Harry Potter Theory: The Moaning Myrtle Mystery
Chamber of Secrets has at it's core, a very intriguing mystery that haunts the characters as well as the readers throughout the book with several questions: Where is the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets? Who is the heir of Slytherin? What lies within the chamber?
Harry and Ron come to the conclusion late in the story that the key to these questions lies with a character that has been right in front of them the whole time: the ghost Moaning Myrtle. It's through the story of her death that they are able to uncover the truth of the entrance of the Chamber of Secrets: it's in the girls' bathroom. Of course they never would have been able to unlock the entrance without Harry's ability to speak Parseltongue, which was what led Hermione to figure out that the monster inside the Chamber was a Basilisk.
Harry and Ron only decided to interrogate Myrtle after they deduced that she had been the mortal victim of the monster when the Chamber was opened fifty years prior. They deduced this because they learned from Aragog that the victim was a girl found in a bathroom. But there are at least two people who know that Myrtle was the victim, and neither one could solve the mystery before Harry did. They are Hagrid, and of course, Dumbledore.
Hagrid would know who he was accused of murdering, of course, and Dumbledore would know that as well, as he taught at Hogwarts at the time. Dumbledore even vouched for Hagrid, believing in his innocence, which is what allowed him to stay at Hogwarts and work on the grounds, something that Hagrid forever thanked Dumbledore for. Ever since Myrtle's murder, Dumbledore became wary of Tom Riddle, as after his arrest of Hagrid, the attacks stopped. We don't know how Tom justified his discovery of Hagrid and Aragog, but since Dumbledore became suspicious of him, we can deduce Dumbledore was not convinced, there had to be something else. Of course, Riddle later became Voldemort. Even if he did not have confirmation, this should have led Dumbledore to be almost certain that it had been Riddle who had murdered Myrtle.
And yet the mystery remained, how had Myrtle died, and where was the Chamber of Secrets? Dumbledore had no idea. People then ask, "Why did Dumbledore never ask Myrtle how she died?". Well, he probably did. Let's take a look at Myrtle's story and see what Dumbledore could have deduced.
"Ooooh, it was dreadful, it happened right in here, in this very cubicle. I'd hidden because Olive Hornby was teasing me about my glasses. I was crying, and then I heard somebody come in. They said something in a different language but what surprised me was that it was a boy speaking. So I opened the door to tell him to use his own bathroom and then, I died. (...) I just remember seeing two big yellow eyes, my body freezing up, and suddenly I felt like I was floating."
Now, by just knowing this, i reckon Dumbledore would come to some conclusions:
- First of all, the legend of the Chamber features a monster, so despite no confirmation, Dumbledore would assume the monster had been the true killer, especially with the detail of the big yellow eyes, which probably would mean a non-human attacker;
- Having established that, both the Heir and the monster were in the room, the Heir was a boy, and he spoke and probably controled the monster in a different language;
- It is not 100% certain through the story that the entrance would be in the bathroom, maybe Dumbledore would find the snake in the sink, maybe not.
- The most mysterious part would be the detail of the eyes and here's why: we don't know the state of Myrtle's body, but a victim of the Basilisk's stare would probably not have any bruises. Yet Riddle would need to make Aragog, an Acromantula, look like the murderer. He could have ordered the Basilisk to mangle her a little, to stage the crime scene. This is probably something that J.K. never thought about, so we'll assume Myrtle's body had no physical marks of attack. Her body would look like the one of someone that had been hit by an Avada Kedavra, yet the detail of the eyes and the hint of a monster being the cause, would turn Dumbledore to an alternative answer.
So knowing all of this, it is possible that Dumbledore could have figured out the monster was the Basilisk, if he connected the eyes, with the unbruised body and the fact that the symbol of Slytherin is a snake (which also points to Parseltongue being the language needed to control the monster).
On the other hand, he could have also figured out that the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets was in the sink, if he asked Myrtle where she had seen the eyes, and looked closely enough. When he saw the snake, that would be another clue that the monster was snake-like, and that the language to enter was Parseltongue.
But of course, Dumbledore would never have been able to enter, since he doesn't speak Parseltongue, and I doubt he knew that the monster was a Basilisk, since there are no hints of that, plus it would be super irresponsible, for him to know and not tell anyone. He also probably didn't know about the entrance, since even after everyone discovers Harry is a Parselmouth, he still does nothing. He could know about the entrance, but not know Parseltongue was the password, but that would rely on him completely disregarding the snake in the sink.
So we can assume Dumbledore never found anything in the sink, and didn't know the Basilisk was the monster. You can ask: "Isn't Dumbledore super smart? How could he not figure this out, yet Harry and Ron and Hermione could?". Well there is a clue that only the trio possesses, but Dumbledore lacks, and that is that Harry can hear something inside the walls. That's what probably leads Hermione to look for a snake-like creature, and how she concludes that pipes is how the Basilisk roams the castle. It's also a hint that a bathroom is a nice place for an entrance, as it's a place with plenty of entrances to the sewer system of the school.
Ultimately this means that Harry could have spared himself and the students and faculty of Hogwarts a lot of trouble, by just telling Dumbledore he, and he alone, had heard a mysterious voice, talking about killing, near the places of the attacks. For Dumbledore that would be a piece of the puzzle through which he could figure out the Basilisk was the monster, that he roamed through the pipes, and that the bathroom was the entrance.
Finally, I would like to touch on a small point which is not that related with how no one found out about the Basilisk and the entrance, but more with the circumstances of Myrtle's death. There are several references to multiple attacks during Riddle's time as the Heir, but there's only one record of a death, Myrtle's. This means one of two things: either we're dealing with two very strange chains of coincidences that lead to multiple petrifications, but no deaths, or, Riddle never desired death to fall upon any of his victims when he was 15. I don't know of a way for someone to be attacked by a Basilisk and not die or be petrified, as a Basilisk's bite is lethal, so if Riddle's first victims did not die, he probably made it so that the attacks were in circumstances where the victims would only be pertrified. But then comes Myrtle, which screws this logic, or does it? Keep in mind, after Myrtle's death, Riddle faces going back to his orphanage, never to return to Hogwarts, which is something he badly does not want. It's what motivates him to frame Hagrid. Why then, would he order Myrtle's death, if he knows what that might lead to, in regards to Hogwarts? My guess is that Myrtle's death was an accident. Riddle went into the bathroom, thinking no one was inside. He opened the Chamber, either to go inside, or to send the Basilisk on another non-fatal attack, but upon Myrtle telling him to use his own bathroom, he realised she could never remain alive, as she would see the entrance, and thus ordered the Basilisk to kill her.
Was Myrtle's death planned by Tom Riddle, or was it an accident?
So these are my thoughts on the death of Moaning Myrtle and the mystery of the Chamber of Secrets. Go ahead and leave your thoughts on the comments below if you agree or disagree with me. As always, thank you for reading.
And if you liked this Hub, check out my other articles on Harry Potter mysteries. Thank you.