"Come... Come to me... Let me rip you... Let me tear you... Let me kill you...


"soo hungry... for so long..."

These are the words in Parseltongue that Harry hears when he hears the Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets. However, we find that in every instance of petrification - the Basilisk leaves without killing the victim. If it was so hungry, why didn't it just finish the victims off even if they were just petrified?

Possible explanations for the first 2 victims:

1) In case of Mrs. Norris, it could've heard the trio coming up

2) In case of Colin Creevey, Dumbledore could've turned up.

"If Albus hadn't been on the way downstairs for hot chocolate... who knows what might have happened" - Professor McGonagall to Madam Pomfrey, The Rogue Bludger

But in case of all other victims - it looks like the Basilisk was not interrupted for a while.

  • 6
    Because the brutal murder of several students would have resulted in the book coming to a screeching halt?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 20:58
  • I thought its job was to kill muggleborns and help Tom Riddle become himself again. I thought Tom Riddle didn't care about feeding it, wasn't he limitedly controlling it. I think this is a plot hole though, but then again it could have been eating spiders, and it could have just said that stuff because Tom told him to. Remember spiders flee from it.
    – Pobrecita
    Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 0:04
  • 1
    See also scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/21737 Why were the Death Eaters so lenient during the fight at the Department of Mysteries?
    – b_jonas
    Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 17:37
  • @Pobrecita Plot hole? If you consider the reason they weren't killed but petrified and you consider that for at least some of them it wouldn't have been possible to move and get a direct glare at their eyes then it seems to me it did what it could. But you could also say that it wasn't the Basilisk moving on its own accord so one might ask why didn't Riddle continue beyond that? And what Valorum says is also valid: because as it is there was that risk already. The fact the school was almost closed before that pesky Harry saved the day again shows that.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 22:07

3 Answers 3


It would probably be quite difficult to kill a petrified person, and doing so might not be sensible.

The word “petrify” is usually used to mean “turn to stone” (originally from the Greek word petra, meaning rock). Although I don’t think the condition is explicitly defined in the Harry Potter canon, we have no reason to think the definition is different from convention.

(My answer to Besides the Basilisk, what kind of magic can cause petrification? has some fairly flimsy canon about Gorgons, which link petrification and turning somebody to stone. That’s the best I can think of.)

It’s probably quite hard to kill a person who’s been petrified, if they have truly been turned to stone. There would need to be a link between the life of the original person and the status of the stone.

About the only thing I can think of would be to damage or destroy the stone, but if there was a way to repair the stone before reconstituting the person, then it would probably be for naught. If you were thorough, then you could grind it into dust and scatter the dust to the four corners of the earth, but that’s beyond a Basilisk’s capabilities.

I’m sure the Basilisk could smash a statue (perhaps by throwing it against a wall), but it might not be sensible to do so. Not unless it could cart the person off first, but that would detract from the intimidation aspect.

That would cause noise and attract unwanted attention. It might also make it easier to deduce that it was a Basilisk at work. The class of creatures which can petrify somebody is sufficiently large that a Basilisk isn’t the only candidate; but attacking the petrified person would narrow the pool. Part of the Basilisk’s advantage is the element of surprise; giving clues to its identity would be unwise.

  • 3
    When Mrs. Norris is first identified to be petrified... all the teachers assume that she is dead - until Dumbledore carefully examines her and states otherwise. Although the condition is not defined explicitly in Harry Potter - I tend to think it might be different from simply turning to stone - which is easily recognizable.
    – mustard
    Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 23:16
  • 1
    Also - in Chapter Fifteen (Aragog) - Madam Pomfrey doesn't allow visitors to the hospital wing and tells Ron and Harry - "We're taking no more chances. No, I'm sorry, there's every chance the attacker might come back to finish these people off..."
    – mustard
    Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 23:39
  • In the first movie we have seen Hermione petrify Neville to stop him from interfering with the trio. Just after he had been turned to stone, he tips over with a loud bang, but with no visible harm. This reinforces the idea that a petrified person is significantly harder to harm.
    – zovits
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 7:21
  • @zovits: Petrificus Totalus doesn’t cause petrificafion, it seems. The victim retains awareness of their surroundings (Harry in Half-Blood Prince) and Dumbledore says that petrificafion is beyond a second-year’s abilities.
    – alexwlchan
    Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 7:27
  • I wish this was the case, but I just don't believe it (I'm sorry, I know this is over 2 years old, it's just arrived at the top of the homepage). Reread The Writing on the Wall, it talks about Dumbledore's nose being barely an inch from her fur, he's gently prodding and poking, and it describes her as "[continuing] to look as though she had been recently stuffed". It really strains credulity to believe this is a description of a cat recently turned to stone, however, your answer could still work, something turned magically ultra rigid may be impossible for even a basilisk to chew & digest
    – Au101
    Commented Oct 15, 2016 at 1:36

There is no canon answer to this question, although it is a great one! This issue is not addressed in the main Harry Potter novels or any of the ancillary books or at Pottermore.

It's possible the Basilisk didn't know the intricacies of its own powers. It was, after a serpent created from a chicken's egg and a toad -- not exactly Einstein material. It's possible, when it saw its victim topple over seemingly dead, that perhaps it thought it had succeeded in causing death and merely slithered away, not knowing the victim was lying petrified on the floor, fully alive.

Why did it not eat its victims? I don't know -- canon doesn't say. However, we do know that the Basilisk took orders from Tom Riddle, who ordered it to kill Muggleborns. Riddle wanted to be known as the Heir of Slytherin. If students had simply disappeared (i.e. killed and then eaten), Dumbledore would have never recognized that students et al were being petrified, which indicated a Basilisk, which in turn eventually led to Tom Riddle and his heritage as Salazar Slytherin's one true heir. Riddle may have ordered the Basilisk to kill; the Basilisk may have obeyed this command, but had other thoughts along the way, like, Man, I'm hungry ... It's been yonks since I've had a nice fresh first-year ...

  • I think this is closer to the right answer.
    – Adamant
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 9:53

There is no logical explanation for why Basilisk did not eat its victims. Snakes are known to swallow their prey without any problems while they are still alive. If Basilisk is a snake, and if he is hungry as he says, then nothing would stand in his way of eating the students. Except for the fact that Harry Potter is a children's book, and what kind of children's book would it be in which children would be killed and eaten by a giant snake. So my opinion is that JKR didn’t really think too much about this. As for the word "petrify", in this context it means "to stun", to freeze the victims in place, not to turn them to stone. Let us remember that Draco used the spell of Petrificus Totalus on Harry in the train, and after that he broke his nose with a kick to the head. If Draco could break Harry's nose, then Basilisk could tear his victims apart, regardless they being under the influence of what it would seem the same spell. It remains unclear whether Basilisk's glare has more power of petrification over the spell of Petrificus Totalus.

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