This is the second of a three-part question on the basilisk plot in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that I'm looking for CANON COMPLIANT explanations for. By "canon compliant", I mean within the spirit of canon, answers directly from the book(s), or quotes from J.K. Rowling.¹

  • Professor Binns says, "The whole thing is arrant nonsense, of course," he said. "Naturally, the school has been searched for evidence of such a chamber, many times, by the most learned witches and wizards. It does not exist. A tale told to frighten the gullible." (CoS - page 151 - US Hardcover)
  • Professor Binns also says, "Reliable historical sources tell us this much," he said. "But these honest facts have been obscured by the fanciful legend of the Chamber of Secrets. The story goes that Slytherin had built a hidden chamber in the castle, of which the other founders knew nothing. Slytherin, according to the legend, sealed the Chamber of Secrets so that none would be able to open it until his own true heir arrived at the school. The heir alone would be able to unseal the Chamber of Secrets, unleash the horror within, and use it to purge the school of all who were unworthy to study magic." (CoS - pages 150-151 - US Hardcover)

If none of the other three Founders were aware of the existence of Slytherin's Chamber, and Slytherin himself was keeping the existence of the Chamber a secret, how was the legend established?

¹ I find the Harry Potter Wiki to be inconsistent and oftentimes incorrect. I am not looking for any answer(s) from the HP Wiki. Just an FYI.

Question One - How Did Hogwarts Feasibly Accommodate a Basilisk 800-1000+ Years Ago

Question Three - How Did Tom Riddle Find Out About the Existence/Location of the Chamber of Secrets?

  • I guess he was hoping the heir would happen to be speaking in Parseltongue while in the correct bathroom? – morganpdx Mar 13 '12 at 0:49
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    Polyjuice into a student and start a rumour? – Izkata Mar 13 '12 at 1:00
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    Don't trust Professor Binns's words in this case. The Hogwarts professors, including Professor McGonagall, are purposefully denying the story about the last time the chamber was opened and Myrtle killed to avoid alarming the students. We learn as much when Harry overhears the professors talking among each other and saying that the Chamber has opened again. Professor Binns very likely knows about the secret and follows the professor's decisions to deny the existence of the chamber. – b_jonas Aug 7 '12 at 15:33
  • Slytherin must have left a trace (or even instructions) somewhere, otherwise how would his "heir" know about it? – algiogia May 16 '16 at 15:35

Very interesting, indeed. I don't think Salazar Slytherin would have been so pompous as to call his own chamber the chamber of secrets. It would have held no secrets for him. The naming convention alone makes me believe the seed of the legend was not planted by him. If I can declare by the above assumptions that any eligible candidate for the origin of the legend must

  1. Have knowledge or reasonable suspicions of the existence of the Chamber.
  2. Be unaware of its purpose and/or contents to a degree to be able to say that it is a Chamber of *Secrets*.

That would limit, in my eyes, the origins to descendants of Slytherin, where their knowledge would come from family legends, old stories, etc. Any descendant of Slytherin could have started the legends by simply bragging about their family history. Anyone to whom they bragged could have spread the word. I don't think any direct descendant with even a limited knowledge would have publicly announced that knowledge, but a confidant who was not so faithful could have let the rumor slip.

Unless another wizard researched Slytherin after his death and found evidence about the Chamber. Maybe a diary? or he could have interviewed family members who didn't put much stock into the family stories.

No matter what theory I come up with, there had to be a slip up of his secrecy somewhere. Whether that be to his family, a trusted confidant, or he wrote it down... We can only guess. Each is as likely as the next with the little solid facts we are given on the subject.

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    Besides, to misquote from The Philosopher's Stone, "This is a a very closely held secret. So, naturally, everyone in the school knows about it". – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 13 '12 at 14:24
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    @DVK - Good call on the quote from Philosopher's Stone, LOL! – Slytherincess Apr 26 '12 at 16:54

The Heirs of Slytherin bragged about it

As Rowling writes on Pottermore:

Whispers that a monster lived in the depths of the castle were also prevalent for centuries. Again, this is because those who could hear and speak to it were not always as discreet as they might have been: the Gaunt family could not resist boasting of their knowledge. As nobody else could hear the creature sliding beneath floorboards or, latterly, through the plumbing, they did not have many believers, and none, until Riddle dared unleash the monster on the castle.

Slytherin himself bragged about it

From the same source:

The Chamber was, for many centuries, believed to be a myth; however, the fact that rumours of its existence persisted for so long reveals that Slytherin spoke of its creation and that others believed him, or else had been permitted, by him, to enter.

  • This should be the accepted answer, as it answers from canon. – TheAsh Apr 21 '18 at 19:15

[The other founders didn't know about it] + [the chamber was sealed] [nobody else knew about it]

In other words, the possibility exists that Salazar told his close friends. It seems likely, for example, that the first batch of students in Slytherin knew about it and passed on the knowledge to their children. There's also the people who built the chamber, since Binns implies that Salazar didn't go around with a masonry trowel himself ("...Slytherin had built a hidden chamber...").

