Sorting Hat Saturday: Star Wars

Luke Skywalker: Ravenclaw. While Luke has some traits of every house, his inner journey is essentially the journey of a young boy searching for truth. Having spent his whole life on his aunt and uncle’s farm, he gazes at the horizon, dreaming about what’s out there beyond the two suns of his home planet. While this could be interpreted as a Gryffindor quality, a longing for adventure and heroism, remember how reluctant he was at first to get involved with the Rebellion. I think it must have been more of a longing to see and experience something beyond the limited, monotonous world he was raised in. To discover that “bright center of the universe” he believes Tattooine is farthest from. His inner growth throughout the three movies is all about learning, about gaining knowledge and wisdom, and about uncovering secrets that have been hidden from him. Luke agrees to let Obi-Wan teach him to be a Jedi, and later leaves the Rebellion to find Yoda and continue his training, so this is clearly something that is important to him. He even puts up with Yoda’s criticisms and frustrating idiosyncrasies because he believes that he can learn something from the strange old creature. When he discovers that Darth Vader is his father, he seems to care less that his father is someone so horrible and more that his two most trusted mentor figures lied to him. In the end, he becomes an intelligent, intuitive young man who trusts his instincts and is wise enough not to fall for the Emperor’s manipulations. He pieces together his own, more complete version of the truth from the many different “certain points of view” he is given, and he emerges with a balanced view of the world that cannot easily be corrupted.

Leia Organa: Gryffindor. Far from being a damsel in distress, Leia is a fiery warrior princess. Like many Gryffindors, she believes strongly in her cause and is willing to die for it if necessary. She stands up to her captors in A New Hope and refuses to betray the location of the rebel base even under implied torture and extreme emotional manipulation. She’s more than capable of holding her own in battle, although her role in the Rebellion seems to be more political and she takes part in only a few of the large-scale fights. There are moments when Leia’s strategic side shows and she reveals a Ravenclaw or even Slytherin edge, a leader who can put her own feelings aside. For instance, locking Luke and Han out of the rebel base on Hoth was not exactly a Gryffindor move, and I don’t mean that it was cowardly. I just mean that it’s a logical, strategic decision that was necessary to keep the rest of the Rebels safe, not an emotion-driven, rush-into-danger-impulsively Gryffindor choice. However, even here, her motivation is her loyalty to her cause, and her decision is a selfless one. On the whole, she’s a bold, brave Gryffindor who will fight tooth and nail for what she believes in.

Han Solo: Slytherin. Ironically, in the situation on Hoth that I mentioned above, Han is the one doing the Gryffindor thing, rushing into danger to try to save a close friend. However, there are very, very few people he would be willing to do that for, and the fact that he does so for Luke shows just how much he respects and cares for him. Han’s whole modus operendi is to look out for himself first, and Luke, Leia, and Chewbacca are unique in that they’re just about the only exceptions to that rule. Even when he joins the rebellion, it’s more about him being there for them than about him suddenly becoming a selfless and idealistic Gryffindor or a loyal, hard-working Hufflepuff.

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Hufflepuff. It would be so easy to call him a Ravenclaw just by virtue of the wise old mentor archetype, but then again, Dumbledore himself was one of those, and he was a Gryffindor. Obi-Wan values loyalty more than truth or knowledge. He sees missing data from the Jedi archives as simply an inconvenience to his mission, whereas a Ravenclaw would have been morally outraged at the thought of important information being covered up. Likewise, he plays his own part in covering up information when he tells Luke that Darth Vader killed his father. He easily rejects personal attachments in favor of loyalty to the Jedi as a whole and accepts their Code without ever really questioning it. He begs Yoda not to make him face his former friend and apprentice, but when he is ordered to, he goes through with it despite his reluctance, stopping just short of killing Vader. Many years later, he serenely sacrifices his own life for the greater good and makes plans for Yoda to continue Luke’s training. He sees himself as a piece of something greater than himself, and he is driven by loyalty and duty above all else.

Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker: Gryffindor. Darth Vader may be the villain, but he has very few Slytherin traits. For one thing, he has almost no ambition. While his younger self gave lip service to becoming “greater than any Jedi”, that power he’s craving is not the kind he ends up with under the Empire. He seems more focused on being able to decide how to live his own life, love who he loves without having to hide it, and protect the people he is closest to from dying. Those are not really Slytherin goals. He’s not particularly cunning, either. It’s the Emperor who comes up with all the grand schemes, in which Darth Vader is really little more than a pawn. As a young man, he had little patience with the diplomacy and negotiation that Padme insisted was necessary to democracy. He doesn’t think through his actions, and he doesn’t really stand for anything, which is why he’s so easily drawn into the Dark Side. But impulsive heroics and a deep-seated need to save everybody are Gryffindor traits, ones that can be seen in Harry himself, even if in this case they are tragic flaws that lead to his downfall. My only hesitation is that Gryffindors usually have some kind of guiding beliefs or moral compass; however, this the one Gryffindor villain from the Harry Potter books is likewise lacking in this, and that is what leads him to the Dark Side as well. At least, unlike Peter Pettigrew, Darth Vader retains his bravery and impulsive nature after his fall from grace.

Padme Amidala: Hufflepuff. Probably the most difficult character to sort, Padme is a bit of everything. She’s intelligent, but her priorities are not centered around knowledge, truth, or wisdom. She’s strategic, but only in a selfless, ideal-driven way, much like Leia. She’s courageous, but she prefers to find a diplomatic solution rather than fight it out on a battlefield. I think her strongest trait is her loyalty: to the people who elected her, to the Republic in general, to the idea of democracy, and to her boyfriend/husband. It’s when these loyalties come into conflict that she is undone.

Yoda: Slytherin. Not for ambition, but for cunning. Yoda is nothing if not cunning. While he’s certainly wise and intelligent enough to be a Ravenclaw, he’s also very pragmatic. For one thing, he’s able to separate himself completely from emotions and personal affections, making decisions purely based on logic. While this is a Jedi thing in general, it comes far more easily to him than to anyone else, even the loyal Hufflepuff Obi-Wan. He’s also good at telling people exactly what they need to hear so that they will do what he wants; for example, he does not tell Luke the true identity of his father so that it will be easier for him to fight and kill Darth Vader. He’s clever enough to trick and test Luke when they first meet, convincing him that he is only an ordinary swamp-dwelling creature agreeing to take him to Yoda before revealing his true identity. And while he’s not driven by ambition, he has no problem with the suggestion that the Jedi take control of the Senate after getting rid of Palpatine.

Emperor Palpatine: Slytherin. Of the very worst kind: power-hungry, ruthless, and manipulative. I’m not sure what else there is to say here. There’s not a single thing he does that isn’t 100% pure Slytherin villainy.

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Sorting Hat Saturday: Renegades

This past week, I read Renegades, by Marissa Meyer, and wrote a review of it over on my book blog. Of course, being the Harry Potter fan that I am, I couldn’t help thinking the main characters’ conflicts came down to this: she’s a Ravenclaw trying to be a Slytherin, and he’s a Hufflepuff trying to be a Gryffindor.

Nova was raised by the Anarchists, a group of self-proclaimed villains who are definitely Slytherins, almost every one of them. They’re cunning and ambitious to the extreme. After losing control of the city to the Renegades, they live in the shadows for years and years, plotting their return to power. They’re absolutely ruthless, willing to resort to any means necessary to achieve their goals. They look after their own, much like Slytherins are said to on Pottermore, murdering and blackmailing in order to keep each other safe. However, there are a few more Voldemort-like types, who have no affection even for their partners in crime and care only for themselves. Nova does her best to fit in among these people and has gotten to be very good at it. She can be sneaky and subtle when she needs to. Yet, at her core, she doesn’t have any of their ambition and is not nearly as ruthless. She’s a brilliant inventor, designing everything from weapons to gloves that allow her to scale the side of a building to a working elevator for her dollhouse when she was a little girl. She’s happy to have philosophical discussions with the people she’s supposed to be spying on, has her own opinions that are not necessarily those of the group she is loyal to, and becomes more and more conflicted as she realizes she has not been given the whole truth. She is quiet and contemplative, a creative thinker, and an individual who has never had the chance to really define herself before. She has taken on the traits of her adopted family, but those slowly peel away over the course of the book, and she becomes less Slytherin and more Ravenclaw as it goes on.

Adrian was raised by the leaders of the Renegades, a group of self-proclaimed superheroes who rule the city. While nominally heroic, the Renegades have taken on Gryffindor traits taken to their worst extremes. They are proud and condescending, believing that they truly know better than the ordinary people and deserve to be in charge. They enjoy being famous and admired, and Adrian believes they’ve lost sight of what they originally stood for. He believes strongly in justice, which is one of the core Hufflepuff values, and is very much a team player, viewing the other members of his team as equals rather than followers. He doesn’t see his powers as making him any better than the ordinary people. He believes in helping and protecting the ordinary people caught in the crossfires of their war with the Anarchists, but he doesn’t have any interest in dominating those people or being worshiped by them. While he’s very brave – a product of his life as part of a very Gryffindor organization – his core values and beliefs are more Hufflepuff, and even his loyalty to the Renegades is more Hufflepuff (because they’re his friends and family) than Gryffindor (because they’re right).

