Out of all the Hogwarts Houses, Slytherin has got to be the one with the worst reputation. While it’s true that a couple of dark wizards came from Slytherin and a lot of wizards who discriminate based on blood purity flock to that House, Slytherin House is not inherently evil.
Instead, people ought to look at it differently and see that, despite all the bad apples in the Slytherin dungeon, Slytherin is a house where wizards are trained to do their best for themselves and the people they care about. Yes, it was built by a bigoted wizard for fellow bigoted wizards to flock to just to avoid mingling with wizards they thought were beneath them, but as history and time passed, it became a house that focused more on the better qualities Slytherins try to achieve.
We present to you a complete encyclopedia of Slytherin House. If you want to know everything about the history of Slytherin (whether you’re a reader or a fan of the movies), you’ll find it here. We’ve compiled everything there is to know about the facts presented in the films, books, and Pottermore, as well as the major fan theories and unspoken implications of some parts of the Wizarding World Universe.
History of Slytherin House & the Slytherin Family
Slytherin House was founded the same time as Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw when their namesakes one day decided to start Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The school is located in the Scottish Highlands, but is magically hidden in plain sight so no unauthorized people can enter and compromise security. To Muggles (non-magical people) who happen to approach the area, Hogwarts would just look like an old and abandoned castle too dangerous to explore.
The school is said to be one of the finest wizarding schools in the world. It automatically accepts magical children born in Great Britain and Ireland the moment they are born, but parents can opt to send their child elsewhere. A child born to a magical family can expect their confirmation letter to arrive when they turn 11. But if the child comes from a Muggle family, a Hogwarts staff member will visit and explain the wizarding world to them. Tuition is free as the school is owned and funded by the Ministry of Magic. Miscellaneous expenses will be shouldered by the student’s parents, but in cases where the student has no parents (orphans like Tom Riddle, for example), the school provides a small stipend to provide all the books and second-hand robes. However, Hogwarts was originally owned by the four founders: Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin, who were the greatest witches and wizards of their time.
History of Hogwarts
The four founders wanted to pass on their knowledge to other magical children and founded Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry around 990 A.D or around the 10th century. The school motto is “Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus,” or “Never tickle a sleeping dragon.”
Originally, the founders handpicked their students based on the personality trait they valued the most. Gryffindor wanted students who were brave, courageous, and were daring and willing to fight for the right thing. Ravenclaw chose students who could match her intelligence, wisdom, and creativity. Slytherin handpicked students who were resourceful, determined, cunning, and ambitious, though he was partial to pure-blooded wizards and witches and people who could speak Parseltongue (snake language) like him. And while Helga Hufflepuff accepted any student, she favored those who were hard-working and patient.
One day, the founders worried about the future of their school and their Houses after they all died. Trying to find a way to solve their problem, Gryffindor took his hat and enchanted it so that, when placed on a new student’s head, it can examine their mind and choose which House a student best belongs in. Since then, it has been a tradition for students to wear the Sorting Hat, which decides a student’s house. After Slytherin’s departure from Hogwarts, the Sorting Hat had been known to place half-bloods and Muggle-born wizards and witches into Slytherin.
Slytherin was initially good friends with Gryffindor and the rest of the founders. However, shortly after founding Hogwarts, Slytherin tried to change the way they accepted students because he believed only children from pureblood families were worth of learning from them. He also saw Muggle-born wizards and witches as untrustworthy and unworthy to learn magic. He tried to convince the other founders to get rid of Muggle-born students, but they didn’t agree. This caused a rift between Slytherin and the rest of the founders, particularly with Gryffindor. He eventually decided to leave the school.
Who Is Salazar Slytherin?
It is unknown when he was born, but if he were of age by the time he co-founded Hogwarts, he should have been born by the year 976 at the latest; if he were already an old man as he is depicted, his birth year would be younger. However, the year 976 as his birth is backed up by Professor Binns in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
The Sorting Hat claims Slytherin was born in fen, a swampy marshland crawling with snakes and other reptiles. The Slytherin family had the rare power of Parseltongue, the ability to talk to serpents and other Parselmouths. Because of the rarity of this gift, those who can speak Parseltongue must be descended from the Slytherin Family, thus related to Salazar Slytherin himself.
