This is related to How did the Basilisk survive for a thousand years? The basilisk in "Chamber of Secrets" is shown to eat small mammals and reptiles, from the skeletons that are discovered. I understand that snakes that don't get enough food stay small, and one way to get a bigger snake is to feed it more. The basilisk must start small, as it hatches from a cockerel's egg.

If it was eating stray familiars, in quantities required to grow as big as it did, why didn't anyone notice? At the very least, wouldn't older students mention that animals had a tendency to vanish so either bring a cage or don't get too attached? (How did Neville's toad, Trevor, keep coming back?)

I understand that real snakes actually digest the bones of animals too, so perhaps the digestion of a basilisk is different enough that it spits out/excretes the skeletons? Would this be enough of a difference to explain how it uses less of the available food source but grows bigger?

Additional thought - is there any evidence that the basilisk ate bigger mammals, eg students?

3 Answers 3


I've gotten a lot of flak in my comments of the How did the Basilisk survive for a thousand years? question, regarding the fact that the Basilisk is a snake. However I do maintain that it is a snake as this quote from Chamber of Secrets indicates:

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...

As far as snakes go, this article shows that snakes "can lower their metabolic rates by up to 70 percent, allowing them to survive prolonged periods without food". This is supported by the books in that the Basilisk does survive for a long period of time with seemingly only the food from stray animals in the castle.

The question of how it got so big is also answered in the same article:

Despite the lack of food, the snakes continued to grow in length. [...] this suggests that there must be a strong selective advantage to growing longer'

Snakes in "real life" even without food will continue to pour energy into growing longer (read bigger). I feel like this directly relates to the Basilisk, since it is a real world explanation regarding how it could gain so much size without needing as much food. When you add in the fact that it is a mythological creature this characteristic could be magnified in significance.

  • Yes, that's correct.. Hibernation really works, but Basilisk wasn't a snake. Don't go for literature styles.
    – user931
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 16:25
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    @SachinShekhar The quote from the book calls it a snake, the quote itself even comes from an in-universe book on Magical Creatures, isn't that enough evidence towards it being a snake? Or are both the in-universe book and actual book wrong? Is there canon support refuting that it is a snake?
    – NominSim
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 16:28
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    I am not saying that your reference is wrong. I am saying that the word "snake" is used to show that Basilisk was similar to snake. The sentence has special meaning. Its the style of writers. Mind it, the 1st intro of Basilisk was as a serpent (a group of species).. Think "why"...
    – user931
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 16:35
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    @SachinShekhar All snakes are serpents, but not all serpents are snakes. The use of snake further classifies the Basilisk, "serpent" being a more general classification, followed by "snake", a more specific. Just like classifications of species; Life > Domain > Kingdom > Phylum > Class > Order > Family > Genus > Species. If it was the other way around I would agree with you, but snake is a more specific classification, which you wouldn't use to describe it as being a more general "serpent".
    – NominSim
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 16:43
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    In general, everyday usage, serpent is 100% synonymous with snake. This isn't sloppiness or inaccuracy or "style of writers", it's just a fact of language.
    – Martha
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 0:27

Just a subjective idea: what if Salazar or his immediate descendants/servants/whoever fed the Basilisk when it was young and Salazar was alive. After that, the Basilisk would hibernate until woken up by Tom a few decades ago.


I read an interesting fanfiction where the Chamber of Secrets had another opening, one that lead out into the Forbidden Forest. I don't think it's entirely unbelievable to say that there could have been another entrance/exit to the Chamber of Secrets that Dumbledore and the other teachers couldn't find, especially given the fact that no one knew where the original entrance was. If it was into the Forbidden Forest, there's your answer.

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    I'm not the one who downvoted you, but you should probably be aware that you really shouldn't reference fanfic unless it's within the scope of the original question. Not only is it irrelevant to the scope of this question (HP canon), but some folks here seem to really not like fanfic. Stick with canon. Commented May 16, 2016 at 15:11
  • @pleurocoelus, thanks for the warning. I didn't particularly mean to reference it - more to say that's where the idea came from. It doesn't say anywhere in canon that there's only one entrance to the Chamber.
    – Orcusnox
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 1:40
  • You're quite welcome. Still, speculation is generally frowned upon here. Citing your sources is always helpful. Incidentally, there are some fanfic-related questions here: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/fan-fiction Commented May 17, 2016 at 6:15
  • Doesn't answer the question as well Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 1:34

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