Maybe I'm just hearing the wrong comments, but it seems that Slytherin is considered a dark house by almost everyone. I know when both reading the books and watching the movies, I always had a feeling of foreboding when there were a number of Slytherin house members around or the time when Harry and friends went into Slytherin and felt this feeling was emphasized by the writing and film directing.

We hear very little positive about Slytherin (other than the repeated line that Harry would be a great wizard if he went in Slytherin) and there really isn't a list of great wizards who were in Slytherin House.

Even in the movie Deathly Hallows (I can't check the book - I loaned it to my sister 3 weeks after it was published and haven't seen it since!), McGonagall specifically asks Filtch to lead all the Slytherin students into the dungeon while Hogwarts is under siege by Voldemort. She doesn't specify that any Slytherin students remain behind to help fight.

Is this intentional? Did JKR intentionally create a bad reputation and not present any counter-examples so we'd believe all of Slytherin was bad?

Most characters in the Potter-verse are complex. While we can admire James and Lily Potter, we also see how James teased and taunted Snape, showing us a harsh side of James, and we see that there is good in Snape. We even see complexity in Voldemort as a villain who is mixed-blood, but hates those of mixed blood and wants purity for all witches and wizards.

With all the complex characters, it seems odd that there is essentially nothing to redeem the House of Slytherin - which is not just one character, but is a group represented by a number of characters. But yet it seems as if it's presented, in both books and movies, as dark and full of schemers and bad people.

Are there indications, and especially more than a few or just tiny ones, that there are a fair number of good witches and wizards in Slytherin?

  • 2
    @NiceOrc - not enough info. We have Krum who was definitely not evil, and Karkaroff, who was a Death Eater but probably not all that evil, and Grindenwald, who was evil. REALLY small sample there. Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 3:22
  • 2
    @NiceOrc - Malfoy is quoted here: harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Durmstrang_Institute - to the effect that Drumstrang doesn't accept Muggle-borns (though there' no firm poof of that) and is willing to teach Dark Arts as opposed to only teaching Defense DA (again, the exact extent is unknown - all we are told is a quote from a first-grader relaying his father's words) . Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 3:29
  • 4
    A lot of people today regard any group not based on libertarian ideologies as "evil". Yes, they might be smug, elitist, etc. but that does not necessarily mean they are evil.
    – vsz
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 6:23
  • 8
    I think the fact that the other kids treat the Slytherins like crap, and treat them as evil from day one, probably makes this (at least in part) a self-perpetuating idea. (Bear in mind these are 11–17-year-olds, not a group well known for social sensibilities or subtlety.)
    – alexwlchan
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 23:06
  • 3
    And now for the follow up question: Is @slytherincess evilish? ;) Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 22:12

11 Answers 11


Let's have a shout out for Slytherin House!

Several great examples have already been given regarding Slytherins that aren't one-dimensional evil villains. Under the spoilers tag is the Slytherin welcome letter from Pottermore (and note that Pottermore is still in beta, so you can only access it if you have a beta account -- some here might, some might not), which contains information relevant to this question. I'm going to edit a few bits, as it's quite a long letter. Here's what J.K. Rowling has to say about Slytherin House:

Congratulations! I’m Prefect Gemma Farley, and I’m delighted to welcome you to SLYTHERIN HOUSE. Our emblem is the serpent, the wisest of creatures; our house colours are emerald green and silver, and our common room lies behind a concealed entrance down in the dungeons. As you’ll see, its windows look out into the depths of the Hogwarts lake. We often see the giant squid swooshing by – and sometimes more interesting creatures. We like to feel that our hangout has the aura of a mysterious, underwater shipwreck.

Now, there are a few things you should know about Slytherin – and a few you should forget.

Firstly, let’s dispel a few myths. You might have heard rumours about Slytherin house – that we’re all into the Dark Arts, and will only talk to you if your great-grandfather was a famous wizard, and rubbish like that. Well, you don’t want to believe everything you hear from competing houses. I’m not denying that we’ve produced our share of Dark wizards, but so have the other three houses – they just don’t like admitting it. And yes, we have traditionally tended to take students who come from long lines of witches and wizards, but nowadays you’ll find plenty of people in Slytherin house who have at least one Muggle parent.