Slytherin created his own wand made from snakewood and basilisk horn. Later in life, he went on to found Hogwarts, teach students, and leave. Before he left, however, he constructed the Chamber of Secrets as a final attempt to cleanse the school of students he deemed unworthy.
The Chamber of Secrets
The Chamber is located deep underground beneath the school. It was home to what was known as “Slytherin’s monster,” which was later revealed to be a basilisk, also known as the King of Serpents, which was bred by Dark Wizards. A basilisk could kill a person – magical or Muggle – just by directly looking them in the eye; if a person looks at their eyes indirectly, they’re only left petrified. The ministry of Magic believed no wizard could tame a basilisk due to its nature and powers, but in truth, Slytherin and any of his descendants that could speak Parseltongue could.
Slytherin left his basilisk in the Chamber hoping that, one day, his Heir could return to Hogwarts, open the Chamber of Secrets, and cleanse the school of Muggle-borns. After Slytherin left, there were rumors of the Chamber existing and holding an unknown monster. The founders and their headmasters tried to find the Chamber, but because of its hidden entrance and the Chamber located deep underground, there was no evidence to prove it existed, so it was dismissed as a legend.
This would cause trouble centuries to come, especially in 1943 when Slytherin’s heir Tom Riddle opened the Chamber and accidentally killed a student named Myrtle Warren, and then later in 1992 when a part of Tom Riddle’s soul trapped in a diary possessed the body of Ginny Weasley and made her open the Chamber. However, the basilisk was killed by Harry Potter in 1992.
The Slytherin and Gaunt Family
Slytherin would go on to produce direct descendants, though the last male Slytherin likely died childless and ended the Slytherin name. A female Slytherin descendant would marry into the Gaunt family, another wealthy family descended from the Peverell family, thus uniting the Gaunt and Slytherins through their descendants.
The Slytherins and Gaunts believed in blood purity, thus they only married into pure-blood families. Family members who strayed from the norm and married Muggle-born wizards and witches or Muggles, or even showed Muggles sympathy and did not adhere to the belief of pure-blood superiority, were most likely disowned at best or even killed at worst. When Rionach Gaunt married William Sayre, a pure-blood, her sister Gormlaith burned them alive in their home for showing sympathy towards Muggles out of fear that they may influence her niece, Isolt, to marry a Muggle.
Because of this superiority mindset, the Slytherins and Gaunts practiced inbreeding and marrying cousins, a practice that had become common within families obsessed with blood purity. In certain cases, wizards and witches began marrying their cousins. Just like Muggles who practiced incest, this caused infertility as well as mental and physical deformities after generations of inbreeding.
It’s highly likely that the Slytherins died out because of this practice. It may also be why the Gaunts were reduced to poverty, physical deformity, and madness, by the time Bob Ogden, a wizard who worked for the Ministry of Magic, visited their home in the 1920s.
Slytherin’s Locket and the Peverell-Gaunt Ring
Prior to the Slytherin and Gaunt family’s demise, both families were wealthy and socially and politically influential in the wizarding community. At some point, to maintain the Gaunts’ standard of living, they began to sell their valuable possessions until they were forced into poverty.
However, the Gaunts were an extremely proud family, and while they were financially ruined, they never stopped boasting that they were descendants of the Slytherin and Peverell family. They kept two family heirlooms – Salazar Slytherin’s locket and the Peverell ring – as proof of their heritage. So, despite their visibly wretched state, the remaining Gaunts during the 1920s (Marvolo, Morfin, and Merope Gaunt) would brandish their heirlooms in an attempt to command respect.
The locket originally belonged to Salazar Slytherin and was passed down to his descendants. It was a gold locket with a serpentine S made with green stones in the front. After the Slytherin family died out, it was passed onto the Gaunts, which eventually made its way into the hands of Marvolo Gaunt.
