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).

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Sorting Hat Saturday: Hogwarts Graduates

For most of the Harry Potter characters, even the adults, it’s very obvious which Hogwarts house they were in when they were younger. For a few, however, we never find out, and while J.K. Rowling has given insight into some of these on Pottermore, others remain mysteries. So here are my thoughts:

It would be easy to assume that Aberforth Dumbledore was a Gryffindor to match his brother Albus, and he does have the bravery and impulsiveness associated with Gryffindor. However, he expresses a feeling of being overlooked and overshadowed by his brother, which likely would have grown stronger if he were in a different house, perhaps one that did not get as much respect. He is also extremely loyal, particularly to Arianna, and seems far more grounded than Albus, who was always full of brilliant ideas and big dreams. He does not mind working hard without any personal gain or ambition, first as Arianna’s caretaker and later at the Hog’s Head pub. While many others might have taken advantage of a famous relative to become famous themselves, Aberforth seems to shy away from the spotlight and prefer a simple life. Therefore, I think there’s a strong argument to be made for putting him in Hufflepuff.

Barty Crouch Sr. has all the traits of a textbook Slytherin. He is ruthless, ambitious, and willing to sacrifice others to preserve his reputation. However, he is also strongly opposed to dark magic, and Slytherin’s reputation as the darkest house would likely keep him away. I think the hat would have tried to persuade him, as it did with Harry, that Slytherin would be the best fit, but eventually given in and put him elsewhere. Where, you ask? I could see him as a very misguided version of either Gryffindor or Hufflepuff. On the one hand, he strongly values justice and law, in a very rigid way. He wants to see wrongdoers punished, and he’s dedicated his life to making sure they are. On the other hand, he’s not truly fair. He throws people in Azkaban without trials and secretly arranges to save his own Death Eater son despite publically disowning him at the trial. It takes a lot of bravery to stand up against evil, and he certainly makes a lot of enemies by doing so. Gryffindor might not be out of the question for him either.

Barty Crouch Jr., on the other hand, could only have been a Slytherin. He shared his father’s ruthless ambition but not his aversion to dark magic. Besides that, though, he was a master of trickery and disguise. He almost singlehandedly brought Voldemort back from the dead by manipulating a school competition, not by any means an easy task to pull off. He also managed to fool Dumbledore not once but twice: the first time as a young boy who Dumbledore seems to think may have been innocent of the crimes he was convicted of, and the second time disguising himself as one of Dumbledore’s old friends and colleagues, then spending a year teaching at Hogwarts undetected. The younger Barty Crouch was Slytherin to the core, which – come to think of it – was likely one of the factors playing into his strained relationship with his father. Not to mention that it might have given the elder Mr. Crouch a reason to believe that his son – who he’d certainly raised to hate dark magic and had previously been proud of – was in fact guilty, rather than simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Amelia Bones is surely a Hufflepuff like her niece. As one of the Wizengamot members presiding over Harry’s trial in Order of the Phoenix, she stands out among her peers as being level-headed and open to hearing Harry’s side of the story. She is there to hold a fair hearing, not simply to ensure Harry is expelled from school, which sets her apart from Fudge and Umbridge. This devotion to justice is exactly what made her a good Head of Magical Law Enforcement, and – unfortunately – a target for Voldemort. Names in Harry Potter often carry clues about the character as well, and Amelia comes from a Germanic root that means “work” – perfect for a hard-working Hufflepuff!

Rufus Scrimgeour might look like a Gryffindor at first sight, and he’s certainly brave. You’d have to be to spend most of your life as an Auror. However, my instincts are saying Slytherin. Scrimgeour does not crave power for its own sake, but he’s certainly convinced that he knows best how to fight Voldemort, and his methods are those of a Slytherin. His campaigns are, in fact, more about public perception than actual warfare. He wants the magical world to believe he’s accomplishing something, and if that means trying to bribe the Chosen One into being a Ministry puppet and sending a man who is almost certainly not a Death Eater to Azkaban, then so be it.

Mr. Ollivander is definitely a Ravenclaw, with his deep knowledge and understanding of wandlore. Harry mentions a couple of times that he is not entirely sure if he likes or trusts Mr. Ollivander, who seems more fascinated than horrified by the idea of Voldemort’s power. However, this is not because Ollivander is secretly a Voldemort sympathizer or because he craves that sort of power for himself. It’s an intellectual fascination. Ollivander has devoted his life to studying wands and magic, and Voldemort is an intriguing case study, if also a horrible person.

