The Sphinx, although known for its ability to talk like humans and its specific fascination with puzzles and riddles, was classified as a magical beast by the British Ministry of Magic. This was because the Sphinx was known to be very violent when what it was guarding was under threat of being taken away. The Sphinx was a magnificent creature to look at as it had the head of a human being, usually a woman, and the body of a large lion. The Sphinx had a special affinity for puzzles and riddles and would always use it as a way to find out if the person who was trying to get into the place it was guarding was worthy of it. If someone had hidden a treasure or any valuables with the Sphinx kept to guard it, the Sphinx would ask questions to prevent anyone else from accessing that treasure.
The Origins Of The Sphinx
The Sphinx is believed to have originated from Egypt. It is also believed that Sphinxes were endemic to the land of Egypt in the wizarding world. In the Muggle world, Sphinxes were ancient mythological beings that existed in Greek Mythology. However, the same name was given to the beings in Egyptian Mythology and the statues that were constructed in Ancient Egypt. These statues served as guards to the tombs of the Pharaohs of Egypt, which we now know as Pyramids. The Great Sphinx of Giza is one such statue of a sphinx protecting a Pyramid in Egypt.
Sphinxes In The Wizarding World
The Sphinxes of the wizarding world were very similar to the description of the sphinx in Greek Mythology. They were said to possess a human head and were known to be capable of human speech. They had the lion’s body, specifically a body of an over-large lion with a brown tuft, large paws and a long yellowish tail. The sphinx that Harry encountered in the maze of the third task of the Triwizard Tournament had almond-shaped eyes. The Ministry of Magic specifically classified the sphinx as a magical beast instead of a magical being due to its violent tendencies.
Sphinxes in the wizarding world were capable of talking freely to human beings like another human being would. They were known to present riddles and puzzles in exchange for safe passage to whichever place they were guarding.
History of Sphinxes in the Wizarding World
In the 19th century, a wizard named Crispin Cronk was believed to keep many sphinxes in his backyard. Since the private ownership of sphinxes was considered not legal at that time, he was sent repeated warnings by the Ministry of Magic. Eventually, he was imprisoned in Azkaban for not following the rules.
In the videogame Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, during the 1989-1990 school year at Hogwarts, Jacob’s Sibling, Bill Weasley, and Wilfred Levi Kidd found a Sphinx in the Forbidden Forest near the Forest Grove. She was dwelling in the Red Cap’s hole that they had previously visited in search of the head of Torvus’s arrow. She presents them with a few riddles and puzzles in exchange for letting them into the Red Cap’s hole that hid a treasure.
Appearance in the Harry Potter Series
During the events of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, a Sphinx was stationed in the closest route to the Triwizard Cup inside the maze of the Third Task of the Triwizard Tournament. Harry Potter encounters this Sphinx, and she gives him the following riddle to solve:
First think of the person who lives in disguise,
Who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies.
Next, tell me what’s always the last thing to mend,
The middle of middle and end of the end?
And finally give me the sound often heard,
During the search for a hard-to-find word.
Now string them together and answer me this,
Which creature would you be unwilling to kiss?
She also gave him three choices, one of which was answering correctly in order to get closer to the Triwizard Cup. The other two choices were to walk unscathed if he chose not to answer the question and to expect her to attack him if he answered incorrectly. This riddle was supposed to reveal the final obstacle and the being that was guarding the Triwizard Cup on the way to it. Harry answered it correctly by realizing that the first two lines were alluding to a “Spy,” the next two lines referred to the letter “D,” and the next two lines were supposed to mean “er” which is a sound often made when someone cannot remember a word. The last two lines asked for the answer. The answer was Spider, which was also a large fear of Harry’s friend Ron.
The Sphinx let Harry pass through, and he eventually cast a spell at the spider and came close to the Triwizard Cup.
There were Sphinxes stationed in front of some vaults, especially the high security vaults of the Gringotts Wizarding Bank which was annoying to some customers who were bad at riddles and puzzles.
Did the Sphinx Make a Mistake in the Maze?
When Harry Potter encountered a Sphinx in the maze of the third task of the Triwizard Tournament, it asked him a question that would also give him a clue about what was guarding the Triwizard Cup. While it does seem to be a straightforward clue alluding to a “spider” and Harry does come across an Acromantula in the end, which is a type of spider, some fans have pointed out that since the question had the line “Which creature would you be unwilling to kiss?”, it must have been a dementor instead. This is a very interesting theory, and it also makes sense that the last being or beast guarding the Triwizard Cup would be something more challenging, like a dementor.
Furthermore, given Harry’s fear of dementors and the constant attacks he faced, it would have been a good choice. However, since the entire maze was set up in such a way that Harry must win, because the Triwizard Cup was a Portkey to Lord Voldemort’s location, it makes sense that an Acromantula was kept to protect the cup. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the Sphinx made a mistake as the first four lines of the riddle clearly allude to the word “spy” and the letter “d” which would be meaningless if the answer was actually dementor.
Where is the Sphinx in Harry Potter?
The Sphinx is seen inside the maze during the third task of the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The Sphinx was encountered by Harry on his way to the Triwizard Cup, and the Sphinx presented Harry with a riddle. He had to answer it correctly if he wanted to pass through the path that the Sphinx was guarding.
Who did the Sphinx tell the riddle to?
The Sphinx was stationed at the penultimate level of the maze, after which there would be only one obstacle protecting the Triwizard Cup. Harry came across the Sphinx on his way to the Triwizard Cup, and the Sphinx told Harry the Riddle and gave him three choices – he could choose to not answer and walk backward unharmed, he could answer it correctly and pass through the path unharmed or answer the riddle incorrectly and get attacked by the Sphinx. Harry answered the riddle correctly.
What did the Sphinx do to anyone who couldn’t solve the riddle?
The Sphinx would attack anyone who could not solve the riddle correctly. She was determined to attack anyone who squandered their privilege of choice by answering incorrectly, as she had given them three choices, two of which would allow them to walk away unharmed.