If there is one thing the Harry Potter universe has an overabundance of, it's snakes. Whether it's Slytherin House, the basilisk, or Harry's affinity for a second language, there are just too many snakes. One of the most iconic slithering beasts in the whole series, though, is Voldemorts best buddy Nagini.
This serpentine being has been a part of the Harry Potter universe for a long time. The most recent installment, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald, revealed that Nagini had once been a woman involved in the first wizarding war. This multifaceted character has a history shrouded in mystery and one that not all fans are aware of. Take a deep dive into the murky life of Nagini with these ten facts most fans don't know.
The first in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is where Harry's story began. In this novel, we learn the basics: Harry is a wizard who somehow defeated a dark lord as an infant and is now on his way to begin his training in the art of witchcraft and wizardry. One of the first inklings of his power came on his cousin's birthday trip to the zoo. Here, Harry discovered his ability to communicate with snakes, and in doing so, released a Burmese python from his cage and trapped Dudley inside.
Many fans speculated that this very snake was actually Nagini's first appearance in the series. This theory was shut down by none other than J. K. Rowling herself. The author took to Twitter (the ultimate source for Potter canon nowadays) and denied this very persistent fan theory.
J. K. Rowling certainly has an affinity for names. Almost every character has a deeper meaning embued in their name. Remus Lupin's name, for example, traces back to multiple apt allegories. Lupin shares his first name with one of the twin founders of Rome who were raised by wolves. Lupin as a name derives from the Latin Lupinus which translates to "of a wolf".
Nagini is no different. Her etymological origins lie in both Indonesian and Indian Mythology. In Sanskrit, "Nagin" means "female snake". Mythologically speaking, Indonesian myth speaks of the Nagini, a creature who appeared as a half-woman half-snake being. This history aptly fits the character of Nagini, a shapeshifting woman and snake.
The Harry Potter franchise is full of beings and wizards who can change their form at will. Occasionally, Polyjuice Potion does the trick, turning the drinker into the shape of another. There are also Animagi, the most traditional shapeshifters. These individuals master sophisticated magic to change into the form of a single animal. The Marauders and Professor McGonagall are all Animagi.
When audiences learned that Nagini was once a human, many assumed that she was also an Animagus. Unfortunately, Nagini's case is far less controllable. Nagini was a Maledictus. These beings suffer a blood curse which eventually forces them to turn into an animal permanently.
At this point, little is factually known of Nagini's past between the Fantastic Beasts series and her first appearance in The Goblet of Fire. Since the series still has three more films to release, more concrete answers are sure to come. For the time being, fans must speculate as to how the pair met and became so close.
The books mention that after his defeat in Godric's Hollow and at the end of The Sorcerer's Stone, Voldemort retreated to the forests of Albania. At this point, it is safe to assume that Nagini and Voldemort met after this. The astral form of the Dark Lord was said to have embodied animals during his time in the forests. Few creatures could bear the possession apart from snakes. Because of their intimate psychic relationship, Nagini and Voldemort most likely met during this time.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child remains a point of contention among many fans. Many embraced it, especially those who were lucky enough to witness the live performance. Others felt somewhat alienated by both the new script format, retconning of the previous canon, and what many considered betrayals of characterization. No matter where audiences stand on the play, there is no denying that it offered additional Potter material to chew on, including an alternate future for Nagini.
In the production, Scorpius Malfoy and Albus Potter save Cedric Diggory's life during the Triwizard Tournament. Some way or another, this causes the entire course of the wizarding world to change. Cedric becomes a Death Eater, and kills Neville, thus saving Nagini from death. In this alternate future, Nagini survives and continues serving her master, the now living Voldemort.
More on this later, but Nagini has anatomical powers that do not seem natural whatsoever. Looking past the fact that she is a Maledictus, a Horcrux, and a psychic vessel for the dark lord, her venom appears to be of great importance. In service to his master, Wormtail must milk Nagini for her venom as it sustains Voldemort's withering life force.
Now, venom is not traditionally the healthiest nutritional substitute. As mentioned in the books, when Nagini bites Arthur Weasley, her venom causes his wounds to bleed profusely and take longer to heal. Somehow her toxin kept a decaying Voldemort healthy in the same way Unicorn Blood did. Perhaps it speaks more to how far gone Voldemort was, but it also could show that Nagini's snake form held more than just traditional poison.
The ability to speak to snakes in their own language, Parseltongue, is a gift shared by few in the wizarding world. Stigmatized thanks in part to dark wizards, it is an ability that most shun. Harry is the only decent person in the series to have this power, as the rest of the Parselmouths are believed to be evil. Nagini though, previous to her final transformation, could speak to snakes in the same way.
Since the reveal in Fantastic Beasts, audiences now know that Nagini was once a human. As a Maledictus, she could turn in and out of her snake form similar to an Animagus. Here being a Maledictus gave her the same ability as other Parselmouths. Like Voldemort and Harry, Nagini (in her human body) could speak to other snakes. This ability is sure to play a significant role in the future of the Fantastic Beasts franchise.
Nagini is not only Lord Voldemort's closest ally; she also shares a piece of his soul. As revealed in The Half-Blood Prince, Nagini is one of Voldemort's seven Horcruxes. As referenced in the series, each creation requires the death of another. Many have theorized as to whose death turned Nagini into another of Voldemort's Horcruxes, including Dumbledore himself.
Dumbledore theorized that it was none other than the murder of Frank Bryce, the caretaker of the old Riddle House, which allowed Voldemort to instill Nagini with a shard of his soul. This was not the case though, as J. K. Rowling herself would later clarify that it was actually the murder of Bertha Jorkins that triggered the Horcrux. Jorkins, as some might recall, was the ministry witch who went "missing" in the forests of Albania in The Goblet of Fire.
The revelation that Nagini had once been a human was one that shocked many. Out of nowhere, a whole new history was created for a character who many previously had given little thought towards. She was just a snake, after all. According to J. K. Rowling herself, she had created the idea of the Maledictus and Nagini's real identity years previously.
As previously mentioned, Twitter might as well rebrand itself as a sister-site to Pottermore. Once again the author revealed the news on her account after a fan had asked how long she had sat on the information. She responded with a definite: "Only for around twenty years."
One of the critical features of the Harry Potter franchise is its fantastical creatures. When your spin-off series is named after them, it's safe to say fantastic beasts play an important role. There are hundreds of strange monsters and creatures in this series, from dragons to merpeople. Nagini, although crucial, never seemed to be anything other than your run of the mill snake. Looking closer, it appears that she is an unknown and possibly magical species of snake.
Nagini has been described as multiple real-life snakes, including a Reticulated Python, a Dumeril's Ground Boa, and a Burmese Python. Although she shares traits with all three, none of these animals are inherently venomous. As mentioned earlier, Nagini's venom is an iconic facet of her character. This means that Nagini took the form of no known real-world snake. Perhaps this species, with its magical poison, is a fantastic beast that appears only in the wizarding world.