Books: An Honest Look at the Hogwarts Houses

Screenshot of Hogwarts castle from ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone'(2001). Copyright goes to Warner Bros. Pictures, Heyday Films, and 1492 Pictures.

Hey! Hallie here!

Sorting Hat quizzes definitely haven’t gone down in popularity since the entire ‘Harry Potter’ controversy happened. Recently a friend of mine sent me another Sorting Hat quiz, which isn’t a surprise, but what did catch me off guard was how differently everyone seems to view each of the Hogwarts houses. There’s always different ideas about what the houses represent or don’t represent. So I decided to look at the various sources the books, official websites, and fans have provided to see what the houses are about, and what people see them as now that the fans have pretty much taken them over. This will detail what each of the Hogwarts houses represent, but I in no way claim to know everything there is to know about each house. I would also like to point out that no test can pigeonhole your personality into one box. With that out of the way, let’s look at the houses.

Gryffindor: This house is known for their bravery. The traits the Sorting Hat gives Gryffindor specifically are brave, daring, and chivalrous. Let’s break this down a bit because all of these look like the same exact thing. In most instances they are used interchangeably. Bravery isn’t hard to understand. It’s the ability to face something that might bring you pain or discomfort. Daring is generally used more to describe someone who is adventurous. Chivalry refers to the knights code. This code can basically be summed up to: Stand up for those who can’t defend themselves. In other words, Gryffindor is a house of heroes. Gryffindor is about doing things that might make you nervous and trying things you’ve never tried and putting others needs before your own. This is why all of the main characters are in Gryffindor. Somewhere along the line, Gryffindor house became known in the fandom as the house of jocks. Because of the emphasis put on Gryffindors success in Quidditch in the books, and the tendency of both Harry and Ron to leap before they look, the fandom referred to this house as the sporty house where common sense isn’t so common. The fandom was content with that for a while, but after a few years there was a reemergence of the idea that every house is important and perhaps the more mean interpretations weren’t so accurate. After all, Hermione was in Gryffindor as well. Here we had the more widely known interpretation of Gryffindor. Gryffindors are brave and will stand up for what’s right at any cost. Sometimes this will cause them to neglect or offend those they’re close to who happen to disagree with them. But they tend to care for people and have a desire to protect them.

Hufflepuff: What the hell is a Hufflepuff? Well, Hufflepuff is the house that prioritizes, justness, loyalty, honesty, and hard work. This is easier to break down than Gryffindor. Justness describes the ability to be able to tell what is morally right. Loyalty is unwavering support of someone or something. Honesty comes out of the Sorting Hat describing Hufflepuffs as “true”. In general it is simply telling the truth. Hardworking is the last trait, which is described by the Sorting Hat as being “unafraid of toil”. Hufflepuffs are a combination of very desirable traits. They know what is right, are fierce supporters of their friends, try to be truthful in everything they do, and prioritize hard work. The books also gave Hufflepuff the unfortunate reputation of being dumb because of an offhanded remark by Hagrid, but the fandom found this more offensive than telling. Instead, the fandom gave Hufflepuff the reputation of being the nice house. While Helga Hufflepuff is described as “sweet” by the Sorting Hat, there really is no indication that a Hufflepuff must be nice to meet all of the above requirements. Which fans also seemed to notice because Hufflepuffs also began to get the reputation of being secretly violent as part of the “loyalty” trait. Hufflepuffs still have quite a bit of this representation, but more recently fans have started to put more of the hardworking aspect into the definition of Hufflepuff. Hufflepuffs are now known for being supportive with a strong moral compass, and an equally strong work ethic towards projects that would lead to the betterment of those they care about. This can cause them to neglect themselves, and they aren’t all people of the community, but they do at least have a bubble of people they work to make happy.

Ravenclaw: Ravenclaws are described as wise, witty, and knowledge-hungry. Wisdom can be broken down as the appearance of having experience or good judgement. Wit is described as keen intelligence. Being hungry for knowledge is described by the books as a desire to learn. Essentially, Ravenclaws were written to be sensical, generally smart, and willing to explore all different kinds of information. This house was written to be a house of very smart students who were more prone to studying than the other houses. The fans took this description and went a bit overboard with it. Ravenclaws were portrayed by the fandom as nerds who spent all their time obsessing over grades or reading. There was, and still is, also a reputation of being emotionless robots. I was surprised to find this specific trait in one of the more recent “good” Sorting Hat quizzes I took. When a more broad definition was accepted to include all of the people that had been sorted who weren’t like this, it’s reputation changed somewhat. Now Ravenclaws are seen as old souls who have either had a lot of life experience, or seem to have a lot of life experience. This is because they view the world in such a broad and imaginative way. They’re also known for being hyper-interested in specific subjects, but that doesn’t mean they’re interested in all subjects. Ravenclaws can be caught up in their heads fairly often, but their imaginations are enviable.

Slytherin: This is the house the fandom took over the most. The traits the books gave Slytherin’s were cunning and ambition. Cunning describes achieving what one wants by deceit. Yes, that is correct. The definition of cunning uses the word “deceit”. Ambition describes a strong desire to achieve success. The Sorting Hat speaks of Slytherins using any means to achieve that success, which considering the definition of cunning, doesn’t necessarily imply the best methods. Slytherin was written as the evil house. Plain and simple. Slytherins were bad mouthed throughout all the books for being willing to step over other people to get power. All of the Slytherins were locked in the dungeons by McGonagall during the Battle of Hogwarts, implying none of them fought in it. The fandom took this a few ways. First the fandom embraced Slytherins evil and many fans of the villainous characters placed themselves in Slytherin because of their love of those characters. Then the fandom, while seeing the positives in the other houses, decided to see more positives in Slytherin. Slytherins started to be correlated with the desire to work hard for your dreams. To lessen the blow of their seemingly selfish ideals, fans started to extend loyalty into Slytherin. Slytherin ended up adopting a lot of Hufflepuff traits, if you look at it. Slytherins now have the reputation of being big dreamers who work hard to make those dreams realities. They’re also known for being protective over those they care about, but the amount of people they care about tend to be a small group. They can be closed off, but they’re pretty warm once they let you in.

There’s something very important I want to leave you with before I sign off. No matter what house you’re in, or even if you think you’re in a different house than you were when I started, you are more than just the traits I described. You probably exhibit all of the traits from all of the houses, and more. Many people have noticed this. This is why there are so many theories on why the Sorting Hat chooses what house suits which person best. The point is, all of us are very similar and equally important. The books made the mistake of making the houses divided with several different rivalries. It also put forward a system where like-minded kids are kept in a group without exploring other mentalities. But as a fandom, we have grown past that. We have has conversations about our different mindsets and what we value and why we’re in the houses we’re in. We are all more than our house and there’s a lot more to explore about yourself to find your true personality. And you will know what that is better than any Sorting Hat.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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