Featured in the March 2023 issue of The Rowling Library Magazine.

Voldemort, the Vampire

447 words.
By Oliver Horton.
Lord Voldemort as Dracula
Lord Voldemort as Dracula

Voldemort is sucking blood the first time Harry lays eyes upon him. The Quirrellmort has killed a unicorn in the Forbidden Forest. The blood keeps the Dark Lord alive, but he is damned to “have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches [his] lips,” explains Firenze, the helpful centaur. Unicorn blood and snake venom is the cocktail that sustains Voldemort-the-lizard-baby in Goblet of Fire. Finally, to restore himself, Voldemort requires Harry’s virgin blood.

In Philosopher’s Stone, Voldemort comes across as some kind of wizard-vampire. And for half the series Voldemort is as good as undead. This impression fades as the series unfolds. Sanguini, a proper wizard world vampire, turns up in Half Blood Prince: he eyes the Hogwarts girls as if they were hors-d’oeuvres. And yet… the gaunt, dark-suited Tom Riddle who visits Hepzibah Smith is the story’s real bloodsucker. The Dark Lord exists only at night and when he finally faces the sun, in Deathly Hallows, he dies.

Dracula by Bram Stoker was published in 1897, exactly 100 years before J.K. Rowling’s Philosopher’s Stone. Dracula is a Count whose home is Transylvania. Voldemort is a Lord whose spiritual home is Albania. Neither can die by the passing of time. Both can be cordial yet are prone to fits of rage. Serial killers, they have the power of mind control and are terrible house guests. Wormtail is reminiscent of Renfield, Count Dracula’s lunatic retainer.

Dracula is initially described as an old man, “cruel looking” with an “extraordinary pallor”. Heroic estate agent Jonathan Harker observes a “red light of triumph in his eyes”. Dracula is able to pass through tiny cracks or crevices while retaining his human form, a trick Voldemort manages just prior to the interrogation-murder of Grindelwald. Dracula has a scar on his forehead that he carries for the entire story. Its origin is somewhat less meaningful than Harry Potter’s: Harker hits him on the head with a shovel.

After drinking Dracula’s blood, heroic schoolteacher Mina Harker develops a psychic connection with the fanged fiend. This telepathic link initially favours the manipulative vampire, but is later employed by the heroes to track the Count’s movements. Likewise, in Deathly Hallows, Harry uses the mental connection with Voldemort against his evil nemesis.

Dracula is finally killed when his head is cut off, which is the end-game fate of Voldemort’s snake. In the movie adaptation, Voldemort turns to dust. Which is what happens to Dracula at the end of Dracula. The Count is the archetypal villain of gothic horror, and has suffused the collective consciousness. He is the stuff of nightmares. Voldemort is his spiritual descendant.