Here’s a little-known fact that the other three houses don’t bring up much: Merlin was a Slytherin. Yes, Merlin himself, the most famous wizard in history! He learned all he knew in this very house! Do you want to follow in the footsteps of Merlin? Or would you rather sit at the old desk of that illustrious ex-Hufflepuff, Eglantine Puffett, inventor of the Self-Soaping Dishcloth?

I didn’t think so.

But that’s enough about what we’re not. Let’s talk about what we are, which is the coolest and edgiest house in this school. We play to win, because we care about the honour and traditions of Slytherin.

We also get respect from our fellow students. Yes, some of that respect might be tinged with fear, because of our Dark reputation, but you know what? It can be fun, having a reputation for walking on the wild side. Chuck out a few hints that you’ve got access to a whole library of curses, and see whether anyone feels like nicking your pencil case.

But we’re not bad people. We’re like our emblem, the snake: sleek, powerful, and frequently misunderstood.

For instance, we Slytherins look after our own – which is more than you can say for Ravenclaw. Apart from being the biggest bunch of swots you ever met, Ravenclaws are famous for clambering over each other to get good marks, whereas we Slytherins are brothers. The corridors of Hogwarts can throw up surprises for the unwary, and you’ll be glad you’ve got the Serpents on your side as you move around the school. As far as we’re concerned, once you’ve become a snake, you’re one of ours – one of the elite.

Because you know what Salazar Slytherin looked for in his chosen students? The seeds of greatness. You’ve been chosen by this house because you’ve got the potential to be great, in the true sense of the word. All right, you might see a couple of people hanging around the common room whom you might not think are destined for anything special. Well, keep that to yourself. If the Sorting Hat put them in here, there’s something great about them, and don’t you forget it.

Examples of Slytherins who were not evil:

  • Horace Slughorn -- Potions Master and Head of House for Slytherin once Snape became Headmaster.
  • Severus Snape -- gave his life in the service of the Order of the Phoenix.
  • Andromeda Black Tonks -- Sister of Bellatrix Black Lestrange and Narcissa Black Malfoy, married a Muggleborn, Ted Tonks, despite being written off by her family.
  • Regulus Black -- Brother to Sirius Black. Regulus joined the Death Eaters at a very young age, but found he was in over his head. He ultimately discovered Voldemort was making Horcruxes and stole the Slytherin locket Horcrux, replacing it with a fake Horcrux.
  • Phineas Nigellus -- Slytherin Hogwarts Headmaster portrait. Phineas seems to be helpful to Dumbledore, although he is snide, prejudiced, and judgmental of others.
  • Draco Malfoy -- While not a nice guy, Draco chooses not to turn the trio over to the Death Eaters when they were captured by Fenrir Greyback in Deathly Hallows, and he chooses to not kill Dumbledore in Half-Blood Prince, risking death at the hand of Voldemort each time.
  • Theodore Nott -- "Raised by a very elderly widower and Death Eater father, Theodore is a clever loner who does not feel the need to join gangs, including Malfoy's. Theodore is just as pure-blooded as [Draco] is, and somewhat cleverer" J.K. Rowling

Slytherin students are cunning, ambitious, resourceful, determined, and have a certain disregard for the rules ;)

ETA: Someone in the comments indicated he/she doesn't think J.K. Rowling wrote the Slytherin House greeting letter. I think she did, but all I can offer is this screenshot of Pottermore's Sorting Hat page that appears before you click on the link to get your welcome letter: (POTTERMORE SPOILERS) || LINK ||

