- "The first recorded Basilisk was bred by Herpo the Foul, a Greek Dark wizard and Parselmouth, who discovered after much experimentation that a chicken egg hatched beneath a toad would produce a gigantic serpent possessed of extraordinarily dangerous powers."
- — Newt Scamander, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them[src]
He was one of the earliest known Dark Wizards and his work left a lasting impression in dark magic during the 20th century. Herpo sufficiently achieved notoriety, earning the epithet of "the Foul" by his fellow wizards. For this, he was featured on a Chocolate Frog Card.
Born a Parselmouth, Herpo had the ability to communicate with snakes. He spent his life studying the Dark Arts, inventing many vile curses. At some point in his life, after much experimentation, he created the first known Basilisk, and being a Parselmouth, he was able to communicate with and control it.
In addition, he acquired a great understanding of the nature of the soul, and how murder affected it. Armed with his knowledge and ruthlessness, he deliberately committed murder with the intention of splitting his soul, and subsequently sealed it inside an object with Dark Magic, becoming the first known wizard to successfully create a Horcrux.
At some point, he was immortalised on a Chocolate Frog Card.
Magical abilities and skills
- Dark Arts: Herpo was known as one of the most powerful and influential practitioners of dark magic in history, having immersed himself into dark magic of the most advanced and dangerous kind. Herpo pioneered two of the darkest magical techniques known to wizardkind, being the first known wizard to successfully breed the Basilisk, and the first known wizard to have ever successfully created a Horcrux, probably inventing the process by which to do this. His Horcrux would have left his soul unstable, rendering him less than human. He was highly adept with curses, having even invented many himself.
- Immortality: Being the first known wizard to have created a Horcrux, Herpo achieved immortality, with his soul being earthbound even if his body would have been destroyed.
- Spell creation: He invented many vile curses, which earned him his well-deserved malevolent reputation.
- Parseltongue: One of the earliest known Parselmouths, an uncommon gift to speak with snakes, which has been often connected to the Dark Arts.
- Basilisk breeding: First wizard to have discovered that hatching a chicken egg under a toad will create the King of Serpents. He managed to control it with Parseltongue, thus initiating one of the few cases of a wizard "domesticating" a XXXXX-classified creature (known wizard-killer that cannot be tamed).
- Basilisk: Herpo the Foul was notably the first wizard to breed a Basilisk, an immensely powerful dark creature, which he owned as a pet. He was able to control the monster using Parseltongue, and was believed to have lived for at least 900 years.
- Horcrux: Herpo was the first Dark Wizard in wizarding history to successfully create a Horcrux, although it is unknown what kind of object he used to contain a piece of his fractured soul inside of.
- In Ancient Greek, ἑρπετόν (pronounced "herpeton") means "creeping animal". In modern times, herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles. Basilisks are snakes, and thus reptiles, and Parseltongue is the language of snakes.
- In Ancient Greek, Herpo's name would be "Ἕρπων ὁ δεινός" (pronounced "Herpōn ho deinos"). This comes from the active participle of the verb ἕρπω, which is cognate with Latin serpo, the active participle of which is serpens - the root of English "serpent".
Behind the scenes
- It is unknown when or under what circumstances Herpo the Foul died or his Horcrux was destroyed, assuming that these things did happen. If his Horcrux was never destroyed it is possible he is still alive in the series, possibly as a wandering soul (in a state that Horace Slughorn described as being worse than death).
- If Herpo did indeed die, it is unknown whether his soul had shared a fate similar to that of Tom Riddle after the latter's death in 1998, assuming he never repented to repair his damaged soul.
- Herpo the Foul's depiction on his Chocolate Frog Card is somewhat snakelike, though not as much as Lord Voldemort's. This could be reference to Voldemort's decaying appearance in his later life, as he became progressively less human with the more murders he committed. As Herpo does not look as snakelike as Voldemort, he likely only made one Horcrux, as it has been stated that Riddle is the only known wizard to have made multiple Horcruxes.
- Ironically, he bred a creature whose venom could destroy his Horcrux.
- Herpo the Foul might have been a distant ancestor of Salazar Slytherin, as Herpo was the earliest known Parselmouth, Slytherin was a Parselmouth himself, and the gift of Parseltongue is likely hereditary, as seen in the Gaunt descendants. Though it is unlikely that the Slytherin family was the only Parselmouth family in existence. Newt Scamander mentioned in his magnum opus, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, that information on Runespoors, three-headed snakes from Africa, is based on the “writings of Parselmouths who have kept and conversed with these serpents”. There are likely to be African Parselmouths completely unrelated to Salazar.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game) (Appears on a Famous Wizard Card)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game) (Appears on a Famous Wizard Card)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game) (Appears on a Famous Wizard Card)
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (First appearance)
- Pottermore (Mentioned only)
- Wizarding World (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery (Appears on a Famous Wizard Card)
- Harry Potter: Magic Awakened (Mentioned in History of Magic classes)