July 8, 2011

Harry Potter Query: Slytherin

I promise, this is not going to turn into a Harry-Potter-themed blog. But between the rereading I'm doing and the, oh, I don't know, MOVIE that's coming out next week, there's more and more of this stuff floating around on the internet and you just can't avoid it. You just can't. Expect a full return to normal programming after next week.

Example: Today I woke up to find a video blog by the delightful Jackson Pearce addressing Harry Potter. In this blog, she told us what house she would likely be sorted into if she were to attend Hogwarts. The answer, my friends, is Slytherin.

This really got me thinking. Slytherin (at least the people who get sorted into Slytherin) is supposed to have some redeeming qualities, right? Room for people with potential for greatness and all that. So why is it that everyone in Slytherin is portrayed as simply awful? And likewise, why is it that everyone who ever went bad came out of Slytherin? (Okay, technically there's Peter Pettigrew to be accounted for, but that's just one person. Seriously.)

I really think that Rowling dropped the ball here. Yes, there are some Slytherins that do some good things (sort of -- example, Malfoy's mother lying to Voldemort), so I suppose there's a little redemption going on there. But the point is that no one in Slytherin is portrayed as nice to begin with. Couldn't Harry have had a friend from Slytherin? Would that have been too much to ask? Do they all have to be described, from the beginning, as a rather "nasty bunch"?

This sort of circles back round to some of the issues raised in my last blog post, about the Sorting Hat and the strict separation of houses. (See comments.) There certainly is a problem in Hogwarts when no one will really hang out with anyone who's from a different house. In fact, really the only time I saw students from different houses mingling seriously was when Harry founded Dumbledore's Army, at which point the whole of Hogwarts society was beginning to crumble under the strain of Umbridge's awfulness anyway. (But notice that there are no Slytherins in the D.A.)

Dear readers, am I missing something here? Are there "good" Slytherins? It seems like some of them get a little redemption, but is it too much to ask that one might have been good from the start?


  1. What about Snape? He pulled through as a good guy time and time again and was completely trusted by Dumbledore. Harry even said at the end of the last book that the one of the bravest persons he's ever known was a Slytherin (Snape).

  2. What about Regulus Black? Yeah, he originally followed Voldemort but had a change of heart and acted bravely to move the locket and protect people.

    Snape's also a good one. It seems like Slytherins have to hide their goodness!

  3. Oh, there are definitely Slytherins who redeem themselves in the end. But my question was more like, why aren't there any Slytherins who are good, period. Harry and company, they ARE the "good guys". This is presented as obvious, and taken for granted. But are there any Slytherin students (or other Slytherins) who are also just good, period? (As opposed to, "possibly has a shadow of humanity lurking somewhere, but it's difficult to ferret out.")

    Snape, though -- good point. He actually was good through and through, but he had to pretend to be on the dark side. Were there any Slytherins who were just on the up and up all the way?

  4. This has always always bothered me. And it's another reason why I've really enjoyed the "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" fanfic.

    (Actually, thanks to that fanfiction, I'm now completely sure I'm a Ravenclaw.)

  5. That's a good point. As you've already said in the comments Snape was good, but I can't think of anyone else.

  6. Pottermore says that Merlin was a Slytherin! Merlin founded the Order of Merlin which originally was intended to fight for Muggle Rights. He was good through and through, but ambitious and bound for greatness, hence a Slytherin! Plus, there is Slughorn.