The Sorting of Neville Longbottom

The Sorting Hat takes your choice into account, but it doesn’t always give you what you want. Harry was able to choose Gryffindor over Slytherin, but Neville was put in Gryffindor despite his preference for Hufflepuff.

In Neville’s case, the Hat was determined to place him in Gryffindor: Neville, intimidated by that house’s reputation for bravery, requested a placing in Hufflepuff. Their silent wrangling resulted in triumph for the Hat. – Pottermore

It’s easy to imagine Neville as a Hufflepuff. Even aside from the fact that Helga Hufflepuff took all the students the other founders rejected, and would have accepted him regardless, he’s a pretty good embodiment of Hufflepuff traits. He is down-to-earth, humble, and generous. He’s hard-working and always seems to try his best despite not doing very well in his classes. He certainly values fairness and justice, and he’s less-inclined to break the rules than some of his Gryffindor peers. Meanwhile, he spends the first six books as a timid, awkward, easily-overlooked kid who seems utterly out-of-place in Gryffindor. While he does show some signs of bravery, such as standing up to the trio in Sorcerer’s Stone and joining Dumbledore’s Army in Order of the Phoenix, it’s hard to say at that point that Neville is defined by his bravery. It’s not until Deathly Hallows, a full seven years after the sorting ceremony, that his true heroism begins to show.

So why, then, did the hat refuse to put him in Hufflepuff when it’s honored similar requests before? His preference was different from Harry’s in one very important way. While Harry asked not to be a Slytherin because he knew of their reputation for dark magic and evil, Neville was just intimidated by Gryffindor, not repulsed by it. He didn’t think he was good enough for Gryffindor and thought he would have to settle for Hufflepuff in order to avoid embarrassing himself. Putting Harry in Slytherin would have meant dismissing his values and denying him a choice. Putting Neville in Gryffindor, on the other hand, was a vote of confidence.

In many cases where a character doesn’t quite live up to what their house is supposed to stand for, I think we can assume the hat was trying to give them a chance for growth. For instance, Peter Pettigrew is a cowardly Gryffindor, but he was almost certainly placed there because the hat saw his admiration of his more heroic friends and hoped he could become more like them. Gilderoy Lockhart is an incompetent Ravenclaw, but his skill as a writer indicates intelligence and creativity that could have been put to better use. On a more positive note, Hermione grows from a stuck-up know-it-all to a courageous young woman as a result of her time in Gryffindor. It’s as if the sorting hat can see not just a person’s potential but where they’ll have the best chance of reaching their full potential as well.

Neville didn’t truly want to be a Hufflepuff or value Hufflepuff work ethic and fairness over Gryffindor bravery. He simply wasn’t ready yet to accept his own potential, and as a Hufflepuff, might never have embraced it. Being placed there would only have confirmed his fears of inadequacy, while being sorted into Gryffindor gave him a chance to grow in confidence and courage.

Or, in other words, the Sorting Hat takes your choice into account if you want it for the right reasons. It takes your choice into account if your value system doesn’t match up to a house you’re suited for, if you have a deep personal reason for what you want, or if your choice will give you a chance to grow into a better person. It doesn’t take your choice into account if your choice would limit you. Neville did value bravery and heroism and was simply afraid he’d never be capable of them, so by putting him in Gryffindor, the hat made sure that he would.

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The Sorting of Regulus Black

Using the Hogwarts Houses as a basis for character analysis is pretty much my favorite hobby. I guess I’m just weird like that. And while I spend a lot of time thinking about what Houses characters from other stories might be in, I also have a lot of thoughts about the Harry Potter characters themselves, especially those that break House stereotypes. I’ve written about why Luna Lovegood belongs in Ravenclaw and how Peter Pettigrew – one of the most cowardly characters – ended up a Gryffindor. I’ve talked about the ways in which Dumbledore shows traits of all four houses, and I’ve got a growing list in my head of characters I think were probably given the same Gryffindor or Slytherin choice as Harry: Albus Severus Potter, Barty Crouch Sr., Rufus Scrimgeour, and Regulus Black.

Unlike his brother, Sirius, Regulus Black was not a rebel – at least, not at first. He was a Slytherin, like his parents and his cousins, and he later went on to become a Death Eater.  He is characterized only through secondhand information from those who knew him and never appears in the story or the flashbacks, but based on Sirius and Kreacher’s descriptions, we can get some idea of his personality.

Dumbledore describes Voldemort’s school friends, and by extension the Death Eaters, as “the weak seeking protection, the ambitious seeking some shared glory, and the thuggish gravitating towards a leader who could show them more refined forms of cruelty” – and that’s a pattern that proves fairly true. Regulus, who was certainly courageous and is never described as being particularly cruel, almost certainly joined out of ambition. He seems to have been eager for his parents’ approval and eager to do great things, but without much discernment or ability to think for himself about who to follow. Ambition is a Slytherin trait, and Voldemort was an expert at tapping into Slytherins’ personal ambitions in order to win their support.