After he and his son, Morfin, were sent to Azkaban (a prison for magical people), his abused daughter Merope stole the locket, ran away from their home, and tricked a neighboring Muggle, Tom Riddle, to drink a love potion. She tricked him to marry her and got pregnant with his child. When she decided to stop giving him a love potion thinking he would stay for the sake of his son, Riddle ran away. With no other option, Merope sold the locket to Caractacus Burke, a shop owner for antiques relating to Dark Magic. Merope may have not known how valuable the locket was, as she accepted Burke’s offer of 10 Galleons. If she had known, she may have just been desperate for money as she refused to use magic anymore. She died giving birth to Tom Marvolo Riddle.
The locket would stay with Burke until he sold it to Hepzibah Smith, a collector of magical antiques. Years later, Hepzibah would show the locket to Tom Riddle (Merope’s son), who was then working for Burke. By that time, Riddle was aware of his ancestry and knew the locket was rightfully his. He killed Hepzibah and enchanted her house-elf to believe she killed her mistress. Riddle killed a random muggle and turned the locket into a Horcrux, hiding the locket in a seaside cave he had visited as a child.
The locket would stay there for years until one of Tom Riddle (now going by the name Lord Voldemort)’s followers, Regulus Black, defected. Together with his house-elf Kreacher, they found the locket. However, Regulus sacrificed himself to get his house-elf to safety. He ordered Kreacher to find a way to destroy it, but because Kreacher couldn’t, it became another one of the artifacts in the Black’s ancestral home, 12 Grimmauld Place.
Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and the Weasley family would actually see the locket while they were trying to clean the home and make it more livable as the Order of the Phoenix’s headquarters, but because they couldn’t open the locket, they assumed it was trash and tried to throw it away.
Kreacher managed to steal the locket back and hide it, but after Regulus’ brother, Sirius Black, died, Mundungus Fletcher (a thief and member of the Order) stole several Black family trinkets. Fletcher tried to sell the locket, but he was caught by Ministry of Magic executive Dolores Umbridge. Umbridge allowed him to escape arrest if he gave her the locket.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione manage to steal the locket back. After traveling around with the locket, they found the Sword of Gryffindor and destroyed the locket in 1997.
The ring Marvolo Gaunt brandishes dates back to the Early Middle Ages. It used to be an heirloom of Cadmus Peverell’s descendants until his last heiress married into the Gaunt family, and it became the latter family’s heirloom as a reminder that they were descended from another prominent pure-blood family.
The ring is made of gold with a black stone sporting what many believe to be the Peverell family coat of arms. Unknown to most (if not all) the Gaunts who received the ring, however, the stone is actually the legendary Resurrection Stone that can call the souls of any deceased person. According to legend, Death gave Cadmus Peverell the Resurrection Stone while Cadmus’ brothers received the other two parts of the Deathly Hallows, namely the Elder Wand and the Invisibility Cloak. Whoever combined all three was believed to be the Master of Death. However, Dumbledore believes that Death was not involved and Cadmus Peverell was merely a powerful wizard who created the Resurrection Stone on his own.
The ring was passed down to male Gaunt family members until it reached Marvolo Gaunt. After his death, his son Morfin took the ring for himself. When his nephew, Tom Riddle, learned the truth about his family and visited Morfin, Riddle killed his Muggle father and grandparents, framed his uncle, and stole the ring for himself. He openly wore the ring in school for a while before turning it into his second Horcrux. He went back to the Gaunt home and hid the ring in a box under the floorboards. He added enchantments to protect the ring, including a curse that could kill anyone who wore the ring.
Albus Dumbledore would find the ring years later. Recognizing the Resurrection Stone, he forgot about the ring’s status as a Horcrux and wore it. It almost killed him, but Severus Snape managed to slow down the ring’s effects, giving Dumbledore a year to live. Dumbledore destroyed the ring sometime in 1996, but kept the Resurrection Stone and placed it in Harry’s first Golden Snitch.
