Which Harry Potter character was the most misunderstood?

From afar, and without hesitation: Tom Riddle Senior, Lord Voldemort’s father.

Source: Google Images

Let’s recap. He was a rich, charming Muggle who lived near the Gaunt home and often rode past their house—sometimes with his fiancée, Cecilia. Merope Gaunt, a witch by profession, fell in love with him – despite the bullying and humiliation of her father and brother, who hated the idea that a Pureblood like Merope could fall in love with a Muggle. When her family ended up in Azkaban, Merope found herself alone and independent, and made Tom—thirsty after a ride—drink a drink in which she had poured a love potion. Tom falls madly in love with her; several months later, they married; and a little later, Merope becomes pregnant. Thinking that pregnancy would ensure that Tom would stay with her, Merope stopped administering the potion. Tom wakes up, and immediately leaves Merope, returning to his native village of Great Hangleton, explaining that he has been manipulated and bewitched. Alone and on the street – because she was unable to return home, where the villagers took Tom’s side – Merope ended up dying giving birth to Tom Junior aka Voldemort. Fifteen years later, Tom returns to Great Hangleton, where he finds his grandparents and Tom (without a wife or children, it should be noted) and murders them, framing his uncle Morfin Gaunt (because Voldemort is nice like that). where the villagers took Tom’s side — Merope ends up dying giving birth to Tom Junior aka Voldemort. Fifteen years later, Tom returns to Great Hangleton, where he finds his grandparents and Tom (without a wife or children, it should be noted) and murders them, framing his uncle Morfin Gaunt (because Voldemort is nice like that). where the villagers took Tom’s side — Merope ends up dying giving birth to Tom Junior aka Voldemort. Fifteen years later, Tom returns to Great Hangleton, where he finds his grandparents and Tom (without a wife or children, it should be noted) and murders them, framing his uncle Morfin Gaunt (because Voldemort is nice like that).

What many people don’t understand about Tom Senior?

It’s because he was raped.

Because yes, a man can be raped. A woman can rape a man.

And that’s what Merope did.

Merope gave Tom drugs that made him lose his common sense and manipulated his mind into believing he was hopelessly in love with Merope—he didn’t love her, never would have loved her. When Tom had sex with Merope, he did not consent. She had drugged him so that he would systematically say “yes”. None of these “yes” were true. Tom did not consent.

Tom woke up a few months later, after months of manipulation, to discover not only that he had been raped but that his rapist was pregnant by him. What did he do ? He left. He ran away.

And, it should be noted in passing, he never remarried — no matter Cecilia, no matter how attractive he was. No, Tom stayed to live with his parents. Because Tom was that traumatized.

If you look at the Quora across the way, it’s amazing how many questions there are to accuse Tom. “Shouldn’t he have stayed with Merope?”, “Why did he abandon his child?”, “If Tom Sr had raised Tom Jr himself, wouldn’t that have stopped Lord Voldemort surfaces?”, “Why did Tom Sr abandon his wife and baby?”, “Would things have been different if Tom had stayed with Merope?”, etc., etc..

Source: Google Images

Let’s reverse the roles for two minutes, shall we? Marvin Gaunt, wizard by trade, falls madly in love with the beautiful Muggle Tamara Riddle. But Tamara doesn’t love him — so Marvin makes her drink a magic potion that fakes the feeling of love and poof! Marvin and Tamara get married. Tamara wakes up a few months later. Under the influence of the potion, she had sex with Marvin even though she did not want to have it. And now she’s pregnant.

Let’s put things into perspective again by saying that Marvin is just as Muggle as Tamara. During one evening, he gives her GHB, has sex with her, and Tamara becomes pregnant.

In these scenarios, everyone (or almost everyone) would agree that Marvin is a monster of the worst kind. He used substances (potions or drugs, it’s the same thing, except that with the potion it lasts longer) to rape her. Tamara is a victim. No one would blame Tamara if she decided to abort or leave her child in an orphanage, with a couple who wants to adopt, or with social services. Everyone would agree that this is the right thing to do. And if Marvin, unhappy because he no longer had his Tamara, let himself die, no one would care – except perhaps to deplore the fact that he was not convicted by the courts.

By reversing the roles, the situation becomes very clear.

We tend to look down on fathers who abandon their girlfriends once they’re pregnant and who never care about their child — and rightly so. Except that Tom Senior’s situation has nothing to do with it. He didn’t gleefully take advantage of his relationship with Merope until, oops, a liability he doesn’t want appeared. It’s not the classic move of “I’m getting my girlfriend pregnant but I don’t want this kid so I’m leaving,” because Tom was never voluntary and consenting in this relationship. Tom was the victim.

