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Lord Voldemort(pop culture)
Like any proper villain, Lord Voldemort (or “He- Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” for the more squeamish) quests for immortality and ultimate power. He does not rob banks or hold hostages. He is hell-bent (literally) on world domination and the destruction of everything decent and honorable. Much like epic mythical villains such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy's Sauron and real-world megalomaniacs such as Hitler, Voldemort embodies evil incarnate. His only problem is that he doesn't have a body, and his attempt to correct this situation is precisely what guides the events of novelist J. K. Rowling's wildly popular Harry Potter series. Voldemort first appeared in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Philosopher's Stone in the United Kingdom) in 1997. His origin is clouded and mysterious at first, but Voldemort's sinister history is gradually revealed over the course of the next five books in the series: The Chamber of Secrets (1999), The Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), The Goblet of Fire (2000), The Order of the Phoenix (2003), and The Half-Blood Prince (2005). Born to a witch mother and a Muggle (non-wizard) father, Tom Riddle was beset with an inferiority complex as a child. Voldemort became a very powerful wizard at an early age, but he compensated for his mixed heritage (perhaps in an attempt to hide it) by using his gifts to torture non-wizards. Eventually, Voldemort's primary quest became the domination of both the wizard and the Muggle worlds. He became a Master of the Dark Arts and broke all the wizard codes by using the Three Unforgivable Curses to force other wizards to do his will, to inflict pain, and to murder. Like J.R.R. Tolkien's Sauron, Voldemort also sought immortality. Appropriately, his name means “flight from death” in French. He bound parts of his soul to inanimate object called Horcruxes so that he would be able to defy death and return to life as long as the objects remained intact. At the height of his power, Voldemort initiated a civil war within the wizard community and killed those who refused to join his army. After hearing a prophecy foretelling his downfall and the emergence of a young heroic wizard named Harry Potter, Voldemort decided to kill Potter as an infant. Just prior to the beginning of the first novel in the series, Voldemort killed Harry's parents but failed to kill Harry, who was protected by an older and purer magic. Voldemort cheated death due to the power of his Horcruxes, but the backlash of his attack left him powerless and incorporeal. As Potter grew up an orphan raised in a Muggle household, Voldemort gradually sought to return to power. In each of the books in the series, Potter faces a different manifestation of Voldemort or some evil force the Dark Lord has created to destroy Potter. Reminiscent of snake figures like the serpent from the biblical Garden of Eden, Voldemort has distinctly reptilian characteristics. Voldemort is one of the few wizards who can speak Parselmouth, or snake language. He has snake-like physical features, the ability to tempt others through sly speech, and the penchant to betray those closest to him for his own personal gain. Over the course of the novels, Potter has become aware of many disturbing similarities between Voldemort and himself. He doesn't know yet what his ultimate destiny is, but he knows from prophesy and experience that Voldemort is destined to be his nemesis and that, like any proper hero, Potter is destined to stand in his way. Several years after its creation, the Harry Potter series remains a strong presence not just in children's fiction, but in popular culture in general. Four movies have been released based on the first four books in the series. Creator J. K. Rowling has been quite protective of merchandising rights for the Harry Potter franchise, but Voldemort has appeared occasionally outside the books and the movies. For example, he has manifested himself twice in plastic form as part of Mattel's action figure line.