The Burrow: Slytherins: They Got it and They Flaunt it

by Erin Riley

Were I enrolled in the mythical Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I know I would emerge from the sorting ceremony a newly-sorted Slytherin. Not that I’m a mean person – no, no one I know could ever accuse me of being mean. But where in the Slytherin requirements does it mention that you must be completely heartless to be a member? Let us review Slytherins according to the Sorting Hat himself:

Year 1:
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You’ll make your real friends,
Those cunning folks use any means
To achieve their ends.

Year 4:
And power-hungry Slytherin
Loved those of great ambition.

Year 5:
Said Slytherin, “We’ll teach just those
whose ancestry is purest.”

For instance, Slytherin
took only pure-blood wizards
of great cunning, just like him.

Never did Salazar Slytherin say that he wanted all the evil people enrolled in Hogwarts to be sorted into his own house.

A Slytherin should be cunning, ambitious, determined and resourceful. They can be brave, but they generally put their own well-being over anyone else’s. From this basic description of a typical Slytherin, I can gather that, although evilness is not a prerequisite to become a Slytherin, Slytherins have the most potential to, say, take over the world. Picture someone from another house trying to take over the world: Gryffindors are the rebels, standing up for what they believe in against authority, and a common reckless trait would make it difficult to hold power. Hufflepuffs would try and please everyone, and they are too soft to make any decisions that may affect anyone negatively. And Ravenclaws… well, more on them later.

My theory is that Slytherins aren’t necessarily bad people when they begin their first year at Hogwarts. They are educated into being the way they are. Wizarding society expects Slytherins to be mean, ruthless people, so, true to form, they become mean, ruthless people. Those dank, dreary quarters under the school lake can’t do much to improve their attitude either.

The rest of Hogwarts probably shuns the Slytherins because these cunning characters garbed green and silver – my two favourite colours, by the way – are the only people with the potential to alter their peaceful lives. They have the intelligence and they know what to do with it – they got it and they flaunt it. Why use their powers, cunning and determination for the good of everyone when they could use it for themselves – for evil, perhaps?

The typical Slytherin’s most powerful quality is their ambition. If they want something, nothing can get in their way – not even the law, or the well-being of those closest to them.

I see Slytherins as a sort of upgrade on Ravenclaws. Sure, Ravenclaws are intelligent enough, but they use their intellect for academics and sensible, challenging careers. Slytherins know how to use their talents to their full potential, so many of them are powerful, respected and even feared members of the Wizarding community.

I looked up a directory of current or previous Slytherins in preparation to write this article at the Harry Potter Lexicon to make sure that they all live or lived up to Salazar Slytherin’s standards. There seemed to be several exceptions to the general mould of cunning, ambitious people. Curiously, they were all part of the Slytherin Quidditch team at some point, and they were all generally well-built, intimidating creatures.

You know the ones I’m talking about: Crabbe, Goyle, Montague… it seems to be a common trait in Slytherin Beaters. It has been said that Slytherin base their Quidditch player standards on size and, in the case of Draco Malfoy, financial status, rather than talent and skill. Not to mention the fact that there has never been a female Quidditch player during Harry’s entire stay at Hogwarts (grumble grumble). But how were these slow, dim-witted boulders admitted to Slytherin house to begin with? It almost seems that they were placed there to serve the purpose of bodyguards and henchmen to all the typical Slytherins.

But in my confusion I forgot Salazar Slytherin’s fondness of purebloods. I can only assume that Crabbe, Goyle, etc. are purebloods. Also, determination is a trait that can be found in each and every Slytherin, if you just dig deep enough. Ever since Harry came to Hogwarts, Gryffindor house has constantly beaten Slytherin house at everything they compete at, but that’s not stopping the Slytherins. No matter how many times Malfoy and his gang are humiliated by Harry and his fellow Gryffindors, they just bounce right back up, plotting darkly against the hated Harry Potter.

Slytherins can recognize what they are good at, and if cracking your knuckles, looking intimidating and chuckling trollishly is your strength and it is what helps you achieve your ends, then chuckle away!