Professor Salazar Slytherin was a pure-blood wizard of medieval times. He was a Parselmouth (a wizard with the rare ability to speak to snakes) and skilled at Legilimency. He was one of the four founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the former best friend of Godric Gryffindor, a fellow founder. Slytherin didn't trust Muggle-born students, and he expressed his opinion by proposing that they should not be accepted at Hogwarts. However, when the other Hogwarts founders didn't agree, Slytherin created the Chamber of Secrets, concealing a basilisk inside. He left the school soon afterwards, never to return and died at some point in the Middle Ages.
The Sorting Hat described him as "power hungry Slytherin" and that he came "from fen." This could be the reason why he and his family have the rare gift of speaking Parseltongue. It is also said that anyone who can speak Parseltongue is somehow related to Salazar Slytherin. The fens of Eastern England are in Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, and adjoining counties, although it is not established that Slytherin actually came from that particular region.
Founder of Hogwarts
Like Rowena Ravenclaw and Godric Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin appears to have carefully selected members of his own House. According to Albus Dumbledore, the qualities which Slytherin prized in his "handpicked students" included resourcefulness, cleverness, determination, and a certain disregard for the rules, along with the ability to speak Parseltongue. He also selected his students according to 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 claims on Slytherin's views[src]
After founding Hogwarts and co-existing for years, a rift eventually began to grow between Slytherin and the other founders. Slytherin despised taking students from Muggle families, seeing them as untrustworthy, 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 huge argument over the subject, according to the Sorting Hat it is possible that they dueled, 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. It is unknown when he died.
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 rid 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 an intimidation tool 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.
The statue of Salazar Slytherin in the Chamber of Secrets depicts an "ancient and monkey-like" 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. 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, and resourcefulness.
Magical abilities and skills
- Parselmouth: 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.
- Basilisk breeder: 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.
- Dark Arts (possibly): There are rumors that he originally built the Chamber of Secrets as a place to teach students Dark Arts.
The name Salazar is originally a Portuguese family name. António de Oliveira Salazar was a fascist dictator of Portugal (where Rowling lived for several years) from 1932 to 1968. Rowling stated that the name "Salazar Slytherin" was chosen after the Portuguese dictator's name.
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. Salazar, sometimes spelled as Salasar, is a Basque 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.
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.
Behind the scenes
- 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.
- Harry is very distantly related to Salazar Slytherin, but is not a descendant of him, as 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 is widely accepted 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. However, Ireland does not have snakes, thus making the eastern England fens more likely.
- 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 feared and actively hunted by Muggles.
- Rowena Ravenclaw
- Helga Hufflepuff
- Godric Gryffindor
- Salazar Slytherin's Basilisk
- Salazar Slytherin's Locket
- Tom Riddle
- Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game) (Appears on a Famous Wizard Card)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (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)
- 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))
- Wizard of the Month
- Pottermore (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: The Creature Vault (Mentioned only)
Notes and references
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 As appeared on J.K. Rowling's official website.
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- ↑ 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)
- ↑ 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.