For all of her slinging around blithe statements about; “A thousand years ago...” we get no real impression that the average wizard, at any point in their history, has ever thought, felt, or behaved in any manner other than the way he does today. This reading is only sound insofar as that, no, human nature does not really change. But human schools of thought, and human perception invariably do. Wizards can be no exception.
It also appeared to be obvious that throughout the first 6 books in the series, Harry is going through a very deep process of learning to recognize and evaluate the nature of good and evil. This is only to be expected in what had been positioned as a of coming-of-age quest adventure.
And we expected him to ultimately learn to distinguish and separate these fundamental concepts from the manner in which individual people might treat him. Frankly, he didn’t appear to be doing very well at that part of the equation. And ultimately this did not matter, since the story turned out not to be about the question of good vs. evil at all.
But for quite a long time Harry appeared to be dealing specifically with the face of evil as it presents itself in the modern day. Rowling never found it necessary to modify the image she shows us to the point of acknowledging the fact that the face, even if not the nature, of evil does change over time. Such considerations turned out to be irrelevant. Nevertheless, the perception of evil changes at least as much as anything else in human civilization does. Consequently, we have been denied the luxury of having any sort of historical context in which to evaluate the actions of the historical figures in the Potterverse. Any of them.
• • • •
Given that we had been told nothing regarding the existence of a wizarding royalty (and it was confirmed in HBP that there is none, and probably never had been), taken together with the fact that to that point in the series, every subject of every one of Rowling’s titles for the books in the series — apart from the of “Lord” Voldemort — had been absolutely literal on at least some level, this suggested that if the 6th book concerned an honest-to-ghod half-blood Prince, either this gentleman was a foreigner, or he was a character tucked away somewhere in History.
Instead, Rowling took a sidestep on us. The Half-Blood Prince was a nickname. An ironic one, at that.
Until Book 6, all of Rowling’s titles had been literal and meant exactly what they said. Even if the subject of the title might not be central to the action. Consequently, “Half-Blood Prince” was a considerable departure from the pattern established. And, in fact, prior to HBP she had given us some misleading precedents for “titled” even if not “royal” wizards.
The Gryffindor House Ghost is “Sir” Nicholas de Mimsey-Porpington, which is a title, even if only that of Knight. The Slytherin House ghost goes him one better, being commonly referred to as the Bloody “Baron”. For that matter, the Peverill Ring which was passed down through the Gaunt line was engraved with what Marvolo Gaunt claimed was a “coat-of-arms” (although it turned out to be nothing of the sort), misidentifying the Peverills as armigerous, even if not titled. The Black family also has a coat-of-arms prominently on display in their Head of the family’s former home. As may the Malfoys, and possibly some other pre-Seclusion wizarding families.
Which draws a lot of inconvenient attention to the consistent weaknesses of Rowling’s handling of History. We do not know anything of the truth of the History of the Potterverse. Only the “authorized version” as distorted by Bathilda Bagshot, which, even from the few glimpses we’ve gotten in the text appears to have been drastically edited. This pervading ignorance seems to be shared by every one of the characters, with the possible exception of the Sorting Hat. Apparently, it isn’t just the Muggles who have had their own history rewritten at the discretion of the Ministry of Magic.
• • • •
For example; we do not know any of the truth about the oh-so “heroic” Godric Gryffindor. He could well turn out to have been about as heroic as the 15-year-old James Potter. Conversely, he could have exuded a greatness even more obvious than that of Albus Dumbledore. We flatly do not know. And it is beginning to look like we are not ever likely to find out. Rowling seems completely uninterested in any event prior to about 1920. (ETA: modify that to 1899.)
We also don’t know much of the background or character of the clever Rowena Ravenclaw, or of the doughty Helga Hufflepuff.
Nor, for that matter, the cunning Salazar Slytherin.
Other than that he had allegedly come to Hogwarts via the fens.
Beginning with May of 2007, however, each of the four founders of Hogwarts was featured as Wizard of the Month on Rowling’s official site. Not that this added a great deal of information to our store of knowledge on them. But it did at least add a little.
Helga was evidently renowned for her food-related Charms, and many of the recipes still served at Hogwarts Feasts were of her devising. Madam Hepzibah Smith in the mid-20th century, claimed to be one of her descendants.
