Salazar Slytherin (fl. c. 993) was a pure-blood wizard, noted for his cunning and determination. He was regarded as one of the greatest wizards of the age, respectively as a Parselmouth and as a skilled Legilimens. Slytherin was one of the four founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry along with Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw, as well as the namesake of the Slytherin House.
He mistrusted Muggle-born students to the point of proposing that they should not be accepted at Hogwarts. However, when he expressed his opinion to the other Hogwarts founders, they did not agree with him. In response, he left the school, never to return. Slytherin died sometime after creating the Chamber of Secrets, concealing a basilisk, ready to have the Chamber reopened to purge the school of those who, in Slytherin's view, were unworthy to study magic.
Around 993 A.D., Salazar Slytherin founded Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in his adulthood, with friends Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw, though he later severed ties with Gryffindor. He even appears to have carefully selected members of his own House.
The qualities which Slytherin prized in his "handpicked students" included resourcefulness, determination, and a certain disregard for the rules, along with the ability to speak Parseltongue. He also selected his students according to their cunning, ambition, and blood purity. His House within Hogwarts is symbolised by a serpent, with House colours of green and silver.
- "I always knew Salazar Slytherin was a twisted old loony, but I never knew he started all this pure-blood stuff. I wouldn't be in his house if you paid me. Honestly, if the Sorting Hat had tried to put me in Slytherin, I'd've got the train straight back home...."
- —Ron Weasley expressing his disdain for Slytherin's views[src]
After founding Hogwarts and co-existing for years, during the 11th century, a rift eventually began to grow between Slytherin and the other founders. Slytherin disliked taking students from Muggle families, seeing them as untrustworthy and unworthy of being taught magic, and tried to persuade the other founders to only take students from pure-blood families. However, the other founders didn't agree with Slytherin, particularly Gryffindor. Eventually, Slytherin and Gryffindor had a bitter and possibly even violent argument over the subject, it is possible that they duelled, or that a civil war of sorts broke out between the houses). Slytherin chose to leave the school eventually, but he had left the Chamber of Secrets and his Basilisk behind, and he later died at an old age.
According to ancient legend, as told by History of Magic Professor Cuthbert Binns, Salazar Slytherin was responsible for the construction of the Chamber of Secrets beneath Hogwarts dungeons. It was specifically created for the purpose of purging the school of all Muggle-born students. The Chamber contained a basilisk which could be controlled only by his own "true heir", and use it to purge the school of all Muggle-borns. At least part of the legend was revealed to be true in 1943, when Tom Marvolo Riddle, the heir of Slytherin, opened the Chamber and used the Basilisk to attack Muggle-borns.
One girl the Basilisk actually killed is now a ghost known by the name of Moaning Myrtle. The opening to the Chamber of Secrets is located in the bathroom she now haunts, and can only be opened by speaking Parseltongue, as Slytherin could. Riddle opened the Chamber again in 1993 through the use of one of his seven Horcruxes, his diary. Using the bit of his soul encompassed by the diary, he possessed Ginny Weasley and forced her to do his bidding. While he still attacked Muggle-born students, his ultimate goal was to lure Harry Potter into the Chamber and kill him.
Salazar Slytherin owned a locket emblazoned with the letter S that became an heirloom of his last known line of descendants, the Gaunts. Merope Gaunt sold the locket to Caractacus Burke. It was then bought up by Hepzibah Smith, who had a love for antiques. It was subsequently stolen from her by Tom Marvolo Riddle. Riddle would later turn the locket into a Horcrux, and conceal it in a seaside cave he had visited in his youth. The same locket was later removed from the cave by Regulus Black with aid from his house-elf, Kreacher. Kreacher was ordered to destroy the locket, but was unable to do so.
It was later stolen from the Black family home at 12 Grimmauld Place by Mundungus Fletcher, and eventually found its way into the hands of the Ministry of Magic employee, Dolores Umbridge. Umbridge used it as a credential by wearing it and claiming the S stood for Selwyn, a pure-blood family line. She either did not know better or wanted to conceal its real meaning from the public.
There were also portraits of Slytherin hung at Hogwarts Castle, one guarding a secret shortcut between the dungeon's antechamber and the Entrance Hall side room. The password required to gain access to said shortcut was Mortal Dread. The other was hung at the Headmaster's office, part of the Headmaster portraits gallery.
In the 1997–1998 school year, Slytherin's heir, Riddle (now known as Lord Voldemort), realised his ancestor's wish of purging the school of Muggle-borns via another method: by taking over the Ministry of Magic and using falsified propaganda. Voldemort managed to have Muggle-borns evicted from the wizarding world, and at the end of the year, Voldemort even claimed that Hogwarts no longer needed Sorting, and that Slytherin's symbols, shields and colours would suffice. After Voldemort's death, all of this was repealed, and Slytherin's ultimate desire ended in failure.
However, even after Voldemort's death, Salazar Slytherin's bloodline survived through Voldemort's secret daugther Delphini, whom he conceived with Bellatrix Lestrange. As of 2021, Delphini is the last known survivor of the Slytherin bloodline.