Linking Voldemort and Grindelwald

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In this recently-released image from The Crimes of Grindelwald, Grindelwald is shown accompanied by Vinda Rosier, one of his supporters. The name should sound familiar to Harry Potter fans, since she shares last name of several minor characters in the original series, all of which have some connection to Voldemort.

Vinda Rosier and Leta Lestrange both seem to be Grindelwald supporters, which in a way is surprising, because Deathly Hallows makes it sound like Grindelwald was never powerful in Britain. It makes sense for some British wizards and witches to think he has the right idea, but his army should be mainly Durmstrang and Beaubatons graduates, not previous generations of Slytherin/Death Eater families.

However, Grindelwald is sort of a precursor to Voldemort. Their goals and methods are slightly different, but they are united in their belief that wizards are superior to muggles and that “pure-blood” wizards are superior to muggle-borns. In that way, it makes sense that a few of the ancestors of the Death Eaters would be drawn to Grindelwald just as their descendants are later drawn to Voldemort.

Which brings me back to the Rosiers. Although they’re not a prominent Death Eater family like the Malfoys or Lestranges, they’re woven into so much of the backstory that they were almost certainly important in a behind-the-scenes way.

Tom Riddle Jr. was born December 31, 1926, not long after the events of the first Fantastic Beasts movie.  At this point, he’s a very young child growing up in a muggle orphanage. Therefore, the unnamed Rosier who was one of his school peers would also be an infant or be born very soon. Could Vinda be his mother? If so, then he would grow up surrounded by Grindelwald supporters and longing for the day when he, too, could fight for them. At school, he meets Tom Riddle, a classmate with ideas very much like what he’s heard at home. Grindelwald is defeated in 1945, around the time Tom Riddle and his classmates leave Hogwarts, leaving a power vacuum he’s all too happy to fill. Rosier, as the child of a Grindelwald supporter, would have no love for Dumbledore and most likely a desire for vengeance. He becomes one of the first Death Eaters.

Evan Rosier, presumably the older Rosier’s son, went to Hogwarts at the same time as Snape, and they were part of “a gang of Slytherins who nearly all turned out to be Death Eaters”. Therefore, Evan Rosier was one of the bad influences that led Snape to become a Death Eater himself. He died during the first war against Voldemort, killed by an Auror while trying to avoid capture. Said Auror is implied to be Mad-Eye Moody, who mentions that Rosier “took a bit of me with him”. Although Evan Rosier died before Sorcerer’s Stone begins and is never really developed as a character, he definitely made an impact through his interactions with Snape and Moody.

But it doesn’t end there. Let’s assume that Vinda is Druella Rosier’s mother as well. Druella Rosier grows up much like her unnamed brother, surrounded by pro-Grindelwald sentiment, and in the aftermath of Grindelwald’s defeat, marries Cygnus Black.

When Sirius describes his family to Harry, he says that his parents were never Death Eaters. It’s not that they were against the Death Eaters, per se, but they weren’t about running around in masks and killing people. They were content to cheer from the sidelines. However, Druella’s mother was not, and neither is her brother. We don’t know if Druella was ever a Death Eater or an active Grindelwald supporter, but she definitely had relatives who were, and she might very well have, much like Bellatrix, dreamed of sending her own children to fight for the Dark Lord. Fierce, ruthless Bellatrix would have wholeheartedly embraced the role. Knowing that the Lestranges were another old family of Death Eaters and Grindelwald supporters, I can see her seeking out Rhodolphus Lestrange as a husband, not out of love but as a way to get into Voldemort’s inner circle. Before long, the whole extended family is working for Voldemort.

Now here’s the interesting thing: the Rosiers and Lestranges were longtime Death Eater families, but the Malfoys weren’t, nor is there any sign yet that they were involved with Grindelwald. Older generations of Malfoys come across as more like Sirius’ parents, utterly despicable but uninvolved, and Draco’s grandfather even seems to have been an old friend of the stubbornly neutral Professor Slughorn. I tend to imagine Lucius Malfoy as a first generation Death Eater who joined well after Voldemort’s rise to power began. Snape, Barty Crouch Jr., and Igor Karkaroff would also fall into this general category. These newer recruits typically lack the fierce loyalty of the ones born into Voldemort’s service and were drawn in by promises of greatness but unwilling to go to prison for him once he was gone. They would likely have been recruited by in-laws or classmates, and in the case of Lucius Malfoy, that would be his wife’s family.

