- "Of the many fearsome beasts and monsters that roam our land, there is none more curious or more deadly than the Basilisk, known also as the King of Serpents. This snake, which may reach gigantic size, and live many hundreds of years, is born from a chicken's egg, hatched beneath a toad. Its methods of killing are most wondrous, for aside from its deadly and venomous fangs, the Basilisk has a murderous stare, and all who are fixed with the beam of its eye shall suffer instant death. Spiders flee before the Basilisk, for it is their mortal enemy, and the Basilisk flees only from the crowing of the rooster, which is fatal to it."
- —Excerpt from Most Macabre Monstrosities[src]
The Basilisk is a giant serpent, also known as the King of Serpents. It is a creature bred by Dark Wizards. Herpo the Foul was the first to breed a Basilisk; he accomplished this by hatching a chicken egg beneath a toad which resulted in the creature known as a Basilisk. Basilisk breeding was banned in Mediaeval times. The practise can be hidden when the Department for Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures comes to check by simply removing the egg from the toad.
Although classified as an XXXXX creature, meaning it is a known wizard-killer that cannot be domesticated due to its immense powers, because the Basilisk is still a serpent, a Parselmouth may place a Basilisk under his or her control. This depends on the relationship between the Basilisk and the Parselmouth, as Tom Riddle, alias Lord Voldemort, was the only one who could command Salazar Slytherin's Basilisk, while Harry Potter had no control over it.
- "The light slid over a gigantic snake skin, of a vivid, poisonous green, lying curled and empty across the tunnel floor. The creature that had shed it must have been twenty feet long at least."
- —Description of the snake skin[src]
The Basilisk can grow up to fifty feet in length, and is a dark green colour with large yellow eyes. These eyes have the power to instantly kill anyone who looks into them. Basilisk skin is armoured like that of a dragon's, which deflects spells cast upon it. The Basilisk sheds its skin at intervals, like all other snakes, when it grows.
Basilisks can live a natural life of at least nine hundred years, though Salazar Slytherin's Basilisk lived for approximately a thousand years. This is accomplished by using Parseltongue to put the creature into a deep sleep that prevents it from ageing, similar to suspended animation. Their mortal weakness is the crowing of a rooster. Basilisks feed off vertebrate animals, it is unknown how much they eat at one time. The Serpent of Slytherin survived on rats. The male can be distinguished from the female by a single scarlet plume on its head.
- "Dark Magic of the most advanced kind."
- —Albus Dumbledore on petrification[src]
When a victim looks indirectly at the Basilisk's eyes, such as its reflection, they will merely become Petrified, as was the case with Hermione Granger and Colin Creevey, however Myrtle (commonly known as Moaning Myrtle) was not so fortunate, and looked directly into the Basilisk's eyes, which resulted in her dying immediately. Another way of surviving a Basilisk's gaze is by seeing it through another object. Another example mentioned above was when Colin Creevey saw it through his camera, resulting in his petrification and his camera lens becoming melted. Justin Finch-Fletchley saw the Basilisk through the translucent Nearly-Headless-Nick, and both were petrified. Sir Nicholas, being a ghost, was already dead; as such, he only became Petrified as well, although he did look at the beast's eyes directly. This petrification seems quite powerful, as even the Elder Wand-wielding Albus Dumbledore concluded that the only way to reverse the effect was through the use of Mandrake Restorative Draughts.
Phoenixes are immune to this deadly gaze, and spiders, such as Aragog and his ever-growing clan, are terrified of the Basilisk, and describe it as their enemy, refusing to even speak of it or mention its name.
- Hermione Granger: "It doesn’t have to be a basilisk fang. It has to be something so destructive that the Horcrux can’t repair itself. Basilisk venom only has one antidote, and it’s incredibly rare —"
- Harry Potter: "— phoenix tears."
- — Harry and Hermione on how to destroy Horcruxes using Basilisk venom[src]
A Basilisk egg is the egg of said creature. They are chicken eggs hatched beneath a toad, thus creating the deadly King of Serpents. This method was first discovered by Herpo the Foul, in Ancient Greece, and has been banned since mediaeval times. The Ministry of Magic has said that all chicken coops in the Wizarding world are subject to police inspection in order to thwart Basilisk breeding.
The Ancient Greek basil(eus) means "king", with the suffix -iskos being a diminutive, the whole having the sense of "princeling" or the like, purportedly for the crown-like white spot on its head.
Behind the scenes
- According to Igor Karkaroff, Alastor Moody has smashed apart a birthday present that he thought in paranoia was a cleverly disguised basilisk egg before finding out it was a carriage clock.
- The basilisk is often confused with the cockatrice, but the basilisk is born from a chicken’s egg hatched beneath a toad, while the cockatrice is hatched by a chicken's egg incubated by a serpent. The cockatrice is also usually depicted with wings, while the basilisk is not. Due to this, it can be assumed that J.K. Rowling either had the two confused, or decided to combine the two. A cockatrice is the product of an egg laid by a cock (a male chicken) and incubated by a toad or a snake, can kill by looking at a person, touching them, or sometimes breathing on them, and was slain instantly by a rooster's crow.
- Although an average basilisk is said to have an average lifespan of 900 years Salazar Slytherin's Basilisk lived for approximately 1000 years, being there since Slytherin built the Chamber of Secrets around that time.
- In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, the basilisk is male because it has a red plume on its head.
- Newt Scamander stated in the fifty-second edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them that there have been no recorded sightings of Basilisks in Britain for the last 400 years. Harry Potter wrote in his copy of the book "that's what you think".
- Wearing glasses will not protect a person from the fatal effect of the basilisk's stare, because glasses still allow one's line of vision to connect directly and clearly with the serpent's eyes, unlike looking in a mirror or through a camera.
- It has been theorised that spiders fear basilisks because arachnids can see 360-degrees around them and cannot shut their eyes, leaving them extremely vulnerable to the monster's killing gaze.
- In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry watches the basilisk by its shadow on the floor.
- It is unknown why there are male and female basilisks, as they are produced by a chicken's egg hatched by a toad. However, it's possible that, unlike real-world hybrids, basilisks are capable of reproduction as Moody had a present that "he thought was a well-disguised basilisk egg", suggesting that basilisks can lay eggs.
- Rubeus Hagrid asked Aragog "many times" to name this creature, but Aragog refused to speak of it.
- In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the Basilisk is shown to hear Harry Potter, something that Tom Riddle's memory also points out. However, snakes lack ears and can only detect things approaching by feeling vibrations. Though it is possible that Basilisks, being magical creatures, indeed have the ability to hear. In the book, Riddle instead only tells the Basilisk to smell Harry Potter.
- Despite written physical descriptions and imagery, it appears basilisks can grow horns (like its distant American relative the horned serpent; but seems to have shared a trait with European horned serpents of mythology, i.e. Cernunnos). This trait is highly unusual, as even Newt Scamander himself had no knowledge about it.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game) (Mentioned on a Famous Wizard Card)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film) (Mentioned) (Appears in flashback in Disc 2)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (As a corpse)
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Book (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Building the Magical World
- LEGO Harry Potter
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- LEGO Harry Potter
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Harry Potter for Kinect
- Harry Potter: The Creature Vault
- Salazar Slytherin's Basilisk
- Chamber of Secrets
- Herpo the Foul's basilisk
- Basilisk venom
- Basilisk egg
Notes and references