Happy Friday, Muggles!
Man, this was a long, interesting chapter, wasn’t it? From the first attack (poor Mrs. Norris) to the decision to use Polyjuice Potion to interrogate Malfoy, this chapter was full of action.
While these twenty pages included many topics, there’s one I really want to zone in on today—the Chamber of Secrets and Salazar Slytherin’s actions. This won’t be another Professor Binn’s History of Magic lesson, though. We’re going to discuss how his decisions have impacted the present Harry experiences in the book series!
Before we dive in, we have a new video! Check it out! We talk a lot about the Heir of Slytherin and all the crazy stuff that happens in this chapter.
Also, the usual warning—both the video and article contain *SPOILERS*, so if you haven’t read the books and don’t want them spoiled… get outta here, ya Muggles!
So, Salazar Slytherin. I always enjoy the parts of the books when we learn about the four founders of Hogwarts. Even though many of us can probably say history wasn’t the most interesting class when we were in school (don’t come after me, history nerds!), there’s just something about learning the stories behind how things came to be. They’re intriguing and always leave me wanting to know more. This is the case with Hogwarts history as well, and what I wouldn’t give to read Hogwarts: A History… Even though Harry and Ron make fun of it, we all know it would have been the coolest read ever.
In case you haven’t read this chapter in a while, here’s a brief summary of what we learn about the founders:
Hogwarts was founded by Helga Hufflepuff, Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin.
Sidenote: Why the mascots for Gryffindor and Ravenclaw aren’t a griffin and raven, I’ll never know. An opportunity was missed there. Also, are these not the best names?
The founders worked to mold Hogwarts into what they wanted it to be, and as we know, they had their preferences regarding the students who are placed in their houses. For Slytherin, this meant something more than personality and brains, though—he didn’t believe Muggle-borns should be allowed to study magic, deeming them “untrustworthy.” Whatever the heck that means.
Slytherin and Gryffindor eventually had a bad fight about this, and Slytherin left the school. GOOD RIDDANCE.
Professor Binns ends the tale by explaining that some believe Slytherin left a hidden chamber behind that only he and his descendants could access. Inside was a monster capable of purging the school of those “unworthy to study magic.”
While this information is creepy on its own, I want to put it under the microscope for a moment. I don’t know if the founders realized this at the time, but Slytherin’s actions would have a profound effect on the wizarding world for a long time after he was gone—maybe forever. But for now, we know it definitely affected this universe during Harry’s time at Hogwarts in a couple of ways.
Slytherin’s departure from the school and toward his ideal of “pure-blood wizard learning” symbolizes the struggle that would plague the wizarding world long after he was gone. Here are a couple of things his actions influenced:
THE SLYTHERIN HOUSE’S ATTITUDE
I have to start this section with a DISCLAIMER:
I know not all Slytherins are bad. That’s not at all what I’m saying here.
However, you can’t deny this house struggles with a collective identity or personality that usually includes looking down on people or holding Slytherins in higher esteem than others, much like Slytherin himself. This is because the most passionate Slytherins are usually the loudest—if you look at your Facebook feed, you’ll notice this is the case with most people in our world, too. Because of this, the Slytherins who are passionate about and agree with Slytherin’s ideals group together and torment those who don’t agree with them.
I can’t imagine being a decent Slytherin who was forced to coexist alongside the likes of Draco Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, and Pansy Parkinson. Worse than that, think of the Death Eaters who were in Slytherin (which applies to most if not all of them). Many of them were at Hogwarts at the same time, which means this idea would have permeated and tainted the Slytherin house. As much as we may hate to admit it, we’re naturally affected and swayed by the ideas of those we choose to hang out with, and many Slytherins could have followed this ideology out of fear of what happened to naysayers as well.
HOW THE SLYTHERIN HOUSE IS PERCEIVED
Slytherin’s actions also affected the way his own house is perceived by the rest of Hogwarts and the wizarding world as a whole. Now, this isn’t fair, but it’s sadly true. Think of my disclaimer in the previous section. Why did I need to write that? Because many people think of Slytherin as the “bad house.” This isn’t because of the actions of every single member of Slytherin, but the reason largely falls on the shoulders of its founder and those who follow in his footsteps.
Plus, J.K. Rowling didn’t really do Slytherin any favors in the books, did she?
From what we see in the books, the other houses don’t necessarily like Slytherin either, especially Gryffindor. There’s constant enmity between these two houses; funnily enough, this is a direct reflection of what happened hundreds of years ago with the two founders. And think of what Hermione and Ron say in this chapter:
“Honestly, if the Sorting Hat had tried to put me in Slytherin, I’d’ve got the train straight back home…”
Based on other interactions we see in the books, I expect these thoughts are common among Gryffindors and members of the other houses, too. Harry also experiences shame about the fact that he was almost put in Slytherin.
All in all, we don’t see many people show Slytherins much grace—they’re usually lumped together and viewed in the same way as Salazar Slytherin and those in his house who share his views.
LAST, WE HAVE THE CRUX OF VOLDEMORT’S MISSION
As we’ve discussed in previous articles and videos, Voldemort was on a mission for power. One of the ways he did this was by sharing in Slytherin’s obsession with bloodlines and purity. He himself obsessed over his own bloodline and absolutely despised his Muggle father. He even murdered his father, as well as that entire side of the family; he was only sixteen at the time and had opened the Chamber of Secrets earlier in the year.
While we focus on Voldemort’s desire to cheat death later in the series, everything starts right here with Tom Riddle and the Chamber of Secrets at Hogwarts. Here, Riddle used the chamber that Salazar Slytherin painstakingly created to terrorize, murder, and enforce the idea that Muggle-borns shouldn’t be allowed to study magic. He took pleasure in setting the Basilisk on the school until a girl died.
This was Salazar Slytherin’s legacy.
He could have left behind a legacy of leadership, of achievement. After all, cunning and ambition are admirable qualities that can propel people to success. But instead, he used his influence to step on others, and ultimately, he created a place that represented his true desires—to purify Hogwarts.
Thus, the Chamber of Secrets and his legacy symbolize revenge and hatred. This chamber was a place where these ideas could fester and grow even when its creator was long gone. A place where people like Voldemort could continue this warped agenda, forever tainting Hogwarts by its very existence under the cold stone floors.
There you have it, folks. Salazar Slytherin and the Chamber of Secrets directly affect this book of course, but they indirectly impact the rest of the series as well if you look closely enough.
I promise I won’t continually talk about this idea for the rest of the book, but hey… it’s important! I hope you enjoyed the article today, and please comment if you have any further thoughts or questions about this topic.
Also, don’t forget to check out the video above!
Join us next week for chapter ten! In the video, I debate joining chapters ten and eleven, but it will only be ten. Plus, Hermione fans… look out for a Hermione spotlight next week!
See ya, Muggles!
Disclaimer: I do not own any element of the Harry Potter series.