Rowena evidently was regarded as the most brilliant witch of her time, and died young (well, in her 40s). Of a broken heart, it is believed. This is gone into with marginally more detail in the course of DHs. She did produce one daughter who was murdered at a comparatively early age. It is uncertain whether she predeceased her mother. It is unknown whether Rowena left any other descendants.
Godric Gryffindor is reported to have been an accomplished duelist, and ultimately fought against Muggle discrimination. (ETA: Post-DHs it turns out that he was an insensitive sort who, for all that he was willing to enroll human Muggle-borns in his school had no respect for the traditional views on property ownership of Goblins.) Everything else we already knew.
Salazar Slytherin turns out to have been, in addition to a Parselmouth, an accomplished Legilimens.
From all of which it is possible to propose that in the Founders’ day, Helga may have been the Charms Mistress, and Gryffindor the teacher of what in the days was the equivalent of DADA. It is uncertain, from what we have to be able to speculate what studies were taught by Rowena and Salazar. At a guess, one taught Potions and the other Transfiguration. But it is just as likely that in those days none of the teachers specialized in only one subject.
We have been told more than once that Salazar Slytherin, an ambitious pureblood wizard, had wanted to bar Muggle-born students from attending Hogwarts. We were told originally that the other three Founders having overruled him on this issue was the primary reason for his breaking with them and leaving the school.
Later we were told that, in fact, the whole school had been locked in a violent power struggle incited by “deadly exterior foes” and that Slytherin’s breaking away from the conflict and leaving the school broke the stalemate. That these two accounts are in fairly complete disagreement with one another has never been openly acknowledged by Rowling. I would be more inclined to accept the Sorting Hat’s version of the matter than Professor Binns’s, however. The Hat at least was there at the time.
• • • •
We have been deliberately led to assume that Slytherin was motivated in his objections to Muggle-born students by the same sort of blind, unthinking, unsupported prejudice displayed in the modern era by Lucius Malfoy and his ilk. But is it true?
(“Assume” after all, makes an ass of both “u” and “me”.)
While this conclusion is far from impossible, I find it somewhat difficult to swallow whole. Even if my reading of the distinction between the natures of Dark and Light (i.e., domesticated) magic is completely out in left field, I am too well aware that conditions and prevailing social viewpoints change over a thousand years to be able to accept such a simplistic summation of such events. This is, IMHO, the very worst sort of “history” and a perversion of the truth. Rowling’s presentation of the wizarding world’s treatment of the subject of History throughout the entire series has been dismissive, disrespectful and just plain BAD. This is robbing the dead. I speculated for years that she might turn out to have had a reason to do this, which would ultimately be made known to us. But it was no such thing.
And, while we are on the subject of perversions of the truth; what little we were shown of the “great historian” Bathilda Bagshot’s ‘History of Magic’ — which is established as the official authorized version — appears to have been nothing less than that.
Without any sort of a recognizable historical context, it is impossible for us to know just why Slytherin was so opposed to the admission of Muggle-born students. Yes, he could certainly have just been a spiteful old bigot. He could have just as easily been a paranoid in the style of Mad-Eye Moody who viewed Muggles in mobs as such a serious threat to wizarding safety that they must be given no clue of the school existence. He could have been any of a half-a-dozen other things. What we have actually been told is that he did not trust Muggle-born wizards, but not that he necessarily hated, or despised them, or held them in contempt. We also have no information whatsoever regarding his opinions on actual Muggles. But the last thing that he seemed to believe is that wizards had any business trying to rule them.
Slytherin appears to have virtually defined the wizarding isolationist mindset, but there is no indication that he would have supported any notion of wizarding supremacy in its modern iteration.
We have also been told that as time went by he became more, rather than less, determinedly opposed the admission of Muggle-borns to the school, and that when he was overruled by the bold (and possibly rash) Godric Gryffindor, and the other two Founders backed Gryffindor up, he refused to work with them any longer and stomed off. (In a high-perch dudgeon.)
Leaving behind a secret chamber in which there was a Basilisk.
• • • •
In any event, we have very little — apart from people’s unsupported speculations — to go on when we try to examine the rather slippery question of just what this particular one of Hogwarts’s four Founders was really like. The very shallowness and internal contradictions of Rowling’s presentation of this figure to date constitutes a positive invitation to Slytherin apologists.
