The Basilisk speaks in Parseltongue that Harry can hear, saying things like "Let me rip you" "let me tear you," " I smell blood," etc. It speaks in full sentences at times.

It isn't just saying "I'm hungry", it's using threats and some creativity, using multiple synonyms (rip, tear, etc.)

There's no way that can be just a rough translation. It seems sophisticated. And yet it is controlled by the Heir? Just how intelligent is it?

  • 1
    Not smart enough to dodge a sword, obviously.
    – Valorum
    Aug 1, 2014 at 8:51
  • I'm pretty sure it's a rough translation, also dependent on how accurately Harry perceives the Basilisk's language (that is, level of maturity of Harry's own language skills and vocabulary). For instance, if a parselmouth was not English, would the Basilisk's speech be perceived in full grammatical sentences in the parselmouth's native tongue?
    – user13267
    Aug 1, 2014 at 9:46
  • 1
    Also, just because he is subservient to the heir does not imply he is level of intelligence is lower or vice versa
    – user13267
    Aug 1, 2014 at 9:47

1 Answer 1


When Harry speaks to the boa constrictor in the zoo, the boa constrictor also seems to display extraordinary intelligence. It nods and shakes its head, points to a sign with its tail (a sign it presumably can't read), and seems to understand very complex questions that Harry puts before it (such as whether its ever been to South America). Keep in mind that the boa appears to be just a normal snake in a Muggle zoo.

I think there's a magic to Parseltongue that goes beyond simply understanding what snakes are trying to communicate. Parseltongue seems to enable snakes to go far beyond their own intelligence to give the Parselmouth the information they desire. So it's impossible to say how intelligent the basilisk is based on how sophisticated its language was.

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