As for Salazar Slytherin, not much is known about his life after he left Hogwarts. It’s implied that he produced heirs for the Slytherin family who would go on to produce his direct descendants. It is unknown when or how he died. However, we do know that after he left, he never set foot in Hogwarts again. The honor of trying to purify the school – and the rest of the wizarding world – would go to his descendants.
Salazar Slytherin was very particular about the students who entered his house, as were Godric Gryffindor and Rowena Ravenclaw. While all founders have died centuries before the start of the series, their student preferences are still heavily evident, thanks to the Sorting Hat.
About Slytherin House
One of the four houses of Hogwarts, Slytherin House is represented by a green and silver logo with a gray snake twisted in the shape of a reverse S. Following with Salazar Slytherin’s beliefs on blood purity, most of the students in this house are scions of pure-blood families. While there are pure-blood family members in other houses, most of the pure-bloods in Slytherin believe in blood purity. After Slytherin’s departure, there have been cases of half-bloods and Muggle-borns entering Slytherin, but while half-bloods are more common, Muggle-borns are extremely rare.
Following Salazar Slytherin, their House’s animal is a serpent and their element is water. Each house has their own ghost, and for Slytherin House, it is the Bloody Baron, a wizard who killed Rowena Ravenclaw’s daughter Helena due to his unrequited love for her before taking his own life.
Traits of Slytherin Students
Slytherins share the same traits their House’s founder looked for in his students. Slytherin House has the highest number of pure-blood students, but they must also have at least one of these traits that stand out from their personality:
- Resourcefulness – the ability to find unconventional ways to solve problems
- Cunning – using deceit, manipulation, or evasion to achieve one’s ends
- Ambition – strong drive to reach one’s goals using any means possible
- Determination – will to continue in one’s path towards their goals despite the odds
- Leadership – willingness to take control of a situation
- Self-preservation – instinct to protect one’s self from harm, even if it means harming others
- Fraternity – showing loyalty only to those within one’s circles
- Cleverness – ability to think inside and outside the box
Slytherin students may not exemplify all these traits. For example, Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer, and they take a side-kick backseat to Draco, rarely seen without their leader.
You might also notice that some traits like determination and leadership sound like Gryffindor traits and cleverness is also mentioned as a Ravenclaw trait. Students aren’t two-dimensional and carry plenty of traits that can overlap between Houses. It is the Sorting Hat’s job, however, to see which of these traits shine in a student’s personality. For example, a person can be courageous and daring and can fit in Gryffindor, but if they value loyalty and hard work more, they’re likely to end up in Hufflepuff.
Slytherins may share the same traits like ambition and resourcefulness, not all Slytherins share the same goals or beliefs in the same topics. Slytherins that don’t agree with Voldemort or blood purity – like Horace Slughorn and Andromeda Black – are unfortunately misjudged by their peers and labelled to be just as evil as their fellow Housemates until proven otherwise.
The Slytherin Dungeon
While the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws have dormitories in towers, the Slytherins and Hufflepuffs have their own dormitories and common rooms underground. The Slytherin dormitory is known as the Slytherin Dungeon. To get there, one has to pass through the Entrance Hall, stop at a stone wall, and say a password (it changes every two weeks – the new password is placed at the Slytherin notice board) before you can find a passage leading to the common room.
The common room resembles an underwater dungeon. Because it is underground, the windows show the bottom of the lake, allowing students to see the Giant Squid and other creatures inhabiting the lake. To outsiders like Harry and Ron who happened to sneak into the Slytherin Dungeon, it looks cold and dark. But because Slytherins have the highest amount of wealthy pure-blood students, it’s highly likely that, in the eyes of Slytherins, the common room looks much better than how Harry describes it.
Most Slytherins put an emphasis on blood purity. Salazar Slytherin believed that Muggle-born wizards and witches and Muggles were beneath pure-bloods, and so were unworthy to be taught higher forms of magic. In fact, when Hogwarts decided all students must arrive by the Hogwarts Express for security purposes, many pure-blood families protested because they would be exposing their child to Muggle contraptions.
For most Slytherins, blood purity matters and affects the way they socialize with others and where they interact. This is a brief run-down on the different levels of blood purity.