Along with ambition, Slytherins are also supposed to be cunning, which is something Regulus definitely demonstrates. Nobody really knew until decades after his death how he had died or why – not even Voldemort or his own family. He came up with his plan in secret and made sure that it stayed that way, revealing himself only in a hidden note that was set up to not be found until after Voldemort discovered what he had done. That sort of careful planning fits well in Slytherin house. Then again, he planned carefully and executed flawlessly a plan that he knew would result in his own death, and he went through with it because he believed it was the right thing to do. Is that really a Slytherin move, or is it more Gryffindor?

Slytherins are supposed to be “brave … but not foolish” and have strong self-preservation instincts. They put themselves and their own safety first, along with sometimes that of their loved ones. It is Gryffindors who are known for showing selfless courage. They are willing to put themselves at risk, stand up for what they believe in, and lay down their own lives for their cause. A Slytherin who had second thoughts about working for Voldemort might have tried to disappear, changed sides, become a spy, or simply ignored their conscience, but few would have thrown their own lives away in the hopes of making it easier for someone else to defeat him. That’s Gryffindor courage, even if it’s Slytherin ambition that got him there in the first place. The star Regulus is named for is even located in the constellation Leo, and is nicknamed “the lion’s heart” – surely not a coincidence!

But Regulus was not a Gryffindor. Why not? Because Sirius was. Not only did the two brothers not get along, but Sirius was the elder, and his parents did not take it well when he was sorted into Gryffindor. Having seen how furious they were could easily have increased Regulus’ determination to be the “good” son and restore the family honor, leading him to choose Slytherin in much the same way that Harry chose Gryffindor. You could even say that Regulus Black is one of Harry’s foils, a Dark Side character with a huge self-sacrificial streak and a ton of Gryffindor bravery to contrast with Harry’s own secret: that he was almost put in Slytherin house.

Sorting Hat Saturday: A Wrinkle in Time

Meg: Ravenclaw. Meg is the perfect example of a gifted child whose grades do not reflect her abilities. Although her mother refuses to tell her what her IQ is, it’s implied to be pretty high. However, Ravenclaw isn’t purely about intelligence any more than it’s about grades or test scores. Ravenclaws are the researchers and experimenters of the world, hungry for knowledge and filled with a love of learning. Meg displays those qualities in ways that have nothing to do with school. As a child she loved playing number games with her father (which resulted in her learning “far too many shortcuts” and having trouble showing her work at school). On their journey through the universe, she constantly attempts to make sense of the strange things around them, looking at everything with an open mind and yet not without thinking critically about it all. Once Charles Wallace is taken over by IT, Meg is the one who figures out most of what needs figuring out, like how to use her faults to resist IT’s temptation and how to use Mrs. Who’s glasses to rescue her father. She has to be very brave, as well, but her journey is mostly about finding answers and seeking understanding, and it is her intelligence, self-knowledge, and emotional strength that enable her to succeed.

Charles Wallace: Ravenclaw. Is there any question here? Not only is Charles Wallace a child genius whose mind “breaks out of the ordinary mold” entirely, and who understands the mysteries of the universe more thoroughly than even the greatest adult minds, but he’s also far more comfortable with his outsider status and high level of intelligence than Meg. His fatal flaw is his pride, but it’s not the ambitious pride of a Slytherin; he’s simply used to being the smartest person around and doesn’t anticipate a situation where his mind literally isn’t strong enough to do what he wants it to.

Calvin: Hufflepuff. While Calvin is certainly intelligent, he’s driven by his heart more than his mind. He’s a team player who fits in well at school and yet is kind and warm towards the unpopular Murray kids. He seems to be at his happiest when he is helping or protecting others and is more than willing to take on his friends’ mission as his own despite having no personal stake in it.

Mrs. Murray: Ravenclaw. Meg and Charles Wallace’s mom is defined by her immense capacity for belief and understanding. Not only is she a brilliant scientist in her own right, she’s open-minded toward the weirdness happening all around her. She’s willing to believe and accept that her youngest child is an unusually gifted genius while still allowing him to be a five-year-old as well. Not only that, but she’s able to keep faith that her husband is still out there and be open-minded about the crazy project he was working on when he disappeared. Keeping in mind that Mrs. Murray herself hasn’t seen anything weirder than Mrs. Whatsit dressed in stolen bedsheets, it’s pretty incredible that she doesn’t think her whole family has gone insane.