  • 3
    Dang - now I wish I had gone into Slytherin House. :(
    – John C
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 13:24
  • @JohnC - Heh, having virtually resided in the pit of vipers since 2002, I can atest to Slytherin's, as J.K. Rowling has said, certain dark glamor ;) Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 13:51
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    @rems - J.K. Rowling is extraordinarily protective of her universe. While I have no doubt that someone else imported the content of Pottermore on JKR's behalf, I'm confident that JKR is the creative force behind the website. I would imagine she has editors and assistants who suggest ideas and revisions, but I believe that JKR is the only one who tells her stories. YMMV, of course. :) Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 20:24
  • 2
    It seems to me that the opening letter makes slytherin sound like some horribly exclusive college fraternity. They try and make themselves looks better by disparaging other houses and then list being able to scare students with curses as a bonus. Not the best PR for slytherin IMO.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented May 2, 2012 at 8:24
  • 6
    All of the welcome letters make snide comments about the other houses and list the ways they hold themselves superior. It's not just Slytherin! Also, I excerpted the letter; the answer would have been even longer than it already is with the full text. :) Commented May 2, 2012 at 8:28

There are definitely examples of non-evil Slytherins (Such as Nymphadora Tonks' mother Andromeda Black, who married muggleborn Ted Tonks and later raised Lupin and Tonks' son; or Professor Slughorn), as well as complicated ones (RAB/Regulus Black, Severus Snape).

As a matter of fact, there's pretty much no evidence that Salazar Slytherin himself (the founder of the house) was a dark wizard (see " Was Salazar Slytherin a Dark Wizard? "). He wasn't necessarily a paragon of virtue, but he wasn't Voldemort of the past either.

Also, please note that Slytherin house members as depicted in Rowling books are all essentially from a period of 2 civil wars in the wizarding world, and many Slytherins joined Voldemort for a variety of reasons - see " Why exactly do the Death Eaters serve Lord Voldemort? ") , so many of them may have been complex and not wholly evil people. There were plenty of non-evil people fighting on the side of what we consider "evil" in many civil wars (as a random famous example, Robert E. Lee was himself opposed to slavery).

As a further consideration, the numbers are a bit misleading for 2 reasons:

  • As estimated here ( How many people actually participated in the original Voldemort conflict? ), at most 20% of the British wizarding community participated in the war. While almost all Death Eaters were Slytherins, as per Hagrid - it doesn't imply that ALL of Slytherins were Death eaters. If we assume that each house produces 25% of the population, that means 10% (e.g. 2/5th of Slytherin House's 25%) were fighting for Voldemort. We don't know anything about the remaining 3/5th of Slytherins (15% of population). And as noted above, this is even AFTER the examples are severely skewed by the fact that there's a major civil war going on.

  • We don't know the house of many of the characters, and can't even always properly deduce one, either due to insufficient characterization, or because - as Harry Potter or Neville Longbottom show - the house assignment is not always a clear-cut decision and can sometimes be misleading if one tries to deduce the house from the character of a person.

  • Even the evidence you cite (McGonagall specifically asks Filtch to lead all the Slytherin students into the dungeon while Hogwarts is under siege by Voldemort) should be analyzed carefully, since anyone not of age was supposed to be going whether they were evil or not. So the only group to which your logic clearly applies are Harry's year Slytherins - many of whom are probably kids of Death Eaters and thus predictably raised this way independently of their innate evilness.

  • Better explained than mine, but pretty much the same stuff... Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 2:44
  • @Kyralessa - see the linked Q/A. Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 10:28
  • 1
    Hogwarts isn't the only wizarding school in the wizarding world, so the 25% of the wizarding world might not apply.
    – Kzqai
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 13:39
  • In the case of the Death Eaters, there's also likely a selection bias going on: as Tom Riddle was in Slytherin, it would be natural that Voldemort would have been most comfortable with the people who'd become a surrogate family for him, so they'd be the ones he tended to trust the most, and they'd tend to pull in others with a similar mindset, and who would they know to approach? People they'd gone to school with, in the same house. It would be similar to the way the CEO of a company would tend to hire people who came from the same business school. Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 20:38
  • If 2/5ths of a group joins a terrorist organisation that is a huge enrichment. Think how prevalent would the less evil stuff like tax evasion or occasionally kicking dogs be
    – OganM
    Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 20:49

Slytherin isn't evil, only highly ambitious, above anything else. This trait leads them to abuse the power that comes naturally, ignoring other people and whatnot in the process.

