We are all the heroes of our own story, and the villain in someone else’s. For instance, I stole a parking spot from some woman at Taco Bell once, and she probably hates me now. That’s fair. Similarly, even Voldemort didn’t see himself as the bad guy; he thought he was doing the world a favor. (To clarify, I didn’t mean to compare myself to Voldemort. That parking spot was up for grabs. I needed a Crunchwrap Supreme.)
So let’s put on our Empathy Hats, just for one second, and try to imagine the warped logic someone might use to justify being a child-murdering supervillain.
Voldemort and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Our unlikely hero wants to free wizards from the shackles of secrecy. The problem: he’s lost his way, forsaken by a world that never cared. He sets off on a journey to get his life back. Along the way, he meets Professor Quirrell, who teaches him the true meaning of friendship. Quirrell dies (quite literally) at the hands of demon child Harry Potter, who we will henceforth call The Evil One.
Voldemort and the Chamber of Secrets
Through the use of a magical diary, Voldemort’s memory is able to live on at Hogwarts—the only place he ever really felt at home. The Evil One, Harry Potter, destroys the diary and violently murders Voldemort’s pet snake to boot.
Voldemort and the Prisoner of Azkaban
It’s Voldemort’s darkest hour. He’s an optimist, but the world is cruel. Just as he’s ready to give up, a long-lost companion arrives, having just barely escaped the clutches of rising dictator Harry Potter.
Voldemort and the Goblet of Fire
At last—at long last—there is a glimmer of hope. Voldemort returns to his body, and he is reunited with his friends. Unfortunately, Harry Potter escapes, because evil can only ever be kept at bay, though never fully eradicated.
Voldemort and the Order of the Phoenix
Our intrepid hero is desperate to hear the prophecy that could very well change his life. Harry Potter, unwilling to let Voldemort just have this one thing, goes rogue and destroys it. There is a single casualty at the end of the novel, probably no one important.
Voldemort and the Half-Blood Prince
The stakes are higher than ever. Everything Voldemort has been working toward—everything he has been fighting for—is now within reach. There’s just one obstacle: Dumbledore, and his dark sorcery. After a year-long battle of wits and magic, Voldemort brings about the end of the conniving mage with the help of his best friend Snape (he’s no Quirrell, but he’ll do), and for once, good triumphs over evil.
Voldemort and the Deathly Hallows
The battle for wizardkind is not a question of if but when, and the answer is now. But not all stories have a happy ending. Snape betrays him. Nagini dies in battle. It’s not until he’s surrounded by enemies on all sides that Voldemort has a brief moment of clarity. Sometimes you have to put down your Deathstick and stop setting people on fire just long enough to ask yourself—am I really the villain here?
Maybe, but probably not. Probably the real villain is society. Tom Riddle dies a mortal, unenlightened man.