The story of Nagini in Harry Potter is not as simple as you might think. In the original movies, you could write her off as the sort of evil snake companion fantasy stories have featured countless times over the years, but there’s a lot more to Voldemort’s serpentine soulmate than just fangs and venom.
Nagini’s tangled story spans the Harry Potter series and the new movies of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which introduced new dimensions to the most slippery of Harry Potter villains. So come with us on a ride into the circuses of Paris and the dark forests of Albania to find out how Nagini really ended up by Voldemort‘s side.
Who is Nagini in Harry Potter?
Nagini is Voldemort’s trusted snake companion, who also became one of his Horcruxes.
We first met Nagini in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in which she accompanied the weakened Voldemort in the opening scene. She was then a constant presence after the Dark Lord’s resurrection, appearing at his side whenever he met with his Death Eaters.
Voldemort used Nagini to carry out several attacks during the course of the franchise, including on Arthur Weasley and the murder of Severus Snape, and he would also offer her the chance to eat many of his own victims after their deaths. He’d also threaten just about anybody with being fed to Nagini. If we had a bloody great snake buddy, we’d probably make those threats, too.
In the final few movies, we learned that Nagini was one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes and contained a part of his fractured soul. This deepened their bond, but it also led to Nagini’s death in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. More on that later.
Just when we thought we knew everything there was to know about Nagini, the Fantastic Beasts franchise threw us a massive curveball. In The Crimes of Grindelwald, we learn that Nagini was originally a human woman.
She was revealed to be a Maledictus – a victim of a blood curse, which would ultimately transform her into a snake permanently. That’s how she went from being a circus performer in 1920s Paris to a murderous snake in 1990s Britain. It’s quite the journey and along the way, she met up with a devilish dark wizard.
Why did Nagini join up with Voldemort?
Nagini was likely possessed or befriended by Voldemort during his time in Albania before his rebirth. Their bond was solidified when he put part of his soul into her as a Horcrux.
There hasn’t been any official explanation for how Voldemort and Nagini first met, but we’ve read the books and watched the Harry Potter movies in order enough times to have a theory or two. The answer lies immediately before we first see Nagini in Goblet of Fire, by which point some of her venom is used to help with Voldemort’s resurrection.
We know that the diminished Lord Voldemort spent most of the time prior to Goblet of Fire hiding out in the Albanian forests. That’s when he first met and possessed Professor Quirrell, and he returned there after Peter Pettigrew rejoined the cause following the events of Prisoner of Azkaban.
That happened just shy of 50 years after the events of Fantastic Beasts 2, which would mean that Nagini had likely been trapped as a snake for many years. It would be a lonely life for anybody, and so we can imagine how welcome it’d be to meet someone who could speak Parseltongue, bringing the sort of human connection she hadn’t had for years.
Nagini was almost certainly unaware of Voldemort’s evil at this time, bonding with him just as she did with Credence Barebone in the Fantastic Beasts movies. There’s a Harry Potter TV series on the way, and we hope that gives us more info about how their unique relationship came about.
Their connection became even more certain when Voldemort killed the Ministry of Magic official Bertha Jorkins in Albania, using that murder to make Nagini his only (deliberately created) living Horcrux.
Obviously, being a Horcrux doesn’t guarantee a personal connection. We know that Harry Potter was a Horcrux, for example, and he certainly didn’t have much love for the Dark Lord. However, we can believe that Nagini had been won over to Voldemort’s cause by then, with decades as a snake creating a certain prejudice towards Muggles. Becoming a Horcrux simply deepened their telepathic bond, ensuring the duo would be at each other’s side until the end.
Why was Nagini a human in Fantastic Beasts?
In the Fantastic Beasts movies, we learned that Nagini was born as a human but became a Maledictus due to a curse. She became a female circus performer who could transform into a snake, knowing the curse would eventually make her a serpent permanently.
The Harry Potter author claimed in 2018 that she had always had this unusual back-story in mind for Nagini. While this sounds like a classic bit of myth-making, it’s worth noting that “Curse of Nagini” was a title patented as early as 2006. This practice was often used in the era of the books’ publication to throw sleuths off the scent of the real titles, but there must have been something in mind.
Nagini, played in human form by Korean actor Claudia Kim, is introduced in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald as one of the Harry Potter characters performing at Circus Arcanus in Paris in 1927. It’s here we are told that she’s a Maledictus, which was a new, horrible, magical concept for us all to learn about.
After years of mistreatment by the impresario behind the circus, Nagini breaks free with the help of Credence Barebone, and the two form a relationship. She ultimately parts from Credence when he is seduced by Grindelwald‘s evil, joining the side of our heroes.
That’s the last we saw of her in the franchise, with Kim and Nagini absent from The Secrets of Dumbledore. The movie was filmed during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, while Kim gave birth to her first child in October 2020. As a result, she was not available to rejoin the Harry Potter cast again for the third movie in the franchise. If she was ever a part of the story – and we’re sure she would’ve been – then she had to be written out.
Nagini’s story remains unfinished, with Fantastic Beasts director David Yates confirming in October 2023 that the franchise is “parked” for now. But we have hope that the Fantastic Beasts 4 release date will eventually arrive, bringing more details of Nagini’s origin story.
Is Nagini based on mythology?
The Harry Potter author has revealed that Nagini was inspired by the snake-like Naga creatures from Indonesian mythology.
There are equivalents of the Naga in various Asian mythologies. They are half-human and half-serpent creatures of the underworld who are capable of taking a human form. The female equivalent of Naga? You guessed it: Nagini.
In the Indonesian mythology specifically mentioned by the author, Naga is depicted as enormous magical snakes, sometimes with crowns and wings. So, if the Fantastic Beasts franchise really wants to turn Nagini into something special, they’ve got some extravagant options.
Away from Potter, there’s a serpent god called Naga in the 2021 movie Batman: Soul of the Dragon. You can also find Naga in both Dungeons & Dragons and World of Warcraft, so they have slithered their way through popular culture far beyond the Wizarding World.
How did Nagini die?
Neville Longbottom beheaded Nagini during the Battle of Hogwarts. He used the Sword of Gryffindor to destroy the Horcrux within her.
Nagini was the last of the Horcruxes to fall, with Voldemort keeping her encased in a ball of magical protection when he believed that Harry was getting closer to taking him on as a mortal. Once old Voldy believed he had killed Harry, though, he let Nagini loose in Hogwarts.
Neville Longbottom had managed to pull the Sword of Gryffindor from the Sorting Hat, showing he was in the right Harry Potter house all along, and he used the blade to decapitate Nagini. Of course, that blade was impregnated with basilisk venom, which gave it the power to destroy Horcruxes for good.
That’s everything we know about Nagini for now, though we’re anticipating more details if Fantastic Beasts ever makes its grand return. In the meantime, you can learn more about Dementors and find out why this violent Harry Potter scene almost pushed it too far.
Alternatively, read about the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child movie release date. We think it could be one of the best movies in the Wizarding World franchise, as long as the Cursed Child movie is a gay romance. You know it makes sense.
The creator of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling, has made a number of transphobic remarks on social media in recent years. If you’d like to learn more about transgender equality or lend your support, here are two charities we encourage you to visit: the National Center for Transgender Equality in the US and Mermaids in the UK.