Also of note is that Voldemort was Slytherin. He no doubt shaped the reputation of the house for some time to come after. He recruited from Slytherin, who were all in his power. They no doubt influenced those still at Hogwards, as Malfoy influenced his son.

But, it should most certainly be noted that not everyone from from Slytherin is evil. Professor Slughorn fought against Voldemort in the final battle, and can generally be said to be a good person all around. Malfoy, while not the best person in the series, certainly wasn't evil, only misguided and a bit of a bully.

  • Evilness is a spectrum, and pretty much all the Slytherins in the books are tainted to some degree or another. Going by the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, basically every Slytherin we see in the books has at least some mildly sociopathic tendencies. Even after his defection from the Death Eaters, Snape is still a creepy, sadistic stalker and bully. Slughorn is a greedy, unethical, social climbing sleazeball. Just because you're not a full-blown barking mad homicidal psychopath doesn't make you a good person. Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 17:47

The books--coming, as they do, from Harry's point of view--do show some anti-Slytherin bias. Frankly, I think they should have been clearer about what Rowling has tried to emphasize in interviews--that Slytherin isn't simply evil. Putting a Slytherin (just one!) into the DA would have helped a lot. But even the books do not show all Slytherins as Dark wizards/pureblood fanatics. First, not all Dark wizards come from Slytherin. Peter Pettigrew was a Gryffindor; Professor Quirrell was a Ravenclaw. Karkaroff joined the Death Eaters without having attended Hogwarts. Grindelwald, the greatest threat to the wizarding world within the 100 years preceding Voldemort, had not attended Hogwarts either.

Second, there are plenty of Slytherins who were never tempted by the Dark Arts--Merlin, Andromeda Tonks, Horace Slughorn, Phineas Nigellus Black--or who eventually rejected the Dark Arts, like Severus Snape and Regulus Black. Snape and Regulus are both interesting cases. Snape turned to the Dark Arts because he had been emotionally abused as a child. It was his way of trying to prove to himself that he was a capable person, no matter what his father, James Potter, or Sirius Black said. When he finally realized that the Dark Arts were destructive, he abandoned them for good. Regulus Black seems to have been a very sensitive child (unlike Sirius) who cared deeply about pleasing his parents. He made their values his own and joined Voldemort partly because it made his parents happy. But his parents did not know what Voldemort was really like. Regulus--being the sensitive person he was--changed sides because he realized Voldemort was hurting people, including his family's house-elf, Kreacher. Very few others in the series, even on the "good" side, would have changed sides for a being that most people considered unimportant.

What are the traits that get someone into Slytherin? Not pureblood supremacy, or Andromeda Tonks wouldn't have made it. Not the Dark Arts, or many more Slytherins wouldn't have made it. Slytherins are ambitious. That does not necessarily mean "power-hungry." It means that Slytherins do not float aimlessly through life. They are goal-oriented--but goals differ from person to person. Horace Slughorn likes having an extensive personal network, but he never jockeys for a Ministry position, or to become Headmaster of Hogwarts. He goes happily into retirement and comes out reluctantly. Merlin never tries to become king--his goal is to ensure the country is ruled well, and he achieves it. Snape's goals are all education-related--he likes to research, and he likes to teach advanced students, preferably in his favorite subject area. Power-hungry? Not exactly.

Because Slytherins are goal-oriented, they plan ahead. And that is why they often seem less brave. They want to think deeply about what they are committing themselves to before they get in over their heads. A Gryffindor's bravery can include a lot of impulsivity. Not so with Slytherins. Severus Snape, according to Harry, was the bravest man he ever knew. But would Snape seem that way on the surface? No. Slytherin "cunning" (a biased word--"strategic thinking" is better) means that Slytherins respond to difficult circumstances by creating plans, often very imaginative, to get around obstacles. Why provoke more conflict than necessary? Slytherins prefer strategizing to fighting--which isn't to say they can't fight. Snape can, and Slughorn does, along with the various Slytherin students that Slughorn led back to fight at the Battle of Hogwarts after McGonagall tossed the entire house out the front door because Pansy Parkinson was being an idiot. (And not very Slytherin-like, frankly. She should have realized that no one in the other Houses would hand Harry over to Voldemort.)