Well, as I have stated elsewhere, on more than one occasion, the Harry Potter fandom has no shortage of Slytherin apologists.
My own feeling is that we might do best to give a bit less weight to the fact that Slytherin eventually split with the other three Founders and a bit more to the fact that he had joined in with them on a project of this magnitude in the first place. For I seriously doubt that either Gryffindor or Slytherin would have ever chosen to be partners in such a monumental endeavor if they had started out so thoroughly at odds over a matter that was so basic to its purpose. It must have been obvious going into the Project that they were all four engaged upon what would probably turn out to be their life’s work.
Even the Sorting Hat was finally forced to remind everyone that Godric and Salazar had originally been the best of friends. And that Slytherin’s leaving the school was felt to be a definite loss, rather than a “good riddance”.
We also do not know how long the school had been in operation when Slytherin left it. Ten years? Twenty? Fifty? For that matter where are the relevant dates of anything to do with this matter — which is still a sore point nearly a millennia later? Wizards are presumably literate. And people did keep records back in those days, you know.
Evidently the records have been lost.
Unless they have been deliberately suppressed.
Given the caliber of the rest of the teaching of History at Hogwarts, that would not surprise me in the least.
• • • •
Nevertheless we were handed a second possibility when, in Book 5, the Sorting Hat sings that it was outside pressures which had finally brought matters to a head. What on earth was going on outside the school which finally sent Slytherin into a such a tailspin over admitting Muggle-born children to it? Widespread “witch-hunting” did not develop until the Reformation, remember? A cool 500-600 years later. (Unless the whole claim that Hogwarts has been around for about 1000 years is just so much gammon and spinach.)
And was this conflict from outside the School, or from outside the castle?
In fact, given that Slytherin reportedly had worked contentedly enough with his three partners for years before his ultimate falling out with Gryffindor, the very thinness of the official explanation leads me (and many others) to suspect that there must have been some other factors at work in the matter.
For example; doesn’t it seem likely that there must have been some specific incident — either one of local experience or one of far-traveled rumor — that caused Slytherin to start seeing his colleagues’ Muggle-born students as a potential threat? And, given that there is a distinct strain of Dark Arts-tolerant thinking running through Slytherin House to this day, we cannot overlook the possibility that whatever this incident might have been, it may have been something that would not have suggested such an interpretation to a wizard who was not already at risk of developing the sort of skewed perceptions related to some form of Dark Arts-related dementia.
And unquestionably Slytherin was. In fact, we have been positively invited to simply write Salazar Slytherin off as “a Dark wizard”, as though that was all there is to be said about him. (Which; given that we now know that he and Gryffindor were friends for years, raises some questions regarding Godric, as well. And about Rowena and Helga, for that matter.)
As I have stated in the article on the history of Magic; if we can take former Professor Snape’s description of the nature of the Dark Arts at face value (“...many, varied, ever-changing, eternal.” “...unfixed, mutating indestructible.”) getting in too deep sounds like a positive recipe for developing some form of delusional thinking.
I am convinced that Slytherin was among those who had adopted the school of thought that one could judiciously combine both Dark and Light magic without ultimately coming to grief. For that matter, a wizard probably can use the occasional Dark spell without putting himself at any serious risk. I propose that it is the prolonged exposure to the insidious distortions of perception, and the delusions which the chaotic forces which underpin the Dark Arts generate and deploy in response to any attempt to control them — particularly by way of the direct channeling methods utilized in the now generally obsolete style of directing magic — which leads one astray.
But the damage seems to be cumulative, and it may be irreversible (it was certainly irreversible in Slytherin’s day) and some people are more subject to such damage than others. The only way to avoid drifting into some form of the dementia which results from this kind of damage is to recognize when you are being harmed by such processes and to avoid further exposure to them.
Unfortunately not every wizard is sufficiently self-aware to recognize when he has entered the danger zone and has become increasingly at risk. It is not unreasonable to suggest that Salazar Slytherin’s involvement in the Dark Arts had already blunted his capacity for empathy and had also begun to affect his perception of the world around him. Nor that one of the primary symptoms of his descent into some form of dementia may have been this growing suspicion of, and opposition to the presence of Muggle-born students in the school.