And once he woke up, he did what any victim would do: he ran as far away as he could.

What responsibility did he have towards this child? This baby had been conceived by violating her consent and her person. No one in their right mind would ask a raped woman to assume her “responsibilities” towards the fetus growing in her womb; Tom didn’t have to either. What Tom had to do was get to safety and heal from his trauma.

Many cite Voldemort’s words in book 2 to justify their opinion that Tom should have raised this child – and who cares if that meant staying with his rapist, of course. Voldemort insults at leisure his “Muggle father” who abandoned him and his mother. What few people seem to understand is that Voldemort’s little act is not a cry for help – “yep yes, my dad abandoned me, I’m too sad”. No way.

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Voldemort is a misogynistic man if there ever was one (didn’t anyone notice that there were a whopping total of two women among his Death Eaters? One of whom is the wife of a Death Eater and the other the sister of a Death Eater?). He always thought that his mother must have had no magical powers, because she died giving birth to him, and that he must therefore have gotten his talents as a sorcerer from his father – he explains this in volume 6, in the memories of Dumbledore. He sees his father as a powerful man.

-Was my father a wizard? I was told his name too was Tom Riddle.”I’m afraid I don’t know,” Dumbledore replied in a soft voice.-My mother surely didn’t have magical powers, otherwise she wouldn’t have died, said Riddle, more to himself than to Dumbledore. It was undoubtedly him, the sorcerer. And once I buy my things, when will I go to Hogwarts?

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince , Chapter 13, “Riddle’s Secret”

If he searches everywhere for a “Riddle”, it’s not to find his dad (Voldy doesn’t give a damn about his family; he has his uncle Morfin condemned without the slightest qualms, just to get rid of from him), but to prove that he comes from a witch lineage, if possible pure. He does not murder his father to take revenge for this abandonment (which undoubtedly suits him very well; he did not seek to know Morfin before having him condemned) but because he wants to get rid of the proof that his blood is not pure. His resentment comes not from the fact that his father abandoned him, but from the fact that his father was not a wizard; because it was his mother the witch, this mother so weak and contemptible that she died giving birth to him.

-You see ? he [Voldemort] whispered. It’s a name I already used at Hogwarts, for my closest friends. So you think that I was going to accept the “game of fate” which had given me this filthy name of “Riddle”, bequeathed to me by my Muggle father? Me, my mother’s heir to the Salazar Slytherin blood that runs through my veins? Me, keeping the despicable name of a miserable Muggle who abandoned me before I was even born, the day he discovered his wife was a witch? No, Harry, I made a new name for myself, and I knew the time would come when other wizards would be afraid to say that name, when I became the greatest wizard in the world!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets , Chapter 17, “The Heir of Slytherin”

Look at the way Voldemort frames his accusations. He rejects his father because he is Muggle, he who only wants to accept the “pure” and glorious part of his origins. He condemns his father because he abandoned him — certainly — but because he abandoned him by discovering that his wife was a witch. This isn’t exactly the truth, but it fits into Voldemort’s general narrative: “Muggles are inferior. They hate us and because of their hatred we are forced to live in the shadows, while our magic automatically makes us superior to them. We must dominate them.” In short, Voldemort’s speech never says that he is unhappy because he did not have a father. The supposed abandonment is simply another way for Voldemort toto reject their domination of society.

Unfortunately, few people understand this, and everyone is quick to take Merope’s side, including Dumbledore who encourages Harry to have “compassion” for her, when Harry is indignant that she did not even have the will to live for his son. Dumbledore who paints a compassionate picture of Merope — who, certainly, deserved compassion for the miserable life she had led, much less for having drugged Tom — and who explains that Tom left her “without bothering to know what what had become of his son.

Tom Senior is not only misunderstood by quite a few fans, he is also sadly misunderstood by Dumbledore himself — who, by the way, was born in the Victorian era, and who himself suffered deeply from ” abandonment” of his father (by abandonment, I mean that Percival Dumbledore went to Azkaban after attacking the Muggles who had themselves attacked his daughter Ariana).

Maybe JK Rowling wanted to show us the tragic story of Tom Senior. Maybe she didn’t realize all the horror he went through. I don’t know.

But Tom Senior makes me sad. Drug. Manipulated. Violated. The target of village gossip and rumors. Traumatized. Murdered — by his son moreover. Dragged through the mud still fifty years after his death as if he had abandoned his wife and child when he fled his rapist.

The moral of his story? Men can be raped too. Do not forget it. Don’t make fun. Take this very seriously. Because there are men in this world who suffer from the same wounds and trauma as Tom Senior, and at present, our society prefers to ignore them or make fun of them rather than help them.

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