Pure bloods are families or people who do not have an ounce of Muggle blood or any family relationship with Muggles. These families claim not to have any Muggle heritage, but this is actually misleading. If you look at all pure-blood family trees, you can find some form of Muggle ancestry. Purists believe that to qualify as a pure-blood, there must be no trace of Muggle ancestry. But in most perspectives, one can be considered a pure-blood if their parents and grandparents are magical and not Muggle-born.
Many pure-bloods do not care about blood purity and openly mingle with Muggles and Muggle-born witches and wizards. They are also open to the idea of inter-marrying with Muggles. Other pure-blood families, however, are obsessed with keeping their bloodlines free of Muggle or Muggle-born ties that they look down on Muggle-borns, Half-Bloods, and other pure-bloods that do not adhere to the same purity values and thus dubbed “blood traitors.” To keep their line pure, some families (such as the Gaunt and Black family) practice inbreeding and marrying cousins to keep the family. In some cases where family members rebel, like in the Black family, those who mingle with Muggle-borns, Half-Bloods, and blood traitors are disowned to keep the family tree pure.
As of the 1930s, only 28 families are totally pure-blood, most of them alumni from Slytherin House. Since the 1990s, this has likely decreased as families like the Weasley family who aren’t obsessed with blood purity may have welcomed non-pure-bloods into their family.
Half-bloods do not necessarily have to have one magical parent and one Muggle parent. If a person’s status does not fall under pure-blood (if they have known Muggle ancestry) nor Muggle-born (at least one parent is magical), then their status falls under half-blood. There are various combinations that can create a half-blood witch or wizard. Some examples include:
- One magical parent (pure-blood or half-blood, Muggle-born), one Squib parent
- One magical parent, one Muggle parent
- One pure-blood parent, one Muggle-born parent
- Two half-blood parents
- Two magical parents, but one or both parents are Muggle-born
Regardless of the combination, pure-blood supremacists see all Half-Bloods as inferior because of their Muggle heritage, though better than Muggle-borns due to their magical heritage. Some pureblood families such as the Malfoy family recognize that the pure-blood families are dwindling and don’t want to resort to inbreeding, so they accept marriages to half-bloods to keep their blood status pure.
There are Slytherins who are half-blood, and many of them choose to hide their Muggle heritage and pretend to be pure-blood. Severus Snape, Lord Voldemort, and other Death Eaters are known to be half-bloods, but they either hide the fact from everyone else or they openly shun their Muggle heritage.
Muggle-borns are witches and wizards with two non-magical parents. Their powers aren’t less powerful than that of pure-bloods and half-bloods. Many people, especially pure-bloods, think that Muggle-borns have no magical ancestry, but this isn’t necessarily true. They are descended from Squibs who have gone off to live Muggle lives. While Squibs don’t have magic, the genes descended from witches and wizards can resurface and produce a magical child after generations.
Because Muggle-borns are born due to genetics, it’s possible for siblings to become Muggle-borns. The Creevey brothers are one example of this. However, it’s also possible for only one sibling to inherit, such as Petunia and Lily Evans. While Petunia was not a witch, it is possible for Dudley’s future descendants to pick up the genes one day.
A Muggle-born’s ancestry is questionable, which is why they are subject to prejudice and discrimination due to their Muggle ancestry and upbringing. Some schools, such as Durmstrang Institute (and Hogwarts, if Salazar Slytherin had his way) ban Muggle-borns and only admit pure-bloods.
When Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters took over the Ministry of Magic in 1997, there was a campaign to persecute Muggle-borns in an effort to rid the wizarding world of them. Muggle-borns were required to register with the Muggle-born Registration Commission, which meant that the Ministry was aware of their status similar to the real-life example where Jewish people were forced to register and wear stars that identified them as Jewish people. Registered Muggle-borns were then persecuted if they could not prove they had wizarding ancestry, and other wizards were required to turn in Muggle-borns that failed to register and appear in court. This ended after Voldemort fell in 1997.