- "Then, as Harry drew level with the last pair of pillars, a statue high as the Chamber itself loomed into view, standing against the back wall... It was ancient and monkeyish, with a long, thin beard that fell almost to the bottom of the wizard's sweeping stone robes, where two enormous grey feet stood on the smooth Chamber floor."
- —Description of the Statue of Slytherin[src]
The statue of Salazar Slytherin in the Chamber of Secrets depicts an "ancient and monkeyish" man with a "long thin beard that fell almost to the bottom of his sweeping robes." His beard was white in colour. Marvolo Gaunt, a blood relative, is similarly described as being monkey-like in appearance.
Personality and traits
Salazar Slytherin was known to possess great cunning and determination, qualities he prized in students of Slytherin House. At one point, the Sorting Hat refers to him as "power-hungry Slytherin". He seemed to stop at nothing to get what he wanted; this was proven when he constructed the Chamber of Secrets to purge Muggle-borns, despite the fact that the other founders disagreed with his beliefs. This unrepentant ruthlessness mixed with pure-blood supremacist views would later be adopted by numerous descendants of his, the infamous Voldemort not least of all.
Slytherin was also quite proud and vain, as he went to the trouble of immortalising his image in the Chamber of Secrets in the form of a titanic statue standing several dozen feet tall, something that the other three founders were never known to have done. An effigy of such proportions would certainly reflect a grandiose image of oneself. This love of grandeur was apparently passed onto his bloodline as well, as the descending Gaunt bloodline ended up squandering their fortune for self-indulgent lavishness long before the generation of Marvolo, who continued to flaunt the little heirlooms he had left in front of others.
Slytherin is said to be one of the greatest wizards of his age, with extensive abilities, particularly in Legilimency. When considering Sorting a student into Slytherin, the Sorting Hat looks for Slytherin's traits in the student, including cunning, determination, ambition, and resourcefulness.
Magical abilities and skills
- Parseltongue: Salazar Slytherin was one of the earliest recorded Parselmouths and used this ability to control a basilisk. His house's symbol is a serpent due to this, and he passed this trait on to his descendants.
- Legilimency: Slytherin was said to have been a skilled Legilimens.
- Dark Arts: There are rumours that he originally built the Chamber of Secrets as a place to teach students dark magic as an academic class. Indeed, he was capable of casting the Killing Curse and the Imperius Curse, which were not unforgivable during his lifetime, and was skilled in the handling of cursed objects, showing him to have been a powerful Dark Wizard.
- Wandlore/Wandmaking: Slytherin created his own wand of snakewood and basilisk horn. He also taught it the unique ability to "sleep" when instructed.
- Basilisk breeding: Slytherin managed to breed a basilisk and kept it alive in the Chamber of Secrets for over one thousand years, surpassing its average nine-hundred year lifespan.
- Charms: With the combined abilities of the other founders, he helped to bewitch the Sorting Hat into a sentient and talking magical object with personality, to sort students well after their lifetime. He could also produce at least a non-corporeal Patronus.
- Wand: Slytherin owned a wand made of Snakewood with a Basilisk horn core. It was passed down through the generations until it was stolen from Gormlaith Gaunt by her niece Isolt Sayre, and later buried on the grounds of Ilvermorny School in North America.
- Locket: Slytherin owned a locket which he passed down to his descendants. It was later turned into a Horcrux by his descendant Tom Riddle.
- Basilisk: Slytherin owned a basilisk and kept it in the Chamber of Secrets.
- Rowena Ravenclaw
- Helga Hufflepuff
- Godric Gryffindor
- Salazar Slytherin's Basilisk
- Salazar Slytherin's Locket
- Tom Riddle
- Chamber of Secrets
The name Salazar is originally a Spaniard name. Salazar is a surname meaning old hall (from Castilian Sala (hall) and Basque zahar (old). The name originates from the town of the same name: Salazar, in northern Burgos, Castile. Although nowadays northern Burgos is not a Basque-speaking region, it was during the early Middle Ages when the surname appeared. Its origins are also related to a certain noble family, the Salazars, that held a fief in the area. During the 10th century, the surname appears as mentioned in Navarre, where it spread and there even exists a Salazar Valley. It later also spread to the rest of the Basque Country, being specially common in Biscay during the 15th century. During that time, Lope García de Salazar, a famous writer, took part in the Reconquista of Cuenca, where he was granted a fief and founded a notable family.
Alonso de Salazar Frías was a 16th-17th century Spanish inquisitor who is famous for convincing the Spanish Inquisition that most of the witchcraft cases were based on insanity and confessions made to stop torture, rather than accurate cases of people associating with the devil. He was able to stop convictions based solely on testimony
Meanwhile, Slytherin may refer to the words "sly" as well as "slithering", which is the form of locomotion of snakes, possibly referring to his rare ability to talk to snakes called parseltongue.
Behind the scenes
- Despite the quote attributed to him of Slytherin "only teaching those whose ancestry is purest", Slytherin has long accepted Half-blood witches and wizards into its ranks (most famously Severus Snape and Tom Riddle), and in rare cases, muggle-borns.
