Tom Riddle says to Harry, that they are both probably the only Parselmouths in Hogwarts since Salazar Slytherin.

Parselmouth is said to be a rare gift, but is it really so rare? Are there really no mentions of other Parselmouths than those 3?


4 Answers 4


Harry Potter, Tom Riddle, and Salazar Slytherin are the main Parselmouths in the series, but Morfin and Marvolo Gaunt also speak Parseltongue and are Parselmouths. It's not overly clear if Merope Gaunt is a Parselmouth, too, but I will double check on that. In the chapter The House of Gaunt in Half-Blood Prince, it's clear Merope understands Parseltongue, but she doesn't speak much, if at all, in the story.

Dumbledore is not a Parselmouth. He understands Parseltongue but the books don't indicate that he speaks it. You have to be able to speak Parseltongue in order to be a bona fide Parselmouth.

I was going to put in Herpo the Foul as a Parselmouth, per Mooz, but my copy of FBAWTFT has the Basilisk entry on page 4. Page 25 is Leprechaun and Lethifold. I'm looking at the Scholastic version of FBAWTFT. Herpo the Foul seems to be associated with making the first Horcrux, though (I'm not saying he didn't create the first Basilisk too, but I cannot find in canon confirmation that he was a Parselmouth) and J.K. Rowling says this about Herpo:

SU: (laughs) Oh, yeah. (JN: Yes.) Oh, but Jo, those Horcruxes, though, I tell ya. There's so much to ask still about those. Okay, we have to know. Who created the first Horcrux? Was it Grindelwald? Salazar? Who did that?

JKR: Do you know what? I got a feeling it was Herpo, (SU: Oh!) which is H-E-R-P-O. (SU: Herpo the Foul?) I think I called him Herpo the Foul. Exactly, yeah. Yeah. But, you know, wizards would have been looking for ways to do exactly what Voldemort did for years. And some of the ways they would have tried would've killed them. So, I imagine it- well, they're huge parallels- splitting the atom would be a very good parallel in our world. Something that people imagine might be able to do be done, but couldn't quite bring it off and then people started doing it, with sometimes catastrophic effects. So that's how I see the Horcrux.

Interview with J.K. Rowling - The Leaky Cauldron - 12.23.07

Please correct me if I am wrong about Herpo the Foul. I only looked through the A-Z section of FBAWTFT. And, of course, it would be logical that the creator of a Basilisk would have to have a way to communicate with the beast, but I just wasn't able to find confirmation that Herpo was a Parselmouth. I could have been looking in the wrong place!

ETA: I finally checked this (6/17/14) and I just plain old made a mistake -- it definitely says Herpo the Foul was a Parselmouth in FBAWTFT in the Basilisk entry. I just missed it. I have no excuse! But, yes, we can count Herpo the Foul as a Parselmouth; his ability to speak Parseltongue places him as a direct descendant of Salazar Slytherin, as the ability to speak Parseltongue is only passed down the Slytherin bloodline. Anyhow, I wanted to correct my error and encourage users to vote for the other answers that got it right the first time :)

  • Fantastic Beasts lists Herpo the Foul as a Parselmouth under the entry for “Basilisk”. The full quote is in my answer here: scifi.stackexchange.com/q/54283/3567
    – alexwlchan
    Jun 9, 2014 at 23:25
  • 1
    Also, I believe the page numbering discrepancy arises because the entry for “Basilisk” occurs on the page that is numbered as 4, but is the 25th logical page if you count i, ii, … xxii.
    – alexwlchan
    Jun 9, 2014 at 23:28
  • 1
    When does Dumbledore learn to understand Parseltongue? does this mean that during the entire chamber of secrets he could understand what the basilisk was saying in the walls? Mar 29, 2015 at 17:44
  • 1
    @user2813274: snakes don't necessarily speak in Parseltongue. Being a Parselmouth seems to grant two abilities: magically understanding snakes, and being able to speak the magical language Parseltongue, which apparently can be understood by snakes.
    – wyvern
    Feb 25, 2016 at 4:39
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    If Herpo the Foul created the first Basilisk, wouldn't he have to be an ancestor of Salazar Slytherin (assuming they were related), rather than a descendant? After all, Slytherin's Monster was a basilisk, so basilisks must have already existed when Slytherin built his Chamber of Secrets.
    – Joe White
    Aug 1, 2016 at 3:41

