July Quibbler contest winner: Slytherin pride!

This editorial is the winning entry for the Defending Your House contest

by Daisy Jesson

Think ‘Slytherin’ and you’ll probably think of Draco Malfoy or even Lord Voldemort, who were both very proud to be in this house. Think ‘Slytherin’ and your first impression would probably be to think of the word ‘evil.’ Think ‘Slytherin’ and, most of the time, you will forget that being ambitious and cunning can be a good thing.

Ambition, a defining trait of Slytherin house, is useful to allow you to push yourself to do what needs to be done. Yes, in Voldemort’s case, it meant murdering several people to create horcruxes and become immortal, but having ambition also means studying hard to get the results you need for the job you want, or mastering a skill you were never that good at. It means Slytherins as a collective want success, and this is very nicely aided by being cunning – it means we are very likely to get the outcome we want.

Salazar Slytherin looked for students who would one day become powerful, or great, and that is nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of. We’ll also help fellow students and stick together, because we value our house immensely and want to be as successful as possible.

It seems that it’s partly the success of our house that singles us out as the target of a lot of Hogwarts hate. In Philosopher’s Stone, the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs cheer along when the Gryffindors win because they are glad to see that a house other than Slytherin has won – e.g. they single us out because we have the drive and determination to win the House Cup each year. In the Pottermore Slytherin welcoming speech, it’s mentioned that Slytherins stick together and support one another. This makes sense too because apparently we’re unwanted by the rest of the school because we work hard for our house. We like to honour our house, is that so wrong?

I’d also like to point out a few Slytherins who aren’t evil. Andromeda Tonks is a fine example, having been raised in the Black family and going to Hogwarts as a Slytherin, only to fall in love with a Muggle-born and leave her family for him. She was in no way affiliated with Voldemort, and her daughter, Nymphadora Tonks, went to Hogwarts as a Hufflepuff. Slytherin is perhaps notorious for having pure bloods sorted into this house, and while that may make some feel superior to Muggle-borns, it does not mean that Slytherin is a racist house, and this is shown by Andromeda.

Horace Slughorn is also another example, and while he gave Voldemort information on horcruxes, he was never a Death Eater and very much regretted telling him the things he did about splitting the soul. He even defends his house to Harry, saying “Oh now, don’t go holding that against me!” Which just goes to show that even Slytherins are aware of their reputation because of Voldemort and the Death Eaters.

Finally, Merlin. One of the greatest wizards known. If you think of pure blood superiority when you think of Slytherins, think again! Merlin founded the Order of Merlin, an organisation to promote Muggle rights because he believed they should all live together peacefully. Given his time period also, it’s suggested that he was taught by Slytherin himself, and so any anti-Muggle stances from the house do not come from being a Slytherin, but from the family at home. He also became a very powerful wizard, a brilliant example of where Slytherin house can get you.

Finally, I’d like to mention that being a Slytherin does not equal being a Death Eater. It is not noted what houses most of the Death Eaters were in. Our house will admit that we’ve produced a few bad eggs, it’s just that the others won’t. It takes only one incredibly power hungry person to ruin the house’s reputation, so try to see past your prejudices.

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  • hp-fangirl

    I’m pretty sure the Merlin claim is made up because by dates Merlin was either Before the founders or a contemporary.

    But, good essay it was very interesting

    • Anon

      Daisy did not make this up – it’s part of the Slytherin welcome speech on Pottermore. Regardless of the dates not tying in with legend, it IS a canonical part of the Potter-verse; JK Rowling has said many times that maths isn’t her strong point.

