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Published: 11/20/2006
Updated: 11/20/2006
Words: 1,420
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Toby or not Toby?


Story Summary:
Everything you(n)ever wanted to know about Severus Snape's father

Chapter 01


Toby or not Toby?

By JoTwo


This paper is the companion to my previous essay Come on Eileen. In that composition I examined what we know and what we can deduce about Severus Snape's mother. I analysed her because parents obviously have some impact on shaping the personality of their offspring. By this reasoning his father must have affected Severus as well. Therefore in this essay I am doing the same for Tobias.

Canon facts about Tobias Snape

  • In HBP Hermione found a tiny announcement about Eileen Prince marrying a man called Tobias Snape in an old Daily Prophet.

  • According to Hermione, Tobias Snape was a Muggle from what it said in the Prophet.

I think this is probably accurate because for Snape to be a half-blood he has to have some Muggle relations. Eileen attended Hogwarts so she was obviously a witch. Therefore it is more likely that the Muggle ancestry came from his father.

(I know some people theorise that Tobias may have been a Squib but I think this is unlikely. A squib can't do magic any more than a Muggle but they are still descendants of wizarding families.

I don't think Tobias was a Muggle-born wizard either. Although Harry is a half-blood because Lily was Muggle-born it's more straightforward for Snape to be the result of a witch/Muggle union. Until we're told otherwise I'm going to accept that that the conversation between Harry and Hermione was used by JKR to give us the facts.)

  • In OOP Harry sees into Snape's memories and observes this vignette.

"a hook-nosed man was shouting at a cowering woman, while a small dark-haired boy cried in a corner...".

Harry assumes that this scene showed Snape's childhood.

Name meanings


Tobias comes from Hebrew and there's a character in a non-canonical book of the Old Testament, the Book of Tobias or Book of Tobit, called that. The name means "God is good" or "the Lord is good" or "consecrated to God". There is probably no direct Biblical allusion.

In the north of England there were lots of protestants who were members of non-conformist churches (i. e. not the established state church officially under the rule of the British monarch, the Church of England) often referred to as "Chapel". Old Testament names were often used by non-conformists. (There's a fanfic on FA called A Little Prince where Tobias comes from precisely this mileau).

On Mugglenet, someone mentioned this fascinating historical fact. In the sixteenth century there was an unattractive witch called Ursula Southeill from Knaresborough, Yorkshire. She married an ordinary, unmagical carpenter called Tobias and became known to posterity under her married name of Old Mother Shipton.

JKR may thus have chosen Tobias as the name of Snape's father because he was non-magical. She seems to imply that Eileen wasn't particularly attractive too.

Again on Mugglenet it was pointed out that his name can also be split into "to bias Snape" and it could reflect his role in turning Severus against Muggles.


One meaning of Snape is "to be hard upon, rebuke, snub". It originated circa 1300 and derives from the old Norse sneypa. Professor Snape is certainly hard upon his pupils. The same could certainly apply to a man shouting at his wife.

There are also places called Snape, including one in Yorkshire.

Conjectures about Tobias Snape

I'm convinced that the hook-nosed man in the OOP memory who was shouting at the cowering woman was Tobias Snape. However I know some people think it could be the father or brother of Snape's mother ranting at her for disgracing her pure-blood family. The hooked nose shows that this man is biologically connected to Severus. In JKR's unflattering description of Eileen her nose is not mentioned at all. This implies to me that it is not a trait from the Prince family and that Severus has his father's nose.

Plus I think JKR has enough loose ends to tie up in book 7 without unnecessarily complicating Snape's background by revealing that the shouting, hook-nosed man wasn't his father.

Accepting that Tobias is the shouting man then I think that JKR wouldn't have included this memory if it were atypical. She was probably trying to tell readers that Snape came from an unhappy home in the most economical way using the memory as shorthand.

Therefore I think Tobias was often angry and he took out his rage on his wife.

I also think that Severus's father was aggressive and unloving as it fits a pattern that JKR herself has pointed out. She commented in the interview with Time magazine when HBP was released that as she looked back at the first five books she realised there was 'a litany of bad fathers' and that this seemed to be the root of evil.

Now I'm one of the people who thinks/hopes that Snape is not evil and there was a logical reason for him killing Dumbledore. However, he did join the Death Eaters in his youth so he was involved with evil at one time in his life.

JKR's comment makes me even more convinced that Tobias Snape was a cruel husband and father, and he was at least one of the bad influences on Severus that made him go astray.

I've read fanfics where Severus Snape's father was a drunk and/or brutally beats up his wife and child. In some he ends up murdering Snape's mother. There's no evidence for or against alcohol abuse. Personally, while I think Tobias was domineering and aggressive I don't think JKR's childhood background for Severus is quite that extreme, as it wouldn't go with her style. Harry was unloved, locked up and neglected by the Dursleys, rather than physically abused. It wasn't pleasant growing up in an orphange, but Tom Riddle was reasonably well cared for by overworked staff rather than suffering institutionalised abuse. The worst case of domestic abuse we've seen in canon is the Gaunts. I suspect Eileen and Severus received a Muggle version of the kind of treatment Merope received from Marvolo and Morfin.

I've also read fanfics where Snape snaps or takes revenge by killing his father. There is no evidence for this in canon. We already have parricides in Tom Marvolo Riddle and Barty Crouch Jr so I don't really think we need any more.

We don't know why Tobias married Eileen. She was described as not being pretty or much of a looker, so perhaps she accepted Tobias because he was a man, even if he was a Muggle. It was better than being left on the shelf. (Personally I hope this wasn't the case. It would be rather sexist that unattractive women in canon have to put up with not even second best. There are lots of people in real life, male and female, who aren't pretty or handsome but who settle down with a partner who loves them and whom they love.)

Another theory is that Eileen did what Merope did, and Tobias married her because she gave him a love potion. The evidence for this one is that Eileen did NEWT Potions, assuming she was the book's original owner, so she could probably have made one. Merope wasn't attractive and thus there is canon for women who aren't good looking resorting to desperate measures. Also going back to old Mother Shipton, she was rumoured to have used a love potion to get her husband.

Assuming that the house in Spinner's End was Snape's childhood home, as it is in a rundown Muggle industrial area then Tobias was probably working class. He may well have worked in the mill.

This would also fit with a Yorkshire background, as most mill towns were in the north of England, although it could also have been in Lancashire

The only other occupation I can think of for Tobias is carpenter like Mr Shipton.

If we're right in presuming Spinner's End is Snape's childhood home then it looks like his parents no longer live there. Eileen and Tobias could thus well be dead. As Snape is portrayed as an isolated character it would also fit for him to have no emotional ties any more.


We know even less in canon about Tobias than we do about Eileen. I think it is unlikely that JKR will have time to tell us more about them in book 7. The only way we will possibly find out any more is if JKR does publish an encyclopaedia about the background to the world of Harry Potter.