Squibs are seen as the lowest of wizarding society, if you discount other magical creatures and only count humans. Squibs, less known by their politically correct name “wizard-born,” are people with at least one magical parent but do not have any powers. This is different from wizards and witches who are unable to use their magic – such as Neville Longbottom (who eventually gained his powers as a late bloomer) and Merope Gaunt (whose father accused her of being a Squib but proved to be magical when she became free of her father and brother’s abuse).
They are basically Muggles in all but ancestry, but are aware of the wizarding world, can see things that are hidden from Muggles, and interact with cats and other animals unlike Muggles can. Because they can pass off as a Muggle and are unable to perform magic necessary in a wizarding community, they are sent to Muggle schools and live Muggle lives, with some of them completely leaving their magical heritage behind. Squibs that marry Muggles can pass on the magical heritage for generations without anyone manifesting magical powers, so when someone is finally born a witch or wizard, they’re believed to be Muggle-born with no magical ancestry. It doesn’t help that the Ministry of Magic does not keep records of Squibs, so it is difficult for Muggle-borns to trace their lineage.
Many pure-blood supremacists look down on Squibs despite their magical heritage since they are incapable of living in a wizarding world. They are a step below Muggle-borns because at least Muggle-borns can perform magic while Squibs are practically Muggles.
Half-Breeds and Other Sentient Magical Creatures
These are people like Rubeus Hagrid (half-wizard, half-giant) and Remus Lupin (werewolf). Some pure-bloods see them as the bottom of wizarding society as they aren’t even fully human and therefore exist inferior to those above them. However, some are revered only as much as they can serve pure-blood’s cause. The werewolf Fenrir Greyback, for example, had a seat at Lord Voldemort’s table because he was useful during the Second Wizarding War.
Fortunately, not all Slytherins see the world this way and choose not to discriminate based on one’s blood status. Horace Slughorn, for example, chooses his favorite students not by their blood status, but by their capabilities and talents. He may only be doing so for his self-interests and holding onto students he believes will give him perks when they most likely become successful later in life, but the fact that he takes in students of all blood statuses of all houses shows that he isn’t as obsessed in blood purity as some families are, even if his family is one of the remaining truly pure-blood families in Britain.
Another example is Andromeda Tonks. Born to the pure-blood Black family, she was sorted into Slytherin and was raised the way all Blacks were to favor pure-bloods over wizards and witches of other blood statuses. Her sisters, Bellatrix and Narcissa, married into the Lestrange and Malfoy families respectively. However, she gave up her family name when she married a Muggle-born, Ted Tonks, and was swiftly disowned and cut off. She later on had a daughter and had no problem when her daughter married a werewolf. While she was not a member of the Order of the Phoenix, she was an ally who provided Harry refuge. After her daughter and son-in-law’s death, she raised her grandson Teddy.
Notable Slytherin Alumni
- Merlin – A legendary wizard who was said to be the most powerful wizard of all time. Allegedly taught by Salazar Slytherin himself.
- Gormlaith Gaunt – Member of the House of Gaunt. Murdered her sister and brother-in-law and kidnapped her niece Isolt Sayre, who would go on to start Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the United States.
- Corvinus Gaunt – An heir of Slytherin who found the Chamber of Secrets, but hid the entrance when Hogwarts was fixing its plumbing system.
- Tom Marvolo Riddle – Heir of Slytherin. Would have a successful academic career and would go on to become Lord Voldemort.
- Horace Slughorn
- Severus Snape
- Malfoy Family
- Black Family – Apart from Sirius Black, all members of the House of Black were sorted into Slytherin.
- Lestrange Family
- Avery Family
- Rosier Family
- Crabbe Family
- Goyle Family
Slytherins vs. Gryffindors
The most significant sub-plot of House rivalry has to be Slytherin versus Gryffindor. Following with Salazar and Godric’s feud, students of both houses rarely ever seem to get along. While it is possible for students to make friends outside their House, Slytherins and Gryffindors rarely pair up as friends.
There is such a distrust between Slytherin and Gryffindor that Hermione, Ron, and Harry did not invite anyone from Slytherin to join Dumbledore’s Army. This may have been a reasonable thing to do, as most of the Inquisitorial Squad came from Slytherin.
