Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Characters/House of Gaunt
|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Character|
|House of Gaunt|
The House of Gaunt is "a very ancient Wizarding family noted for a vein of instability and violence that flourished through the generations due to their habit of marrying their own cousins."
Role in the Books 
In Albus Dumbledore's Pensieve, via the memories of Bob Ogden, we visit the home of the Gaunt family. There, we learn that the House of Gaunt is the last descendant family of Salazar Slytherin. Only three were ever mentioned: Morfin Gaunt, who speaks only Parseltongue; Marvolo Gaunt, and Merope Gaunt, the witch who will later become the mother of Tom Marvolo Riddle. We learn later that Morfin and Marvolo end up in Azkaban, where Marvolo dies; on his release, Morfin finds the house empty and Merope gone. Morfin is later sent to Azkaban for the murder of three Muggles, a murder which was actually done by Tom Riddle.
We learn that the house of Gaunt also can claim descent from the Peverell family; one of the artifacts they have retained to show their antiquity turns out to be a ring containing a stone, the Resurrection Stone, originally owned by one of the three Peverell brothers of legend.
With the death of Riddle at the end of the book, the House of Gaunt comes to an end.
The inbreeding that comes from the "habit of marrying their own cousins" has left both Morfin and Merope quite profoundly ugly, with straggly hair and eyes that point in different directions. It seems also that Merope is quite weak magically.
The monumental amount of pride that the Gaunt family has in its heritage seems to have blinded it to all magical progress for an extended length of time. Anything that has happened has, of course, been tainted by contact with Muggles and is therefore unworthy. Marvolo, in particular, seems prepared to dismiss the entire magical governance structure because it does not accept his ancestry as somehow setting him above other wizards.
Relationships with Other Characters 
Because their pride requires them to dismiss anything having to do with Muggles, the Gaunt family lives a very isolated life, fat away from other wizards. It would be safe to say that the Gaunt family as a whole would be happiest to be left entirely on its own.
It is interesting to note that the pride in ancestry that is held by Marvolo and Morfin finds an echo in Tom Riddle, who has never met them and does not even know he is related to them for possibly the first fifteen years of his life. Even when he does meet Morfin, he does not speak with him long enough to get any real idea of what Morfin's beliefs are, or how closely they align with his own. It is probably safe to say that this belief in the power of ancestry is another family characteristic.