A Redditer posted a rather intriguing theory a few days ago that will certainly be of interest to all you Harry Potter readers out there.
It concerns the pure-blood wizard Salazar Slytherin, one of the four founders of Hogwarts during medieval times. Notably, he was the one that wasn't quite the fan of the Muggle-born wizarding population and the one responsible for the basilisk monster in the Chamber of Secrets. All in all, it's safe to say he was a bit of a dark, power-hungry character that you wouldn't like to get on the wrong side of.
And although we do have some indication of what he was like, we don't really know where he really came from. A Redditor has taken it upon themselves to investigate exactly this, and to figure out whether Salazar was in fact based on a real person from history!
The user claims that when re-reading the books, he/she came to the realization that Salazar Slytherin's name sounded slightly Arabic.
Yet, some research discovered that the name "Salazar" was a surname originating from Spain. Wikipedia informs us:
Salazar, sometimes spelled as Salasar, is a Basque surname meaning 'old hall' (from Castilian Sala (hall) and Basque zahar (old)). The name originates from the town of the same name: Salazar, in northern Burgos, Castile. Although nowadays northern Burgos is not a Basque-speaking region, it was during the early Middle Ages when the surname appeared.
Its origins are also related to a certain noble family, the Salazars, that held a fief in the area. During the 10th century, the surname appears as mentioned in Navarre, where it spread and there even exists a Salazar Valley. It later also spread to the rest of the Basque Country, being specially common in Biscay during the 15th century.
An interesting point to note here is that Salazar did not appear in Navarre until the 10th century. And Hogwarts was estimated to have been founded around this time.
Additionally, the name "old hall" is a perfect match for someone like Slytherin, who revered in 'old' values and traditions that permeated the wizarding community. In particular, the importance of having pure magic blood.
Another piece of evidence suggests a more precise location that the founder may have come from. The Sorting Hat at Hogwarts indicated that he came from "the fen." Looking at the entry for this on Wikipedia, we learn:
The word "fen" is derived from Old English 'fenn' ("mud, mire, dirt" or "fen, marsh, moor")
Fen means 'moor' - a terrain of uncultivated hill land OR a low-lying wetland.
Yet, "moor" could also refer to a group of peoples, in particular Spanish Muslims that settled in Spain and Portugal during the Middle Ages. Wiki adds:
The Moors were the medieval Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta. The Moors arrived in the Iberian Peninsula in 711 and called the territory Al-Andalus, an area which at its peak included what is today Gibraltar, most of Spain and Portugal, and parts of Southern France...
The Moors came from the North African country of Morocco and crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to get into the Iberian Peninsula. The Moors were initially of Arab and Berber descent at the time of the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in the early 8th century, but later came to include people of mixed heritage.
In the languages of Europe, a number of associated ethnic groups have been historically designated as "Moors". In the modern Iberian Peninsula, "Moor" is sometimes colloquially applied to any person from North Africa...
In fact, in literature, the word "moor" was definitely linked to an air of magic and mystery. These people were seen as exotic and mystical in their origin and nature. Just like Slytherin himself.
But, if he was a Moor and from North Africa, why was Salazar not dark-skinned?
Indeed, the one official painting we have of him indicates him as white-skinned with blue eyes, yet the portrait is never revealed to the reader. So, the theory stipulates that his skin color is never fully described in the books and claims that his 'whiteness' may be a modernized interpretation of what he might have looked like.
It is very possible that he might have had darker skin, especially considering he came from the Navarre part of Spain, ruled by Spanish Muslims at the time.
The link between Moors, skin color & magic
Let's take a look at this Wiki entry:
Beside its usage in historical context, Moor and Moorish (Italian and Spanish: moro, French: maure, Portuguese: mouro, Romanian: maur) is used to designate an ethnic group speaking the Hassaniya Arabic dialect.
Moreno can mean dark-skinned in Spain, Portugal, Brazil, and the Philippines...Among Spanish speakers, moro ("Moor") came to have a broader meaning...[it] refers to all things dark, as in "Moor", moreno, etc.
In Portugal and Spain, mouro (feminine, moura) may refer to supernatural beings known as enchanted moura, where "moor" implies 'alien' and 'non-Christian'...They were believed to have magical properties. From this root, the name moor is applied to unbaptized children, meaning not Christian. In Basque, mairu means 'moor', and also refers to a mythical people.
There is indeed our connection.
Slytherin's colors are green and silver
Another parallel can be taken from the Hogwarts house colors. We all know that Slytherin is represented by green and silver, and those who are familiar with the primary color of Islam will also know that it is also green.
Green (Arabic: أخضر) is considered the traditional color of Islam. The Arabic word for "greenness" is mentioned several times in the Quran, describing the state of the inhabitants of paradise.
And the interesting part is when it comes to snakes. The Reddit user claims that in the Quran, there are mentions of people talking with snakes.
Yet, if Salazar Slytherin was a Spanish Moor, why was he in Scotland with the other founders?
Apparently, the Sorting Hat holds the answer. The founders came from different parts of the world and traveled great distances to establish the great wizarding school.
History indicates that Slytherin probably had a good reason to leave his homeland of Spain in the early 900s. At the time, wars between the Christian rulers and the Muslim warlords were an often occurrence. The town Navarre in particular, which gave origin to the name "Salazar," was a hotbed of conflict.
Because of this, it would make sense to assume that Slytherin probably left the area to seek refuge elsewhere - bringing him to Scotland. Who knows - perhaps it was Godric Gryffindor that persuaded him to go there?
Whether it's true or not, I think it's a fascinating idea that I'm sure has got your brains working in overdrive! Well done to this wonderful Redditor for giving us something interesting to think about.