In Defense of Slytherin
Centuries of producing dark wizards have given Slytherin House a bad name. Most people outside of Slytherin have come to believe that a wizard or witch sorted into Slytherin House are evil, support dark witches and wizards, or practice dark magic.
However, it is unfair to label all Slytherins as evil when other houses have produced bad characters as well. Gryffindor has Peter Pettigrew, who was a coward that betrayed his friends when they needed him the most. Ravenclaw had Quirinius Quirell, who gave into Lord Voldemort and attempted to murder Harry, and Gilderoy Lockhart, who enchanted the memories of other people so he could claim their deeds as his own.
And if you look at the timeline of the Wizarding World’s books, movies, and spin-offs, you can see that Slytherin House’s students and alumni offer so much more than just a feeder for Voldemort’s Death Eaters. It was much easier for Death Eaters to recruit from their own House, but that doesn’t mean all of them were just as evil and should be grouped together as one giant evil House.
To say that Slytherin House is wholly evil is to invalidate the good deeds of people like Horace Slughorn, Andromeda Tonks, and Leta Lestrange, the two latter being part of pure-blood families that practiced pure-blood supremacy.
Many believe that when the Battle of Hogwarts began, nearly all Slytherins were sent back to their dormitories and then evacuated with the rest of the students too young to fight in the war. Some Slytherins joined their family members who were fighting as Death Eaters, but there were also other Slytherins who returned with their Head of House, Horace Slughorn, to fight on Harry’s side.
And while Salazar Slytherin began his house with the intention of providing exclusive education to the pure-bloods, the traits Slytherin values are not inherently bad. In Steven W. Patterson’s essay, “Is Slytherin a Virtue? Why Slytherin Belongs at Hogwarts,” values are good when they’re in a state of equilibrium. If we look at someone with too much ambition, we see someone willing to step on others just to reach their goals. But if we look at someone with too little ambition, we see a lazy person who won’t even bother to try. In Slytherin, traits like cunning and ambition are not bad on its own in the same way a Gryffindor’s bravery can be bad if they are reckless to the point of zero self-preservation or a Hufflepuff is too loyal that they don’t see they’re in the wrong.
Slytherin Fan Theories
Outside of the canon information in the books, movies, Pottermore, and J.K. Rowling’s interviews, many fans have created several theories that actually holds water based on information found in the book and in real life.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione have distinct qualities: Harry is resourceful and determined, Ron is loyal and works hard to get where he is, and Hermione is intelligent and solves problems creatively. However, this doesn’t sound like the qualities of Gryffindor students; rather, they sound like they belong in Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw respectively. So, why isn’t Harry in Slytherin? Because he requested it.
When Harry puts the Sorting Hat on, he begged the hat not to put him in Slytherin. The Sorting Hat said he would do well in Slytherin and wondered where to put him. Prior to wearing the Sorting Hat, Harry was scared that he was not good enough to be in Hogwarts and would be sent back, so it was unlikely that he thought he belonged in Ravenclaw. And when Harry first met Draco, Draco said he’d rather leave Hogwarts than get sorted into Hufflepuff. Unsure what Hufflepuff was, Harry may have been hesitant to choose that House. That only left the Sorting Hat with one option: Gryffindor.
Both Ron and Hermione may have also asked for Gryffindor. Ron’s traits would fall under Hufflepuff, but he asked for Gryffindor knowing his entire family grew were sorted into Gryffindor. Hermione, on the other hand, may have chosen Gryffindor while doing her research. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, she admits that the Sorting Hat was strongly considering Ravenclaw, but something (perhaps her own preference?) made it decide on Gryffindor.
Perhaps this is the true test of a Gryffindor: the bravery to ask for something they really want. But had Harry not shown his dislike for the people of Slytherin, he may have entered a completely different path had he been sorted to a different House.
