51

Canon seems to conflict a bit on whether Voldemort's Death Eaters knew that Voldemort was a half-blood. In Half-Blood Prince, Tom Riddle refers negatively to his parentage and it reads as if his fellow Slytherins found it amusing in a derisive way, even though Salazar Slytherin was the ancestor of Tom Riddle (HBP - chapter 23 - Horcruxes). In Order of the Phoenix, during the fight in the Department of Mysteries, Harry taunts Bellatrix Lestrange and Lucius Malfoy with the fact that Voldemort is a half-blood, which seems to enrage Bellatrix in particular (OOTP - chapter 35 - Beyond the Veil).

Did the Death Eaters actually know Voldemort was a half-blood?

I would prefer a canon-based answer. JKR and Pottermore are fine.

  • I was actually planning on asking this myself. – Zetta Suro Oct 6 '12 at 9:47
  • I'm sure that any of them that found out would never dare to mention it. And if any of them did, I'm sure they're dead. Voldemort wouldn't even have had to do the deed himself. Bellatrix would do it gladly. – David Stratton Oct 6 '12 at 14:17
  • @DavidStratton - Oh, I definitely agree with you that if the DEs knew they wouldn't have talked about it. I'm just curious if they knew at all. I'm figuring some of them had to because they were at school with Tom Riddle. But then again, perhaps they didn't put two and two together or just assumed he was a pureblood. :) – Slytherincess Oct 8 '12 at 0:13
  • 4
    How dare you call the Dark Lord a half-blood?!? – Bellatrix Jun 21 '17 at 18:46
  • 1
    @Bellatrix I just laughed out loud at that. I was thinking of your outrage in the Department of Mysteries and I was even thinking of maybe quoting it in an answer - and then I saw what your comment. – Pryftan Sep 24 '18 at 23:41
33

First time answering in Sci-Fi, so I don't know where people normally get their quotes from. I'm retyping directly from the book in dead tree form.

Chamber of Secrets, The Heir of Slytherin, (page 231):

He pulled Harry's wand from his pocket and began to trace it through the air, writing three shimmering words:

TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE

The he waved the wand once, and the letters of his name rearranged themselves:

I AM LORD VOLDEMORT

'You see?' he whispered. 'It was a name I was already using at Hogwarts, to my most intimate friends only, of course. You think I was going to use my filthy Muggle father's name forever?

Then later, in Half-blood Prince, Horcruxes, (page 463):

'Good gracious, is it that time already? You'd better get going, boys, or we'll all be in trouble. Lestrange, I want your essay by tomorrow or it's detention. Same goes for you, Avery.'

We know Lestrange and Avery go on to become Death Eaters, and it seems they may count as Tom's "most intimate friends". Certainly, they know the name Riddle, and they know he stops using it. It would be very unlikely they didn't know where the name came from, or why Tom hated it so much. However, in Order of the Phoenix, Bellatrix flies into a rage when Harry taunts Voldemort for his blood status:

You dare speak his name? YOU FILTHY HALF-BLOOD!

To me, that's a yes, at least some of the oldest members knew. Whether Bellatrix (supposedly his most loyal) knew remains a question.

  • 3
    I don't see any hard evidence to suggest that the Death-Eaters knew Voldemort was a half-blood. The Death Eater's temperament suggests they were unaware of that fact. – Stark07 Mar 4 '14 at 6:21
  • 13
    As to Bellatrix flying into rage when Harry mentions the matter, she shows a similar reaction at the beginning of the Half Blood Prince when her sister Narcissa indicates that Voldemort himself was unable to kill Dumbledore - a fact she, Bellatrix, had witnessed herself and knew for sure, but was simply unwilling to accept. It is the kind of thing people like her and Voldemort would do. – N Unnikrishnan May 10 '14 at 21:55
  • 6
    dont forget bellatrix when to school some 20 ish years after voldemort did, so she woouldnt have been a classmate – Himarm Jan 14 '16 at 22:51
  • 6
    Agreeing with N.Unni... Psychologically people can easily get angry about being reminded of something that they do actually know but prefer it to be neatly tucked away, – flq Jan 17 '16 at 8:56
  • 2
    She certainly knows now!! – Bellatrix Mar 16 '18 at 2:29
32

In Goblet of Fire, Voldemort states quite naturally to the Death Eaters during his long monologue about how he came back that he needed his father's bone to regenerate, which is why he commanded Wormtail to bring him to Little Hangleton. The fourth and sixth books imply that Little Hangleton is definitely a small, primarily Muggle community -- not a place where a pureblood family (the Gaunts being an exception due to their poverty) would likely live in. The Death Eaters would have been able to reason out Voldemort's likely blood status from this information alone, if they wished. They could also easily have glanced at the gravestone Harry had been bound to and seen the name of Voldemort's father -- "Riddle" -- and, being mostly interrelated purebloods themselves, they would know that there was no pureblood Riddle family in Britain.

