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“With 472 points
Slytherin House.”

The Slytherin philosophy
is basically to be the best,

to be great --
that means working hard,
always thinking a few steps
ahead of your opponent,

and being ruthless
in your pursuit of excellence.

Because Slytherins are
so obsessed

with proving themselves
superior to others,

they can be guilty of
arrogance and powerlust

“There is only power
and those too weak to seek it.”

Slytherins are very often selfish
or self-interested.

But on the positive side,
they show impressive
mastery of their crafts.

And as much as the Harry Potter series
maligns this house,

Slytherin at least is
never overlooked

or insignificant-feeling,
unlike the other two
supporting houses.

Slytherins are known
for their supreme power,

importance and achievement.
“Slytherin will help you
on the way to greatness,

no doubt about that.”
This drive to work hard
and achieve greatness

is embodied in Slytherin's
most infamous member.

Tom Riddle a.k.a. Voldemort
is undeniably terrible,

but he's also very impressive --
he's an orphan who became
one of the most powerful wizards ever

thanks to talent, ambition,
and dedication.

“I fashioned myself
a new name,

a name I knew wizards everywhere
would one day fear to speak

when I became
the greatest sorcerer in the world.”

The only reason Harry even
has special skills

is that he has
some of Voldemort in him.

“he transferred some of his
powers to you

the night he gave you that scar”.
And it's implied that Harry
could have reached new heights

if he'd been sorted
into Slytherin.

“You would have
done well in Slytherin”.

Harry and Voldemort
also share certain qualities

that Gryffindors and Slytherins
have in common --

they're both
extremely driven

and they'll do anything necessary
to win their fight.

“You possess many of the qualities
that Voldemort himself prizes:

determination, resourcefulness,
and if I may say so,
a certain disregard for the rules”.

Slytherin's colors
are green and silver.

Unlike Gryffindor's warm tones,
these cool colors tell us

that Slytherins are cool,
calculating, and controlled.

Slytherins are logical
and analytical.

In the first Harry Potter book,
the Sorting Hat tells us

that the house's defining quality
is single-minded resourcefulness:

“Those cunning folk use any means
to achieve their ends.”

So Slytherins are masters
of strategy and long-term planning.

They apply themselves to their goals
with rational, smart steps.

They think around
and through problems,

rather than acting on their gut impulse
like fiery red Gryffindors.

Slytherins are deeply ambitious.
Both green and silver --
thanks to their links to currencies --

evoke associations
with money and greed,

and many Slytherins do value
wealth and social status.

“My father can afford
the best.”

Then there's the idea of “being born
with a silver spoon in your mouth”

or getting something
“on a silver platter,”

so silver also speaks
to the privilege

that many Slytherins
are born into.

Green also brings to mind
the phrase

“Green with envy”
and Draco certainly
resents Harry

for all his fame
and special attention.

“Famous Harry Potter.
Can't even go into a bookshop
without making the front page.”

We often think of silver as second place,
less precious than gold,

and Slytherins feel like they're
always coming in second

after the Golden Gryffindors.
In our world,
you wouldn't necessarily think

that Gryffindor's tendency
to act first and plan second

is all that admirable.
But somehow these reckless,
spontaneous Gryffindors

are always coming out on top
in the Harry Potter series.

It's not like all Gryffindors
are the most talented

or skilled people
at Hogwarts

“He possesses no measurable talent,
his arrogance rivals even that of his father's

and he seems to relish
in his fame.”

A lot of the time,
Harry and his friends
seem to get by on dumb luck.

“Last year, he really did
fight off You-Know-Who in the flesh.”

“Look, it all sounds great
when you say it like that,

but the truth is,
most of that was just luck.”

In the Sorcerer's Stone,
when Dumbledore awards Gryffindor

last-minute points
to hand them the House Cup,

this would feel like pretty blatant favoritism
to the Slytherins

who have been working all year
to win that cup and

have been leading in points.
And from this perspective,
couldn't you start to get
why Slytherins resent Gryffindors,

who seem to keep getting
handed success

even though they don't really
apply themselves in an intelligent way?

We can even see the Slytherins'
sense of unfairness

in the starting premise
of the story:

“How is it that a baby
with no extraordinary magical talent

was able to defeat
the greatest wizard of all time?”

