Tom Riddle, as a wizard child, was an orphan left in a muggle orphanage. The orphanage's administration was not aware of Riddle's condition.

The wizarding world should have been aware of this situation, because Dumbledore knew he had to visit the orphanage when the time was right to invite him to Hogwarts.

Since wizard children have a fairly good potential of uncontrollably showcasing magical skills, how could the Ministry of Magic, knowing this, leave a magical child under the care of unaware muggles, given the risk of violating the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy?

Doesn't the Wizarding world have orphanages of its own? Or some kind of adoption program?

On a related note, I'm concerned about how no Ministry representative came to check on Riddle when he began using magic on the other orphans. This might suggest that the Ministry didn't know about Riddle, but then, how did Dumbledore know?

  • I dont think the Ministry has any way of knowing the details of the magic used by a Non-Hogwarts registered trail-less student. They would know magic has been done but couldn't know the details, that Riddle was hurting muggle orphans. Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 4:50
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    @KharoBangdo: Now that I think about it, I doubt that Riddle had any trace, based on another question. Anyway, even if he did have the trace, it wouldn't be hard for the Ministry to know that it was him, since he's the only wizard in that orphanage.
    – Saturn
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 4:55
  • before Riddle was registered for Hogwarts, he had no trace. So Ministry will know magic has been done but dont know what magic. In HP & POA, they knew Harry had done Expecto Petronum becoz he had a trace Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 5:04
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    @KharoBangdo: Then the Ministry would know that magic was done in a muggle orphanage. Wouldn't that be concerning enough?
    – Saturn
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 5:11
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    Learning about our past, are we? ;)
    – n611x007
    Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 15:34

5 Answers 5


It appears that most Muggle-raised wizards get to learn that they are wizards only a few months before they go to school. They are not taken away from their parents before their (seventh) eleventh birthday. (Maybe you're searching for Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy where they are?) There seems no reason why Muggle kids in orphanages should be any different. They're raised by the Muggle world the same way.

Now for the proof that most Muggle-raised wizards (not only Harry and Tom) don't learn about the wizarding world earlier. Just look at what Hermione says in Stone ch. 6.

[“…] Nobody in my family's magic at all, it was ever such a surprise when I got my letter, […”]

This is then confirmed more explicitly in Stone ch. 8.

Harry was very relieved to find out that he wasn't miles behind everyone else. Lots of people had come from Muggle families and, like him, hadn't had any idea that they were witches and wizards.

It also appears that Lily Potter hasn't heared about wizards before the young Severus Snape told her.

  • 6
    Our information about the Ministry of Magic is mostly from observing Harry and his friends. Tom Riddle is considerably older, and Ministry policy was not necessarily the same when he was a child. It may be that close monitoring of under-age wizardry is a new development, or even a deliberate reaction to the rise and fall of Voldemort. I don't recall this being mentioned in the books but it is a possibility. Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 13:59

Then again, little wizards should be kept apart from their muggle families.

Think about it. Wizard kids can do magic, but they have their limits. That includes suddenly popping up in the school roof, growing hair after haircut, set fire on things etc etc. And muggles have the tendency to overlook those things. Just look at Dudleys.

Without proper guidance and schooling and a wand, a wizard kid can not channel powerful magic and thus the risk is minimal. You just can't alert an muggle orphanage that they have a wizard kid. You need to confound them all.

Also, a wizard orphanage is not a viable option. What if there is a squib ? Also a wizard kid needs to "accept" that he/she is a wizard and fully willing to enter in that world. It's like sort of a accepting terms and conditions. Dumbledore did asked Riddle that if he wants to enter wizard world, he needs to obey ministry of magic. So living in a wizard place before accepting terms and conditions may not be viable.

Now lets come to Riddles case. He is indeed a special. He already started to hurt other children with powerful magic. He not only sense the power, he could "control" and "use" them, unlike short burst of magic wizard kids do.Junior Tom Riddle is very dangerous indeed. But that is very special case. No other wizard child did that kind of horrible thing in past. Ministry of magic treated Riddle as a regular child. Turned out very wrong. But even in Wizard world, it is very hard to undo mistakes.

Now about the last part. Ministry of magic was in fact very much aware of Tom Riddle. He was registered in Hogwarts. Then why they didn't track down Riddle's horrible wrong doings ? Well, the "magic" they use to track down wizards requires a wand. Tom Riddle didn't have one.