Mr. Murray: Ravenclaw. While we don’t know a huge amount about Meg’s father, who is gone for most of the book, we do know he was a scientist and a very intelligent man. He must have been open-minded to believe that tesseracts could be possible and dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge in order to test out such a dangerous experiment himself. While he’s one of the less-developed characters, everything about him points to Ravenclaw.

Sorting Hat Saturday: The Lion King

Simba: Gryffindor. While he’s a little hesitant and unsure of himself, Simba’s whole story is about finding courage, something he has no shortage of as a cub but has to re-learn as an adult. Young Simba is adventurous and fearless, while the older Simba has a lot to be afraid of but learns to put that aside and do the right thing anyway.

Nala: Hufflepuff. While she’s just as brave as Simba, Nala’s defining trait is her loyalty. She is loyal to the pride and stays even when Scar takes over and things go horribly wrong. Although she loves Simba deeply, she’s horrified to find him avoiding his own duties and does her best to convince him to return and take his place as king. A Gryffindor in her place might be plotting rebellion, but she’s too humble to think that she could do so herself, as ready as she is to support Simba when he returns to claim his rightful place. She has strong opinions about what the right thing to do is and who should be in charge, but those ideas are rooted in her Hufflepuff loyalty and work ethic.

Mufasa: Gryffindor. Brave, noble, selfless, and an actual lion – what else could he be?

Scar: Slytherin. Ambition? Check. Cunning? Check. Self-preservation? Check. Willing to “use any means to achieve [his] ends”? Oh, definitely. Scar is more of a Slytherin than half the actual Slytherin characters in Harry Potter.

The hyenas: Slytherin. The hyenas are slapstick comic relief villains and thus are too silly to be cunning or manipulative in the way Scar is. You could argue that they’re ambitious, though, playing their part in Scar’s evil plans in hopes that they will stand to benefit. Mostly, though, they’re selfish and slippery, doing whatever seems most likely to benefit them at the moment. They’re the Crabbes and Goyles of the Lion King world: while they’re not evil masterminds plotting world domination, and wouldn’t be capable of doing so, they put themselves first and therefore are drawn to the biggest and most powerful allies – who they’re also willing to turn on in an instant.

Timon & Pumba: Slytherin. Yes, they do look like Hufflepuffs at first glance, but think about it. Why do they save Simba’s life? Not because he’s another living creature and it’s the right thing to do, but because they think a lion friend could turn out to be useful. When he saves them from another lion, they’re proven right. Their “Hakuna Matata” attitude – namely, that problems are someone else’s to deal with – is hardly that of the Hufflepuffs, who, like the Gryffindors, nearly all stayed to fight in the Battle of Hogwarts. While they do ultimately care enough for Simba to help him defeat Scar, they make it clear that they don’t understand why he would want to do so. They are good friends to each other, and eventually to Simba, but they don’t have a Hufflepuff’s sense of loyalty to something greater and certainly not any work ethic. While they’re not that ambitious and are too comical to be truly cunning, they look out for themselves (and each other) first, prioritizing their own wellbeing and survival above any greater sense of purpose – a Slytherin trait, and the same reason I put the hyenas in Slytherin. In a movie mostly filled with noble Gryffindors and duty-driven Hufflepuffs, they’re outliers among the heroes.

Rafiki: Ravenclaw, of the Luna Lovegood variety. Behind his weird mannerisms, he is wise, perceptive, and a bit mystical. He believes in things he can’t see and speaks with the dead as if they’re still alive – and while he seems crazy, he’s also right. It’s his knowledge and advice that help Simba realize he has to return to Pride Rock.

Zazu: Hufflepuff. He reminds me a bit of Bahgeera from The Jungle Book, who I put in Ravenclaw; they are both sensible, no-nonsense mentors who the young Gryffindor heroes rebel against. However, Zazu is defined by his loyalty first and foremost. He is loyal to Mufasa and endures everything from Simba’s childish antics to Scar’s cruelty while remaining steadfastly devoted to his king; it’s not until a much more mature, grown-up Simba defeats Scar and takes the throne that the bird’s loyalty shifts from Mufasa to the new king. He believes in hard work and devotion to duty and is endlessly frustrated by young Simba’s flighty independence and disgusted by Scar’s selfish tyranny. He may be stern and serious rather than warm and fuzzy, but the things he values most definitely point to Hufflepuff.

Sorting Hat Saturday: The Jungle Book

Because apparently I’m on a roll with kids’ movie-themed Sorting Hat Saturdays, here are the Jungle Book characters. This is based on the animated movie, not the live action one:

Mowgli: Gryffindor. He’s very, very brave. He’s not afraid of trying to survive on his own in the jungle and refuses to leave even with an evil tiger after him. When he finally confronts Shere Khan, he doesn’t allow himself to be intimidated and is very much ready to fight for his life.

