Was Salazar Slytherin a Dark Wizard?

E.g. we know he refused to teach muggle-born magic. But was that because "it's a bad idea"; or for "muggles are subhuman and need to serve the wizards" reason?

We know he left Basilisk in Hogwarts. Not a very nice thing to do. But is there any direct evidence (in-and-around-Universe) that he was actually Dark/Evil wizard aside from that (as opposed to a merely a fairly unpleasant character)?

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    I would say being a Dark Wizard has nothing to do with political beliefs, but more to do with what magic you do. – apoorv020 Oct 12 '11 at 4:16
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    From what I remember, there's really no evidence that Slytherin did dark magic, tho (please correct me if I'm wrong!). He had the basilisk, but that was just an animal, not dark magic. It just seems that the political views of Salazar became extremist. – OghmaOsiris Oct 12 '11 at 4:30
up vote 49 down vote accepted

No, there is no evidence for him ever using Dark Arts, or for him using any Unforgivable Curses (which really should be termed "We'd-Really-Rather-You-Didn't" Curses, given their frequency of use and general lack of punishment).

Salazar was a Parseltounge, a bigot, and quick to anger. This might make him a bad person (at least the second two might), but not evil.

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    I highly doubt the other founding wizards/witches would start a school with a man who was an out and out dark wizard. – OghmaOsiris Oct 12 '11 at 14:57
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    @Jeff - Is there evidence to prove that he did NOT use Dark Arts and/or was not a bad guy? (like him speaking out against them, or joining other wizards to fight against a Dark Wizard etc...)? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 13 '11 at 2:52
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    "...no evidence for him ever using Dark Arts..." - what about the basilisk? I don't think he domesticated it with love and built the Chamber of Secrets to give it a peaceful home. – Şafak Gür Nov 13 '12 at 13:17
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    @ŞafakGür: Domesticating animals is not a Dark Art, or Hagrid would be an evil wizard. Hell, BREEDING dangerous creatures isn't a Dark Art. Constructing the Chamber wasn't a Dark Art, either - it was turning a tool towards a destructive end. If using magic to build a secret room is a Dark Art, wouldn't Hermione's use of Wingardium Leviosa on the troll be a Dark Art, too? Hell, it directly hurt the troll, and could have killed it. – Jeff Nov 13 '12 at 17:00
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    @Flanneur: Sure, I can't deny that Slytherin put the basalisk there. I also can't deny that the basalisk was dangerous, or that placing it in a school was a serious risk. That said, we only have rumor and supposition as to Slytherin's purpose. It's been reported, by sources long dead, that the purpose was to 'cleanse' the castle. Isn't it also possible that it would be a potential line of defense for the castle from an attack? The basalisk isn't an ideal anti-Muggleborn weapon, after all. It's much better at say, killing an invading army by being released outside the walls. – Jeff Mar 2 '15 at 14:30

Information on Salazar Slytherin and the Chamber of Secrets can be found at Pottermore; I've taken screenshots for those without a Pottermore account, which are here and here.

Salazar Slytherin was indeed a Dark Wizard. This is my interpretation of Slytherin, based on the following information provided by J.K. Rowling, as cited above.

Slytherin built the Chamber of Secrets without the knowledge of the other three founders (However, the fact that there were ongoing rumors about the chamber indicate that Slytherin either told one or more persons about the chamber, or he showed it to others directly at some point.).

Even though each of the founders agreed to construct the Hogwarts castle together, each would individually create the four Hogwarts houses and pick where the common rooms and the dormitories would go. However, it was only Salazar Slytherin who went so far as to build what was basically a subterranean homage to himself -- the Chamber of Secrets. Not exactly a modest guy.

J.K. Rowling describes the Chamber of Secrets as being very long and tall, with a massive statue of Slytherin himself that was as tall as the chamber itself was built at the end of the chamber. This, says J.K. Rowling is demonstrative of Slytherin's grandiosity and sense of entitlement and superiority to the other three founders. As well, Slytherin used the Chamber of Secrets to teach students the Dark Arts (Apparently there was disagreement between the founders as to whether or not the Dark Arts should be taught; Slytherin believed they should be and he taught them surreptitiously.). Actually, the Chamber of Secrets started out as merely a secret headquarters for Slytherin and a place to teach his students the Dark Arts, but it ballooned into a secret sanctuary that Slytherin continued to expand as a tribute to his own greatness as a wizard.

The only way to enter the Chamber of Secrets without being accompanied by Salazar Slytherin was to speak Parseltongue to the door guarding the chamber. As we know, being a Parselmouth is considered to be the sign of a dark witch or wizard. We know of three, possibly four, Parselmouths in canon: Salazar Slytherin; Tom Riddle/Voldemort; Harry Potter; and Dumbledore¹. That's a fifty-fifty percent (or two-thirds, if one counts Dumbledore) ratio of dark wizards to light wizards, although Harry was the only one of the four who never had leanings towards the Dark Arts or harbored dark ambitions².

