Ask any Harry Potter fan which Hogwarts house they think they’d belong to, and there’s a pretty good chance that their response will be “Gryffindor”. This is hardly a surprise; not only is it the house that Harry – along with Ron, Hermione and most of the other major supporting characters – was sorted into, but it’s also the house “where dwell the brave at heart”.
If you then toss Gryffindor’s reputation for good-natured mischief into the mix, you’re looking at the coolest student fraternity ever, magical or otherwise. But while Gryffindor is undeniably awesome, the adoration lavished upon it by so many fans often comes at the expense of discounting the positive qualities of other houses – most notably Huffepuff.
The Sorting Hat – that magical headgear responsible for deciding which students are placed where – even claims that house founder Helga Hufflepuff “took the rest” when selecting her charges, and that’s a view that seems shared by the general fandom. This is grossly unfair, however, and short-changes everyone who has ever worn a black-and-yellow scarf – including Newt Scamander, Cedric Diggory and Tonks – many of whom have proven themselves highly talented witches and wizards.
Here, I’m going to take a look at why we can’t all be Gryffindors, why there’s nothing wrong with being a Hufflepuff, and why we need to accept (and embrace) that we all possess traits representative of every house.
The limitations of the Sorting Hat
Right off the bat, let’s take a moment to agree that while the Sorting Hat is a necessary (and fun) plot device for the books, it’s not exactly the smartest way to handle what amounts to an administrative school matter. Even Professor Dumbledore acknowledges that sorting anyone – let alone young children a far cry from their fully developed adult selves – into houses is a somewhat flawed conceit.
One of the great unspoken problems at the heart of Sorting process is how wildly reductive it is. It’s also responsible for building echo chambers by grouping like-minded students together, and literally places labels on these kids and determines how they are expected to behave, which…seems like a bad idea.
Then there’s the anxiety Sorting can cause. Consider Ron, or Harry’s son Albus, who both experience a level of stress no 11 year old should have to face, solely because they desperately want to live up to their family legacy by being Sorted into Gryffindor. The allure of being part of Gryffindor brings us neatly back around to the deep rooted desire of us ordinary, muggle fans to be a part of Team Red And Gold mentioned earlier – but the simple truth is, not all of us can be.
We can’t all make the cut for Gryffindor
Of course, we’d all like to be in Gryffindor – even those contrarian types who claim to align with Slytherin house! After all, those of us who love fantasy adventure stories tend to place a pretty high importance on being brave. We’d all like to think we are (or could be) as courageous as Harry, Ron and Hermione, but the fact is, most of us aren’t.
Indeed, unlike the Boy Who Lived, we’d probably soil our Hogwarts robes at the first sign of a fire-breathing dragon or a soul-sucking Dementor! The fact of the matter is many of us are actually brainy Ravenclaws, calculating Slytherins and more often than not, seemingly unremarkable Hufflepuffs, rather than chivalrous Gryffindors – and there’s nothing wrong that.
Hufflepuff House: the quiet achievers
Seriously: there’s a lot to be said for being a member of Hufflepuff house! Let’s take a look at the traits of a typical Hufflepuff student, and see what makes them so special.
For starters, they’re incredibly hard-working. Like so many of the core qualities that Helga Hufflepuff admired, this is easily overlooked, but the willingness to put in a little elbow grease when required really is very admirable. Next, there’s Hufflepuffs are unfailing sense of fairness. Outside of kindness, this is probably the most underrated virtues someone can possess, and as with Hufflepuffs’ strong work ethic, it’s an attribute that often goes unnoticed.
Perhaps the greatest example of Hufflepuff’s good sportsmanship comes when Cedric Diggory is faced with the prospect of glory – not just for himself, but for his kudos-starved house – at the end of the Triwizard Tournament. Despite craving the adulation he would receive by claiming the Triwizard Cup for his own, he ultimately rejects it, because in his heart, he believes that Harry deserves it as much, if not more. It’s genuinely heart-breaking moment, and it showcases a different type of bravery – the ability to put aside your own desires to act justly towards others – that again, tends to go unremarked upon, but which we should all aspire to.
Lastly – and this is more implicit than openly stated – Hufflepuffs are balanced. By representing “the rest”, these guys have proven themselves to be capable of possessing any of the qualities associated with the other houses (just to a lesser extent). Take Newt Scamander, for instance. He’s brave enough to work with highly dangerous (fantastic) beasts and duel dark wizards, smart enough to conduct extensive and ultimately well-regarded scientific research, and ambitious enough to ensure that his work is published.
Combined with the hard work required to actually pen a lengthy magizoology tome – which clearly marks Newt as a Hufflepuff – the rest of the above examples reflect characteristics associated with the other three houses. This equilibrium is important, because it feeds directly into how we – as fans of the series – should approach the way we characterise ourselves and determine which house we think we should belong to.
Embracing your inner Hufflepuff
As hinted at earlier, the Sorting process falls down in large part due to how reductive it is, and this is as much the case when this methodology is applied to the Wizarding World or the muggle one.
To put it bluntly, it’s downright bonkers to suggest that anybody can (or should) be judged solely be a small handful of dominant personality traits – anyone can be capable of bravery, intelligence, fairness or pragmatism, even if these aren’t prominent aspects of their personal make-up. Likewise, we can all be cowardly, foolish, unfair or idealistic at times; we’re human, and being contradictory is in our nature. When it comes down to it, we all have a least a little bit of all four houses in us.
That’s why Hermione can be crazy smart and super studious – making her a natural fit for Ravenclaw, or even Hufflepuff – and yet wind up in Gryffindor. It also explains how Severus Snape can be immensely brave and still manage to exemplify all the attributes of a true Slytherin. So rather than thinking of ourselves as either a Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, a Hufflepuff or a Slytherin, but as belonging to all four houses, instead.
The trick is to identify which positive aspects of each house you find with yourself, and embracing them – and part of that involves accepting your inner Hufflepuff!