Slytherin has some serious problems, of course. It was started by a pureblood supremacist (though, in all fairness to Salazar Slytherin, he predates the real pureblood supremacy movement by 500 years or more), and Voldemort influenced his House toward the Dark Arts. But the other Houses are hardly perfect: members of different Houses tend to go bad in different ways. Ravenclaws can go to ridiculous measures to prove their intelligence (Helena Ravenclaw steals her mother's diadem to become more intelligent, and Ravenclaws are notorious for scrambling over each other to achieve better marks). They can also fail to ground their theories in reality--take Luna Lovegood. A few criminal Ravenclaws exist: even aside from Quirrell, there's Gilderoy Lockhart, the identity thief. Hufflepuffs, although they generally have admirable character, can be grandiose (Ernie MacMillan) or unimaginative. Hufflepuffs apparently aren't prone to crime, but they aren't usually known for huge accomplishments, either. Gryffindor bravery can disintegrate into impulsiveness, rashness, or a tendency to show off--precisely the traits that made Snape hate Gryffindor. Given those negative traits, I'm guessing that even if the worst criminals tend to be Slytherin, there are probably more ex-Gryffindor criminals than there are Death Eaters.

If Slytherin really was only evil, the Ministry of Magic should have shut it down. That is what the Ministry exists to do--protect the wizarding community. But the truth is more complex--as usual.


The quote from Sorcerer's Stone - "There hasn't been a witch or wizard gone bad who wasn't in Slytherin" - is misleading; it doesn't mean that ALL Slytherins become Death Eaters or other evil people, but that the prized qualities of a Slytherin - ambition, resourcefulness, the "seeds of greatness" - are also qualities that can lead to a person being selfish, uncaring, and a user/abuser of others, qualities that even in moderation we deem to be evidence of evil.

The Pottermore welcome letter for Slytherin House mentions that other Houses have produced Dark wizards. The books do not mention any notables, with the possible exception of the Gray Lady (Helena Ravenclaw), who was ambitious to the point of stealing her mother's diadem, a treasure said to imbue great wisdom on the wearer. Whether that qualifies her as dark or evil is up for debate. Dumbledore, at one point, certainly thought like a Slytherin, before Ariana's death and Grindelwald's bloody rise to power showed him the error of his ways.

The point is that Slytherin is not the source of evil, and it does not produce or imbue evil upon its students. It can attract evil, certainly, but so could a house like Ravenclaw, or even Gryffindor. And plenty of Slytherins leave school and don't start out collecting cursed artifacts or killing Mudbloods and Muggles (Horace Slughorn, even with various character flaws in the books and movies, isn't Dark by any stretch). So no, I don't think the house is inherently evil. It just has a bit more of a reputation to live down.

  • 5
    That Hagrid quote's always confused me. Hagrid says "Better Hufflepuff than Slytherin, there's not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn't in Slytherin" in Book 1, at which time he believes Sirius Black went bad, but Hagrid knows Sirius was in Gryffindor.
    – dumbledad
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 10:50
  • @dumbledad - perchance he was using that conversational tactic known as lying... or perhaps if one was quite generous, "exaggerating". His quote shows his own bias, not objective facts (no one else's bias was based on facts, after all).
    – Megha
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 9:10
  • @dumbledad - Additionally, even though Sirius went Gryffindor, the rest of the Black family were Slytherins, every one, for generations. While technically not a Slytherin, Sirius had a reputation to live down from day 1.
    – KeithS
    Commented Apr 23, 2021 at 15:27

What I think, and as a pottermore slytherin what I say to my friends when they start calling me evil, is that the Harry Potter books were written about the 2 civil wizarding wars, and naturally from the winners' point of view.

It is fairly safe to say that yes, Voldemort was evil. BUT - he was just one Slytherin. Naturally, he was followed by his closest friends, who were his housemates, but you can see that there were also members of the other houses who followed him. It was a griffindor, no less, who had become his most loyal servant. Anyway, well, usually war creates hatred. It happens through an attempt to prevent future occurrences of the same thing. They look for "what might have caused this?", and the easiest thing is "where the enemy came from". This time it was slytherin. So they demonized slytherin.