If this is the case, (and this is by no means certain) his partners must have realized what was happening. Such descents were no longer so common as in the days that all magic was Dark magic, but they were still common enough. The other Founders must have tried to help him. But it is likely that their efforts were either rebuffed or were unavailing. At length they must have realized that he was beyond their help and represented a danger to the school and everyone in it. I do not know whether it is most likely that they forced him out, permitted or encouraged him to leave, or, however regretfully, took the necessary steps to “restrain” him. But if there had ever been any mention made of any particularly ancient tree in the Forbidden forest, I would have been regarding it with grave suspicion.
There is also the possibility that the Slytherin bloodline already had a touch of the strain of violence and instability which so characterized his last direct descendants. But in the Gaunts, the tendency had been strengthened immeasurably by generations of inbreeding. This tendency might also have been contributed not from Slytherin, but from the Peverill line into which a Slytherin descendant must have at some point married. Or some other introduced bloodline to the mix. There is no certainty that, even if it was present, it was anywhere so pronounced in Slytherin himself. But if present, it wouldn’t have been at all helpful once he started fixating on the “mudblood threat” to the point that there was no reasoning with him.
• • • •
It also blew past us in year 5 that, according to the Hat, the problem wasn’t just Slytherin. All four Founders were engaged in a nasty power struggle to take over the school.
Or possibly, the castle. I still contend that until comparatively recently there was more going on in that castle than just the school.
And when the going got really rough, Slytherin skipped out. Had enough, bye-bye! A plague on all your Houses! Frankly, that sounds a lot more like Horace Slughorn (“that pestilential school”) than it sounds like Tom Riddle.
Of course, Slytherin could have merely stomped off to the other end of Europe and founded his own school where Muggle-borns would not be welcome. We are reminded that Durmstrang Academy does not admit Muggle-born students, you know. Openly still teaches the Dark Arts, too.
Or — and this is a more recent speculation, but one which rather amuses me — he could have dug himself a bat cave under London and founded a subterranean research center which later morphed into the Ministry’s current Department of Mysteries.
Later to be added to by three brothers from a family named Peverill. Who succeeded him.
• • • •
Which brings us back around to the pesky consideration that whatever the circumstances were of Salazar’s leaving, he didn’t take all of his property with him. There is the not-so-minor, 30-foot question of a Basilisk to be considered here.
Which rather calls for an additional side note on that Basilisk and the Chamber of Secrets. Some of this may have been mentioned in other articles, but it really does merit restating here.
Rowling’s “history” is total bollocks. She really wasn’t creating a proper fantasy world; fantasy worlds each have their own history. Rowling thought she was writing a fairy tale. There is no historical context to a fairy tale. In fairy tales, all times are one.
Consequently, you have to do a major bit of retrofitting in order to simulate any kind of an historically plausible method of getting the Basilisk into that bathroom.
Hogwarts castle is approximately 1000 years old. Castles, like any other human habitation are continually being modified by their residents. And the longer there are residents the more modification is made. Hogwarts Castle has been continually in use for nearly 1000 years. If we are trying to overlay some kind of plausible history onto its construction it is not difficult. That castle is described as one hell of an elaborate and complex bit of architecture. And that kind of complexity does not date from square 1. The original Hogwarts Castle probably consisted of no more than the central block. The original Hogwarts by now is surrounded and encased in numerous later additions and modifications.
Even just 300 years ago when wizards split off from general society the population of England was no more than about a 10th of what it is now. The wizarding population would have been correspondingly smaller too. 1000 years ago when the school was founded the school probably consisted of only 3-4 dozen students, and four teachers. The Castle — whatever the other purposes it may have served for the wizarding community in addition, at that time, or over the years — has grown as the wizarding world has. And since occupants have virtually all been magical, far more modifications have probably been inflicted upon it than would have been made in a similar structure occupied by Muggles.
For example; the current dormitory towers are probably a recent addition from maybe the 15th–18th century (decent arguments could be made for anything between those dates). Consequently the original school had its dormitories in the central block, which is now exclusively given over to classrooms and offices. The Founders and the early staff were also originally housed in the central block. As were the people who were in charge of whatever other functions the castle may have served to the community as a whole.
