As the clock counts down to the premiere of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, few fans don't know that J.K. Rowling's new franchise will follow British wizard Newt Scamander's adventures through 1920s New York City. But a closer look at the movie's setting prompts a very important question: Will Voldemort be in Fantastic Beasts ?
I know, it sounds about as loony as Lovegood, but Redditor Fhaps makes a compelling case for some sort of link between Voldemort and Fantastic Beasts in a Monday posting. Their theory relies on the specific date that Scamander traipses around NYC: December 1926, the same month Merope Gaunt gave birth to the little baby Dark Lord at Wool's Orphanage in London.
By now, Potterheads know that Rowling doesn't make any connections by mistake. As much as we love to hate her for the use of time-turners in Cursed Child, we also accept that our beloved Witch Kween has a grand masterplan in place for the Harry Potter universe. It seems pretty unlikely that she would knowingly set Fantastic Beasts in the same month as Voldemort's birth without making some sort of connection between the two.
That connection would likely be a cameo. Fans are pretty certain that three Harry Potter characters — Albus Dumbledore, Gellert Grindelwald, and Bathilda Bagshot — will make appearances in Scamander's stateside adventures. Will Voldemort be in Fantastic Beasts ? Maybe. But the odds look good that his father, Tom Riddle, Sr., will be.
See, Tom Riddle, Sr., under the influence of Merope Gaunt's love potion, married her in 1925, but abandoned her before his son was born, after she stopped using alchemy on him. We know that he left London, and that Voldemort killed him and his parents at the Riddle House in Little Hangleton in the summer of 1943. We know that Voldemort used the murder to turn Marvolo Gaunt's ring into a Horcrux, and that Tom Riddle, Sr.'s bones were used to resurrect his son in 1995. But beyond that, Tom Riddle, Sr.'s life is a mystery.
At this point, I know this seems like a stretch, but stay with me. We haven't talked about Fantastic Beasts' most compelling character: Credence Barebone.
According to the official record, Credence Barebone is the adopted son of Mary Lou Barebone, and the two are members of the Second Salemers: an American anti-witchcraft group that hunts down magical folk. Somewhere along the way, Credence falls in with Percival Graves, the anti-No-Maj head of MACUSA's Department of Magical Law Enforcement, which — along with promotional images that depict him clearly holding a wand — has led many Potterheads to believe that Credence is secretly a wizard.
Here's where it gets fun. What if Tom didn't just run home, but left the U.K. altogether? And what if he wasn't alone, but sailed across the Atlantic with his mother?
Although it might be a bit far-fetched, it's not outside the realm of possibility for the wealthy Riddles to have booked passage to the U.S., in fear of magical retribution. It would be completely understandable for Mary Riddle — now known by her 100 percent American alias, "Mary Lou" — to want to exterminate witches and wizards after what Merope did to her son.
But wait, wasn't Tom Riddle, Sr. known for being a right prat? Yes, he was, but there are a few important things to note about that.
We never hear from Voldemort's father directly. Our only depictions of him come from others' memories, and Voldemort's brief interaction with Tom, Sr. consists of murdering him and his parents. We do not know if any conversation took place, but it seems likely that the young, passionate wizard would have had no qualms about killing his father without asking why he abandoned the boy's pregnant mother.
Secondly, even if Tom Riddle, Sr.'s reputation for rudeness and snobbery was correct, it may have been tempered by his brush with not-entirely-friendly magic. We know that Tom, Sr. never refers to Merope's tactics as magical, instead letting people believe that he was hoodwinked into marriage by lies and lies alone. It's possible that Voldemort's father and grandmother, who lived in close proximity to the deranged and fiercely anti-Muggle Gaunt clan, would have already been afraid of magic, even if they didn't quite believe in it before they realized what Merope had done. It's possible, then, that the pitiful Merope may have scared all the bravado out of Tom Riddle, Sr.
There's one thing that this doesn't explain, however. We've known for the last two decades that Voldemort's father was a muggle, and that his abandonment of Voldemort's mother served as the catalyst for the Dark Lord's authoritarian campaign. How could Tom Riddle, Sr. possibly be Credence Barebone, if the Fantastic Beasts character is a wizard?
Well, assuming that the Riddles were already uneasy with the idea of magic after living next to the Gaunts for so long, it's possible that Tom Riddle, Sr. would have hidden any latent magical abilities from others, for fear of being associated with his Parselmouth neighbors. Parents will perform all sorts of mental gymnastics to assure themselves that their child is not a member of the community they hate, so, assuming that Hogwarts sent a letter to Tom, Sr., it's probable that one or both of his parents helped — or forced — him to hide his wizard identity.
If Voldemort's father was a secret wizard, the Riddles may have convinced themselves that Hogwarts and their son's alleged abilities were all part of some cruel joke played on them by the Gaunts. After all, the Gaunts didn't feel inclined to hide magic from their muggle neighbors, and that would lead the Riddles to conclude that the shack-dwellers made up rumors about magic to keep the wider community afraid and away. The sudden realization that witches and wizards are real — and the fridge horror that he is one of them — would have shocked Tom Riddle, Sr. into humility and doubt, and eased his transformation into the withdrawn figure of Credence Barebone.
Fhaps admits that the theory "may be far-fetched," but adds that "we've seen by now that Rowling is willing to stretch canon to make it fit her new stories." Could changing Voldemort's muggle father into a secret wizard be part of her plans for Fantastic Beasts? Only time will tell.
What do you think of this Harry Potter fan theory? Will Voldemort's father be in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Let me hear your thoughts on Twitter!
Image: Warner Bros.