7

Dumbledore told Harry that he knew about the disappearance of Riddle House's gardener Frank and he suspected it had something to do with Voldemort.

The years of Voldemort's ascent to power," he said, "were marked with disappearances. Bertha Jorkins has vanished without a trace in the place where Voldemort was certainly known to be last. Mr. Crouch too has disappeared...within these very grounds. And there was a third disappearance, one which the Ministry, I regret to say, do not consider of any importance, for it concerns a Muggle. His name was Frank Bryce, he lived in the village where Voldemort's father grew up, and he has not been seen since last August. You see, I read the Muggle newspapers, unlike most of my Ministry friends.

Voldemort was staying with Wormtail in the very same house when Frank disappeared. Shouldn't Dumbledore have visited Riddle House or at least sent someone to look into the matter if he knew it had something to do with Voldemort?

6
  • 1
    This seems very opinion-based. Yes, he probably should have, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. – Valorum Jun 8 at 12:50
  • 1
    Harry told Dumbledore about Trelawney's prediction of the return of Voldemort. He also knew about Bertha Jorkins disappearing in Albania. Then Frank disappeared. He himself told Fudge that these were interlinked. That's why I thought wouldn’t he have wanted to visit the place? – Dheeraj Kumar Jun 8 at 13:02
  • 2
    @DheerajKumar Unfortunately the real answer to this kind of question is always that the characters have to act in a particular way for the plot to proceed in the way the author wants it to. That often means not doing things that readers think they should have, or making choices that are suboptimal. In this case, if Dumbledore had investigated Frank's disappearance he would have discovered Wormtail and Voldemort and prevented the events of the end of book 4, and the last three books. – Anthony Grist Jun 8 at 14:05
  • 2
    I don’t think this is seeking opinions, and have thus voted to reopen. – Alex Jun 9 at 0:28
  • 1
    He knew it was Voldemort. What was there to investigate? – Yehuda 2 days ago
3

I don’t think there is an explicit definitive answer to this question. However, there are several points to consider that may help address it.

First, the premise of the question is unsubstantiated. How do you know that Dumbledore didn’t investigate? Just because it’s not mentioned “on camera”, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

But if we insist on assuming that Dumbledore did not investigate, we should consider how much Dumbledore knew, and when he knew it. Note that Dumbledore doesn’t mention anything to Harry about the Riddle house. If he was trying to impress upon Harry the connection between Frank and Voldemort, wouldn’t you expect him to mention that Frank was actually the caretaker of the Riddle house, not merely a resident of the village where Voldemort’s father grew up? It is possible, then, that Dumbledore was unaware of this additional connection, and would thus have no reason to suspect that anything happened at the Riddle house specifically.

Additionally, we don’t know when Dumbledore found out about Frank’s disappearance. In many (most?) jurisdictions a person will not be considered missing unless a certain amount of time has elapsed. Frank being an old guy living alone with apparently not much of a social life would likely contribute to additional delays in people noticing that he was missing. And even once it was determined that he was missing, we don’t know how long it was until it was published in the newspaper. And we further don’t know how much time elapsed before Dumbledore read it in the newspaper.

When Dumbledore says that he reads the Muggle newspaper, does he mean that he reads every issue of every Muggle newspaper? Probably not, as that would use up a good portion of his time, and he has some other rather important duties in his life. It is possible that Dumbledore does not read the Muggle newspaper religiously, but merely means that he doesn’t object to reading it (as do his colleagues) and therefore reads it on occasion when the opportunity presents itself. This may be similar to what we see in Chapter Four of Half-Blood Prince where Dumbledore apparently catches up on his magazine reading when presented with a stash in a Muggle house:

“Oh, there you are, Albus,” he said. “You’ve been a very long time. Upset stomach?”

“No, I was merely reading the Muggle magazines,” said Dumbledore. “I do love knitting patterns.

(Of course, in that situation Dumbledore was deliberately giving Slughorn time alone with Harry, so it is possible that he was merely faking interest in the magazines.)

The point of all this is that it is possible that Dumbledore did not became aware of Frank’s disappearance until weeks, even months, after it happened. By that time he might not have expected there to be anything left to investigate. We know from Chapter One of Goblet of Fire that Voldemort was not planning on remaining in the house for much longer, even before Frank showed up:

“My Lord, may I ask how long we are going to stay here?” “A week,” said the cold voice. “Perhaps longer. The place is moderately comfortable, and the plan cannot proceed yet. It would be foolish to act before the Quidditch World Cup is over.”

And after killing Frank they may have cut their stay even shorter. So it is quite possible that all evidence was long gone by the time Dumbledore could have conducted any investigation, and he thus considered it a futile endeavor.

It also seems pretty consistent with Dumbledore’s general personality to not investigate this. In just about every book in the series there is something going on that Dumbledore could have invested more in invested more in investigating and/or thwarting. However, he repeatedly chooses to let things play out, and interferes as little as possible (or even helps things along!), whether it’s the Philosopher’s Stone, the Chamber of Secrets, the Triwizard Tournament, Malfoy’s escapades, etc.

