Voldemort and Grindelwald are two of the most prominent villains in the Harry Potter movies and books. Not counting perhaps some legendary wizards and other baddies mentioned in the lore, like perhaps Salazar Slytherin.
The two have waged war on the wizarding community and the entire world in their time and have both challenged the established order. As self-proclaimed revolutionaries, both Voldemort and Grindelwald had radical notions about how things are supposed to be.
The nature of their idealisms was pointed at the wizard kind as a whole, and the entire mankind. They both had grandiose notions and wanted to inflict their will on the world. So, how similar were they and how different were their idealisms? And who was the bigger baddie then?
Voldemort’s short bio
As we all know, the fictional character of Voldemort a.k.a. Tom Marvolo Riddle was born after his mother, Merope Riddle, used a love potion to seduce his father, Tom, a muggle no less.
So, he is a half-blood wizard, which is somewhat ironic given that he waged two wars against the wizards born from normal families. However, being born as a product of a deception like this seems to be rather ominous, although it is not specifically stated anywhere in the story.
After Dumbledore discovered him and enrolled him at Hogwarts, Voldemort quickly showed his enormous potential, always surpassing his classmates in all aspects of education. His studies started in 1938, at Slytherin, and ended 7 years after, in 1945.
In that same year, Grindelwald was defeated, and his reign of terror was ended by Albus Dumbledore and the Ministry of Magic. This is sort of a poetic moment, where one evil end just as another was unleashed on the world.
However, there was still some time until Voldemort perfected his skills as he traveled the world, learning all he could from any powerful wizard or witch he could find. Voldemort started the First Wizarding War in 1970, some 25 years later.
He proclaimed himself the Dark Lord in 1970 and started his reign of terror. It lasted for a full 11 years, during which he performed large and obscene acts of evil around the world, before being destroyed by his own curse rebounding off of a warded baby Harry, in 1981.
It was during those 11 years that Dumbledore formed the Order of the Phoenix, as a direct opposition to Voldemort’s tyranny and his death eaters. They couldn’t stop Voldemort, which speaks volumes about his power at that point.
After he is returned to his form in the fourth book, The Goblet of Fire, we pretty much know what Voldemort does. During those two periods of his ascension, he performs extraordinary feats of magic and is defeated only by the slightest oversight. It was the protection spell cast by Lily Potter and the fact that he himself, by mistake, imbued Harry with the power to defeat him that was his undoing.
Grindelwald’s short bio
Gellert Grindelwald seems to have had a a similar upbringing as Voldemort, filled with misfortune and pain even at a young age. However, unlike Voldemort, his own childhood is a mystery. JK. Rowling might have left it intentionally unspoken so that we would assume the worst.
But what we do know is that, like Voldemort, Grindelwald also showed a high aptitude for magic early on, making them both magic prodigies sort to speak.
Gellert’s precise date of birth is unknown, although it is known he was born between 19882 and 1983. So, he is around 43 years older than Voldemort. It is also unknown if Grindelwald is half-blood or pure blood.
He studied at the Durmstrang Institute but was expelled at the age of 16 for dealing in dark magic and attacking other students. His idealistic notions already started to develop in his youth and Dumbledore witnessed this, for the two had had a love relationship during that time.
Grindelwald already planned to end the International Statute of Secrecy and lead a revolution and was after the Deathly Hallows. He was a keen student of history and lore, which is how he uncovered the mystery about the set that would make him the master of death.
However, when he was 17, Grindelwald, Dumbledore, and Aberforth (Dumbledore’s brother) had a fight that ended in the accidental death of Ariana Dumbledore, their sister.
The duel was stopped there, although it is said that Grindelwald held his own against the two powerful brothers. He left Britain and later stole the Elder Wand from Gregorovitch. However, it is known that Dumbledore later defeated him mono e mono, even with the Elder Wand in hand.
Who was worse, Voldemort or Grindelwald?
As the lore indicates, both wizards have had a goal of either ridding the world of muggles or subjugating them to the point of total oppression and dominance. However, here is where the two characters begin to distance from one another.
Both Grindelwald and Voldemort seem to have a mutual desire for power, and they hide it in the notion that they want to help strengthen the magic community and their place in the world. They hide their callousness behind false altruism and even seemingly heroic machinations.
However, they both use it as an excuse to enact their will upon the world and do terrible things and commit crimes in their own search for greater power, powerful items, and removing of opposition.
However, where they are different is that, from a reader’s standing point, Grindelwald’s motivations seem to be more true. He genuinely has a reason to be motivated against muggles so, while Voldemort is a raging psychopath and would enjoy torturing muggles or anyone just for fun. This comes from the words of JK Rowling herself.
The other difference is that, in their respective lifetimes, they also had very different experiences. Judging from the story, Voldemort never knew love, companionship, or any of the things that would serve to perhaps make him question his deeds.
Grindelwald, on the other hand, has had relationships, friendships, and seems to be more human.
Voldemort is more dangerous
While we are not just comparing the power levels of the two villains, just from a motivational standpoint, Voldemort seems to be chaos itself. He is entropy, a destructive force that, at its core, most likely would want to destroy everything. If Voldemort somehow managed to fulfill his goal of dominating muggles, and killed them all, we honestly believe that he would soon find some new similarly fatalistic idea to force upon the world. In this regard, he is much like Adolf Hitler, and it is possible he was an inspiration for the character.