Sorting Hat Saturday: Charlie Brown

Maybe it’s from watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving yesterday, but I find myself with the inexplicable urge to sort the Peanuts characters into Hogwarts houses. So, here it goes:

Charlie Brown is a Hufflepuff. Despite being rather unpopular and taken advantage of, he never ceases to be kind to those around him and always does his best, whether that means attempting to put together a Thanksgiving feast with just two other kids and a dog to help him, putting hard work into directing a Christmas play, or simply letting his little sister tag along after him. He sees the untapped potential in the simplest things, like an undersized Christmas tree, and follows his heart rather than his head.

Lucy is a Slytherin. She is bossy and proud, always determined to be in charge, and not especially sensitive to others’ feelings. She is also an entrepreneur at a young age, selling faux-psychiatric advice, and she complains that she never gets what she really wants for Christmas. When Linus is running for class president, she is not above resorting to threats and intimidation to get him elected. What Lucy wants, she gets, by whatever means necessary.

Linus is a Ravenclaw. Neither as humble and underestimated as Charlie Brown nor as ambitious as Lucy, he simply wants to read his favorite books, cling to his blanket, and dream about someday meeting the Great Pumpkin. He’s constantly bursting with knowledge, for example quoting the Bible in response to a question about Christmas and giving a speech about the importance of giving thanks when Charlie Brown complains about Thanksgiving as “another holiday to worry about”. His opinions are not always valid – ie. the Great Pumpkin – but like Luna Lovegood, he refuses to doubt or be embarrassed by his stranger theories.

Sally is a Slytherin, but of a different type than Lucy. She is not bossy or mean-spirited. Rather, she is sweet, kind, and naïve. However, while Charlie Brown vents about the commercialization of Christmas, Sally writes an extra-long list to Santa and suggests that he send large amounts of money if the gift list is too confusing. While Charlie Brown goes out trick-or-treating in an effort to be included by his peers, Sally opts to spend the night in the pumpkin patch – and then becomes furious when the Great Pumpkin doesn’t arrive. And when Linus runs for class president, she truly believes he can change the problems she sees in the school, such as too much homework and lockers she can’t open. She is easily won-over by what she sees as fantastic schemes and then shocked when they fall through; although she is naive, she demonstrates a hunger for great things, which is definitely a Slytherin trait.

In Times of Darkness: a poem for the four founders of Hogwarts

Remember this post I made a long time ago? This is a poem inspired by the same idea: that the Hogwarts founders not only valued different things in their students, but had four totally different and contrasting ideas of what Hogwarts school should be.

In times of darkness, I will train
The ones who keep us safe
Who fight with swords and magic spells
The daring and the brave
In times of danger, Gryffindors
Will rally to defend
Our school and all within it
We will fight until the end

In times of darkness, I will teach
All those who crave to learn
The secrets of the magic arts
For Ravenclaws must yearn
To search for truth in scrolls and books
To ask and seek and solve
The multitude of mysteries
Still yet to be resolved

In times of darkness, I will raise
Up those who bear within
Ambition and the seeds of greatness
Shrewd desire to win
My Slytherins will keep our secrets
Buried deep inside
We’ll guard the treasures of our school
And hold our heads with pride

In times of darkness, I will help
All those who come to me
I’ll teach them what I know and
Show them true equality
Let others rise to take the lead
We Hufflepuffs will stand
Behind them with a loyal heart
And a helping hand

The Sorting of Albus Dumbledore

Hatstalls are rare. In Harry’s generation, only Neville, Hermione, and Harry himself even came close. Albus Severus Potter was probably a hatstall, as were Minerva McGonnagall and Peter Pettigrew. Many Harry Potter fans see themselves as a combination of more than one house, and I would argue that most of the characters are as well, but the Sorting Hat rarely has such trouble picking out the house where a character will fit best, and it is almost never wrong.

Has there ever been a four-way hatstall? It seems doubtful. And yet, I can think of one character who just might fit the bill: Albus Dumbledore.

Dumbledore was a Gryffindor, and as far as we know, that’s all he was. A straightforward, moment-the-hat-touched-his-head Gryffindor. In fact, given that Pottermore calls McGonnagall and Pettigrew “the only hatstalls personally known to Harry Potter”, he probably wasn’t a hatstall, at least not in the technical sense of the hat taking 5+ minutes to decide. That doesn’t mean he can’t have been close, though, or that he doesn’t have strong traits of the other houses.

Gryffindor is obvious. Dumbledore founded the Order of the Phoenix, stood up to Voldemort when others were living in denial, and was never afraid to put his own life on the line. Not to mention Grindelwald. After all, “It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends”.

