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Phineas Nigellus Black Character Analysis: Personality Traits, Family & Patronus

Phineas Nigellus Black Character Analysis: Personality Traits, Family & Patronus

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Phineas Nigellus Black is the great-great-grandfather of the infamous Sirius Black, godfather to Harry Potter. He was the least popular headmaster that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry ever had.

Phineas Nigellus Black never liked young people. He once complained that they are convinced that they know everything, despite having such limited experience.

A patriarch of the pureblood Black family, Phineas Nigellus Black was a member of Slytherin House during his time at Hogwarts. He seems to have believed, like house founder Salazar Slytherin, that magical knowledge should be reserved for pure-blood wizards.

We hear him using the derogatory term “mud-blood” on occasion. Nevertheless, he did not ban muggle-born students from Hogwarts during his time as headmaster.

Like all former headmasters of Hogwarts, Black’s portrait hangs in the headmaster’s office. There he is honor-bound to help the current headmaster. Phineas Nigellus sometimes does this reluctantly, when he feels like the current headmaster is wrong, and he isn’t afraid to criticize the current headmaster’s decisions.

Phineas Nigellus Black has another portrait hanging in the Black family home on Grimmauld Place, which later became the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. He was often called upon to carry messages between Sirius and the other Order members and Professor Dumbledore.

When Harry, Ron, and Hermione set out to hunt Horcruxes, they took Black’s portrait with them, hidden in Hermione’s enlarged bag. They kept the portrait covered most of the time so that Black could not reveal their location to the new headmaster Professor Snape, who the trio assumed was on the side of Lord Voldemort at the time.

Phineas Nigellus inadvertently helped the trio, dropping snippets of information, and also letting Professor Snape know their location. This allowed Severus Snape, who was secretly working against Lord Voldemort, to send them Gryffindor’s sword.

About Phineas Nigellus Black

Blood StatusPure-Blood
PatronusGreyhound (speculative)
Zodiac SignAquarius (speculative)

Phineas Nigellus Black Personality Type & Traits

Phineas Nigellus Black was keenly intelligent. But like many highly intelligent people, this made him intolerant of others. He once expressed that he hated teaching because “young people are so infernally convinced that they are right about everything”. These feelings often manifested in sarcasm.

After death, in the form of his portrait, Black continued to believe in his own superior intelligence. He was quick to criticize Dumbledore for charging Harry with getting Professor Slughorn to reveal secrets, which he thought Dumbledore could do better himself. He also calls Harry a coward when he plans to sneak away from the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix.

Phineas Nigellus Black Zodiac Sign & Birthday

J.K. Rowling never tells us Phineas Nigellus Black’s birthdate, so we do not know his Zodiac sign. Nevertheless, his personality traits suggest that he may have been an Aquarius. People born under this sign tend to be incredibly intelligent, and don’t they know it! Some Aquarians can have a tendency to look down their noses at others.

Aquarians are also highly independent and always follow their own instincts. This could explain why Black’s portrait is one of the few that is reluctant to help the current headmaster in all circumstances.

Aquarians also tend to be suspicious as a self-defense mechanism. This would explain his lack of trust in muggle-born wizards and tendency to see the worst in everyone.

Is Phineas Nigellus Black Pure Blood?

Phineas Nigellus is a member of the noble and most ancient House of Black. It is one of the oldest and wealthiest pure-blood wizarding families and one of the “sacred 28”. Phineas Nigellus would have been raised in an environment that venerated pure-blood wizards. The words “toujours pur” (always pure) are written on the family tree tapestry.

We hear Black refer to Hermione with the derogatory term “mud blood” when talking to Professor Snape. Snape demands that he refrain from using the insult.

Phineas Nigellus Black Wand, Patronus & Other Magical Qualities

Black Family Coat of Arms

We are told very little about Phineas Nigellus Black’s magical qualities, and we do not know what kind of wand he used or the form of his Patronus. But he must have been a talented and accomplished wizard to have been made a teacher, and then headmaster, of Hogwarts. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, he reveals that he has particular knowledge of Goblin metalwork.

Phineas Nigellus’ Patronus may have taken the form of a greyhound, as they feature prominently on the family crest drawn by Rowling. The Patronus of his great-great-grandson Sirius was also a dog.

Phineas Nigellus Black Family Tree

Black Family Tree Harry Potter

Phineas Nigellus is a member of the Black family, and we know much about his family tree because it is hanging in their family home at Grimmauld Place. He had five children and at least thirteen grandchildren. But when his great-great-grandsons Regulus and Sirius Black came to an end, so did the Black family name. The bloodline continues through female relatives.

Phineas Nigellus had five children, naming the first after his brother Sirius who dies as a young child. He named his second son Phineas after himself, and then had Cygnus, Belvina, and Arcturus. His children married into a variety of other pureblood families including the families Bulstrode, Burke, Crabbe, Crouch, Garnp, Lestrange, Longbottom, Malfoy, McMillan, Potter, Prewett, Rosier, and Yaxley.

The black family considered maintaining the purity of their bloodline incredibly important. They cast people out of the family when they broke with tradition. Phineas Nigellus’ sister Isla was disowned for marrying a muggle. Phineas Nigellus disowned his own son of the same name for supporting muggle rights.

Sirius Black, Phineas Nigellus’ great-great-grandson, ran away from the family because he did not agree with their way of thinking. His parents subsequently disowned him.

Who Did Phineas Nigellus Black Marry?

Phineas Nigellus married Ursula Flint, from another celebrated pureblood family. Together they had five children. Ursula means “little she bear”. The name is linked to the Greek myth of Callisto, a nymph who could turn into a bear. This suggests that Ursula’s Patronus may have been a bear.

Marcus Flint, the captain of the Slytherin Quidditch team in the early 1990s who played many games against Harry, may be one of her descendants.

How Did Phineas Nigellius Black Die?

We don’t know how Phineas Nigellus Black died, but it happened in 1925 when he was 77 or 78. There is nothing to suggest that anything violent or unusual happened to him. Nevertheless, this seems young for a wizard. Albus Dumbledore was 115 or 116 when he died.

Like all deceased Hogwarts headmasters, his portrait hangs in the headmaster’s office. There Black is charged with helping the sitting headmaster. He also has a portrait in his family home. He often moved between his portraits, carrying messages among other things.