I’m in the midst of dealing with a lot of work and personal things all at once, and consequently, I’ve been behind on my writing. A lot of things have been happening in the nerd world lately and I haven’t really been able to process, sit down and write about any of it. That being said, even when my brain should be on other, less fun, things, it always finds a way to make strange connections that turn out to be legit. So, instead of writing something with real critique, here are five ways Voldemort from Harry Potter and Orochimaru from Naruto are the same person.
1. They have a *deep connection* with snakes
Potterheads are well aware of Voldemort’s connection with snakes. Not only was he in Slytherin House, which reps a snake as their emblem, as a student at Hogwarts, but he is also a direct descendent of the House’s founder, Salazar Slytherin. Add to that the fact that he is a parselmouth, his lack of a nose, and his pet/vessel for a piece of his soul Nagini and Voldemort seems to be the human embodiment of a snake. Then, if you’re like me, you meet Orochimaru. Orochimaru is one of the villains in Naruto, and his snake-like characteristics are even creepier than Voldemort’s. For one, Orochimaru has signed a blood contract with snakes that allows him to summon them in a fight, the most formidable snake being Manda. He is also able to manipulate his body to move in ways similar to a snake, shedding his skin, having a long tongue, and shoots snakes out of his hands. Sometimes, he even throws up snakes and/or himself.
2. They don’t seem to have discovered the concept of lotion
Both Voldemort and Orochimaru have gray, dry skin. Their followers should really let them know about shea butter.
3. They are way too old to be worried about these little kids, but that doesn’t stop them
For most of his storyline in Naruto, Orochimaru is obsessed with getting possession of Sasuke Uchiha. He has a goal of learning all of the jutsu of the world and knows that having possession of Sasuke’s eye technique, the Sharingan, would mean that he would be able to do so much quicker. Therefore, Orochimaru pursues Sasuke, manipulating and corrupting him into following him so that he can groom him to eventually take over his body. All of this, on top of the huge age difference tends to feel a bit uncomfortable, and Voldemort’s obsession with Harry Potter is equally disconcerting. With Voldemort, though, he is obsessed with killing Harry, seeing Harry not only as his equal, but as someone who cannot be allowed to live if he is to truly be in power. In any case, both of these men should probably reevaluate their lives if they’re really so concerned about these children.
4. They are afraid to die
One of the major themes of Harry Potter is that death is not the worse thing that can happen to you, that it is, in fact, just another stage of life. Voldemort's characterization is the ultimate driver of this theme, as someone who is so afraid of death and dying that he murders people all in an effort to stay alive. In a world where killing people literally splits one’s soul apart, Voldemort decides to make horcruxes, vessels created to protect those pieces of his soul so that if he is killed (as he was by the curse that backfired off of baby Harry), his soul still lives on. Orochimaru is similar, though rather than splitting his soul and putting them in protective vessels, every three years or so he takes possession of a person’s body, most often one who is very strong or who has an ability that he covets. A part of this is connected to his desire to learn every jutsu in the world, but it is also directly connected to his fear of death. Orochimaru goes to a lot of lengths to not die; even when he is technically dead, he lives within not just one but two proteges, and in one case, his cells begin to physically take over Kabuto’s, literally asserting itself and continuing to desperately cling to life.
5. They can hold a grudge
Voldemort found out about baby Harry and his potential to thwart him and went to kill his entire family. Once he failed, he made it his life's goal to kill this boy, waiting 10 years, and once that failed trying almost every year after that for seven more years. This man (or what’s left of him) has commitment. Similarly, Orochimaru holds a lot of resentment and anger at his former master, the Third Hokage and the Leaf Village. Years after defecting, he comes back with only the goal of destroying the village and killing his former master. Even when he succeeds in killing the Third Hokage but fails in destroying the village, it takes a large shift in events (namely his being killed and absorbed by Sasuke, and later being resurrected during the Fourth Shinobi World War) for him to give up on that goal.
I think that there’s definitely something to be said about the prevalence of creatures like snakes being associated with evil; I’m sure I could think of other stories where there is a snake or snake-like person who is up to no good. While watching Naruto, I always thought about how similar Orochimaru was to Voldemort. It’s interesting to recognize tropes that tend to pop up across genres and stories, and to think about why they come up. For both Orochimaru and Voldemort, it’s clear that their characterization is being used as a way to make clear how far from humanity they are. Both characters have gone far beyond the acceptable level of exploration and practice, and the characteristics I’ve listed above point in part to the personalities they both have which led them to these practices (though I’m not sure how/whether their struggles with dry skin add to this in any way). Either way, it’s fun to look at the ways their similarities are prevalent in very different worlds.