Voldemort exerts exceptional effort
to become the greatest

wizard of his time,
but a little baby beats him

and becomes a celebrity
just for passively receiving

his parents' love.
Slytherins' house element
is water.

And like liquids,
Slytherins are slippery,
fluid and hard to pin down.

In astrology, water signs
are considered to be intuitive,

emotional and sensitive.
Because they're so hyper-aware
and sensitive,

Slytherins are image-conscious.
They're extremely concerned
with how they're perceived.

The water element
may also connect to potions,

Snape's subject of choice.
“I don't expect many of you
to appreciate the subtle science

and exact art
that is potion-making.”

Potions is an understated art
that's all about the slow simmering

of carefully chosen ingredients.
“I can tell you how to bottle fame,
brew glory and even

put a stopper in death.”
Purposeful, patient and precise
is classic Slytherin.

Harry Potter may focus more
on the negative associations,

but green, silver and water
have a lot of positive connotations.

Silver, the metal,
is malleable and adaptive,

and Slytherins are far more subtle
in their thinking

than straightforward Gryffindors.
Green is associated
with life, vitality, and nature.

And Slytherins have astonishing potential
for growth, rebirth and renewal.

Just as water
can take different forms,

Slytherins can change and transform --
as we can see in Snape

“He was the bravest man
I've ever known.”

“Why didn't you tell her?
You knew it was me.
You didn't say anything”

and even Narcissa,
when she lies to Voldemort

that Harry is dead.
“Dead?”
“Dead.”

Of all the houses,
Slytherin is probably the one

most closely linked
to its house animal, the snake.

“There's a reason the symbol
of Slytherin house is a serpent.

Salazar Slytherin
was a Parselmouth.”

Even their name
sounds like the word “slither,”

as in “the snake slithered
across the grass.”

In Western literature and culture,
snakes are associated

with cunning, treachery
and deception:

The serpent in Genesis
tempts Eve to eat

from the tree of knowledge
of good and evil,

leading to the fall.
The serpent there
represents Satan,

while the griffin of Gryffindor's name
has been associated with Christ.

So the story immediately
paints Gryffindor and Slytherin

as good versus evil --
one literally
has a Christ symbol in its name,

and the other's name sounds
like the movement of the animal

traditionally linked to the devil.
And the Harry Potter story
mostly reinforces the Western idea

of the snake
as devious and evil.

Voldemort himself
looks snake-like

with his smooth, hairless head
and slits for nostrils.

And Salazar Slytherin's basilisk
is a monstrous incarnation

of the house's spirit --
which is why only Voldemort
can control it

as heir to Slytherin.
“Parseltongue won't save you now, Potter.
It only obeys me”.

Voldemort's snake, Nagini
also embodies terrible violence.

But there's also another snake
we meet early on,

at the zoo in The Sorcerer's Stone.
Harry understands that this
unaggressive animal is just mistreated.

“He doesn't understand
what it's like,

lying there day after day
watching people press
their ugly faces in on you”.

In fact, he feels a sense
of kinship with the snake.

“Do you miss your family?
I see.

That's me as well.
I never knew my parents either”.

So there's a way in which
the snakes of Slytherin

are misunderstood and villainized
from the start.

Outside of Western culture,
There are a lot more

Positive associations
with the snake.

It's often been linked
to sexual desire and fertility,

the mysteries of reproduction.
In ancient Egypt the uraeus,
or rearing cobra,

was a symbol
of royalty and power.

That reminds us
of Slytherin's legacy

as a grand, important house.
Egyptians also saw
the snake as life-giving --

just as Snape protects Harry
for so many years.

“Don't tell me now, that you've grown
To care for the boy.”

snakes shed their skin,
and the Slytherins we know best

reveal new sides
to themselves,

symbolically shedding their skin
in an act of rebirth.

So the snake is an animal
of contradictions:

it represents deadliness and vengeance
and life and renewal.

Its venom can be
poison or medicine.

Ultimately the snake
is a symbol of duality,

of both good and evil,
and their interconnectedness.

And Slytherins have both darkness
and the capacity for light inside of them.

The Slytherin common room
Is in the Hogwarts dungeons

Underground, just as Slytherins
are symbolically hidden away,

their true natures not immediately
visible to the outside world.

