Even if you’re just a casual fan of Harry Potter, you’re more than likely to have strong impressions of the core characters in the franchise. In fact, J.K. Rowling has spun a world so full of magic that even those unacquainted with the Boy Who Lived are bound to remember key images and associations. There’s Harry and his lightning-shaped scar, Ron with his bright orange hair, and Hermione with her bushy brown mane. Of course, the heroes need a formidable antagonist to go up against to make an engaging story, and Voldemort is nothing short of memorable with his serpentine features and faithful snake companion, Nagini.
Not much was known about Nagini when she first appeared in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Our introduction to Voldemort’s slithering serpent was when she, Voldemort, and Peter Pettigrew returned to the Riddle House in Little Hangleton. Frank Bryce, the Riddles’ Muggle gardener, eavesdropped on the Dark Lord and was about to report him to the police when Nagini caught him. Eventually Voldemort ended his life, and Nagini ate his body. It was a pretty bold introduction to one of the most enigmatic figures in the Harry Potter universe.
With Nagini making a surprise appearance in the Fantastic Beasts film series, it’s time to revisit her past and dig into her secrets, some of which are sure to blow your mind. The list below contains spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, as well as the main book and movie series.
Here are 20 Weird Details About Nagini’s Anatomy.
20 She's A Witch
Let’s just get this giant revelation out right off the bat: in a baffling turn of events, it turns out Nagini was originally a human witch! We first learn about her true identity in the trailer for Fantastic Beasts 2. She’s a Maledictus, to be exact: someone who carries a blood curse that makes her turn into a snake. The blood curse made her a target for the wizarding circus, Circus Arcanus, who captured her.
Like many of Rowling’s surprise reveals, this one was also stirred up a lot of controversy. Having Claudia Kim portray the human version of Nagini means that an Asian woman is literally the pet of an evil wizard.
19 Her Blood Curse Is Hereditary
According to Rowling, Maledictuses are always women, and the curse is passed down from mother to daughter. We don’t know if Nagini ever has a secret daughter, but if she does, her child would’ve been doomed to turn into a snake as well.
At this point, Nagini is probably the most famous example of a blood curse carrier, but she’s far from the first introduced in the franchise. Astoria Greengrass— who eventually marries Draco Malfoy— also carries a blood curse that causes members of her family to perish at an early age. She’s not a Maledictus, but luckily, Scorpius doesn’t seem to have inherited his mother’s misfortune.
18 She Gets Stuck In Snake Form
Being a Maledictus might sound pretty rad at first. Who doesn’t want to be able to turn into an animal? While it might sound a tad like being an Animagus, it’s not nearly as benign as turning into your favorite animal at will.
First of all, you can’t pick and choose what your Maledictus animal is; it depends on the curse. Plus, even if you could control your transformations at first, you eventually lose control and get stuck as an animal permanently. Nagini eventually meets this fate, and it’s not clear whether or not she retains her human mind while in snake form, or if she loses her humanity as time passes. Either way, we’d much rather be an Animagus.
17 She Possessed Bathilda Bagshot
Harry doesn’t have a ton of enthusiasm for A History of Magic, one of the required texts for Hogwarts students. He got the name “Hedwig” from the book, and that’s pretty much it. Little did he know that the author Bathilda Bagshot would play a pivotal role in his quest to defeat Voldemort.
After Bathilda’s passing, Voldemort puts Nagini inside of the late historian’s body in order to lure Harry into a trap. It’s unknown how exactly Nagini is able to possess a deceased body, but she seems to be literally, physically inside of her. Nagini reveals herself by slithering out from Bathilda’s neck, and manages to bite Harry on the forearm before Hermione saves the day.
16 She Speaks Parseltongue
Not much is known about Nagini’s early life. We don’t even know if she received a formal education at a wizarding school. The witch’s animal form has led many Potterheads to strongly associate her with Slytherin House at Hogwarts. On top of that, she technically does speak Parseltongue, at least as a snake, which further bolsters her association with Slytherin.
Once Nagini permanently becomes a snake, Parseltongue is the only way in which she can communicate with humans. We see Voldemort giving her orders in the serpentine language, and it seems to be the only language she can speak even when inside of a human body, like when she communicates with Harry as she’s disguised as Bathilda.
15 She Gets Caught In Indonesia
Given the loaded and complicated history of travelling circuses and freak shows in our own universe, it’s probably not a surprise that the wizarding equivalent is hardly the most humanizing or ethical place. Nagini was captured in Indonesia and becomes an “attraction” in the wizarding circus Circus Arcanus, owned by Skender. This suggests that Nagini could be from Indonesia, but considering actor Claudia Kim is from South Korea, Nagini could’ve been simply travelling there when she got hunted down by Skender’s people.
