In HPMOR (Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality) Tom Riddle is incredibly smart by the time the whole thing takes place. He's also, to my mind, sociopathic and, as Harry puts it, empty inside. We know that Canon!Riddle was raised in an orphanage and later was admitted to Hogwarts, where he tried to strategise towards his goals. But I dare say that he wasn't nearly as smart as Methods!Riddle. So what was it that made the latter that much smarter? Was it something to do with life at the orphanage or did it start even earlier?

ETA: I assume that both had met the Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets in their second year, but by that time Methods!Riddle has somehow become smart enough to consider it more appropriate to

murder the creature after taking everything it had to offer from it

ETA: Chapter 18 of HPMOR has this:

"Well, it is the House of the ambitious, after all," Professor Quirrell said, smiling. "I didn't realize until later that what I really enjoyed was Battle Magic, and that my true ambition was to become a great fighting wizard and someday teach at Hogwarts. In any case, when I was thirteen years old, I read through the historical sections of the Hogwarts library, scrutinizing the lives and fates of past Dark Lords, and I made a list of all the mistakes that I would never make when I was a Dark Lord -" (italics added)

So we can assume that by that time Methods!Riddle was both aware of his own desire to become a Dark Lord and

Now if, Mr. Potter - just if by some chance you harbor an ambition similar to the one I held as a young Slytherin - even so, I hope it is not your ambition to become a stupid Dark Lord

at that. I can't recall if there were any similar indications of ambition for Canon!Riddle given.

Disclaimer: For the sake of simplicity I'm going to assume that, unless a more authoritative and proven version of events was given by someone else, both Riddles are telling the truth about themselves and particularly their past. That is, for instance, that Methods!Riddle did actually dislike bullying because he says so.

What I wish to know is are there any indications in the text I might have missed first, and readers' guesses second.

  • 2
    Can you expand your abbreviations please? What is HPMOR? What do you mean by "Canon!Riddle" and "Methods!Riddle". Sep 25, 2018 at 7:35
  • 4
    HPMOR is "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality". It's a fan-fic alternate history of Harry Potter where Vernon Dursley is a scientist and the Dursely's are nice to Harry and raise him to be rational and scientific, it already has a tag on the site. Canon!Riddle means Tom Riddle as written in JKR's Canon Harry Potter books. Methods!Riddle means Tom Riddle as he appears in the fan-fic Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.
    – Jontia
    Sep 25, 2018 at 8:15
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    Sorry for being pedantic, but it wasn't Vernon Dursley who was the scientist. Petunia rejected his proposal and instead married a scientist called Professor Michael Verres.
    – Wallnut
    Sep 25, 2018 at 10:20
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    I don't think there's any reason to believe Tom Riddle is that much more clever than someone like Dumbledore, Moody, or Amelia. He is smart and clever, to be sure, but what really sets him apart in the beginning is his total lack of moral compunction and his perfect Occlumency. He can do things other people would never think of because they're good people. After his resurrection, having a decade of nothing to do but float in space and think helped him a lot, but even then, he still had big blind spots - like with the spell Harry uses against him near the end.
    – Shamshiel
    Sep 25, 2018 at 12:33
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    Well, let's say that you're right. How did he come to loose that moral compunction? I would say that becoming a (perfect) Occlumens is the smart move, but you have to be some minimum level of smart to start with to realise it as such. As for the "awakening in space after his almost death" -- yes, he did think contemplate many things during those years, but he was already quite smart and quite old by that time.
    – Chiffa
    Sep 25, 2018 at 20:15

1 Answer 1


I don't think you will find an in-universe explanation for that difference. The difference is mainly that Eliezer Yudkowsky, author of HPMOR, wanted an intelligent Voldemort, and in general character that behave logically, while Rowling's Voldemort is less than intelligent. He has to be in order for Harry to be able to beat him.

In Deathly Hallows, Harry makes one of the classical mistakes that was probably on Methods!Riddle's list of things to avoid: He brags to Voldemort and tells him the secret of the wand ownership. And Voldemort not only ignores the information, he tries again to kill Harry with the killing curse, after that curse failed to kill Harry twice, three times if you count the locked wands in the graveyard.

  • Meta answers are generally considered to verge on off-topic. "Because it was written that way" is simultaneously the answer to every single question on the site and entirely useless
    – Valorum
    Sep 25, 2018 at 21:58
  • @Valorum Thanks for the explanation. I suppose then the answer is just that there is no known reason why they are different. Sep 25, 2018 at 22:15
  • Sure, but that doesn't stop you from speculating or even asking the author. Answers come from odd places when you go a'huntin' for them
    – Valorum
    Sep 25, 2018 at 22:30
  • Thanks for the answer, it mostly agres with my own view of the mater. I just wishd to check if there were any text refrerences I might have mised.
    – Chiffa
    Oct 1, 2018 at 13:53

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