his father, grandmother and grandfather, returned Morfin's wand, then stole the Gaunt family heirloom ring, framing Morfin for the crime.

It was due to Merope's choice of losing her will to live that she never had a chance to give Tom the love and care he desperately required, leading him to grow up to become a being completely unable to understand the concept of love, thus leading him to repeatedly tear apart his soul, and eventually his death lead him to an eternally crippled state in limbo.

Etymology

Merope is the name of a star in the star cluster Pleiades, named for a daughter of Atlas and Pleione in Greek mythology. This Merope was a nymph who married a mortal, Sisyphus, and bore him a son, Glaucus; some myths say that she is the dullest of the seven stars because she brought shame upon herself for marrying a mortal. Merope Gaunt's marriage to a Muggle may be an allusion to this marriage, as both suffered a resulting "fading away", and both Meropes faced mortality after their respective marriages. Also, Merope of mythology was the seventh sister, and seven is the most magically powerful number, perhaps alluding to her incredibly powerful son, who would later plan to split his soul into seven pieces in an attempt to achieve immortality.

The name is also used in the famous Greek play, Oedipus Rex, written by Sophocles in 425 BC. The name, Merope, is given to the main character's adoptive mother. As in Oedipus Rex, the son of Merope in the Harry Potter series killed his father.

Behind the scenes

Appearances

Notes and references

  1. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Chapter 10 (The House of Gaunt), we learn that Tom Riddle was born a year after Merope Gaunt and Tom Riddle Sr.'s marriage. As we know Riddle was born in 1926, this would place the marriage in 1925. In the same chapter, we learn that the incident with Bob Ogden and the imprisonment of Marvolo and Morfin was "a few months" before the marriage (so, it was in either 1924 or 1925). As she was eighteen years old at the time of Marvolo and Morfin's imprisonment, she was born in around 1907.
  2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Ch. 10
  3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Chapter 13, The Secret Riddle
  4. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2007/0730-bloomsbury-chat.html
  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkQnx4Rkmhg

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