In sum, we can address the question from several angles:

  • Perhaps he did investigate.
  • Perhaps he was unaware of the connection to the Riddle house.
  • Perhaps he became aware too late.
  • Perhaps he did not want to disrupt the natural course of events.
1

The Riddle house didn't really have anything to do with Voldemort. His father lived there and he virtually immediately went there to kill him and his other relatives as soon as he learned that fact. Voldemort then proceeded to abandoning the name Tom Riddle and claiming a pure blood heritage. He pushed the place and everything about it as far from him as he could. Dumbledore has always known Voldemort is lying about being a pure blood. He knew Voldemort wouldn't have any business there.

Frank Bryce disappeared around 50 years after the Riddles died and Bertha died the same year, but in Albania. Frank was the second to disappear with some remote connection to Voldemort, but he was the first to disappear in the UK. Barty Crouch disappeared almost one year later. The pattern wasn't really established. The discussion you quote is 20/20 hindsight.

The incident by itself is only noteworthy if you know that the Gaunts lived essentially across the road and even then, the Gaunt shack would have been the object of interest, but never the Riddle house. That's why the Riddle house was never inspected.


Why didn't he investigate the Gaunt shack between reading about Frank Bryce and finding the ring between OOTP and HBP?

There is an interesting fact missing the discussion you quote: Little Hangleton was also where Voldemort's mother grew up. It really doesn't make sense to say "father" instead of "parents" in that quote. Saying "parents" would have made his argument for the importance of Frank's disappearance stronger. This could indicate he didn't know about the Gaunts at the time.

Dumbledore gets the knowledge about Merope and the Gaunt shack at the same time he learns about the Resourection Stone. This information comes in the form of Morfin's memories, obtained while Morfin was already in Askaban. This means it happend some time during the previous 50 years, because Morfin went to Askaban for murdering the Riddles.

"When I saw what [his true memory] contained, I attempted to use it to secure Morfin's release from Azkaban. Before the Ministry reached their decision, however, Morfin had died." -- HBP17

As far as we know, you don't physically die (earlier) when close to Dementors. We even know Dementors don't harm your body, they "only" feed from your soul. Morfin appears to have died of old age and when dying from natural causes, Wizards/Witches seem to get pretty old. It appears established that Dumbledore is well over 100 years, and, for instance:

  • his brother Aberforth was a child when Albus was still a child - they are about the same age,
  • Grindelwald is about Dumbledore's age and only died during DH
  • Elphias Dodge is about Dumbledore's age and survives Dumbledore
  • Batilda Bagshot was some aunt of Grindelwald's (read: she's older) and didn't die long before him
  • McGonagall was old enough to be played by Maggie Smith

Dumbledore's influence on the Ministry was huge. He turned down the post of Minister for Magic several times even before facing Grindelwald who was the Dark Wizard before Voldemort. Defeating Grindelwald probably didn't make Dumbledore any less influencial. It is not reasonable to assume the Ministry did drag out Dumbledore's request to release Morfin for years and decades. This probably happend more recently. This could support that Dumbledore only learned about the Gaunts after GOF.

Dumbledore was wreckless about the stone and essentially died because of it. This also doesn't align with the idea he would sit on information about the Resourection Stone, and therefore Morfin, for years or even decades. When he found the Horcrux he withered his hand, which happend between OOTP and HBP. If he found the Horcrux on his first visit, he likely obtained the memories after GOF as well.

As far as canon goes, we don't know when Dumbledore got the memories from Morfin. I like the story best where Dumbledore only learns about the Gaunts after GOF and therefore doesn't have enough to go on to investigate Frank's disappearance. Maybe he only pieced it together after learning Voldemort was reborn on the cemetary where his father's grave is at and it took him all of OOTP to develop his magic-tracing-method he uses in HBP to uncover the locket-lake-cave-doorway.

5
  • 1
    "Frank Bryce disappeared around 50 years after the Riddles died and three years after Bertha died in Albania." Frank's disappearance and Bertha's disappearance (and death) happened in the same summer, not three years apart. – Anthony Grist 2 days ago
  • Did she? I thought she went missing the same summer Quirrell brought back Voldemort. I'll corrent it. Thank you for pointing that out. – user1129682 2 days ago
  • "McGonagall was old enough to be played by Maggie Smith" Almost spit my lunch on my keyboard. That was funny! – FreeMan yesterday
  • Frank Bryce was Riddle House' gardener. If someone was coming to investigate he/she was bound to check Frank's residence, Riddle House and Gaunt Shack. When Frank disappeared, Bertha was already missing for about a month in a country where Voldemort was hiding. One clue(Bertha) was never enough. But when 2nd clue was found (Dumbledore reads muggle newspaper) and Dumbledore knew all about Frank being Voldemort's parents' gardener. He must have connected the dots as no other person would kidnap a 77 years old. – Dheeraj Kumar yesterday
  • @DheerajKumar: Voldemort didn't care in the least for his muggle relatives, let alone their realestate. He put as much space between him and them to protect his pure blood heir of slytherin persona. Neither Frank nor the house were a part of Voldemort, after killing his relatives, for decades. This is not a dot to connect. This is only obvious to us readers. – user1129682 yesterday

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.