As listed in Wikipedia and this answer, there are very few known wizards who speak/spoke Parseltongue; some are listed here:

Essentially, the ones which you may be interested in are:

Herpo the Foul

The first recorded Basilisk was bred by Herpo the Foul, a Greek Dark wizard and Parselmouth...
-Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, pg 25 (Basilisk).

The Gaunts
The Gaunts are Tom Riddle's family. The family consists of:

  • Marvolo (Tom's granddad),
  • Merope (Tom's mother) and
  • Morfin (Tom's uncle).

They are mentioned numerous times, but the most notable of which is when Harry and Prof. Dumbledore visit Bob Ogden's memories in the Pensieve in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter Ten, (The House of Gaunt).

  • JKR says that Dumbledore understood Parseltongue, but didn't validate that he could speak it. Parseltongue is a gift that is passed down the Slytherin bloodline, says JKR, and is not a language that can be taught (to be spoken, I'm assuming, as Dumbledore demonstrates). As JKR said, "There are so few [Parselmouths], who'd be able to teach it?" (Paraphrase). I'm going to add Herpo the Foul to my answer, but will credit you as the source. I had thought of him and forgot to include him in my answer. :) Jun 9, 2014 at 22:59
  • @Slytherincess That is correct, but for the purpose of this exercise, I just mentioned that Dumbledore had learned it (in whatever capacity), as I don't go into detail since it's already mentioned. Herpo: go for it :) and I will change my answer to note Dumbledore's limited understanding.
    – Möoz
    Jun 9, 2014 at 23:11

The other two answers both show that clearly Harry, Tom and Salazar weren’t the only Parselmouths mentioned in canon, but I want to tackle a slightly different assertion:

“Probably the only two Parselmouths to come to Hogwarts since the great Slytherin himself.”

Chamber of Secrets, chapter 16, The Chamber of Secrets

Either Tom is deliberately lying, or he’s woefully uninformed about his ancestry. In an interview in 2007, JK Rowling said that “[Parseltongue] is a weird ability passed down through the Slytherin blood line.” It would be very surprising if nobody from Slytherin’s family ever attended the school.

In fact, Pottermore gives us at least one such Gaunt who was at the school, at the time of a fairly major event in the Chamber’s history (transcript):

The presence in school at the time of a student called Corvinus Gaunt – direct descendant of Slytherin, and antecedent of Tom Riddle

Undoubtedly a Parselmouth, and at the school well before Tom. Pottermore also mentions a whole family of Gaunts who attended the school (although it’s unclear whether the Gaunts we see in the memories in Half-Blood Prince were educated there), so Tom was not only not a unique Parselmouth, he wasn’t even the first Parselmouth at Hogwarts.


One new Parselmouth is mentioned in HP and the Cursed Child;

Delphini Diggory

AKA Delphini Riddle, the supposed daughter of Tom Riddle (Voldemort) and Bellatrix Lestrange.

  • Is that canon now?
    – Cubic
    Jul 27, 2017 at 14:52
  • 1
    @Cubic - Alas, yes.
    – Valorum
    Jul 27, 2017 at 15:02
  • Was this answered on the day The Cursed Child came out? If so, that was fast!
    – user112267
    Sep 22, 2019 at 17:37
  • @Voldemort'sWrath - You're either quick or you're dead.
    – Valorum
    Sep 22, 2019 at 17:47
  • @Valorum - Eh, looks like I’m dead!
    – user112267
    Sep 23, 2019 at 8:14

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