Bagheera: Ravenclaw. He values brains over brawn and logic over emotion, and while his own actions are shaped by his affection for Mowgli, he also knows that a human child doesn’t really belong in the jungle and will be safer with his own people. He has good insights into others and always seems to know what they will do. He almost looks like a goal-oriented Slytherin, but he’s not very ambitious and is more intelligent and practical than cunning, so I would lean more toward Ravenclaw overall.

Baloo: Gryffindor. He’s not necessarily very good at his attempted acts of heroism, but it’s not for lack of courage. He wants to do the right thing and isn’t afraid to risk danger to help others. He is eager to help Mowgli learn to survive in the jungle and loves him like a son, but is willing to let him go for his own good, which requires its own form of bravery. In the fight with Shere Khan, his willingness to risk his own life for Mowgli’s sake requires the same sort of courage that defines the noblest of Gryffindor characters. I did consider Hufflepuff based on his loyalty and his “bare necessities” philosophy of life, but I’d say that overall he is defined more by his bravery.

King Louie: Slytherin. He’s an orangutan who thinks that using fire will make him human and is willing to kidnap a human child to gain it. He has the ruthless ambition thing down. There are a lot of Slytherin characters in The Jungle Book, but King Louie is probably the one who fits the best. He’s also the least obvious, though, in that he’s not really a straightforward villain and – unlike Kaa and Shere Khan – doesn’t really have malicious intentions toward Mowgli.

Kaa: Slytherin. He’s literally a sneaky snake. What more can be said?

Shere Khan: Slytherin. He’s not brave – in fact, he’s defeated by his own fear of fire – but he is good at appearing fearless and intimidating. He’s intelligent, but not in a Ravenclaw “books and cleverness” kind of way. He’s very good at being sneaky and manipulative.

The Vultures: Hufflepuff or Slytherin. They work as a team and value friendship and community. They even get a little song about the importance of friendship. They are loyal to each other and eager to welcome Mowgli into their group. However, they’re so terrified of Shere Khan that they abandon Mowgli when the tiger shows up. They do come back and help him in the end, but they do it with Slytherin methods, coming up with a plan for Mowgli in which the human boy, rather than the vultures, plays the most dangerous part.

Sorting Hat Saturday: Finding Nemo

One of the funny things about being a teacher is how often it makes me think back on my own childhood. Yesterday in afterschool, they showed Finding Nemo – a movie I loved when I was eight but haven’t seen or thought about in years – and now I can’t stop thinking about it! Of course, one thing I’ve acquired since I was eight is a tendency to compulsively sort characters from other stories into Hogwarts houses, so here I go:

Marlin: Gryffindor. While Nemo believes his father to be cowardly and afraid of the ocean, he’s afraid for Nemo, not for himself – and he learned the hard way to be cautious. When his son is taken by a scuba diver, he immediately abandons his cautious nature and risks everything to try to find him.

Nemo: Gryffindor. Like father, like son. Nemo is eager for adventure, becoming increasingly frustrated by his father’s overprotectiveness. He swims out into the open ocean to prove he’s not afraid, is willing to go along with Gill’s dangerous escape plan even though he’s the one put most at risk by it, and swims into a fishing net to try to save Dory, who he’s just met. He’s nothing if not brave.

Dory: Hufflepuff. As much as she reminds me of Luna Lovegood, she’s not a Ravenclaw. She’s defined not by her eccentric mind but by her caring nature and persistent optimism. She puts everything she has into helping Marlin even though she has nothing to gain from it, does her best to comfort him and keep him going even as he becomes more cynical, and believes that things are bound to get better if you “just keep swimming”.

Gill: Slytherin. Gill is a strategist first and foremost. The other tank fish look at Nemo and see a scared and lonely child, but Gill sees a fish small enough to swim through the filter that keeps the tank clean, and he immediately starts piecing together a plan to escape. He later regrets risking Nemo’s life and then risks his own life to help Nemo escape alone, but it’s not uncommon for Slytherins to treat those they care about very differently from those they only see as pawns. (See also: Severus Snape, Narcissa Malfoy, Professor Slughorn)

Nigel: Ravenclaw. A pelican who frequently visits a dentist’s office to watch root canal procedures? A sea-bird who is captivated by the story of a clownfish father trying to find his son and puts the pieces together to realize he knows who the son is? A member of a fish-eating species who has fish friends and carries them in his beak without being tempted to eat them? Well, according to Pottermore, “[Ravenclaws] are the most individual – some might even call them eccentrics, but geniuses are often out of step with ordinary folk”.

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, 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.