Since Nagini has to attack Skender to escape with Credence, it’s safe to say that Skender is far from the most tolerant and understanding boss, keeping a tight leash on each of his “human oddities,” as he so charmingly calls them.
14 Her Body and Mind both change
Nagini joins Obscurial Gredence Barebone on his quest to find out his real identity, and it’s clear that the two are close friends. They are both present when Grindelwald holds rally at the Lestrange family’s mausoleum, where Nagini tries to convince Credence not to join the dark wizard. Credence doesn’t listen, and Nagini eventually joins Newt and Tina as the crew meet up with Dumbledore.
However, when we see Nagini in her permanent snake form, she’s no longer vehemently anti-Dark Arts. It’s unclear whether or not Nagini is under Voldemort’s control as she does his bidding or if she willingly chooses to do so, but her change in allegiance is just as mysterious as her physical transformation.
13 She Eats Humans
Frank Bryce is far from the only human that Nagini eats; in fact, her feeding on people seems like a rather common occurrence.
Charity Burbage is a professor of Muggle Studies at Hogwarts, and is adamant that Muggles are equals to witches and wizards. Her tolerant and progressive worldview leads her to be abducted by Voldemort’s Death Eaters. The official explanation for her disappearance is that she resigned, but she’s actually brought to Malfoy Manor. She’s suspended over a table as Voldemort holds a meeting, and eventually he takes her life and feeds her body to Nagini. Later on, Voldemort allows Rowle and Dolohov to choose between being eaten by Nagini or having Draco use the Cruciatus curse on them.
12 Voldemort never hurts her
As we quickly learn, Voldemort isn’t the most loving or understanding boss one could have. He regularly punishes his servants without mercy when they fail him. Even when he rewards Pettigrew for his loyalty and grants him a new hand, he plants a failsafe that makes the silver hand end Pettigrew’s life when he hesitates to follow Voldemort’s orders.
However, there’s one follower that seems to always escape unscathed: Nagini. Dumbledore even notes that Voldemort is unusually fond of her, and Nagini regularly coils around the Dark Lord. As a result, even when Nagini fails her crucial mission to capture Harry at Godric’s Hollow, we never see her receive any sort of punishment from Voldemort.
11 She's Huge
Nagini’s proven herself to be stealthy and sneaky, slithering into nooks and crannies (and human bodies) without being detected. However, your appreciation for her slyness would no doubt multiply tenfold when you remember that Nagini is absolutely ginormous.
Claudia Kim is almost 5 feet 10 inches, but as a snake, Nagini is a whopping twelve-feet behemoth and is apparently as thick as a man’s thigh. Sure, she’s far from the world’s longest snake, but coupled with her ferocious loyalty to Voldemort and dangerous venom, Nagini never fails to strike fear into the hearts of those who behold her. Now imagine her slithering about at Voldemort’s side— a spooky sight indeed.
10 Her Venom Prevents Wounds From Closing
Nagini has proven herself to be dangerous in combat. She’s extremely fast and has been able to hold her own against witches and wizards, coiling her giant body around Harry and trapping him in Godric’s Hollow. But her tremendous strength and dizzying speed aren’t the only formidable skills she has.
Her venom has the ability to slow the healing of a wound, as shown when Arthur Weasley struggles to recover from her bite. At St. Mungo’s Hospital, Arthur has to be injected with a Blood-Replenishing Potion every hour to compensate for his blood loss. The venom even dissolves Muggle stitches, making complete recuperation virtually impossible until Arthur finds an antidote. Other victims aren’t nearly as lucky, and end up passing away from blood loss.
9 She's Portrayed As A Reticulated Python
In the Harry Potter universe, Nagini is a venomous snake, but according to Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Book, the design team actually wanted to model her after the Burmese python. In the final two movies, Nagini is largely portrayed as a reticulated python like Medusa, the world’s longest snake.
Neither species of python are venomous, instead hunting their prey by literally squeezing the life out of them, but they can definitely end a human’s life and swallow them whole like Nagini. We don’t know what species of snake Nagini is— magical or otherwise— but we’re glad she doesn’t exist in real life. Her massive strength combined with her venom would be way too much to handle.
8 Her Venom Feeds Voldemort
Nagini’s venom is potentially lethal, but it also has the power to restore one’s energy when used with unicorn blood as part of a dark potion. After Voldemort’s attempt on Harry’s life, the Dark Lord is struck by his own curse when it rebounds, reducing him to vulnerable spirit state. However, he has Pettigrew prepare a concoction that allows him to gain a crude, skeletal physical form the size of an infant. The body is very fragile, but Voldemort can still hold a wand and perform magic.
Since Voldemort needs to drink the potion every few hours to maintain his body, Pettigrew has to milk Nagini’s venom until Voldemort regains a full body through a different ritual.
