Just like the question indicates — why did Merope name her son after her father, who constantly terrorized and abused her?

When Dumbledore is teaching Harry about Voldemort's past, we see that Merope was terrorized and abused by her father — in fact, Marvolo terrorizes Merope so much that it shows physically.

[...] but Harry thought he had never seen a more defeated-looking person. -Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Chapter 10, The House of Gaunt

And then we see that Marvolo abuses Merope verbally.

"Pick it up!" Gaunt bellowed at her. "That's right, grub it on the floor like some filthy Muggle, what's your wand for, you useless sack of much?" [...] Gaunt screamed, "Mend it, you pointless lump, mend it!" [...] Instead, [Marvolo] jeered at his daughter, "Lucky the nice man from the Ministry's here, isn't it? Perhaps he'll take you off my hands, perhaps he doesn't mind dirty little Squibs..."

We also learn that Marvolo doesn't mind causing Merope physical discomfort.

[...] [Marvolo] was dragging [Merope] towards Ogden by a gold chain around her neck [...] shaking the heavy golden locket at [Ogden], while Merope spluttered and gasped for breath [...] "Mr. Gaunt, your daughter!" said Ogden in alarm, but Gaunt had already released Merope; she staggered away from him, back to her corner, massaging her neck and gulping for air [...] "You disgusting little Squib, you filthy little blood traitor!" roared Gaunt, losing control, and his hands closed around his daughter's throat.

These pieces of evidence clearly state that Merope was being terrorized and abused by her father, Marvolo. And yet we see that she specifically states that she'd like her child to be named after Marvolo:

and then she told me he was to be named [...] Marvolo, for her father [...] -Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 13, The Secret Riddle

So, why does Merope insist on naming her child after her father, when he has terrorized and abused her?

  • 3
    The obvious answer is that she was so far gone that she had developed an instinctive need to please her father, as many actual abuse victims do. Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 3:04
  • And out-of-universe, JKR likely had already decided on the name Voldemort, and needed a name whose anagram could include that. She was able to pick "Tom" and "Riddle" out of "I am Lord Voldemort" and decided that Marvolo was a good enough name to form from the remaining letters. And then Marvolo was made the name of his maternal grandfather.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 5:52

1 Answer 1


It may be to identify him to his family.

Merope likely knew she was weak and dying, so she may have named him Marvolo to identify him as belonging to the Gaunt and Riddle families, so one of them might be willing to take him in after her death. Mrs. Cole, the woman at the orphanage when Merope had him, said they named him just as she asked but no Tom, Marvolo, or Riddle ever came to the orphanage looking for him.

“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.

‘Well, we named him just as she’d said, it seemed so important to the poor girl, but no Tom nor Marvolo nor any kind of Riddle ever came looking for him, nor any family at all, so he stayed in the orphanage and he’s been here ever since.”
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 13 (The Secret Riddle)

Perhaps Merope had hoped that by naming him after his family, it would identify him clearly as belonging to them, and one of them would come looking for him and be willing to take him in.

  • 1
    Merope was also an excellent anagram finder, and knew that one day her son would take the moniker "Immortal Dove Lord". Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 7:53

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