  • Gary Bernard

    Okay, so here’s the deal: Not every person FROM Slytherin is bad, but Salazar Slytherin was a jerk (to say the least). Who the HECK puts a basilisk inside a secret chamber and leaves it to his heirs to open and kill off muggleborns? Also, you mentioned Andromeda Tonks being from Slytherin and being good… Do you also remember that she was rejected by her family for it? Do you remember what happened to Sirius when he WASN’T put into Slytherin and started hanging out with Gryffindors? The qualities of Slytherin are not necessarily bad, but there are lasting traditions and prejudices that exist (at least fictionally). Its true that there are prejudices against Slytherin, but they are not unfounded and Slytherin consistently separates itself from the other houses. It’s hard to befriend someone that puts themselves on a pedestal above you. Harry saved Draco several times in Deathly Hallows, but they never became close. Why? Because from day one when Draco judged Ron to be below him, Draco screwed things up with his pride. Have you ever noticed that Draco doesn’t have real friends? He has cronies… How do you befriend someone like that?

  • Your claim that Slytherin is not a racist house is false. In the Sorting Hat’s song in Order of the Phoenix, the Hat specifically says that Slytherin takes “all those whose ancestry is purest.” Until Book 5, your argument would have been valid, but JKR unfortunately canonized the Slytherins as the racist house in OotP. Just because one or two Slytherins like Andromeda rise above that does not erase the racism.

    Also, that claim about Merlin is iffy at best. I know that Pottermore said Merlin attended Hogwarts, but this is an anachronism. Hogwarts was founded at least four centuries after the Arthurian legend supposedly took place. Hence, Pottermroe info needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

    I sympathize with your pride in your House – indeed, quite a few people tell me I should be in Slytherin, but I always refuse precisely because of the racism thing. But trying to pretend there isn’t anything bad about your House does it no favors.

    • I would like to add my two cents about the Merlin bit. I do not personally recall Pottermore saying that he went to Hogwarts (it’s been a while since I’ve read through everything), but I’ll take your word for it on that one. However, the Arthurian myth, just like many others, has been classified into many different time periods. In fact, the general consensus of the scholars is hundreds of years off from when most modern retellings or myths often place it. The real, historic, Arthur, is placed by scholars around 475 or 500 AD. However, most shows and retellings, etc., place him at about 1500 AD ish. In book four the sorting hat says “A thousand years or more ago, when I was newly sewn.” That would place the founding of Hogwarts at around 990 AD ish. So, yes, you’re correct, if we were going off of the historic placement, it would be 4 centuries or so off. However, supposing that Rowling actually did say he was in Hogwarts/taught by Slytherin (again, since I have not fully researched it, I cannot say whether or not it is true), the claimed dates regarding Merlin in retellings are SO iffy, and have SUCH a large time gap that I think we could let that “mistake” (if it is one) slide. However, I definitely agree with you. It is an iffy claim, at best, that he was taught by Slytherin. Since I haven’t fully researched it, I’m not sure how I feel on the topic in general.

      Also, I think that Salazar Slytherin was very racist, and that, because of their blood purity, a lot of Slytherins are, but… just because they’re purebloods with the other necessary qualities (ambition, etc.), I don’t think they’re all racist. We only see the bad Slytherins, though, so I don’t really know for sure. However, as a whole, I don’t think the house is incredibly racist anymore. Great comment!

      • Oh, and of course, fantastic essay Daisy! 🙂

        • Daisy

          Thank you!
          also it mentions Merlin on pottermore in the Slytherin house welcome message, if you were wondering 🙂

          • Oh, okay! That would explain why I don’t remember reading it. haha. 🙂 Thanks!

    • Anon

      Actually, the sorting hat said that Slytherin the man resolved to take those whose ancestry was the purest, not Slytherin the house. That might sound like I’m splitting hairs, but it’s significant. Purity of blood is just one consideration the sorting hat takes into account, it doesn’t mean all Slytherins are racist. Nor does it mean that no one from other houses is racist – even Dumbledore had anti-muggle leanings in his youth, and it took a horrendous tragedy to shake him out of it. Gryffindor is supposedly the house of bravery, but still managed to produce Peter Pettigrew!
      Regarding Merlin – JK Rowling has either made a mistake with dates (she has said plenty of times that maths isn’t her strong point), or she has twisted the legends to suit her own purposes. So what? The books are fiction. It’s still canonical information in the Potterverse.
      Like Daisy said, other houses produce evil witches and wizards (well, apart from Hufflepuff), they just don’t admit to it!