The bathrooms throughout the Castle have been modified and upgraded any number of times, and that particular loo, being in the central block, may have originally been a part of a private suite of rooms rather than serving as a “public” loo. It may have originally been in Salazar’s own living quarters. The room itself has been enlarged since those days. The tap that doesn’t work probably replaced an earlier tap that didn’t work, etc., that was simply plopped on top of the original shaft, which had always been activated by Parseltongue. The snake scratched on the current tap was probably added by Tom Riddle himself. Not because he needed it, but because he wanted to “leave a mark”.
• • • •
As to the Basilisk itself; Rowling clearly doesn’t seem to know squat about snakes. Or maybe she just doesn’t care.
She shows us a boa constrictor (natural, not magical) winking, when snakes have no eyelids, she has Nagini acting like a devoted pet, whereas snakes have scarcely the brains to register human presence at all. Snakes are part of nature’s clean-up crew. They don’t need brains. Their whole purpose in life is to eat anything that they can catch and swallow, and keep the vermin population down. In reptiles pretty well everything is hard-wired in. They operate on instinct, not considered thought. Go to a zoo one day and visit the reptile house. Some of those snakes have been in those enclosures for years, yet they show no awareness of anything beyond the glass. (There will be exceptions. There is a python in San Diego who seems very aware of his visitors. I suspect that the poor thing was somebody’s pet and accustomed to being handled, and was given to the zoo when he got too big to be handled safely.)
Nor are snakes’ teeth designed to tear bites off anything or to chew before swallowing. Snakes have teeth that are designed to hold onto things (or to inject poison into them). Snakes don’t rip the meat from the bones (regardless of what she has the Basilisk muttering about in the pipes, and that is bollocks, too). Snakes do not tear their prey at all. They swallow their prey whole and digest it, bones and all.
In other words; there would have been no rat bones lying about at the level of the chamber if the Basilisk had wandering about eating all the rats.
If the Basilisk had the freedom of that level of the Castle, there might have been ossified snake droppings, lying about, but there would have been no bones. Admittedly, we were never actually told that the Basilisk has been eating rats for 1000 years, we saw the bones and were expected to draw our own conclusions. The obvious conclusion which most readers have been invited to draw is a conclusion that does not make any kind of zoological sense.
The best retrofit that I can think of is that since Riddle had to call the Basilisk into the Chamber, and it entered from a hidden passage through a statue which did not open until it was addressed in Parseltongue, the Basilisk did not actually live in the Chamber at all, and that from its own lair it had access to the lake and has spent the past millennium feeding on the lake fauna. Snakes can hold their breath under water for an amazing length of time. It is probably only thanks to the merpeople’s vigilance that it never got past them to the surface. (Hm. Maybe that is the real function of that giant squid. Salazar left it to keep the Basilisk from getting out into the grounds and raising havoc.) And the Basilisk’s fatal glance may very well not work through the distortions of water.
• • • •
One point which only a few people seem to have brought up so far is the fact that a Basilisk is a magical creature which can be created artificially. (And in Rowling’s interpretation appears to be practically immortal until killed.) Slytherin did not merely discover his monster. He created that Basilisk. We do not know when and we do not know why.
We could come up with any number of possible, if contradictory, scripts, however. For example:
- He was in the process of creating a Basilisk in connection with some unspecified project. Possibly even with the intent of immediately killing and harvesting it for specific body parts, or milking it for its venom. The Basilisk hadn’t hatched yet when he was “forced out”. The other Founders were unaware of its existence and it was an internal Slytherin family story that claimed that it was left behind for his heir. In a thousand years of telling, the story mutated and details like the reason for its creation and the location of the Chamber were lost.
- As the hostilities in the school escalated, he decided to create a Basilisk — a monster which, as a Parselmouth, he knew he could control — to use against the other Founders and thereafter run the school as he saw fit. He was forced out before it hatched. The other Founders’ ignorance of it and the family story play out as above.
- He had already created the Basilisk, either for an unspecified future project or simply because he could.
However, harvesting it for body parts doesn’t play altogether well, since he had evidently arranged that inner lair for its comfort. But maybe he had set the lair up for it first and left it to hatch there. Keeping it on hand as a source of Basilisk venom plays well enough though.
