- "The Egyptian sphinx has a human head on a lion’s body. For over a thousand years it has been used by witches and wizards to guard valuables and secret hideaways. Highly intelligent, the sphinx delights in puzzles and riddles. It is usually dangerous only when what it is guarding is threatened."
- — Description of a Sphinx[src]
It had the head of human, and the body of lion. Sphinxes were highly intelligent and capable of human speech, and were known for their love of puzzles, riddles, and enigmas. When the Ministry of Magic began categorising magical creatures, the Sphinx was placed in the Beast category rather than the Being category, due to their violent tendencies.
The Sphinx had been used for centuries to guard treasures and had been noted for violence when something threatens that treasure.
Crispin Cronk (1795-1872) once kept several sphinxes in his backyard. Apparently, the private ownership of sphinxes is (or was) illegal, as the Ministry of Magic sent him to Azkaban for it after he ignored their repeated warnings.
A female Sphinx was stationed in the maze during the Third Task of the Triwizard Tournament of 1994-1995. The Sphinx guarded the closest route to the Triwizard Cup, and also gave a clue to Harry Potter concerning the last creature that was guarding the Cup. Harry Potter had to cross the Sphinx, and this was the riddle that was given to him:
First think of the person who lives in disguise,
Who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies.
Next, tell me what's always the last thing to mend,
The middle of middle and end of the end?
And finally give me the sound often heard,
During the search for a hard-to-find word.
Now string them together and answer me this,
Which creature would you be unwilling to kiss?
The clue in the first two lines refers to a spy, the next clue indicates the letter 'd', and the last clue means '-er'. String them together, and the answer is 'spyder' or 'spider'. The final creature in the maze guarding the Triwizard Cup was an Acromantula. The Sphinx gave Harry three options — he could choose to remain silent and she would allow him to walk away unscathed. If he answered correctly, she would move aside, but if he gave an incorrect answer, she would attack.
Gringotts Wizarding Bank has been known to place Sphinxes to guard some of the vaults, much to the annoyance of those customers who want to access their valuables but who are not that good at riddles.
The Sphinx Club at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was named for this deadly beast and accepted students who excelled in academic pursuits, likely a nod to the Sphinxes intelligence and penchant for riddles.
Sphinxes were renowned for being extremely intelligent (they were capable of human speech, and are known for their love of puzzles, riddles, and enigmas), with the only reason for their exclusion from the Beings class being their aggressive behaviour towards humans. Their riddles were normally extremely long and complicated, with profusely subtle references to the answer that most people would almost certainly miss. They also possessed superhuman strength, especially in their brutally powerful paws — this made them very dangerous to human beings, and was why they were classed so high in terms of dangerous species.
Behind the scenes
- The sphinx is a creature from Greek mythology, though the term would later come to be applied to ancient Egyptian statues of similar appearance, most famously the Great Sphinx of Giza. The association of sphinxes with riddles comes from the sphinx appointed to guard the city of Thebes by asking a riddle and killing any who could not answer.
- In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, the sphinx in the maze is a statue instead of a real one, and the player must lure the spider to come near it with a fly, which sends away the statue and allows entry. However, in the DS and IPhone versions you have to pick the right barrel and find the Lego-brick, if you find it the Sphinx will open a door-hedge next to it.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game) (Appears as statue) (Mentioned on a Famous Wizard Card)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film) (Disc 2, mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game) (Mentioned on a Famous Wizard Card) (Appears in portrait(s))
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game) (Mentioned on a Famous Wizard Card)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Mentioned only)
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- Fantastic Beasts: Cases from the Wizarding World
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- Wonderbook: Book of Spells
- Wizarding World (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
Notes and references
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 31 (The Third Task)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game)
- Daily Prophet Newsletters
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery
- Mentioned on a Daily Prophet page seen between Year with the Yeti and Gilderoy Lockhart's Guide to Household Pests
|Magical Creatures by classification|
|X||Flobberworm · Horklump|
|XX||Augurey · Bowtruckle · Chizpurfle · Clabbert · Diricawl · Fairy · Ghoul · Gnome · Grindylow · Imp · Jobberknoll · Mooncalf · Porlock · Puffskein · Ramora · Winged horse|
|XXX||Ashwinder · Billywig · Bundimun · Crup · Doxy · Dugbog · Fire crab · Fwooper · Glumbumble · Hippocampus · Hippogriff · Hodag · Jarvey · Knarl · Kneazle · Leprechaun · Lobalug · Mackled Malaclaw · Moke · Murtlap · Niffler · Nogtail · Pixie · Plimpy · Pogrebin · Red Cap · Salamander · Sea serpent · Shrake · Streeler · Winged horse|
|XXXX||Centaur · Demiguise · Erkling · Erumpent · Golden Snidget · Graphorn · Griffin · Hidebehind · Kappa · Kelpie · Merpeople · Occamy · Phoenix · Re'em · Runespoor · Snallygaster · Sphinx · Tebo · Thestral · Thunderbird · Troll · Unicorn · Winged horse · Yeti|
|XXXXX||Acromantula · Basilisk · Chimaera · Dragon · Horned Serpent · Lethifold · Manticore · Nundu · Quintaped · Wampus cat · Werewolf|