Unless you can’t see, read or understand braille, you know who Voldemort is—he’s THE villain in the Harry Potter series. I’m gonna say now, I’ve only read four of them (but I have seen all the movies—does that count?). He attends Hogwarts, learns that you can become immortal by committing murder, splitting your soul and putting it into other objects. He begins this campaign of conquest, slaughtering all those who get in his way until he meets a lil boy named Harry who, when Voldemort dispenses the Killing Curse, reflects it off his noggin and wishes Voldy to the cornfield. And all this is before the books get started. For the rest of the series, he is trying to restore his power and exact revenge on the rugrat who ruined it in the first place.
The entire series is spent on Harry learning his powers and Voldemort regaining his. The noseless wonder spends his time living out the back of somebody’s head, messing with young girls from the pages of a tawdry diary, and killing Edward Cullen (thank you, God!) until he can finally get his body back and exact revenge on the kid who screwed up his plans.
Voldemort is the anti-bullying poster child. You remember that creepy kid with the greasy hair in junior high that nobody wanted to have lunch with? Or that weird guy in the third cubicle on the left at your work? You know who I’m talking about. What’s his name—Eric? (“You invited Eric? You said he gave you the creeps!”) Yeah, that guy. Leave his ass alone: for all you know, he’s trying to split his soul in half so he can live forever. Ain’t no telling what he’ll do to you.
To date, there have been millions of words written about Voldemort, his impact on literature, the threat he poses to good Christians. Whatever. I’m not intent on dissecting those. Here’s why he’s awesome: Voldemort spends the entire Harry Potter series—7 years—working to regain his powers, to achieve his greatness solely so he can destroy Harry Potter and get back to business. This cat is driven. He is focused.
He’s so focused that even when defeated, the victors are too scared to speak his name. There is not another soul in history, real or imagined, who inspired so much fear people wouldn’t even say his name. Because they knew he was driven enough to come back. Think about that. Not even Jesus’ disciples where wholly convinced he’d be coming back. And he was the Son of God. Voldemort’s people know he’ll be back, they know he’s gonna pick up where he left off so they keep the band together, maintain the Deatheaters, and make a little kid’s life miserable, all at the whim of a guy who’s a Kuatu stunt double. (For you uninitiated, Kuatu is the tiny Siamese twin leading the Martian resistance in Total Recall.)
My point here is this, Voldemort is awesome as a villain because he is going to get what he wants. Period. There’s no stopping him, not even death. Not even his soul. Think about that: Voldemort risks his soul—he splits it—for the sake of being immortal. He commits the unthinkable—or tries to—so he can live forever. There are few characters in literature who are willing to go to the lengths Voldemort does and that willingness is attractive. People join him because they realize that he cannot be stopped, because they know that he’s going to achieve what he wants. They’re scared of that kind of focus. They know it is better to be on the side of inevitability than against it.
Take a look at Voldemort. Learn from him. Give your villains and your heroes that clarity of purpose, that focus. Make their aims so basic and ensure they are wholeheartedly committed to their cause. Even if it means their very souls. That is how you make an enduring character.
Tune in tomorrow for my favorite Disney villain, Scar. Be Prepared!