Ravenclaw is pretty obvious, too. Dumbledore is one of the wisest and most knowledgeable characters in the series. He’s always full of ideas that are usually very close to the truth and figures things out about five steps ahead of everyone else. Pottermore describes Ravenclaws as “eccentrics” who are “often out of step with ordinary people”, and Dumbledore fits this description as well: from his quirky idea of saying “a few words” (“Nitwit, blubber, oddement, tweak!”) to his willingness to keep on telling the truth even in spite of efforts to silence him, Dumbledore is never overly concerned with how others see him. He is known for breakthrough discoveries such as the nine uses of dragons’ blood, and he always has a better idea of what’s going on than any other character, both due to his vast experience and knowledge as well as his innate intelligence.

Helga Hufflepuff valued fairness and equality, believing – contrary to her three co-founders’ ideas – that all magical children should be welcome at Hogwarts, not simply the bravest or most intelligent or those from all-magical families. This is the kind of attitude that Dumbledore embodies as well, drawing criticism from those who disapprove of his openness. He welcomes muggle-born students to Hogwarts, encourages Hermione in her campaign for House-Elf rights, converses with merpeople in their own language, and made special arrangements to allow a young Remus Lupin to attend Hogwarts even though he was a werewolf.

And finally, Slytherin. As a young man, Dumbledore was tempted by ambition, although he soon changed his mind and opposed Grindelwald instead of fighting alongside him. In his old age, he used some of the same tactics to serve a genuine greater good. He was still extremely clever, and one might even say cunning. He seemed to be able to predict what every character would do before they did it and what to say and do to achieve the outcome he wanted. He definitely had most of the series planned out before it ever happened.

As he tells Harry, “It is our choices, far more than our abilities, that show who we truly are”. Dumbeldore may well have chosen to be a Gryffindor, but that doesn’t cancel out the fact that he could have done well in any of the houses. In fact, one might say that he had the courage of a Gryffindor, the mind of a Ravenclaw, the heart of a Hufflepuff, and the intricate plans of a Slytherin.

Taylor Swift Playlist: Ravenclaw

None of Taylor Swift’s songs are strictly about knowledge or wisdom, but plenty of them deal with dreams and fanciful ideas, fairy tale and literary allusions, truth and sincerity, and individuality. These are the songs – in contrast with the realistic and down-to-earth Hufflepuff ones – that speak most to what Ravenclaw house is about.

A Place In This World

“I don’t know what I want, so don’t ask me,” this song begins. “Cause I’m still trying to figure it out.” With Luna Lovegood in mind, I think it makes sense to say that young Ravenclaws are all about figuring themselves out. All that introspection and exploration takes some time, and Ravenclaws might be more willing than others to accept that they don’t have all the answers yet, as long as they’re looking for them.

The Outside

Ravenclaws are individuals who march to the beat of their own drum, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be loved and accepted. Many Ravenclaws can understand trying to “take the road less traveled by” and ending up as outsiders.

Love Story

There’s nothing intellectual about this song. It’s one misaimed literary allusion after another, from Romeo and Juliet to The Scarlet Letter. However, the dreamy fairy tale feel and desire for an epic literary romance is definitely strong, even if the comparisons fall short.

Hey Stephen

This is another of Taylor Swift’s early love songs, but what stands out about it to me is the way she lingers over tiny details: “The way you walk, way you talk, way you say my name”. Even more important is the line, “I’ve never seen nobody shine the way you do”. I talked in an earlier post about Gryffindor love being bold and fearless, and I think maybe Ravenclaw love would be perceptive and insightful.

Enchanted

“Walls of insincerity / shifting eyes and vacancy / vanished when I saw your face”. Enchanted is a more grown-up love song, and one that values the genuine over the fake. Yet the song is whimsical, taking the listener on a sweeping journey of enchantment and infatuation. The connection between the two lovers is intellectual as much as anything else: “The playful conversation starts / counter all your quick remarks / like passing notes in secrecy”.

Starlight

This song is about chasing after dreams even when they seem far-fetched. “He was trying to skip rocks on the ocean, saying to me / Don’t you see the starlight, starlight? / Don’t you dream impossible things?” The song is bubbly and larger than life, overflowing with imaginative ideas and crazy dreams.

Out of the Woods

Any song that declares, “The rest of the world was black and white / but we were in screaming color” has got to be a Ravenclaw song. It doesn’t shy away from darkness, but it doesn’t embrace it, either. On the contrary, it’s all about finding a way “out of the woods”. The idea of “monsters” that “turned out to be just trees” speaks to a danger that is conquered by understanding it, not overcoming it.