  • Me

    I’m a Slytherin, and while I have a dark side, I am not evil. I’m determined and ambitious. Keep in mind, the books only show the Slytherins through the eyes of J.K. Rowling (a Gryffindor), and while she is the author, this is only one opinion. Perhaps had the books followed Draco instead of Harry, we would see Slytherin in a new light.

  • Iain Walker

    Is this a defense of canon Slytherin (the Slytherin we actually see in the books and supplemental writings) or a defense of fanon Slytherin (the Slytherin that a sub-set of fans like to identify with)? If the latter, then fine. Create your own positive version of Slytherin. Go for it. If the former, then … hmm. I’m not convinced by the arguments.

    Selectively citing “good” Slytherins is all well and good, but it doesn’t really address the question of whether Slytherin suffers from an endemic problem of a culture of bigotry, because even a bigoted culture can produce non-bigoted individuals. Slytherin as a House was founded with an anti-Muggle and anti-Muggleborn bias, and while I’m sure the intensity of this bias within the House culture varied over the centuries, the fact remains that Voldemort found Slytherin a fertile recruiting ground. All the named Death Eaters or Death Eater sympathisers whose Hogwarts House is known were Slytherins. So saying “It is not noted what houses most of the Death Eaters were in” is a little disingenuous. The available evidence may be limited, but that evidence is nevertheless that Slytherins were disproportionately prominent in Voldemort’s ranks.

    In other words, of course not all Slytherins are bad. But canon strongly implies that Slytherin has problems in its culture and in its make-up, and these can’t just be handwaved away.

    It also seems to me to highly problematic to take the House Introductions from Pottermore as canonical sources of information. Unlike the exclusive content (which I am willing to accept as canonical), they’re not written from the point of view of the author passing on information, but from the point of view of a fictional character with an agenda, and (it seems to me) have been deliberately written as biased and partisan. At best, the Slytherin House Introduction reflects how Rowling thinks the Slytherins (or Gemma Farley at least) like to see themselves, and as such needs to be taken with a hefty grain of salt. It may be broadly accurate, or it may be self-serving tosh, or it may lie somewhere in between. What it cannot be taken as is a fully reliable source of canon information, and nor can the other House Introductions.

    So was Merlin ever a member of Slytherin? I’d tend to say no – it’s more likely a myth that Slytherins tell themselves and which the other Houses would laugh at. You seem to say yes. That’s fine. But either interpretation is consistent with canon, because the only source for this information is the assertion of a fictional character whose reliability has not been established.

    Similarly, is it really true that Slytherins help fellow students and stick together? Maybe. Gemma Farley would like you to think so, and it seems to be a popular idea in fanon. But in canon, we don’t really know. In the books, the Slytherin House that we see through Harry’s POV seems to present a united front to the world, but for all we know this masks a culture of internal bullying, enforced conformity and vicious struggles for status. Harry is not, after all, the most astute observer of social dynamics.

    In summary, kudos for producing a positive possible depiction of Slytherin. But that’s all it is – a possible depiction, one that’s reasonably consistent with canon. But other, more negative depictions are just as consistent – and maybe more so.

    • Iain Walker

      Oops. Correction to the above: “All the named Death Eaters or Death Eater sympathisers whose Hogwarts House is known were Slytherins”, should of course read “All but one of the named …” Peter Pettigrew is always so easy to overlook, both in-universe and without.

      The point still stands, however – on the basis of the evidence available to us, Slytherins are over-represented in the Death Eater ranks.

  • Tori Gryphon

    You have a point. And look at Pettigrew! He was a Gryffindor! Also, we really only see a tiny percentage of the Slytherins in the books; if there are about 1000 students in Hogwarts, and they are sorted rather equally, then that would mean that every year there is 250 Slytherins. Besides, in any setting, where do you here about the NICE people when you can have the good guys fight the bullies?