In reality, slytherin is as bad as any other house. They all created great wizards and great dark wizards, they just don't talk about it.

  • "They all created great wizards and great dark wizards, they just don't talk about it." Can you cite any great dark wizards who were NOT Slytherin?
    – phantom42
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 13:41
  • 2
    That would be Grindelwald, who attended Durmstrang, not Hogwarts. He's the only truly great Dark Wizard in the books aside from Voldemort. More run-of-the-mill Dark wizards who were not in Slytherin would include Quirrell (Ravenclaw) and Peter Pettigrew (Gryffindor). Lockhart--Ravenclaw--is criminal, though not Dark. Mundungus Fletcher may be Gryffindor, possibly Hufflepuff, and he's another definite criminal. (He's certainly not Ravenclaw, and many Gryffindors have crafty qualities. The Order is dominated by Gryffindors in any case--Snape is only there because of his double agent role.)
    – E. J.
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 2:55
  • 1
    @phantom42 - also, Dumbledore (of Gryffindor) was plenty dark. Maybe also great, depending on how much one buys into in-story assumptions, but sacrificing children under his care is dark. and also evil.
    – Megha
    Commented May 28, 2017 at 3:18

There are already some great answers, but I want to add some points.

It seems that Rowling changed her attitude towards the Slytherins after the books were written. As has been already mentioned, according to Pottermore, Merlin himself was a student from Slytherin. Merlin himself, the most revered wizard in British history, and probably not for being an evil dark lord. Some have questioned whether this was written by Rowling herself, but it doesn't matter whether she wrote that herself or had someone else do it for her. It is posted on her Website, and that means she agrees with the statements there.

one of the most famous wizards of all time, Merlin, was also from the house (Slytherin). So beloved and great was Merlin, that to this day, wizards are awarded The Order of Merlin to celebrate an outstanding achievement.

On a practical level, if it was indeed known that everybody sorted into Slytherin will be inevitably evil, then it would be better to lock themaway immediately instead of training them.

In contrast, we have the attitude described in the books.

Hagrid says

"There’s not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin." (PS)

Now Hagrid is not exactly a reliable source. To point out that from "everybody evil was in Slytherin" doesn't follow "Everybody in Slytherin will be evil" would probably go over his head. Besides he would know that the Potter were betrayed by a Gryffindore, whether Sirius or Peter.

Ron expresses a similar sentiment against Slytherin, but then Ron also isn't a reliable source.

No, the main statement against Slytherin comes from Dumbledore, and as Rowling said in an interview:

Does Dumbledore speak for you?

JKR: Oh yes, very much so. Dumbledore often speaks for me.

Here we are in Dumbledore's office after CoS is resolved, and Harry is worried about Tom's words that they both are very similar. Harry says:

‘So I should be in Slytherin,’ Harry said, looking desperately into Dumbledore’s face. ‘The Sorting Hat could see Slytherin’s power in me, and it –’

‘Put you in Gryffindor. ... You know why that was. Think.’

‘It only put me in Gryffindor,’ said Harry in a defeated voice, ‘because I asked not to go in Slytherin ...’

‘Exactly,’ said Dumbledore, beaming once more. ‘Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.’

Here Dumbledore makes a very profound statement. It is our choices that define us, not our abilities. What we do, what out goals are, what we try to achieve. Our abilities may limit how far we can get, but they don't define us.

And of all the differences between Harry and Tom, which one does Dumbledore pick to reassure Harry that he is different from Tom? The fact that Harry has no intention to murder, torture and suppress people? That he risked his own life to save Ginny, or Hermione from the toll? No, the most important difference for Dumbledore is that Harry chose a different house. That implies that from Dumbledore's point of view the most important thing is that Harry is not in Slytherin.

But if Harry had not heard about Slytherin from Hagrid, Ron and Malfoy, he would have had no reason to choose one house over the other and have gladly accepted Slytherin. So Dumbledore thinks that Harry's choice against Slytherin, the result of some remarks by three people on his way to Hogwarts, is more important than his character. This shows a very negative attitude towards Slytherin, and as Rowling said, Dumbledore often speaks for her.


