A lesser theme throughout the Harry Potter books is the old battle between the value of "blood" versus individual merit.

Most of the people viewed as "bad" in the books feel that people from the "pure" families have more value than those "tainted" by intermarriage. Essentially these Purists argue for an aristocracy.

The other side believes that individual ability is the most important element in the selection of those who lead, a meritocracy.

A understanding of history and genetics tends to put me on the side of meritocracy.

Aristocracies limit the gene pool. While this certainly increases the likelihood of good traits being retained, it also saddles people with the "Hapsburg jaw", hemophilia and similar defects that are normally diluted in a larger pool.

This is the basic problem of all "breeding" programs, as alluded to by Marge Dursley in reference to her bulldogs. Unfortunately, Marge, and many other breeders, fail to understand that the genes that produce the "runts" are inherent in the blood lines. Most of the problems found in breeding programs are the result of recessive genes being retained and their occurrence increased.

Another major problem with aristocracies is that the conditions of life that produce effective leaders, [competition, hardship, strife, etc.] are not features of the lives of the descendents of those leaders.

The justification for aristocracies was that the nobility provided protection for the "peasantry". The reality that the "peasantry" needed protection from nobles tends to undercut that justification.

Remember that while Henry Ford produced the Model T, his descendents gave us the Edsel. To be sure, you will occasionally get a "Black Prince", but you are more likely to end up with a "Richard Cromwell".

Harry Potter and Tom Riddle:

1. Orphans raised as and by Muggles

Harry was an orphan because Riddle murdered his parents. He was raised by his mother's sister, whose family actively disliked him. Consider the fact that they tell people that Harry goes to school at St. Brutus's Secure Center for Incurably Criminal Boys.

Riddle was an orphan because his mother died in childbirth and his father had abandoned her. He murdered his father and grandparents when a student. He was raised in an orphanage.

2. Parselmouths

Harry was a Parselmouth because of Riddle's failed attempt to kill him as a baby. The rebound from the Curse caused Harry to gain some of Riddle's power.

Riddle inherited the Parselmouth trait from his mother as a descendent of Salazar Slytherin.

3. Wands with cores of tail feathers from the same phoenix

The wands may be another unintended consequence of the failed Curse. The Curse was performed with the brother of Harry's wand and that may have left a residual affinity for that wand core.

Neither of Harry's parents was a Muggle. While Lily Potter's parents were Muggles, she was a Hogwarts graduate and fully qualified witch. Purists would still consider her a Muggle and Harry a "half-blood".

Tom Riddle's father was as much of a Muggle as Vernon Dursley, abandoning his pregnant wife when he discovered she was a witch. Riddle and the Purists share a distain for Muggles and a lust for power.

Riddle was a better student than Harry, not necessarily more intelligent, but certainly better at negotiating the politics of school, i.e. superior grades, Prefect, and Head Boy.

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School Ties

Tom Riddle and Rubeus Hagrid were in Hogwarts together. Riddle framed Hagrid causing Hagrid's expulsion. Dumbledore taught Transfiguration at that time.

Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black, and James Potter [Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot & Prongs] were friends at Hogwarts. Lily Evans was in the same year.

Severus Snape was at Hogwarts at the same time, where he, understandably, became an enemy of James Potter and his friends. Snape and his friends in Slytherin [Avery, Bellatrix Black, Rodolphus Lestrange, Rosier & Wilkes] became Death Eaters.

Dumbledore had become Headmaster by this time.

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Black - 12 Grimmauld Place, London

Black - Sisters & Sirius' first cousins

Dursley - Muggles, 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey

Gaunt - Little Hangleton

Granger - Muggles

Hagrid - Hogwarts

Lestrange - Azkaban


Malfoy - Wiltshire

Potter - Godric's Hollow

Riddle - Little Hangleton

Snape - Spinner's End


Weasley - The Burrow, Ottery St. Catchpole, Devon

Unless otherwise indicated the normal order is: Husband, Wife, Child

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Ms. Rowling has a lot of fun with names.

Voldemort - French: vol de mort, flight of death
Albus - Latin: white
Fudge - verb: to avoid coming to grips with, to evade
Malfoy - French: mal foi, bad/sick liver
Sirius - the Dog Star
Phineas - Hebrew: serpent's mouth
Nigellus - Latin: black
Dolores Umbridge - dolorous umbrage

While only the author can say for sure: Rita Skeeter, the annoying reporter who becomes a beetle - Rita from the Beatles' song and slang for mosquito, an annoying blood sucking insect with an irritating bite that spreads disease.

The Black's house is certainly a grim old place.

Remus Lupin was a bit of overkill for someone who wasn't born a werewolf.

There are others for people to look for throughout the books, but there is also a general tendency for the nice people to have simple names, for wizards to have the same first and last initials, and extensive use of names from mythology.

Names are just another reason to read the books more than once, and to read them aloud.

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