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    I would interpret "had built" as a past perfect verb form, not an implication that Slytherin commissioned others to do the actual building. The latter would be expressed as "...Slytherin had a hidden chamber built..." Of course it's still a reasonable possibility that he had help with the construction, because it seems that creating a large building would be a major undertaking for a single wizard. – David Z Mar 13 '12 at 20:02
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    @DavidZaslavsky, I considered that, but (1) there's no reason to use the past perfect here, and (2) the next sentence uses simple past (sealed) for an action that was clearly Salazar's and only Salazar's. Perhaps I'm assigning too much grammatical finesse to Rowling, but I'm pretty sure the intent was to imply that Salazar had help with the building. – Martha Mar 14 '12 at 2:48
  • I understand your point, but I'm not at all convinced of its correctness. That interpretation just seems far less natural to me than the alternative. Though of course there's no way to actually know what the intent was (unless JKR comments on that particular sentence), so I suppose this would be a pretty frivolous thing to argue over ;-) – David Z Mar 14 '12 at 3:07

In general I agree with the answer from Sheph

It doesn't make sense that Salazar would refer to his own chamber as the chamber of secrets, but he might have referred to it as his secret chamber. Later rumors might have changed that to chamber of secrets.

It doesn't make sense to assume the he didn't tell anybody about the chamber, it would be useless after his death if nobody knew about it. So he would have told his children, and maybe trusted friends, and the children may have told their friends. I wouldn't call this bragging, because for me that word implies that he wants it to be known, and that is inconsistent with wanting to keep it a secret.

The vague details suggest that the secret wasn't directly told by someone who knew. It seems more likely that someone overheard part of a discussion, or that someone hinted at the existence of the chamber, maybe suspecting that the other one would already know about it.

This part was written while the question was titled "How Was the Legend of the Basilisk Established?"

In canon there is no legend about a Basilisk, just a legend about the Chamber of Secrets that may contain a monster, not specifically a Basilisk.

When Hermione is petrified in the infirmary, Harry and Ron find out that she holds a page from a book in her hand.

Hermione’s hand was clamped so tightly around the paper that Harry was sure he was going to tear it. ... It was a page torn from a very old library book.

It goes on to describe the Basilisk.

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.

This is just a generic description about Basilisks, probably from some book about dangerous creatures, and not something related to Hogwarts or the Chamber of Secrets.

Hermione added the word "Pipes", so she had figured is out that it is a Basilisk and how it moves around. If there had already been a legend about the Basilisk, she would have known to look up Basilisks and found out much sooner.

  • You seem to have focussed to literally on the title. By the "Legend of the Basilisk" the original question meant the "Legend of the Chamber of Secrets", which is quite clear from reading the actual question as opposed to just the title. As such, your question makes no attempt at answering the question, but instead goes on to discuss something rather irrelevant. Therefore, I would suggest you edit your answer to show evidence of how the "Legend of the CoS" formed as opposed to focussing too much on the name in the title. – Edlothiad Jul 21 '18 at 10:29
  • @Edlothiad So should I suggest that Slytherincess who asked the question changes the title to better reflect the question? Should I find out whether I can change it myself? The title is displayed in various places and should reflect the question. Regarding evidence of how the "Legend of the CoS" formed, there is none. You don't demand evidence from the other answers, why from me? I consider the topmost answer the most likely, although I wouldn't use the word brag. – QuestionAuthority Jul 21 '18 at 10:53
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    The legend of the Basilisk and the Legend of the CoS are synonymous in my eyes, but if you think it significant enough that people wouldn’t read the question to establish that that was the intention. I haven’t demanded anything from you, I’ve merely suggested that you review your answer to better reflect what the question is truly asking, instead of just what the title says. I’ve not actually read any of the other answers, yours just came to me in a review queue (lower rep users answering old questions) and so I reviewed this post. I don’t mean to criticise, only to help :) – Edlothiad Jul 21 '18 at 11:05
  • @Edlothiad I appreciate the help. I agree, demand was not the correct word, but the others also didn't provide evidence, because there isn't any. You write "to establish that that was the intention." To establish what was the intention? Do you agree that the title should be changed, or should it stay? If it should be changed, is it up to the author, or can anybody do it? Even if anybody can technically do it, would it be good style for someone else? And if my opinion is similar but not identical to a previous answer, should I post that or would it be considered duplicate? – QuestionAuthority Jul 21 '18 at 11:41
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    Anybody can suggest the edit, if you feel strongly about it I’ll do it now for you. Anybody can edit, it’s up to community mods (the whole community) to review and make sure no abuses are made. People with less than 2000 points can suggest edits to enter review queues, those with more have free reign (to do appropriate edits). Answers can’t be a duplicate. You’re welcome to come to the same conclusion as long as you’re not copying information verbatim. Questions on the other hand will be closed if they’re asking the same thing or are answered in a highly related question :) – Edlothiad Jul 21 '18 at 12:18

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