Well, I think what Rowling was intended to do. If Voldemort is representative of Hitler, and The Second Wizarding War is representative of World War II, then McGonnagal locking all the Slytherins into the dungeon without disgression must be representative of The Japanese Internment Camps. I think the one dimensional hatred instilled in us as the readers, and the same one dimensional hatred experienced by many non-Slytherins towards Slytherin is like human nature during intense Nationalistic Conflicts. Many witches and wizards like McGonnagal are acting like how many people act under the fallacy that if The enemies are all Slytherins, then all of Slytherin is the enemy.

  • 2
    I think the analogy is weak. It's like when Babylon 5 was on the air and people started saying, "It's Lord of the Rings! He's doing LotR!" He wasn't, but he was working with many of the same archetypes, which results in a similar story on some levels. It's the same with HP. You can find a lot of parallels between that and WWI as well as WWII, or even parallels to the whole McCarthy movement in the United States.
    – Tango
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 17:39

If JKR wrote the welcome letter, then she contradicted herself. In The Sorcerer's Stone, Ron tells Harry that there wasn't a witch or wizard that went bad that wasn't in Slytherin. Which would mean the letter is wrong in saying the other three houses produced their share of dark wizards.

As others have mentioned, not all Slytherins are evil. But all evil wizards are Slytherin.

  • 8
    Ron is an unreliable narrator. He’s grown up being told by his older brothers that Slytherin is the bad house, so I wouldn’t read too much into his assertion that nobody evil comes from the other houses.
    – alexwlchan
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 9:35
  • 1
    I'm with @alexwlchan here. Ron said it, but he was eleven years old, and had likely never had encounters with Slytherin: he was raised on tales from a family that had a history with Slytherin's bitterest rival. I don't think we can consider his words entirely reliable: even if his family did not mean to pass down a prejudice, it's all too easy for an 11-year-old to draw those messages anyway. Commented May 5, 2014 at 1:21
  • 2
    If all evil wizards are Slytherin, what about Quirrell (Ravenclaw), Peter Petigrew (Gryffindor), or Grindelwald and Karkaroff (both attended Durmstrang, not Hogwarts)?
    – E. J.
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 15:04
  • Ron is leaving the chat apparently now😒 Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 21:44

I love the question and how it has been answered by other people, so there is not really much to do unless giving my condensed point of view: "Slytherin is not about evil, it's about power!" It's HOW you get the power which makes the real difference between good and evil!

  • 2
    I feel like if you come to power by legitimate means (business acumen, free and fair elections, whatever), but then use it to kill millions of people, that's still pretty evil.
    – ruakh
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 5:45
  • @ruakh I don't think every Slytherin spend their days killing millions of people actually... :)
    – Frhay
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 7:42
  • 2
    Of course not. If they all did, then you couldn't use that to distinguish the good ones from the evil ones. ;-)
    – ruakh
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 15:07
  • 1
    A little more nuance in this answer might be helpful--"power" seems to imply political or social power, which some Slytherins show no interest in. Take Andromeda Tonks, or Severus Snape and Regulus Black following their defections from Voldemort.
    – E. J.
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 15:08

Look at Slytherin's point of view.

Slytherin House is in a position where it needs self-defense from the other houses, it's defend yourself, or become wimps and cowards. The house doesn't want to become the house of victims.

Salazar Slytherin may have overreacted, but he had a point. Fellow witches and wizards thought his opinions were wrong, but the "mudbloods" of the time, were engaging in witch hunts. Slytherin, in his mind, was justified in thinking Muggle- borns were spies.

Also Slytherin and Gryffindor were once BFFs. Their namesakes are both brave. Slytherins may be accused of being selfish, but they see themselves as "keeping a cool head". Slytherins believe in bravery, but not to the extreme of suicide.

  • You could compare the two houses to Divergent's Dauntless. Dauntless started as brave but became more suicidal over 200 years.
    – user35971
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 2:50
  • "Bravery does not mean looking for trouble."- Mufasa, The Lion King.
    – user35971
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 2:51

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