Basilisks were large snakes that were bred specifically by dark wizards. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the Basilisk was revealed to be the monster in the Chamber of Secrets that the Heir of Slytherin unleashed. Herpo the Foul is said to be the first wizard ever to breed a Basilisk by hatching a chicken egg under a toad. Later, Salazar Slytherin, one of the founding members of Hogwarts, also bred a Basilisk which he hid within the Chamber of Secrets at Hogwarts when he left.
Basilisks were fearsome beasts and were almost impossible to be tamed. Therefore the Ministry of Magic’s Department for Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures had to ban Basilisk breeding altogether in medieval times and continued to do so. Despite being controlled exclusively by Parseltongues who can speak to a Basilisk, there was very little evidence to support that any parseltongue could tame a Basilisk as in the case of the Basilisk in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets which didn’t pay any heed to Harry when he tried to stop it. Basilisks are referred to as the King of Serpents and can cause instant death to any witch or wizard who looks directly into its eyes.
Basilisk – Magical Beast Profile
- Color of Skin: Dark green
- Color of Eyes: Yellow (based on evidence from people who have seen it through reflections)
- Color of Feathers: Bright red feathers on the head in case of a male
- Endemic to: Greece originally, but bred everywhere
- Relative Species: Snakes, chickens, toads
- Affiliations: Dark arts and dark wizards
- Size: Average adults grow up to 50 ft long
- Distinctive Features: Fangs that can cause a quick death if bitten and eyes which instantly kill if looked at and petrify if seen through a reflection
The term Basilisk comes from the Greek term “Basileus” meaning “king” and has the suffix “iskos” which is meant to be a diminutive. It is believed that the term is supposed to mean “princeling” due to the white-colored small crown-like spot on the head.
The first known breeding of a Basilisk occurred in Greece when Herpo the Foul, a Greek Dark Wizard who knew Parseltongue hatched a chicken’s egg under a toad. He was capable of controlling his Basilisk through Dark Magic and his ability to speak to it. Eventually, more Basilisks are said to have been bred, one most notably by Salazar Slytherin.
Eventually, the Ministry’s Department for Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures decided to ban the breeding of Basilisks due to their dangerous nature. Furthermore, several raids were made into farms, and chicken coops were inspected to see whether any attempt to breed Basilisks was taking place. However, one could also take away the toad or the eggs before inspection, making it very difficult to actually catch the culprits.
The Basilisk was a dark green serpent of gigantic size. It is estimated that an average adult could grow up to 50 feet in length. It had scaly dark green skin with a light green underbelly and an armored back. Basilisk skin, being armored, had no effect from spells. Poisonous fangs emanated from the roof of its mouth in rows that contained Basilisk venom, which is so poisonous that it barely had any antidote except phoenix tears. They had yellow eyes, which were considered to possess a murderous stare as anyone who looked into its eye died instantly.
Basilisks were naturally said to live for around 900 years, but some, like Salazar Slytherin’s Basilisk, lived for about a thousand years. Spiders considered the Basilisk their mortal enemy and therefore stayed away from the Basilisk at all costs. The Basilisk was so feared, especially because it had several methods of killing, which included venomous fangs and the beam of its eye. The only known weakness of a Basilisk was the rooster, specifically the rooster’s crowing.
Appearance in the Harry Potter Series
The first mention of the Basilisk came in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Harry and Ron found a piece of paper in Hermione’s hand after she was petrified. This paper was torn from one of the books in the Hogwarts library and was about the Basilisk, most likely Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. However, the effects of the Basilisk’s presence were felt far earlier in the book. When Harry is completing detention in Professor Lockhart’s office, he hears a hissing voice. That is the first time the Basilisk is heard in the Harry Potter series.
Since Harry is a Parselmouth, he alone can hear it. However, the Basilisk then goes on to petrify a lot of victims, starting with Mr Filch’s cat Mrs Norris and moving on to several “muggle-borns” like Justin Finch-Fletchley and Colin Creevey, who see it through the camera. Nearly Headless Nick is also petrified by the Basilisk and finally, so is Hermione.
It is later found out that the Basilisk is the monster causing all this havoc and is the one that resides in the Chamber of Secrets. Furthermore, through Tom Riddle’s diary, Harry also finds out about Hagrid getting expelled from Hogwarts for supposedly opening the Chamber of Secrets to let out Aragog. However, it is later proven to be wrong as Tom Riddle was Lord Voldemort all along. It was he who opened the Chamber of Secrets fifty years ago, and the Basilisk eventually killed a girl named Myrtle Warren, who still haunts Hogwarts as Moaning Myrtle.
Finally, in the absence of Albus Dumbledore, Harry and Ron bravely try to go to the Chamber of Secrets. Eventually, Harry enters it, and sees the apparition of Tom Riddle, who is trying to use Ginny Weasley to come back to life. When Harry tries to stop him, he unleashes the Basilisk on Harry. Harry evades it several times, and Fawkes the Phoenix arrives with the Sorting Hat that contains the Sword of Gryffindor. Harry defeats the Basilisk by stabbing it with the sword, and despite being injured by the venomous fangs of the Basilisk, Harry’s arm is healed by Fawkes’s tears. It is also found out that Tom Riddle’s Diary was one of the Horcruxes.
How Would Muggles Defeat a Basilisk?
The Basilisk is a very dangerous creature with several ways of killing its prey. However, muggles, too are quite capable of neutralizing threats of this level. The advanced technologies that muggles possess, combined with the detailed study of the Basilisk’s weaknesses, should be enough to plot a plan to defeat them. Since the weakness of Basilisks is the crowing of a rooster, muggles should be able to easily attach loudspeakers to whatever they are using to fight the Basilisk and play voice recordings of a rooster’s crow.
Furthermore, with appropriate tactical equipment, muggles should be able to prevent seeing the Basilisk into the eyes directly. In Basilisk hotspots where Basilisks are most likely to appear, most muggles could be given tactical equipment and roosters to prevent any threat from a Basilisk.
Why are spiders afraid of the Basilisk?
Spiders, including Acromantula in the Harry Potter series, are afraid of the Basilisk and retreat as soon as they know there is a Basilisk around. Aragog claims the same to Harry and Ron when they enquire about it. It is believed that since spiders are arachnids, they possess a vision of all directions around them. They can see on all sides, definitely a lot more than humans and animals that are blessed with peripheral vision. While this is very useful from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes them highly vulnerable to Basilisks as they can kill just by being looked at eye to eye.
Is Nagini a Basilisk?
No, Nagini is not a Basilisk. While Nagini, like the Basilisk, is a snake and responds to Parseltongue, she is not a Basilisk. While Nagini resembles a python in the movies and the books, in the Harry Potter prequel series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, it is shown that Nagini is a woman with a blood curse. While she can turn into a snake and back to her human form at will, she would eventually become a snake perpetually.
How did Salazar Slytherin get a Basilisk?
Salazar Slytherin bred the Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets by hatching a chicken egg under a toad. He decided to keep the Basilisk within the chamber before he left Hogwarts after a disagreement with the three other founders. He did so with the hopes that one day, his true heir would come to Hogwarts to study, eventually figure out his legacy and find a way to reawaken the Basilisk and rid the school of muggle-born students.