Everyone’s heard of Harry Potter. The wizard, the books, the movie. And everyone has an opinion about what House they’d be in. Ripper would be Ravenclaw. Nox would be a Gryffindor. And I, of course, would be a Slytherin. I’m just going to warn you now, I’m probably reading too much into these books. They are, quite simply, fun YA novels. But I also have a tendency to overanalyse Disney movies, so this isn’t anything unusual.
Slytherins get a raw deal, in my opinion. There’s a common view of them as being either cruel Death Eaters-to-be or just, for some reason, disliked. There also seems to be a double standard; what’s acceptable for the other Houses — and this is particularly evident in Gryffindor — isn’t in Slytherins. People have a preconceived view of Slytherins, and are always anxious to find details to support that. (Again, I realise I’m taking this way too seriously. Feel free to close this tab right now.)
The Slytherins are described in the Sorting Hat’s first song as “cunning folks [who] use any means to achieve their ends,” and in another song, the Sorting Hat also states that Salazar Slytherin said he’d “teach just those/Whose ancestry is purest.” Taken out of context, it’s easy to understand why Slytherins have such a bad reputation. But it’s not that simple. The Sorting Hat also says that Slytherin is where “you’ll make your real friends.” This appears to be overlooked a lot. The Sorting Hat does not mention friendship when referring to any other House, and yet Slytherins are always seen as power-hungry and very Machiavellian. This doesn’t seem to add up.
Of course, the Sorting Hat does make a reference to the pureblood/’mudblood’ divide so evident in Slytherin, that a lot of people use to view Slytherins as, basically, racist. “For instance,” the Sorting Hat tells us, “Slytherin took only pureblood wizards/Of great cunning just like him.” But, Rowena Ravenclaw taught “only those of sharpest mind,” which, while perhaps not as bad as judging students purely on ancestry, still isn’t fair or equal. Not only that, but this is referring to events that happened possibly hundreds of years ago. Tom Riddle, one of the most infamous Slytherin students, wasn’t pureblood. His mother was a witch, and his father was a Muggle. Or Severus Snape, again a halfblood, whose mother was witch and father was Muggle. It’s also thought that Millicent Bulstrode was a halfblood, although this is not definite.
So clearly, Slytherin doesn’t discriminate as much as it is thought to. One stereotype down, lots to go. Slytherins are thought of as only looking out for themselves, and for being ‘Mudblood haters’. It’s true that Slytherins would prefer the Muggles not to be mixed with the Wizarding world, but is it any wonder? Muggles used to burn wizards and witches at the stake, whether they knew Freezing Charms or not. Now that Muggles have advanced, including their technology, there’s no way of knowing if they could be a danger. Clearly, the wizarding world think they could, as they go to great pains to keep their existence a secret. Is it any wonder that Slytherins want as few Muggles as possible being a part of their world? It’s also understandable that Slytherins are the ones to have these fears; coming from pureblood families, they’re the ones with ancestors most likely to be affected by this.
Of course, any kind of prejudice is inexcusable, don’t get me wrong. But imagine growing up, finding out that great-great-aunt whoever was burned for… for what, exactly? For doing nothing wrong. No wonder the Slytherins didn’t want this to happen a second time. And people such as the Dursleys did nothing to help that view.
The Slytherins are definitely loyal only to each other. They couldn’t care less about people in other Houses, but they definitely have no reason to. Whenever something happens, Slytherins are automatically blamed. There’s a quote where Hagrid says to Harry, “There’s not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin.” If that’s the mentality surrounding them, is it any wonder that Slytherins do go bad? They would never be accepted or trusted by what is perceived as the ‘good’ side, so they feel they have no other option. Sirius Black put it well when he told Harry that “the world isn’t divided into good people and Death Eaters,” something that never seems to be fully grasped.
In the Goblet of Fire, Professor Moody (obviously not him, but that’s what it’s easier to refer to him as) transfigures Draco Malfoy into a ferret, and bounces him down the corridor. Harry and friends all find this hilarious, Ron in particular. But this is a fourteen or fifteen year old boy (most likely fourteen) who is being thrown against hard, stone walls and surfaces. And yet, hardly anyone does anything. Professor McGonagall appears to be the only one who understands the severity of the situation, but even then no action is taken against Moody. He is allowed to keep his place at Hogwarts, none of the students appear frightened of him (except, understandably, Draco). If this had happened to any Gryffindor student, or even a Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw, the consequences would have been much more severe.
Finally, in the Deathly Hallows, the book preaches constantly a message of togetherness, and friendship. About being more than people expect you to be, about being a hero. And then JK, in my opinion, lets it all down at the end. The Slytherins have the option of staying and fighting, of proving the negative stereotypes wrong, and yet not one of them stays. Wouldn’t the book have had a stronger message over all if the Slytherins had proved everyone wrong? If at least one of them had fought for the side of Light?
Slytherins are associated with evil, this is true. But they have no one to rely on but each other, and are clearly more loyal, intelligent and stronger than any of the other Houses. And this is why I would be proud to be a Slytherin.