The room is partly
under the lake,

which puts Slytherins
close to their element, water.

The underwater location
visualizes that Slytherins aren't afraid

to face the deeper,
darker truths of human nature.

Some of them are interested
in the Dark Arts.

The darkness and greenish light
make the common room feel

a little eerie
not entirely comfortable --

Echoing how Slytherins
keep people at a distance.

The house ghost is
the Bloody Baron,

not the most welcoming character.
In the books, we learn
that he was in love with Helena Ravenclaw

but eventually stabbed her
in a rage --

and when he realized
what he'd done,

he turned the knife on himself.
So this tragic backstory
captures a lot about who Slytherins are --

they have intense feelings
that they don't know

how to express in a healthy way,
and this can be a fatal flaw.

But they often come to repent
the error of their ways.

In the books, the Bloody Baron
Chooses wears chains

to atone for his crime.
The house name
comes from Salazar Slytherin,

one of the founders of Hogwarts.
“Three of the founders
coexisted quite harmoniously.

One did not.”
“Three guesses who.”
Salazar is a Basque name
meaning “old hall,”

so this connotes the impressive,
long legacy of Slytherin.

The Slytherins' fixation
with their impressive past

might help explain
their problematic history with bigotry.

Salazar Slytherin himself thought
Hogwarts should be for purebloods only.

“Salazar Slytherin wished to be
more selective about the students

ddmitted to Hogwarts.
He believed that magical learning
should be kept within all-magic families.

In other words, purebloods.
Unable to sway the others,
he decided to leave the school.”

And this bias lives on
in later Slytherins.

“Associating with Muggles.
And I thought your family
could sink no lower”.

The pureblood issue in Harry Potter
is an obvious analogy for racism.

“Her speciality was muggle studies.”
“It is Ms. Burgises belief
That muggles are not so different from us.

She would, given her way,
have us mate with them.”

The very prejudice Draco Malfoy
has blond, typically Aryan looks,

so that creates a subconscious link
between his racism against Muggle-borns

and the ethnic hatred
directed at non-whites in our world.

“No one asked your opinion,
you filthy little Mudblood.”

And the hate-driven,
tyrannical behaviors

of Voldemort and Grindelwald
make us think of Nazism

or other totalitarian,
genocidal regimes.

“Your parents would be proud.
Especially your filthy Muggle mother”.

In a tweet, J. K. Rowling said,
“Not all Slytherins think
they're racially superior.

But all those who do
are Slytherins.”

If we look deeper,
the racism problem within Slytherin

reflects a larger insecurity
and fear of change.

Salazar Slytherin
couldn't accept progress,

and families like the Malfoys
are afraid of losing

their prominence and privilege.
They're so preoccupied
with the days when Voldemort was in power

because that's when they were most
influential and relevant

in their community.
And through this portrait,
Rowling is making a larger statement

about where racism
and bigotry come from --

anxiety about the future
and the fear of losing one's place in the

world.
Ironically, the pure-blood obsessed Voldemort
is a half-blood himself --

so his racism is driven
by self-loathing and daddy issues,

and perhaps Rowling is suggesting then
that racism in general

is often fueled by some form of
self-doubt or self-hatred.

“Surely you didn't think I was going
to keep my filthy Muggle father's name?”

But this kind of behavior
is generally learned --

it's not that Slytherins
are intrinsically bad;

it's that many have been raised
in a toxic environment.

Draco was brought up to believe
that he's better than others

due to his blood;
he's been taught to value
wealth and image.

He's also watched his family
routinely abuse their house elf, Dobby --

so of course having grown up this way
He enters Hogwarts as a hateful boy.

But as we watch Draco become conflicted
about his parents' behavior

and learn how Snape
protected Harry,

we see that Slytherins
can overcome their backgrounds and conditioning.

A corrupt cultural environment
doesn't define

their inner nature and potential.
“Severus Snape was indeed
a Death Eater

and prior to Lord Voldemort's downfall,
turned spy for us

at great personal risk.”
In our next video,
we're going to offer up

some arguments
in defense of Slytherins,

and we're gonna have a little fun
sorting characters outside of Harry Potter

into this house.
Hi, guys.
Susannah and Debra here.
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Harry Potter House Symbolism: Slytherin

93 Folder Collection
April Lu published on November 27, 2018
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