[Note: Rowling has already given us ample evidence to support the view that wizards can have really eccentric notions of just what constitutes appropriate behavior. It should also be pointed out that the Gaunt bloodline was afflicted by a pernicious lack of common sense, which ultimately ruined them financially. They could have got that from Slytherin.]
Or, he kept the Basilisk more or less as a pet. When the rift occurred he was stumped as to just what he was to do with it.
A Basilisk is not a kneezle. You can’t just casually take it traveling about with you across Europe. Since he couldn’t take it with him, and the inner lair and lake were reasonably secure — the squid and the Merrows could keep it under control — he just left it there. He may have anticipated that one of his descendants would someday find it. But if not, there was no harm done. Family story as above.
• • • •
As to where the “legend” came from; The statue in the Chamber which is assumed to represent Salazar Slytherin is described to us as looking “ancient” and “monkey-like”. Consequently, if Salazar is also responsible for the statue, we can probably conclude that by the time of the rift, Slytherin was already an old man. His own children were probably grown by that time. And while they had no doubt been raised to regard Muggle-born wizards with suspicion, they also probably recognized that Dad had gone a bit dotty on the subject.
And possibly on more than one subject. They may have dismissed the story of his Basilisk as the ramblings of old age or a Dark Arts-induced fantasy.
Some time afterwards, probably during the equivalent of a “spooky story campfire night” somebody could have popped up with “My great-great-grandad said that there was a monster in a seeeecret chamber hidden somewhere in the school!” and the tale spun out from there.
In any event; what we cannot depend upon is any interpretation of the events as they have been given to us by the former Tom Riddle, or the Death Eaters.
Tom Riddle — who we’ve all seen is probably as mad as a whole convention of hatters — may be perfectly happy to reason backwards in order to “prove” that everything HE claims to consider important must have been what Slytherin considered important because he is Slytherin’s heir, but I am a good deal less than totally convinced by that particular line of reasoning. Tom and Salazar are not the same person. Not even close.
For one thing, Salazar, at least originally, actually had *friends*.
[Note: even Riddle’s anagrams are biased. How the hell likely is it that his legal name is actually “Tom” rather than "Thomas"? Huh? Especially if he was named after a Muggle father. Or that the orphanage didn’t formalize the name into its conventional form on the official papers. Orphanages do that kind of thing.]
But, so long as we are speaking of the "Heir" of Slytherin; does it occur to anyone else that by this time, through all of these cumulative exchanges of blood, power, very specific magical gifts, and even taking into account some of his own underlying personal qualities (and, ghod help us, the Peverill connection), Harry Potter has enough marks on the checklist to make at least a viable claim to be considered one of Slytherin’s heirs as well?
And given that the Trelawney prophesy, like just about every other prophesy which has ever shown up in literature, seems to be based on the "Mirror, mirror on the wall" principle, it is looking as though it is just too, too terribly in accordance with tradition that since every action Voldemort has taken to evade his fate of destruction at the hand of Harry Potter has contributed instead to bringing it to fulfillment. Such actions might have gone a long way toward providing Salazar with another, more “worthy” heir, who will supplant him.
• • • •
And, for that matter, once she played that particular card to produce her big scary set-piece for the climax of Book 2. Rowling gave us all precious little reason to be giving much further credence to the whole “Heir of Slytherin” motif at all. By this time it’s looking as though Tom Riddle was descended from Salazar Slytherin for no other reason than to provide some justification for that set-piece.
Much in the way that Ron Weasley was built up to be good a chess only because Rowling was in love with the idea of the giant live chess game in Book 1. Once the card had been played, that never went anywhere, either.
• • • •
Even before DHs came out I was suspecting that even that much was to give far too much credit to Riddle’s claims. Rowling has always been very good at fending off any kind of inquiry related to the “heirs” of any of the other Founders. And I had come to suspect that it was with good reason.
I’d come to the conclusion that the whole Blah-Blah about the Founders was a gasping, flopping red herring. Just as with the bloody Prophecy, they were only tangentally important to the story because they were important to Tom Riddle.
Being descended from Salazar Slytherin mattered tremendously to Tom Riddle. Once upon a time, at least. But when you come right down to it, the man was no more than one powerful wizard, and a schoolmaster.