7 She Can Sense People Under Invisibility Cloaks
The Cloak of Invisibility is nothing short of astonishing. It’s resistant to most spells, including the Summoning Charm, and has retained it magic over seven centuries. However, the cloak doesn’t always ensure that the user can sneak around undetected. Users can still be sensed by Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody’s magical eye, the Marauder’s Map, and Nagini.
Nagini senses Harry and Hermione when the two go visit Bathilda in Godric’s Hollow under the Cloak, literally staring at the two. In Order of the Phoenix, she’s also able to detect Arthur, who’d been guarding the prophecy at the Department of Mysteries underneath an invisibility cloak.
Based on Harry’s “dream”, Nagini sees the outline of whoever is underneath the cloak and can taste their scent in the air.
6 She's A Horcrux
One of the reasons why Voldemort is able to survive his rebounded curse is because he had several Horcruxes. A Horcrux is created by splitting one’s soul and hiding it in another object or being, so that one can never truly perish. It’s an invention so evil that not even the book Magick Moste Evile would describe it.
According to Dumbledore, Nagini’s special bond and physical proximity to Voldemort could also be a result of her being one of his Horcruxes after Voldemort ends Bertha Jorkins’ life. Once Voldemort finds out that Harry and his allies are hunting down his Horcruxes, he puts Nagini into a magical protective orb to prevent her from getting hurt.
5 Voldemort Can Possess Her
Harry first finds out about Nagini’s attack on Arthur when he has a dream from Nagini’s perspective. He doesn’t just see what she sees either— he feels the same impulse to bite Arthur and seems to follow Nagini’s consciousness entirely. The assumption is that Voldemort can possess Nagini, and that Harry is able to see through Nagini’s eyes because of his direct connection to Voldemort. After all, Nagini and Voldemort have been shown to communicate over long distances, like when Harry hears Voldemort tell Nagini to hold him during the attack at Godric’s Hollow.
Another possible explanation is that Harry and Nagini share a direct link themselves, since they both contain fragments of Voldemort’s soul.
4 She Explodes In The Movie
Harry may be the star of the show, but who could ever forget Neville’s stunning character arc, as he learns that bravery doesn’t equal bravado? The painfully shy boy grows up to boldly defy Voldemort himself during the Battle of Hogwarts. He pulls out the Sword of Gryffindor from the Sorting Hat, and destroys the Dark Lord’s last Horcrux, Nagini, thus bringing Voldemort’s rein to an end.
In the movie, Neville aims for Nagini’s head, and as soon as the sword hits her, Nagini straight-up explodes in a spray. There’s also a little black wisp of smoke, signifying the demise of Voldemort’s last soul fragment. It makes for a stunning shot as Neville slices through Nagini, but we don’t know why she’d explode on contact.
3 She Collapses In Two Parts In The Book
In the book, on the other hand, there’s a more realistic portrayal of Nagini’s demise. Both she and Voldemort simply collapse onto the ground when they meet their respective ends. Nagini specifically falls lifelessly into two parts thanks to Neville’s sword-wielding skills. Having Nagini drop to the ground probably would’ve come off as anticlimactic, but the way she goes in the movie is a bit odd and inconsistent, since none of the other Horcruxes disappear into thin air after being destroyed.
One possible in-movie explanation could be that her status as a Maledictus means her snake form is different from a typical snake. Or perhaps her life ends differently because she is a living Horcrux, as opposed to an inanimate object holding Voldemort’s soul.
2 She Stills Answers To "Nagini"
Throughout the main series, Voldemort calls his serpent companion “Nagini,” which is later revealed to be the name she used as a human as well. This suggests that the two either met before she got turned into a snake permanently, or they met afterwards and Nagini told him her name in Parseltongue. The latter suggests that she retains her human mind even in permanent snake form.
One popular theory is that the two met while Voldemort was in exile in Albania after having his body destroyed when his curse on Harry backfired. Only snakes could tolerate having him in their bodies, so perhaps Nagini was one of his first hosts before he eventually settled in Quirrell’s body.
1 Kim Worked With A Contortionist
While Nagini technically switches between human and snake forms until she gets permanently transformed, Claudia Kim incorporated serpentine qualities in her performance as the human version of Nagini, with director David Yates giving directions like “2% more snake.”
While special effects were definitely used to bring Nagini’s transformations to life, Yates also wanted to make sure Kim’s performance conveyed the character’s struggle to keep her snake half inside. She eventually worked with a contortionist to better embody a woman who is effectively part-snake. Kim has shot to fame by playing one of the most recognizable serpents in pop culture, and even works with a live snake on set, but funnily enough, she admits she’s scared of them.
What are some other odd facts about Nagini's anatomy in Harry Potter? Share them in the comments!