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What do we mean by 'canon Snape'?

Sat Jan 9, 2010, 8:33 AM by Patilda:iconpatilda:
When we say "book Snape" or "canon Snape", we mean a Snape whose physical description and personality are similar to what we see in the books, or a plausible extension of what's there. Though we cannot be perfect as moderators, and there is some room for interpretation because not every detail across his whole life is laid out explicitly, there are certain characteristics that are described over and over again which we hope to see in your work.

Physically, Severus Snape is a thin man or a stringy, pallid boy. Unlike many other characters, he is never described as tall, so he is probably of about average height. He is a fairly young man, only 31-38 years old across the span of the seven books. He has a thin, sallow, and pale face, cold black eyes, shoulder-length greasy black hair that falls in "curtains", a prominent hooked nose with long nostrils, thin lips, uneven and yellowish teeth, and long, thin fingers. He bears the Dark Mark on the inside of his left forearm. He usually wears black robes and cloaks that tend to billow.

In terms of his personality and behavior, Severus is intelligent, cunning, private, loyal, devoted, protective, and courageous. He has considerable magical knowledge, skill, and power. He can say things and act in ways that are mean, unfair, or even cruel, but his bark tends to be worse than his bite unless he's defending himself or another person. He often uses sarcasm and has a dry sense of humor. He has a flair for the dramatic and for fancy little speeches. He doesn't often talk clearly about his feelings - unless something really pisses him off, in which case he can boil over like a cauldron and really give you a piece of his mind.

Ideally, the character in your piece should resemble the above descriptions strongly enough that we can recognize him as Severus Snape without having to refer to a title or explanation. Or to put it another way, if one gave a description of the person in your picture, it would reasonably match the words that J.K. Rowling wrote. (There is of course some "wiggle room" in pieces which are humorous, symbolic, or set in alternate universes/realities.)

None of this is to say that Severus has to be an ugly gargoyle or a twisted monster for us to consider him "canon". It is quite possible for Severus to appear attractive or sexy and to act in more positive ways. Also, we've deliberately chosen to ignore strict canon when it comes to the subject of romantic pairings, because we'd be cutting out huge areas of potential artwork and fiction if we insisted Severus never be paired up with anyone.

But we hope you can tell from the details above that it is hard for us to accept a portrayal which is handsome, square-jawed, and well-muscled, or broad-faced and plump, or a pretty romantic hero, or a sweet-faced nymph. Similarly, we don't find it likely the Severus in canon would act in "mushy", overly soft and romantic ways. Of course the man can fall in love, but he's not going to say it with tearful words and flowers! (Well, maybe asphodel and wormwood...)

We understand that a "canon Snape" is only an ideal we all aspire to and only what JKR herself writes can be considered "true". We probably will not decline a piece just for minor deviations from the canon description, although each of the voters has her sticking points. We are open to different artistic styles, too. But ultimately, the work we are looking for comes out of a love of the character as he is portrayed in the books, taking all his flaws and merits into account.

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:icondaughterrootless:
DaughterRootless Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I don't know where the private messaging is on your page so I'm just going to say this here.

about a week ago I submitted a fanfiction piece that was a crossover between universe of Silent Hill using Severus Snape as the main character. this was turned away from your group because of one or two scenes in particular where he loses his cool and resorts to cursing. I personally don't think that this was as out of character as some of the other artwork featured in this group. The argument was that he wouldn't lose his cool in that sort of situation. It was simply not book Canon for him to curse. What I don't understand is that if you're going by strictly book Canon why then are you allowing pairings ( such as Harry/Snape and Hermione/Snape) which are also not book cannon. just today a picture was featured of Harry and Snape standing next to each other on the beach half naked. Tell me where in the book that happened. the reason that it's gotten under my skin so much is because I spent quite a bit of time really trying to make the snape in my fanfiction believable, and I feel that it was unfairly judged. if I were to resubmit it could I please have more than just one person read over it and give me a response. Thank you so much for your time.
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:iconvizen:
Vizen Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2015
Hello. :)

What you say here is an old issue for us and we know that it is not simple at all.

If we accept only the strictly book canon Snapes, then our galleries would be almost empty. 

The illustrations of the books are quite rare and they are even less frequent with Snape, depicted in his strict book description.... However, many fan artists draw Snape in a rather canon way but in non-canon situations. As a result, our group doesn't try to feature a strictly canon Snape. It would not be possible, considering what the fandom is.  For the same reason we try to feature the fanfictions with what seem to us like a rather canon Snape in what may be non-canon settings. If we decline a fanfiction or a fanart (and we do decline many of them unfortunately), it happens because we think that in this alternative universe we cannot identify clearly enough what would be the original canon Snape. 