Wildest Dreams

“Of course it is happening in your head,” Dumbledore tells Harry at near the end of Deathly Hallows. “But why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” Although the line is delivered by a Gryffindor to a Gryffindor, there’s something distinctly Ravenclaw about the idea. That’s the same kind of idea reflected in this song, in which Taylor Swift begs her lover to “Say you’ll see me again even if it’s just in your wildest dreams”.

Delicate

This song is soft, quiet, and tentative. “Sometimes I wonder when you sleep / are you ever dreaming of me?” Remember what I said about Ravenclaws being perceptive? We also tend to overthink things, and there’s definitely a lot of overthinking going on here. “Is it cool that I said all that? Is it chill that you’re in my head?” But more importantly, the chorus keeps on emphasizing a need to be loved for oneself. Ravenclaws, who tend to be the most individualistic of all the houses, could definitely identify.

Call It What You Want

All the crumbling castles and “flowers [growing] back as thorns” are a clear reference to Taylor Swift’s earlier, more whimsical type of songs. The clever title suggests that – instead of insisting that “it’s a love story” or “today was a fairy tale” – we can decide what we want to call this strange sort of romance, while the subtle references to much older songs make this story almost like a riddle to be solved.

Taylor Swift Playlist: Hufflepuff

If the Gryffindor songs are bold and fearless, and the Slytherin ones are venomous revenge anthems, the Hufflepuff songs would have to be the softest and simplest, the ones that veer away from fanciful dreams or delusions of grandeur and embrace the everyday.

Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw was the first Taylor Swift song I fell in love with. It’s quiet, sincere, and paints a simple yet romantic picture of a love that is over, but not regretted: “When you think happiness / I hope you think that little black dress / think of my head on your chest / and my old faded blue jeans”.

Mary’s Song

This song tells the story of an elderly couple and their journey from childhood friends to high school sweethearts to newlyweds to parents and then grandparents. It’s all about stability and long-lasting loyalty in love of the type that Hufflepuffs exemplify, right up to the ending, where “I’ll be eighty-seven, you’ll be eighty-nine / I still look at you like the stars that shine in the sky / oh, my, my, my”.

Fifteen

I almost called this song Ravenclaw, but I think it’s more Hufflepuff in the end. The song explores – and respects – the high-strung emotions and raging hormones that young teenagers experience, but it also encourages young girls that “In your life, you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team / but I didn’t know it at fifteen”. The song is very grounded and aimed at guiding younger girls through that phase of life “before you know who you’re gonna be”.

You Belong With Me

This song is totally about a dorky Hufflepuff pining after her best friend who’s dating a Slytherin, right?

The Best Day

“The Best Day” is about appreciating a parent’s love. It starts off with a child narrator (“Don’t know if Snow White’s house is near or far away / but I know I had the best day with you today”), but she quickly grows into a young woman who is wiser and more mature but still thankful for her family. This expression of love and gratitude just seems so Hufflepuff.

Mine

The early Taylor Swift albums are more about looking for love than really experiencing it. Some of the songs are whimsical and dreamy, others are bold and passionate, but they all tell of something that’s overwhelming and new. And then there’s this one, which seems somehow more grounded. Here, she’s not singing about fairy tales or daydreams or dancing in a storm together; she wants someone who will stay when things get tough and be “the best thing that’s ever been mine”.

Stay Stay Stay

That same train of thought – faithful love, and staying when things aren’t easy – runs through most of Taylor Swift’s more Hufflepuff type love songs. In this one, she has fallen head over heels with someone who “took the time to memorize” her and who – even when she thinks they’re on the verge of breaking up – will stay with her. She comes to the conclusion that “I’d like to hang out with you for my whole life”, which is just such a straightforward Hufflepuff way of saying you’re in love.

Girl at Home

Hufflepuffs are loyal, honest, and fair, traits exemplified in this song about a woman turning down a man’s advances because she knows he has a girlfriend. “I don’t even know her, but I feel a responsibility to do what’s upstanding and right”.

This Love

Another song about enduring love, “This Love” tells the story of a romance “back from the dead”. Unlike earlier songs, it embraces the conflicts and ambiguities of love, and the singer doesn’t seem quite sure whether it’s good or bad. But in the end, “you come back to what you need”.

New Year’s Day

There is almost nothing Hufflepuff at all about reputation, until this very last song. That person who will stay after the party to help you clean up? That’s a Hufflepuff. “Don’t read the last page / but I stay / when you’re lost and I’m scared / and you’re turning away / I want your midnights / but I’ll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year’s Day”.