Salazar Slytherin severed ties with the other Hogwarts founders when he insisted they limit their students to pure-blood witches and wizards. Ever since, he was vilified as a bigot who may have influenced and empowered supremacist pure-bloods to think they were better than Half-Bloods and Muggle-borns.
However, one fan theory by Tumblr user maglet-301 believes that Slytherin was just being careful about protecting themselves and the students. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Professor Binns explains that the Hogwarts founders built the school and then enchanted the castle so that no Muggle would ever find it. This was during a time when magic was feared and many witches and wizards were killed because of their magic.
When Harry, Ron, and Hermione created Dumbledore’s Army, they did not invite any Slytherin to join because their club was illegal, and Slytherins (who supported Umbridge and many of whom joined the Inquisitorial Squad) were more likely to tattle and reveal the truth about the organization’s nature, location, and meetings than any other house. They did it because they wanted to be careful and prevent word from leaking out. And since most of the Inquisitorial Squad came from Slytherin, they may have been worried that Slytherins would easily rat Dumbledore’s Army out to their fellow Slytherins.
What if Salazar Slytherin thought the same way?
It was said that the rift between Slytherin and the other founders began when he wanted to be more selective of the students they took in and keep magical learning to pureblood families. He believed that students with Muggle parents were untrustworthy. What if he was not coming from a place of bigotry, but rather caution that Muggle-borns would choose their Muggle side and rat out the existence of Hogwarts to Muggles?
Professor Binns claimed that this was a time when caught witches and wizards were executed. In the beginning of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry read a book which claimed that burning witches was ineffective on real witches and wizards because they could simply use a Flame-Freezing Charm. However, if you look at the history of witchcraft execution, you can see that burning was not the only method of executing suspected witches and wizards. People were beheaded, hanged, tortured, strangled, and other ways that don’t have a charm to use against. And if we look at the history of the wizarding world, we can see that British wizarding families began concealing their homes until the International Statute of Secrecy in 1689 when they finally went into hiding and lived in hidden worlds of their own.
So, based on the wizarding world’s history and Professor Binn’s lecture, witches and wizards were actually dying because Muggles were hunting them down. Hogwarts was built during a time of witch-hunts, so what if Slytherin wanted to protect the school and the students from Muggle-borns who want to serve the Muggles’ cause by entering the school because of their magic, learning how to control their powers, but only to act as a spy or use their magic for their Muggle side?
It might have been prejudiced to think that all Muggle-borns were spies, but if we’re to follow that logic, was it fair of Hermione, Ron, and Harry to shun Slytherins from Dumbledore’s Army even though the House has potentially good students who might have wanted to help out? It’s a matter of being cautious, and Salazar Slytherin thought it was better to be safe than sorry.
The theory also puts a different light onto why the Chamber of Secrets was created. Because none of the founders would listen to him, Slytherin created a Chamber of Secrets in case there was an attack and the school had been breached by traitorous students. It would protect the pure-bloods – those who would most likely be executed in the witch-hunt – while killing those who most likely betrayed the school. He then left the school because he didn’t want to witness the fall of the school because of the other founders’ folly.
So, why is Slytherin put in a bad light? Because supremacists took his actions and used it for their own cause. Supremacists had a figurehead to hide their bigotry behind. Slytherin’s actions may be interpreted as caution, but it can also be interpreted as exclusivity and furthering the notion that non-pure-bloods did not have the right to learn magic.
Only Slytherin or his heirs could open the Chamber of Secrets, so if they wanted to open and protect the pure-bloods from the non-pure-bloods he was worried about, they could. However, his purpose may have been misconstrued because the next heir who came to Hogwarts, Corvinus Gaunt, came after generations of Gaunts believing in pure-blood supremacy, thus a change of light in Slytherin’s reputation.
And as we’ve seen in the wizarding world, if it is so easy to vilify Slytherin House, it should be just as easy to vilify its founder.
More than just the stereotypical evil house, Slytherin House is full of history, lore, and stories fans can dig into. Many of the House’s alumni are complex characters who go beyond the mold that many push them to, and if you set aside the prejudice and the reputation the house has, you might be surprised how much lore there is to unpack.