Unfortunately with fanfictions, it is more difficult than in drawings to decide what would be ''rather canon'' or 'rather not canon''. In drawings we only look at Snape's features (thin body, hooked nose, pale skin, black eyes, long dark hair - trying not to be too strict, again) and most of the time we ignore the rest of the picture. In fanfiction since we don't see Snape, it becomes more subjective (looking at the way he reacts, he speaks...). At some point when the universe is not Rowling's, it is hard to see if Snape is still Rowling's Snape, or a very personal Snape, or Rickman Snape, or another character, etc. In a crossover it is even more difficult, of course.

Very recently someone told me that the way I draw Snape is fanon and not canon. I was not surprised, not offended. We do have our own vision of canon, and we think that we remain canon when for the others we are way too fanon. We are not JK Rowlling, and we cannot say what is canon and what is fanon...Believe me, I have been a Snape lover for 9 years and I have seen so many interpretations of canon and of fanon. I am humble, I know that my Snape has longer hair sometimes, or that he is too EMO, or he his too tall, or too handsome. For this reason I would not pretend to be a perfect judge on canon/non canon Snapes - I just try to run a group with Snapes that would not be too different from his book description. It is not an easy purpose.

It is not an easy purpose, especially because we all love our vision of Snape and we give a lot of our soul to our fanarts or fanfictions. I understand you as I remember being deeply hurt when one Snape group rejected one of my fanart. Let me tell just that thing : the mods are only human beings, i.e subjective, and they just try to keep a consistent, focused vision for their group, and their particular vision may differ from your inner vision of Snape. Unfortunately it may be unfair in the end. 

Your fic was read by three people and not just by me (we need two or three votes to each submission). If you want us to re-read it and discuss it, please resubmit it.  :)
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:iconainelavena:
AineLavena Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2011   Writer
Am I the only one who is disturbed by the suggestion that Snape would approach love using asphodel and wormwood? As in, the two ingredients that combined "produce a sleeping potion so strong it is called the Draught of the Living Dead"?
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:iconshyfoxling:
shyfoxling Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2011
Haha! Someone actually read this! That's very pleasing to me, since I originally wrote most of it. (It got attached to =Patilda because of the habit around here of editing these standard/rules blog posts rather than deleting and reposting them.)

The angle on the mention of asphodel and wormwood was not the potion, but the "language of flowers". Many people have noticed that asphodel, among other things, is a kind of lily and wormwood means "bitter regret", and speculated that this was some kind of coded message either from Snape in-universe to Harry or from JKR to the reader.

Whatever the actual case there, my intent was mainly tongue-in-cheek. I was wink-wink hinting that if ever Severus were to give a flower bouquet, it could only be of these plants! In truth that wouldn't make a lot of sense either and it was just a kind of joke about the fact that he mentions these two plants so early on, and it's very associated with him in fandom. (My computer's two hard drives are called "Asphodel" and "Wormwood"!)
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:iconainelavena:
AineLavena Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2011   Writer
Oh, well that makes more sense and is infinitely less creepy :P I just didn't know asphodel and wormwood are actually flowers, and the first thing I thought was "Sleeping Potion" and "rape drug", which struck me as terribly creepy, even by Snape's standards XD
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:iconshyfoxling:
shyfoxling Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2011
Oh goodness, well... I suggest an acquaintance on Wikipedia level, at least. :) Wormwood, artemisia absinthium, is the main famous ingredient in the spirit absinthe, [link] and bitter to the taste. For asphodel, see [link] ("the asphodel is the one of the most famous of the plants connected with the dead and the underworld. Homer describes it as covering the great meadow (ἀσφόδελος λειμών), the haunt of the dead"). JKR may have fallen down in some places, but adapting real magical and plant lore isn't one of them. :)
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:iconpreseli:
Preseli Featured By Owner May 7, 2011
:iconhmmmpplz: It is a disturbing theory ... unnecessary ... but would certainly save the tedium of post-coital pillow talk ...
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:iconshyfoxling:
shyfoxling Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2011
I was just toodling around looking at the signature numbers on the main rules post, and clicked the link off to this one... this is sort of an old comment by now but you might be interested to see the reply I posted below.
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:iconwhitehound:
whitehound Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2010
Plus, he probably has heavy eyebrows and a fairly long face. Eileen Prince at fifteen is described as having heavy brows and a long face, and as an adult she's said to greatly resemble her son. She might pluck her brows as an adult, of course, but both Rowling's own drawings of Snape show him with heavy, arched eyebrows.
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:iconwhitehound:
whitehound Featured By Owner May 10, 2010
Oh, yeah, plus, the shape of his nose is such that he has "long nostrils".
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:iconwhitehound:
whitehound Featured By Owner May 2, 2010
In addition, as an adult he is visibly shorter than Sirius Black (who we are told is a tall man), yet not so much shorter that the difference is immediately obvious without seeing them side by side. He is able to look down into the face of Narcissa Malfoy (who is tall for a woman) when they are both standing on the same level, although it's possible she is sagging a little.
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