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Was Salazar Slytherin the first Parselmouth, or did somebody else use it before him?

I’ve read the books, but I can’t find any examples.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 22 down vote accepted

Yes, Herpo the Foul is a Parselmouth who pre-dates Slytherin.

From Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (emphasis mine):

The first recorded Basilisk was bred by Herpo the Foul, a Greek Dark wizard and Parselmouth, who discovered after much experimentation that a chicken egg hatched beneath a toad would produce a gigantic serpent of extraordinarily dangerous powers.

According to Professor Binns in Chamber of Secrets:

You all know, of course, that Hogwarts was founded over a thousand years ago - the precise date is uncertain - by the four greatest witches and wizards of the age.

The books are set in the 1990s, which means Slytherin would be active around the tenth century. This means he almost certainly didn’t overlap Herpo the Foul, and so Foul is a Parselmouth who pre-dates Slytherin.

Edit: As Anthony Grist points out in the comments, this only says Greek, not Ancient Greek. I read Ancient Greek in the HP Wikia entry, and conflated the two. I’ve found a canon confirmation of this, but it’s in spoiler text because it’s from Pottermore.

There’s a chocolate frog card for Herpo in Pottermore, and the description is

“Herpo the Foul was an Ancient Greek wizard and the first known creator of the Basilisk.”

Note that most known Parselmouths in the HP universe are connected to Slytherin. (The Gaunts, Voldemort, Harry by proxy to Voldemort.) Indeed, JKR confirmed in a 2007 interview that the ability has come down via Slytherin (emphasis mine):

Q: Since Ron is able to speak Parseltongue in the last book, does that mean that parseltongue is a language that most witches and wizards can learn or must a person be born with some ability to speak Parseltongue.

JKR: I don't see it really as a language you can learn. So few people speak it that who would teach you? This is a weird ability passed down through the Slytherin blood line.

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Are there any actual dates mentioned anywhere for Herpo the Foul, or are we just assuming that "Greek Dark Wizard" actually means "Ancient Greek Dark Wizard"? –  Anthony Grist Apr 16 '14 at 8:55
Might be worth noting that the reason there is so much emphasis on Parselmouths in the HP universe being connected to Slytherin is because of it's primary isolation to England. –  Simon Apr 16 '14 at 8:55
@alexchan But then are all slytherins related?...**the Slytherin blood line** –  Hashir Omer Apr 16 '14 at 8:55
@AnthonyGrist Whether it does or doesn't he bred the first Basilisk and Salazar used a Basilisk in the chamber. –  Simon Apr 16 '14 at 8:56
@AnthonyGrist: Good point. I’ve added a source. –  alexwlchan Apr 16 '14 at 9:02

According to the Famous Wizard Cards seen in the video game "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets", Paracelsus (1493-1541) is...

"Credited with discovering Parseltongue"

Obviously this conflicts heavily with later canon mentions of Salazar Slytherin and Herpo the Foul but it is worth noting that JKR did write the cards seen in the EA games, even if the cards themselves aren't strictly considered canonical:

Q: Did you actually write the information that ended up on the Famous Wizard cards? For that matter, what about the spells in the films? Did you invent those or did Steve Kloves? And why were new incantations created for the movie in the first place? (Example: "Incendio" to "Lacarnum Inflamari"?

JKR: Yes, I wrote the information on the original Famous Wizard cards. As you have notices, a few of them have now popped up on the 'Wizard of the Month' cards on my website desk.

enter image description here

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But the games aren't canon. This proves nothing unless JkR says so. Who wrote the card .was it Jkr. –  ihavenodirection Aug 5 '14 at 18:45
Yes. She wrote them; hp-lexicon.org/about/sources/source_cards.html –  Richard Aug 5 '14 at 18:57
then you should include that in your answer. because that adds credibility and makes no doubt you are right. –  ihavenodirection Aug 5 '14 at 19:00

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