- However, the above is likely done as a matter of necessity, as there are presently no longer enough Pure Blood families in existence for Slytherin to sustain itself on just them (something even the genocidal Voldemort and Death Eaters understood, if only begrudgingly).
- Slytherin was the featured "Wizard of the Month" for June 2007 on J. K. Rowling's website, where he was profiled thus: "One of the four celebrated Founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Salazar Slytherin was one of the first recorded Parselmouths, an accomplished Legilimens, and a notorious champion of pure-blood supremacy".
- In the film, the statue of Salazar Slytherin only covers his head, compared to the book where it was full-body. It was revealed in Page to Screen that the Chamber is flooded so that the rest of the statue below his head is submerged beneath the water.
- Both pictures of Slytherin in the Wizard of the Month and at the Famous Cards depict Slytherin with steepled fingers.
- Salazar Slytherin appears as a portrait in the "Forbidden Journey" ride at Universal Orlando, where he expresses his dislike for Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore. He is also the only one of the four Founders to appear in behind the scenes footage of the ride. A DVD extra shows the actor being dressed up on set.
- Although it was briefly speculated in The Chamber of Secrets, Harry is not, in fact, a direct descendant of Salazar Slytherin, though he is still distantly related to him; Voldemort is descended from Slytherin and the second Peverell brother, while Harry is a descendant of the third.
- Though Voldemort is a descendant of both Salazar Slytherin and Cadmus Peverell, there is no evidence that Slytherin is an ancestor of Peverell.
- The depiction of Salazar on his Chocolate Frog Card bears a striking resemblance to Verminous Skumm, an antagonist from Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
- Slytherin built the Chamber of Secrets to allow his heir to purge the school of Muggle-borns. However, after the chamber's failure, Voldemort accomplished Slytherin's wishes with another method: by taking over the Ministry of Magic and creating the Muggle-Born Registration Commission.
- Although it has been suggested that Salazar Slytherin was from the Fens in eastern England, it is not confirmed. It would make sense if Slytherin came from Ireland, as that would mean that the four founders of Hogwarts would have originated from the four main countries that make up a vast majority of Hogwarts students. Scotland (Ravenclaw), Wales (Hufflepuff), England (Gryffindor) and Ireland. Ireland does not have snakes, It is unknown when and where Slytherin discovered his Parselmouth abilities, and the Gaunt family, his descendants, have lived in both England and Ireland.
- He is played by actor Ken Bones in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
- His dislike of wizards and witches with Muggle parentage may have stemmed from the political climate he lived in, where magic users were persecuted and actively hunted by Muggles.
- Since snakewood is not naturally found in what Muggles call the Old World, it is likely that Slytherin travelled to North or South America or to Australia to acquire the wood for his wand. Given that travel between the continents at the time being exclusive to the wizarding world and the vikings of the muggle world, this is not an implausible scenario.
- In 2020, a new species of pit viper discovered in Arunachal Pradesh, India was named Trimeresurus salazar, after Salazar Slytherin.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game) (Appears on a Famous Wizard Card)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (First mentioned) (Appears as statue)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film) (Appears as statue) (Non-canon in portrait)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game) (Appears as statue) (Appears on a Famous Wizard Card)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film) (Appears in portrait(s))
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film) (Appears in portrait(s))
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Appears as statue)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (video game) (Appears as statue)
- Wizarding World
- J. K. Rowling's official site
- LEGO Harry Potter
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (Mentioned only in DS version)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Appears in portrait(s))
- Harry Potter: The Creature Vault (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: Wizards Unite (Appears in portrait(s))
Notes and references
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 9 (The Writing on the Wall) - "You all know, of course, that Hogwarts was founded over a thousand years ago - the precise date is uncertain - by the four greatest witches and wizards of the age." Binns says this late in the year 1992. Given that Slytherin would be of age by the school's founding, the latest he could be born is 976.
- "World Exclusive Interview with J K Rowling," South West News Service, 8 July 2000 - "Hogwarts just serves Britain and Ireland."
- In 1994, the Sorting Hat says, Shrewd Slytherin, from fen. Ireland is known for several fen-land areas; therefore, some have suggested Slytherin might be from Ireland, as that would represent all four kingdoms which Hogwarts serves. However, there are also fens in Eastern England in Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, and adjoining counties. Although Salazar Slytherin's region of origin has never been confirmed, the parallel structure of the Sorting Hat's song suggests it is related, but unique, to the other founders.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 11 (The Duelling Club)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 9 (The Writing on the Wall)
- J. K. Rowling's official site
- Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry" at Wizarding World
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game) - PC version
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film) DVD (Disc 2 - Dumbledore's Office)
- Ken Bones's profile on IMDb
- Wikipedia - Snakewood
- A new species of green pit vipers of the genus Trimeresurus Lacépède, 1804 (Reptilia, Serpentes, Viperidae) from western Arunachal Pradesh, India
- Slytherin is available in the Nintendo DS version of LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7. For other devices, he is available in the "Downloadable Character Pack" DLC for the game.