And Regulus Black? His parents weren’t Death Eaters, but they had the same kind of twisted morals. He was the youngest of the family, and as he was growing up, his cousins would have already been getting more and more entangled with Voldemort. It wouldn’t have taken much for one of them to whisper in his ear that this is the way to save the family’s honor after Sirius and Andromeda’s betrayals. And he would have believed it, because everything Voldemort did was in line with his parents’ beliefs, if not their actions.

There’s no way of knowing yet if Vinda Rosier is directly related any of these people. Maybe she’s an aunt or a distant cousin instead. Maybe Rosier is her maiden name and she marries into a different family. Maybe she dies childless and has no impact on the main Harry Potter story at all. But it would be an odd choice to give Grindelwald a supporter from an important Death Eater family and not expect there to be some connection. Leta Lestrange can’t be Bellatrix’s ancestor, because Bellatrix is a Lestrange only by marriage, but Vinda Rosier can, and it makes a lot of sense that she would be.

Almost all the high-profile Death Eaters from the main Harry Potter series can be traced back either to the Rosier and Lestrange families or to Tom Riddle’s original group of “friends”, which included members of both families. Now we know that the Rosiers and Lestranges were Grindelwald supporters before they joined Voldemort. While the two had different goals and methods, Voldemort did not just emerge to fill the power vacuum left by Grindelwald but in fact inherited his supporters as well.

The Virtues of Harry Potter: Equality

How could I possibly write this series of posts without talking about equality? One of the biggest common threads running through all seven Harry Potter books is the idea that everyone should be treated equally and given the same opportunities.

It’s there in the story of Hogwarts’ founding, when Helga Hufflepuff insists on accepting all magical children and personally takes it upon herself to teach those rejected by her co-founders. Her vision of Hogwarts as a welcoming and inclusive school persists to the present day, and Dumbledore is known for turning no child away from Hogwarts. He accepts not just those from Muggle families, but even those who are not fully human, such as werewolves and half-giants. This stands in stark contrast to the more selective Durmstrang, which is run by a former Death Eater and accepts only children from old magical families.

It’s there in the portrayal of non-human characters, too. Much time and care is spent telling Lupin’s story: how his parents were sure he would never even be allowed to attend Hogwarts, how he carefully hid his true nature from even his closest friends, and how he struggled to find work as an adult, all because he was a werewolf. While some werewolves, such as Fenrir Greyback, are in fact monsters, so are some humans, such as Voldemort and Bellatrix. Hermione equates the discrimination against werewolves with the oppression of house-elves, and she’s missing a few fine distinctions, but she’s not far off. Magical society tends to view any not-quite-humans, even those that are clearly intelligent and human-like, as their inferiors – and they are relentlessly condemned for doing so.

The themes of equality and inequality cut right through to the novel’s central conflict. Voldemort, although his own father was a muggle, uses the magical community’s distrust of muggle-born wizards to rally supporters to his side. Meanwhile, Harry himself grew up in the muggle world, one of his two best friends is muggle-born, and he constantly stands up against the Death Eaters’ bigoted views. Even the first time he meets Draco Malfoy, he has no patience for his offhand comments that Hogwarts should be only for the old magic families and shouldn’t let “the other sort” in.

He also has no patience for Malfoy’s scornful attitude toward Ron, who at that point he has just begun to become friends with. He doesn’t care about Ron’s hand-me-down clothes and lack of pocket money; he can already tell that Ron is a true friend, and that’s all that matters. The Weasleys have very little in comparison with the Malfoys, but they are happy to adopt Harry as an honorary family member and share with him everything they have.

Snobby, superior attitudes are not tolerated in the world of Harry Potter. Every character, whether magical or muggle, pure-blood or muggle-born, human or non-human, is treated with the respect they deserve by the series’ heroes. That’s not to say they’re Stepford children who are kind and respectful to everyone, but if they dislike certain professors or classmates, it’s because of who they are, not what. The villains, on the other hand, almost all display ignorance and prejudice, sometimes taken to a murderous extreme. It’s clear that the novels have a message to share here, and one that is perennially relevant.

Christmas with the Weasleys

A dozen redheads gathered ‘round
Smiles on all their faces
Unwrapping simple homespun gifts
With thanks and warm embraces
Although their holiday is simple
Love fills every heart
And as the years pass, come what may
In times when they’re apart
These special meals and simple gifts
Beneath the Christmas tree
Will draw them back and bring them home
To be with family