Instead, as can be gathered by Voldemort's boasting to Harry while waiting for the Death Eaters to come, as well as Crouch Jr.'s words to Harry later on, it is entirely possible that Voldemort was quite proud of killing his Muggle father and suggested that other Death Eaters do the same to their Muggle relatives, as he did in the first chapter of the seventh book.

25

Here are the facts that we have from the canon:

1) Tom Riddle did not know that he had a muggle father and being sorted into Slytherin - I dont think either he or the fore-runners to death eaters had reason to suspect that he wasn't pure blood.

"Those whom I could persuade to talk told me that Riddle was obsessed with his parentage. This is understandable, of course; he had grown up in an orphanage and naturally wished to know how he came to be there. It seems he searched in vain for some trace of Tom Riddle senior on the shields in the trophy room, on the lists of prefects in the old school records, even in the books on wizarding history. Finally he was forced to accept that his father had never set foot in Hogwarts. I believe that it was then that he dropped the name for ever, assumed the identity of Lord Voldemort, and began his investigations into his previously mother's family - the woman whom, you will remember, he had thought could not be a witch if she had succumbed to the shameful human weakness of death."

-- Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - Chapter Seventeen: A Sluggish Memory.

I believe that both his reasons for dismissing that his parents were magical were faulted in both cases. In the case of his mother, the fact that she was unable to escape death was not reason enough to assume she was non-magical. And in the case of his father - lack of evidence that he attended Hogwarts (that too from the looks of his places of research - was among the best of students at Hogwarts) should not have been proof enough to conclude his father was non-magical. So - the fact that death eaters like Avery and Lestrange knew his name does not conclude that they knew he was a half-blood.

2) We know that Morfin was the one who revealed Voldemort's parentage to him

"I though you was that Muggle" whispered Morfin "You look mighty like that Muggle".

"What Muggle?" said Riddle sharply.

"That muggle what my sister took a fancy to, that Muggle what lives in the big house over the way," said Morfin, and he spat unexpectedy upon the floor between them. "You look right like him. Riddle. But he's older now, in 'he? He's older 'n you, now I think on it...."

-- Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - Chapter Seventeen: A Sluggish Memory.

From what Dumbledore says later on regarding Slughorn's real memory, we can say that Voldemort discovered that his father was a muggle when he was 15-17 years old. So he was nearly done with his schooling.

3)

"I don't know that politics would suit me sir" he said when the laughter died away. "I don't have the right kind of background, for one thing."

A couple of the boys around him smirked at each other. Harry was sure they were enjoying a private joke, undoubtedly about what they knew, or suspected, regarding their gang leader's famous ancestor.

"Nonsense," said Slughorn briskly, " couldn't be plainer you come from decent wizarding stock, ability like yours."

-- Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Chapter Twenty Three - Horcruxes.

Going by the answer to Did the Death Eaters know that it was Voldemort who first opened the Chamber of Secrets? , it looks like some of the death eaters also knew that Voldemort was the Heir of Slytherin. Even without having that knowledge, Slughorn was able to accept that Voldemort was pureblood. So knowing that would have probably only increased Voldemort's blood status in the eyes of the Death Eaters.

4) Voldemort has always been very secretive.

"I trust that you also noticed that Tom Riddle was already highly self-sufficient, secretive and, and apparently, friendless? He did not want help or companionship on his trip to Diagon Alley. He preferred to operate alone. The adult Voldemort is the same. You will hear many of his Death Eaters claiming that they are in his confidence, that they alone are close to him. They are deluded."

-- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Chapter Thirteen - The Secret Riddle.

That to me indicates that even though he had found and wiped out his entire muggle ancestry - he need not have told anybody about it. I suspect that Voldemort would have been eager to reveal details about his parentage when he had to work hard to find out for himself AND when the discovery was not very pleasant - to say the least. Again - the strong possibility that the Death Eaters figured out that he was the Heir of Slytherin, instead of him bragging about it, indicates that he wouldn't have shared the fact that his father was a muggle.

5) Voldemort refers to his muggle father twice - once in the Chamber of Secrets - where his memory reveals it to Harry. And again in the graveyard where he regained his body.

"You think I was going to use my filthy Muggle father's name forever? I, in whose veins runs the blood of Salazar Slytherin himself, through my mother's side? I, keep the name of a foul, common Muggle, who abandoned me even before I was born, just because he found out his wife was a witch? No, Harry - I fashioned myself a new name, a name I knew wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak, when I had become the greatest sorcerer in the world!"

-- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Chapter Seventeen - The Heir of Slytherin.

In that instance - it was only Harry to whom Lord Voldemort was talking.