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    The problem isn't if the child does harmless or dangerous magic. The problem is that the magic occurs in front of muggles. Yes, some things are very subtle, like regrowing hair, which no one cares about, but others are not, like inflating someone. The ministry can't tell the degree of exposure that Riddle's magic had - which is a good enough reason to check him out, because it's occurring in a muggle building.
    – Saturn
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 23:25
  • Before Dumbledore arrived, I don't think that he was registered in Hogwarts - and I'm pretty sure that he's done magic before entering Hogwarts.
    – Saturn
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 23:28
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    Regarding wizard orphanages being unviable, what does it matter to have a squib? Bullied? Fine, a squib might do nicely in a muggle orphanage given the lack of magic. But other than that, I don't see the problem with wizard orphanages.
    – Saturn
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 23:30
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    @Voldemort - everyone is registered at Hogwarts at birth. This was covered elsewhere on this site. Commented Oct 19, 2013 at 0:28
  • Wizard kids need to accept that they are willing to enter in the world of witchcraft. You may say who doesn't want to. But there is a probability isn't it. What if a child says i'm fine with the normal world thank you very much. Well, then you have to reboot his memory for nothing. Pretty unpleasant isn't it ?
    – cowboysaif
    Commented Oct 19, 2013 at 5:28

As mentioned before the MoM did not know what kind of magic is happening in the orphanage. As we know Harry did magical things in his life before he knew he was a wizard as well and nobody seemed to care. Remember him jumping on a roof, regrowing his hair in an pretty unnatural speed and letting disappear a glass with a snake behind it. It is often mentioned that magic things just happen anywhere but the Muggles find some sort of their own solutions for what is happening.

“Don’ listen properly, do they? Don’ look properly either. Never notice nuffink, they don’.”

When Harry took the ride in the Knight Bus they tell him that the Muggles could see the bus, but they do not look very carefully so they miss the magic that is behind it.

Also I think maybe the MoM just hadn't the capacity to be after all the unintentional magic that was done all over great Britain or even the world. They just appear to do something against when the Muggles have noticed that there was something strange happening and they did not find a 'Muggle-Life explanation' for it, e.g. when Harry blew up his aunt. Muggles couldn't oversee this and therefore the MoM had to prepare the the memory of the Muggles that saw the giant meat ball that was his aunt.

Finally there is the Question if the little Lord already had the trace. If so, the MoM knew that there was magic happening in the orphanage but as no one seemed to care and there weren't some uncomfortable questions of the Muggles they did not intervene.

In the case that he did not have the Trace they did not know who caused the magic at all. As we see in DH, maybe they do not know that magic is happening at all. I do not think that the MoM had some kind of blinking red light anytime anywhere somebody cast a charm or anything. Otherwise the Death Eaters could simply see where magic is happening and could conclude that some wanted persons are hiding in the woods or at least simply check whether it is a wanted person. So maybe they did not know at all or they thought it was an adult wizard as there was no trace indicating that it was a non-adult wizard.

So IMO it is totally legal that they did not intervene in the orphanage whether they knew it or not just because no Muggle seemed to notice or conclude that it is something magical and nothing to be explained in a 'Muggle-way'


There is an official answer of how wizarding community finds magical children here on Pottermore

So there is no trace on pre-school children, Hogwarts' Headmaster just knows the names and possibly not even obliged to report them to the Ministry. It also seems they do not check on muggle-born children until someone send\deliver in person the letter to them:

Nobody in my family’s magic at all. It was ever such a surprise when I got my letter, but I was ever so pleased, of course...


It's possible the detection spell, or what have you, hadn't been discovered yet. So only by spread of news was it discovered Tom was demonstrating magic. Etc. It was Dumbledore that spoke with him so maybe only Hogwarts in Wizard Britain was able to detect magic from afar, as opposed to the Ministry of Magic as well.

  • In the film C o S, Tom's memory admits to Harry that his father was a muggle; and that if his mother died (in childbirth perhaps), in such a situation Tom being placed in a muggle orphanage is not unusual given clerical error and poor oversight.Wizards are just people, not perfect as can be seen from the films. I've not read the books so I've no evidence to the contrary.
    – Ihor Sypko
    Commented Jan 24, 2014 at 19:09

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