18

In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the gaze of the Basilisk is described as lethal (as most of us already know):

[The Basilisk] has exceptionally venomous fangs but its most dangerous means of attack is the gaze of its large yellow eyes. Anyone looking directly into these will suffer instant death.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - pages 3-4 - Scholastic - An A-Z of Fantastic Beasts

To quickly review, Mrs. Norris survived the Basilisk by seeing its reflection in standing water and was petrified, not killed. Colin Creevey survived because he was looking through the viewfinder of his camera when the Basilisk came along, and he was also petrified instead of being killed. Nearly Headless Nick was already a ghost when he saw the Basilisk; it's impossible to die twice so Nick was merely petrified. Justin Finch-Fletchley saw the Basilisk through the ghost of Nearly Headless Nick and was petrified, not killed. Hermione saw the reflection of the Basilisk in her hand mirror and was petrified, not killed.

Does the gaze between a potential victim and a Basilisk have to be mutual in order for death to occur? In the case of an Invisibility Cloak, the wearer would be able to see the gaze of the Basilisk, but the Basilisk, ostensibly, should not be able to see the gaze of the Invisibility Cloak wearer because the cloak wearer is hidden from view.

Would an Invisibility Cloak block death from the gaze of a Basilisk like some of the above items did?

  • Intent does not seem to be required to be killed. Even an accidental viewing of the eyes of the basilisk seems to be enough. All things being equal, if the viewer of the basilisk is invisible and the gaze of the basilisk passes over them, if they are looking at it, at the very least they should be petrified, the same as the others. Only the direct gaze of the basilisk kills, if it does not see you directly, you should petrified as all the others were. – Thaddeus Howze Mar 26 '14 at 6:30
  • 1
    Yea I have to go with no, purely because you can still see its eyes.. – Marriott81 Mar 26 '14 at 9:23
  • 3
    And the reverse: what if you draped the cloak over its head, and looked where its eyes should be? – BoBTFish Mar 26 '14 at 9:39
  • 3
    Throw the cloak over the basilisk's head - you can't see it's eyes you're safe! – Liath Nov 3 '14 at 13:21
  • 1
    i didnt read everyones post, but the invisibilty cloak has a hood, but not a face guard so you would be exposed to direct eye contact – Himarm Jan 25 '16 at 4:20
6

In all of the examples it is the victims' direct view of the Basilisk that is being interrupted/disrupted. Assuming that the Cloak of Invisibility is a perfect cloak, then no disruption of the wearers vision occurs. We know that air has substance, and it is insufficient to protect one from the Basilisk, then in the perfect cloak scenario no protection would be offered and the wearer would die.

In the book version of the universe I do not recall any distortion of vision, so I presume the perfect cloak scenario, leads to death from the gaze of a Basilisk.

In the movie version of the universe, there is clearly distortion. Folds in the cloth are clearly visible from inside the cloak. This is a less than perfect cloak scenario so the gaze of a Basilisk is not fatal. (Notice the books behind Harry, and how folds are clearly visible) (Notice the books behind Harry, and how folds are clearly visible)

  • Note that even in the imperfect cloak scenario, it may be fatal. JKR specifically stated that she wanted glasses to be no protection (they are specifically and solely for the purpose of distorting vision!). cf. Moaning Myrtle. – BoBTFish Mar 26 '14 at 10:38
  • 1
    @BoBTFish or rather glasses are for perfecting vision.... A totally blind person would be totally immune to a Basilisk. There are varying degrees of blindness, with some people only being able to see shadowy shapes. Presumably at some level of vision loss, a person without glasses could/would be petrified instead of being killed. – James Jenkins Mar 26 '14 at 10:42
  • @BoBTFish - that should be an answer – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 26 '14 at 11:09
  • I personally don't subscribe to the "perfect" Invisibility Cloak theory -- that's not to say your answer is wrong, though. I find your theory interesting, actually. The only flaw is that it compares book canon to movie canon, which kind of puts it on uneven footing, kwim? Still, +1 -- thanks for the answer! :) – Slytherincess Mar 26 '14 at 15:35
8

Here's a rather speculative thought: the idea of a basilisk dates back to a time when many people thought sight was an effect of something coming out of the viewer's eyes, not something (light) going into it. In this model, the basilisk emits a beam of some ethereal "substance" - a basilisk death ray, if you will - from its eyes, and death is brought on by having this ray enter your own eyes.

If you look at the circumstances of the petrifications in the book, it's plausible that in each case something disrupted the flow of the basilisk's deadly emission:

  • Mrs. Norris: standing water is only a partial reflector, so only part of the basilisk death ray was reflected into Mrs. Norris's eyes
  • Colin Creevey: presumably the internals of the camera affect the basilisk's death rays differently than they affect light, and thus only part of the emission made it through (though this seems like a bit of a stretch to me)
  • Nearly Headless Nick: well he's a ghost so the reason he didn't die is unrelated
  • Justin Finch-Fletchley: it stands to reason that Nearly Headless Nick's incorporeal body is able to refract the basilisk's death rays, just as it must necessarily refract light in order to be visible at all
  • Hermione: I think one would have to assume the mirror is only a partial reflector of basilisk death rays

Now, if this model holds, in order for the HP universe to be internally consistent, an invisibility cloak would have to work by "rerouting" observers' eye beams around the person under the cloak. Of course a basilisk's eye beam is "stronger" in some sense than a person's, and thus might be more difficult to deflect. Still, the simplest conclusion seems to be that if magic treats sight as being caused by some emanation from the eyes of the viewer, an invisibility cloak will protect you from a basilisk's glare.

Incidentally, this does explain the glasses thing because eyeglasses are meant to focus light, and it's quite plausible that they would do the same to a basilisk death ray. (But then again you could say the same about a camera, so who knows.)

There's nothing that I can think of in the books to conclusively show that the HP universe uses this model of sight, though. Without that, I'm not sure it's possible to come to a conclusive answer.

  • 5
    focus light ... But then again you could say the same about a camera. We could assume Colin had an SLR, which means Colin is viewing the image via a mirror, which would make his case basically the same as Hermione. – Zoredache Mar 26 '14 at 22:41

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.