"You stand, Harry Potter, upon the remains of my late father," he hissed softly. "A muggle and a fool... very like your dear mother. But they both had their uses, did they not?"

-- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Chapter Thirty-Three - The Death Eaters.

In this instance - he was speaking to Harry Potter. But Wormtail was also nearby.

6) Apart from that - the only indication that we have that any death eater knew about Riddle's father was Barty Crouch Jr's statement - when he was still pretending to be Mad-Eye Moody.

The Dark Lord and I", said Moody, and he looked completely insane now, towering over Harry, leering down at him, "have much in common. Both of us, for instance, had very disappointing fathers... very disappointing indeed. Both of us suffered the indignity, Harry, of being named after those fathers. And both of us had the pleasure... the very great pleasure... of killing our fathers to ensure the continued rise of the Dark Order!".

-- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Chapter Thirty-Five - Veritaserum.

So from the books - I can conclude that only Wormtail and Barty Crouch Jr seem to have known that Voldemort was Half-Blood. Even Barty Crouch might have only suspected - not known that Tom Riddle Sr was a muggle.

  • 4
    "I suspect that Voldemort would have been eager to reveal details about his parentage" I think you missed a negation in there. Or use doubt instead of suspect. – CodesInChaos Apr 3 '15 at 8:50
3

My guess is, some might suspect it, but no one had the gall to actually confront He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. However, it did occur to me that this is kinda loosely based on the holocaust... I mean, Adolf Hitler was most likely a half-jew, yet he massacred the Jewish population. The death eaters probably held some grand view of voldemort in their minds, and when confronted with the truth, it was hard to accept.

Just ideas to think of when you read the series again, and make the connections

  • 3
    I'm definitely already aware of the Holocaust/Nazi theme in HP. J.K. Rowling has been open about that. :) – Slytherincess Oct 22 '12 at 17:41
  • 6
    Adolf Hitler was NOT a half-Jew. That is a very common myth, and Rowling may have based Voldemort off this myth, but it is still a myth. – user30472 Jan 16 '15 at 23:50
  • @JaSoNsChMiDt Technically Hitler didn't massacre Jews. The biggest mass murderer known to mankind is Rudolf Höss, Kommandant at Auschwitz. And he most certainly didn't kill as many claimed total either. Hitler did however award Höss for his efficiency in the matter; but Hitler didn't do any of the work itself. Otoh the world certainly stood by idly even when it was discovered what was happening (and denial is no excuse). And a Jew (woman iirc) handed Höss a piece of paper with a number of Dutch families hiding Jews; and a man (iirc) shouted out the address of a Jew family: in the crematorium. – Pryftan Oct 19 '17 at 21:02
  • Ran across this again. Citations needed that Hitler was 'most likely a half-Jew'. It's obvious that his opponents would use such claims as it would be damning but do you have the evidence? I know you don't. That being said Göring did famously say 'I decide who is a Jew' and he was a rabid anti-Semite and also gave the order to Heydrich to come up with the Final Solution of the Jewish question (discussed at the Wannseekonferenz). But as for Hitler? NO. – Pryftan Sep 24 '18 at 23:48
0

I am afraid I do not have exact sources but my answers are based on the stories and I have tried to stick to facts:

The information about Voldemort's parents would have been available to anyone who wanted to check.

Therefore anyone who wanted to find out could. However it is unlikely any of his group would check. It is pointless as he would still be in charge. Also, if he found out they were checking he would not be pleased.

The information was known to his classmates who used to bully him a little about it. If I were they and saw what he had become I would do anything to not remind him I was his bully.

  • 8
    I have to nitpick on the idea that anyone could find out Tom Riddle's heritage. Dumbledore had to use copious amounts of both alcohol and magic to get info from Mrs. Cole at Wool's orphanage regarding Tom's family. Since Tom Riddle Sr was a Muggle, there were no records of him at Hogwarts, and Tom Jr didn't use Merope Gaunt's name in any way. It took Tom Riddle Jr a lot of time to determine his father had never been at Hogwarts. I don't think it was easy at all to find out info about Tom Riddle. Dumbledore worked incredibly hard for the handful of memories he collected. :) – Slytherincess Oct 8 '12 at 0:05
  • 1
    Ooooh ... yeah actually you might be right. My reply was based upon the incorrrect assumption that his family tree was available via the normal lines but he had an unusual entry into the wizarding world. Good catch. – Stefan Oct 8 '12 at 8:41
  • 2
    what are the "normal lines" of finding out someone's family tree? – chama Oct 10 '12 at 17:10
  • 3
    Look in the library, look in old copies of newspapers, look at old town records. Have you never played Cthulhu? – Stefan Oct 10 '12 at 17:22
  • 1
    Do you really want to be the Death Eater who is reported to Voldemort for snooping around into Voldemort's family history? – EvilSnack Jul 24 '16 at 18:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.