18

The lifespan of a Basilisk might be thousands of years, but how can one survive without eating anything for thousands of years?

  • 1
    A Wizard Did It... – PhilPursglove May 15 '12 at 8:44
  • 9
    It's a magical creature, it may not need to eat at all. – Anthony Grist May 15 '12 at 10:13
  • Spiders revere the basilisk. I imagine Aragog's lot has been bringing it food all the time, presumably small game from the forest. – b_jonas May 15 '12 at 17:43
  • 16
    @b_jonas Uh, no. Spiders are terrified of it. It is their hated enemy. A creature that kills with eye contact is not revered among a species that has eight unblinking eyes. – Gabe Willard May 15 '12 at 17:55
  • 1
    @GabeWillard: sorry, you're right. CS says “Spiders flee before the Basilisk, for it is there mortal enemy, and the Basilisk flees only from the crowing of the rooster, which is fatal to it.” – b_jonas May 16 '12 at 19:30
33

The Basilisk is a brilliant green serpent that may reach up to fifty feet in length. The male has a scarlet plume upon its head. It has exceptionally venomous fangs but its most dangerous meansof attack is the gaze of its large yellow eyes. Anyone looking directly into these will suffer instant death.

If the food source is sufficient (the Basilisk will eat all mammals and birds and most reptiles), the serpent may attain a very great age. Herpo the Foul’s Basilisk is believed to have lived for close on nine hundred years.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Newt Scamander - pages 3-4

and

But the tunnel was quiet as the grave, and the first unexpected sound they heard was a loud crunch as Ron stepped on what turned out to be a rat’s skull. Harry lowered his wand to look at the floor and saw that it was littered with small animal bones.

Chamber of Secrets - page 223 - UK Hardcover - chapter 16, The Chamber of Secrets

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them explains that Basilisks stay alive by eating any and all mammals, birds, and most reptiles. Page 223 of Chamber of Secrets notes the presence of numerous animal remains. I don't interpret this to be incidental; J.K. Rowling noted the animal remains because it was the Basilisk who'd left them there, as opposed to noting casually, "Oh, the outer chamber was nicely decorated in rocks, dirt, slime on the walls, and animal skeletons."

I believe that is your canon answer: The animal remains were left by the Basilisk over the years, as it ate mammals, birds, and some reptiles to survive. That might be a boring answer, but, well, I believe it's the canon explanation.

  • 5
    I'm not sure why someone would downvote this; this is straight from canon, and a direct explanation of how it survived. Anyone who doesn't like this answer should go downvote JK Rowling. – Gabe Willard May 15 '12 at 21:21
  • 8
    And you are assuming, against provided canon, that a Basilisk digests its food identically to a snake. Fantasy is not reality. Your point is utterly irrelevant, considering that we are not talking about a snake. We are talking about a plumed serpent, who is hatched from a chicken egg under a toad. – Gabe Willard May 15 '12 at 21:46
  • 7
    The word serpent originates from the Latin language; it meant a legless reptile. Not all legless reptiles are necessarily snakes; legendary dragons fell into this category. All snakes are legless reptiles. Misapplied semantics aside, there is no canon support for a Basilisk digesting bones. – Gabe Willard May 15 '12 at 22:25
  • 8
    @NominSim - Yeah, I'll just take the -2. I'm not applying the physiology of a Muggle snake to a Basilisk. – Slytherincess May 16 '12 at 1:27
  • 4
    @NominSim There is always the possibility that JK Rowling intended the Basilisk to be a snake (the evidence you quoted seems conclusive!), but didn't know snakes digest bones. Doesn't seem like a major mistake :) – Andres F. May 17 '12 at 23:59
12

I'm pretty sure that in the book it states that there are the bones of dead animals all over the place as Harry is entering the chamber.

  • 2
    And in the movie they step on the bones when they first slide down into the tunnels – Izkata May 15 '12 at 12:04
  • 2
    This explains nothing... Those bones might be thousands years older. – Lobo May 15 '12 at 12:30
  • 1
    It's a perfectly plausible explanation. And I'm sure you can find a way to exclude any plausible answer given. But it's all fantasy, so why the sudden skepticism? – Klay May 15 '12 at 15:09
  • 1
    Snakes digest bones... – NominSim May 15 '12 at 15:52
  • 1
    @NominSim: So you're willing to believe that a snake can live for 900 years and kill with their gaze, but the concept of a snake that spits out bones is a bridge too far? – Lèse majesté Jun 25 '13 at 15:21
7

Snakes can often live for a year between meals, if they get something significant. I would suspect that ( as per @AlisdairCM ), some animals would always find their way into its lair, and it lived off them.

As a magical creature, it can probably survive on less that you might expect. One student a year surely wouldn't be missed ..... ;)

2

As suggested in my answer to another question, I will post my point of view here.

Remember that the Chamber of Secret (and most importantly the basilisk) was a vengeance device. Slytherin didn't plan any movement mean for the Basilisk because when he left Hogwart, I guess the basilisk was still an egg. He designed this room as a tool for the use of a future heir of his. I strongly think that the basilisk was not put there as a "splinter cell" murderer, but as a war weapon.

Riddle did release the basilisk once, but before that the basilisk was probably in a magic sleep state, thus not needing to move.

So, although it is only supposition, I always believed that the Basilisk was not 1000-year-old but 50-year-old. After all, when Harry enters the Chamber, he sees one dead skin. A 1000-year-old basilisk would have produced a lot more (personnal guess).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.