‘Hannah,’ said the stout boy solemnly, ‘[Harry's] a Parselmouth. Everyone knows that’s the mark of a dark wizard. Have you ever heard of a decent [wizard] who could talk to snakes? They called Slytherin himself Serpent-tongue.’ -- Ernie Macmillan, Hufflepuff student, speaking to fellow Hufflepuff Hannah Abbott

Chamber of Secrets - pages 148-149 - Bloomsbury - chapter 11, The Duelling Club

Most importantly, Slytherin created a Basilisk to be used to purge Muggleborn students from Hogwarts; his beliefs that Muggleborn magical children should not be educated at Hogwarts started the centuries-old pure-blood versus half-blood versus Muggleborn -- or, the blood purity -- discrimination sentiments, sentiments that J.K. Rowling has openly compared to those of the Nazis during the Holocaust. Not only did he create the Basilisk, he did so with willful malice, knowing all the while the extreme lethality and danger of a Basilisk, for the sole purpose of killing Muggleborns, and he passed these sentiments down his familial line. Through the Basilisk and his own heir (Tom Riddle/Voldemort) Slytherin preyed on children, children who were hardly capable of identifying an immediate risk of a Basilisk attack or protecting themselves from it. Hermione was the lone exception; the other potential deaths were prevented quite accidentally, the victims ending up being petrified instead of killed. Any wizard that would gladly prey on essentially defenseless children, children whose only crime was that of being Muggleborn, is a Dark Wizard.

‘A rift began to grow between Slytherin and the others. Slytherin wished to be more selective about the students admitted to Hogwarts. He believed that magical learning should be kept within all-magic families. He disliked taking students of Muggle parentage, believing them to be untrustworthy. After a while, there was a serious argument on the subject between Slytherin and Gryffindor, and Slytherin left the school.’ -- Professor Binns, History of Magic

Chamber of Secrets - page 114 - Bloomsbury - chapter 9, The Writing On the Wall

¹According to J.K. Rowling, Dumbledore understood Parseltongue; it's not one-hundred percent clear as to whether or not he also spoke Parseltongue, for J.K. Rowling has also said that Parseltongue is not a language that can be learned, for there aren't many Parselmouths around to teach it. How Dumbledore came to understand and possibly speak Parseltongue is unclear.

²I know that many readers tend to almost canonize Dumbledore as being the model of purity, altruism, and good intention. Please read chapter 35, King's Cross, and chapter 18, The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to see what I mean by "harboring dark ambitions".

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    @DVK - There's a difference between strong self worth and grandiosity. The Basilisk is an important -- if not the most important -- aspect of Salazar Slytherin's legacy. No way am I taking it out! DV me if you'd like. As you know, I like to leave comprehensive answers. :P – Slytherincess Dec 10 '12 at 17:46
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    @DVK - I really felt it was appropriate to include the Basilisk in my answer. I don't think it would be complete without mentioning the Basilisk. – Slytherincess Dec 10 '12 at 18:23
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    Rowena Ravenclaw also has a tall white marble statue in the Ravenclaw common room. Is Slytherin's statue really any different, besides being much larger? – b_jonas Dec 10 '12 at 19:26
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    @b_jonas -- Is there any evidence that Rowena Ravenclaw put the statue up by herself? Perhaps it was erected by others who admired her. We know that Slytherin put up the statue of himself for himself -- we don't know how Rowena Ravenclaw's statue came to be in the Ravenclaw common room. Also, if you read the information on the Chamber of Secrets from Pottermore, you'll note that JKR says that Slytherin probably did show the chamber to some people, otherwise there would have been no rumors of its existance. :) – Slytherincess Dec 11 '12 at 18:41
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    @b_jonas -- Well, in the second screenshot of the Pottermore information on the Chamber of Secrets (the third link that I provided above) JKR says that Slytherin build the statue of himself. She also specifically says that no other founder built a statue of themselves. – Slytherincess Dec 12 '12 at 1:01

Slytherin was never said to be a dark wizard explicitly. However, his hiding of the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets, with the express purpose that his own heir would use it to purge the school of those Slytherin thought unworthy, is pretty dark. Especially so when you consider that Slytherin's true heir turns out to be Tom Riddle alias Voldemort. You can't directly link Slytherin's influence to all of Voldemort's deeds, but obviously there is an influence; Voldemort is out, in part, to prove by force that Slytherin had the right idea.

The central theme of badness in the HP series is bigotry. Virtually all the true evil seen in the entire arc comes down either to that, or simply to the love of power that such an environment seeks to create. As Slytherin is the oldest known wizard in the canon to espouse the theory that non-magic humans are inferior, and magicians of non-magic birth equally so, it could be argued that he is the ultimate origin of the events that transpired through Voldemort.

  • I don't think we can assign a dark wizard status based on bigotry - after all blood purity even in HP timeline hundreds of years after Salazar is still a respectable position to take. – Deltharis Aug 3 '15 at 21:50
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    Respectable among the right sort (or the wrong sort depending on your point of view). It only becomes publicly acceptable in general to espouse this viewpoint under Pius Thicknesse's puppet regime in Book 7. Any witch or wizard who does so is shown to be pretty deep in Voldemort's pocket. – KeithS Aug 3 '15 at 22:25

He might have been a Dark wizard, though this is not confirmed in the books. Speaking Parseltongue was considered an ability of Dark wizards in general, but even Harry Potter and possibly Albus Dumbledore had knowledge of this language. Keeping a Basilisk hidden in the school to rid it of Muggle-borns does sound evil. I don't know if that would be considered Dark magic.

In the books most Slytherins as well as Salazar Slytherin haven't been portrayed in a very good light. Pottermore says that the Chamber of Secrets might have been used to teach students magic that Slytherin didn't want the other founders to know about. But again there is no proof of this.

No, he isn't a Dark Wizard. There is no evidence that Salazar Slytherin was a Dark wizard, nor was he interested in the Dark Arts. He built the Chamber of Secrets and hid the Basilisk in there to rid Hogwarts of muggle-borns and half-bloods, because blood-purity was very important to him. He didn't trust Muggle-borns because he thought they would tell Muggles about wizards and witches, which would be dangerous for them as they might be executed. Slytherin didn't mean to hurt wizardkind, instead he meant to protect wizardkind.

protected by DVK-on-Ahch-To May 21 '15 at 13:19

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