Yes, he and his associates founded a school, and the school itself is still around nearly 1000 years later. Bully for them. That’s because there is a continuing need for that school, not because of anything those specific founders did to ensure it. They saw a growing need and met it. Good for them. If someone else had done so, their school would probably be the school for British wizards.
But they weren’t the four kings and queens at Cair Paravel. I finally decided that the whole build-up that we’d been given in the books regarding the “Heir of Slytherin” was just buying into Tom’s delusions of grandure. Otherwise you would have expected Rowling to have done something with it by then. And she hadn’t. She really hadn’t.
Mind you, I suspected the Founders would probably get referred to again in Book 7, even if only to debunk the theme of the Heirs the way that the significance of the Prophecy was devalued by Albus in HBP. But I could no longer convince myself that they were central to anything. They had merely served as a useful distraction to string us all along with for six books into the series and keep the readers from cottening onto whatever Rowling WAS up to. I suspected that anyone who was still waiting around for the “Heir of Gryffindor” to show up and solve the problem for us was living in a fool’s paradise.
The Founders simply do not have the answer to the problem. The problem is one deranged wizard who has been allowed to cast his shadow over two whole generations, and who seriously needs to be stopped. It was an outside possibility that some further information about the Founders might reveal a weakness in the enemy, but even that was a pretty faint possibility (ETA: a variant of that actually did turn out to be the case. Woo-hoo!)
And the “opposite” of the Heir of Slytherin wouldn’t be the Heir of Gryffindor anyway. It would be something a lot more on the order of the miller’s third son who was left with only a cat.
And, post-DHs, it is clear that the standard fan “Heir” theories were all speculations that ended up going nowhere. The Founders turn out to be all but irrelevant to anything but the providing of bases for Tom’s Horcruxes. And that was only because Tom had fixated on them.
• • • •
In any case, I lived in hope that we might finally get a somewhat more balanced view of the history issue before the end of the series. Although I wasn’t holding my breath. Fortunately, as it turned out. If anything the whole situation only got worse.
But the times were certainly right for it. In fact, if anything, they were badly overdue.
Rather more to the point; Harry and his contemporaries had finally reached an age to at least begin to be ready to entertain a more balanced and rational view of their own history.
To that point in the story (i.e., just before the opening of DHs), Harry had taken the — rather simplistic — views first introduced to him by Hagrid and pre-adolescent Ron Weasley and simply adopted them wholesale.
Nor is Harry the only one. To that point in the story just about ALL of the kids in ALL of the Houses had been operating on autopilot, never questioning the tenets of their early “programing”. And by this time it is clear that this was doing nobody any identifiable good. If the theme of this series is choices, then nobody in the school seems to have made any kind of a choice yet.
But Harry and his classmates were closing on 17–18 years old by now and some of them really ought to have started questioning such assumptions.
Harry in particular cannot have missed seeing that the adults around him are neither perfect, nor automatically right. Not even the ones who claim to be on his own side. Not even the ones whose good intentions are beyond question.
It really wasn’t too much to hope that he might have finally reached the point where he can begin to recognize that if his own side is not beyond criticism, the other side may not be totally evil. That all Slytherins are not his enemies. Or even that there are some people who really are caught in the middle with no easy way out, and that it isn’t their fault.
Or, even that there really is more than one side to the problem.
He certainly got a hint of this in HBP, and he understood enough of what he was shown to begin to have a bit of pity for Malfoy’s position in this conflict. Though he still hates Malfoy’s guts.
I thought we were going to need to see a lot more of this sort of thing before there could be any sort of a satisfactory conclusion to this series, and we were getting a bit close to that end to still be confident that such a development is forthcoming.
And in the end, we didn’t. And from where I am standing, a satisfactory conclusion to this series is still MIA.
It should also be obvious to us from the excerpts that we’ve seen from Bagshott’s History of Magic — going all the way back to Year 1 — that every one of these kids has been being deliberately fed a steady diet of lies where it comes to the history of their own society. And that the myths of Glorious Godric vs. Sinister Salazar aren’t even the half of it.
And kids really hate to discover that they’ve been lied to.
And, perhaps, concerning the monumental collection of Muggle-dismissive twaddle that passes for history according to Bagshot, that it may be long past time to reflect that Bathilda Bagshot’s own family produced one of the most notorious wizarding supremacists in history.