Okay, so up until this point I’ve been pretty happy with the Hogwarts Mystery game and the storyline it’s having me follow. But I’m early in year two now and starting to get really annoyed.
First of all, there’s this:
We needed to get a quill from inside the Gryffindor common room to help find Ben (long story), so Rowan came up with this harebrained plan to get me in there, which involved using reducio and engorgio on myself to sneak in unnoticed while everyone was away at a Quidditch game. The thing is, there was no need to do any of that. It would have made so much more sense to simply hand the first clue over to McGonagall and let her take it from there. She’s his Head of House, she was looking for him, too, and she had already asked us to keep an eye out for anything that might be helpful. I don’t mind having my character break the rules on occasion, but this is just too silly and unnecessary.
But that’s not what’s really bothering me. No, it’s this:
Are we, now? See, that’s news to me. I didn’t know I, or my character, or Ravenclaw in general, had any particular desire for revenge against Slytherin. In fact, I have yet to see a Ravenclaw character in any part of the Harry Potter world – books, movies, Pottermore, or whatever – spend any considerable amount of time or energy worrying about revenge.
I never got the feeling Ravenclaw as a whole was particularly antagonistic towards Slytherin, either. Their involvement in inter-house rivalries seems limited to Quidditch games and house points and supporting Cedric over Harry in Goblet of Fire. It’s Gryffindor and Slytherin that really hate each other. The Ravenclaw “welcome letter” on Pottermore both criticizes and compliments all three of the other houses. About Slytherin, it says, “They’re not all bad, but you’d do well to be on your guard until you know them well. They’ve got a long house tradition of doing whatever it takes to win”. That’s a far cry from this:
In fact, this storyline doesn’t seem to fit no matter which house you’re in. Hufflepuffs are probably even less likely to care about revenge than Ravenclaws. Slytherins totally would plot revenge en masse, but they would come up with a better plan than simply using a spell to knock a random … um, Gryffindor, I’m assuming … backwards into a fountain. And I can totally see a Gryffindor doing exactly that if they saw a Slytherin being mean to someone, but they wouldn’t feel the need to have a meeting about it first. They’d just do it.
Look, my character doesn’t even look happy about this. She doesn’t care about revenge. She doesn’t want to hear “Twenty points from Ravenclaw” when Snape inevitably catches us. And whatever words the game is putting in her mouth, she definitely doesn’t think this plan shows how smart we are in any way.
There seems to be a lot of talk about Hogwarts Mystery being designed with Gryffindor in mind, and not necessarily working as well if your character is in a different House. The storyline stays more-or-less the same regardless of which House you put yourself into, and therefore Slytherin in particular would not work as well, since Snape favored his own House and would not realistically be taking large numbers of points away from a Slytherin student. The storyline, which involves going on illicit adventures and getting into duels, might not fit either Slytherin or Hufflepuff as well – although a Hufflepuff could be motivated by concern for their brother. However, I’ve noticed that as a Ravenclaw, the game has felt tailor-made for me and my character – to the point that I at first had no idea how similar the story stays regardless of which House you’re in. In fact, I’d argue it makes even more sense for a Ravenclaw than for a Gryffindor.
The best friend character, Rowan, is always the same gender and in the same house as the main character. However, I initially assumed she was always a Ravenclaw, because 99% of her personality is being book smart and socially awkward. She has traits of the other houses as well – she is a loyal friend, follows you into dangerous situations, and is determined to prove herself – but her intelligence is not subtle and is probably the most obvious thing about her character.
If you only had a cursory knowledge of the Hogwarts Houses, you would think she was an obvious Ravenclaw; it takes deeper analysis to justify why she would be sorted elsewhere. Gryffindor might suit her second-best, simply because of the nature of the game, which requires the characters to face dangerous adventures and show courage.
The cast is at its most well-balanced if the player is a Ravenclaw boy, making Rowan a Ravenclaw boy as well. In that case, there would be three boys and two girls in the main cast, two Ravenclaws, and one of each other House. On the other hand, the version of the game I’m playing as a Ravenclaw girl is full of girl characters, with Ben as the only boy in the main five. If you play as a different House, there would be three characters from that House and no Ravenclaws at all until Tulip Karasu in year 3.
But it’s not just about a balanced cast or the characterization of Rowan. The very game itself fits perfectly with a Ravenclaw mindset. I’ve noticed that the “right” choices – the ones that earn you house points (or cost you fewer), earn praise from a teacher, or convince friends to help you – tend to be the ones linked with your empathy and knowledge levels, and not necessarily with courage. Being truthful is rewarded. Being kind is rewarded. Being reckless is usually not, and tends to get you into trouble, except of course with Dumbledore at the end of the year. It’s sometimes logical – sassing Snape would get you into trouble – but having the knowledge and empathy choices so often be the “right” ones hints that the game may not have been designed with a Gryffindor hero in mind.
And the storyline itself makes perfect sense for a Ravenclaw hero. It’s all about solving a mystery, after all. The Gryffindor heroes of the Harry Potter books don’t tend to seek out adventure for adventure’s sake; they’re acting to stand up against dark forces or protect others, which are not factors here yet. The main character of the game seems to be more interested in putting the pieces together and getting answers to their questions, or at least can definitely be played that way, because that’s how I’ve played it and it’s fallen into place as if that’s how it was always planned.
I suppose you could also play them as an adventurous thrill-seeker or a worried sibling looking for their brother, because the game provides options for all three. However, the format of the game is that of a mystery to be solved, the best friend has a stereotypical Ravenclaw personality, and the “best” choices tend to be those that require you to be smart, knowledgable, and aware of others’ feelings. It feels like a Ravenclaw story, which might be why I’m still playing it despite its frustrations.
Silly question, I know. She wouldn’t have even been in his house; she was a Ravenclaw, after all. But they have a lot in common. They both played a direct part in the founding of Hogwarts, Slytherin as one of the founders, Helena as a founder’s child and part of the first generation of students. They both grew apart from the other three founders and eventually fled the castle, never to return. They both did something or took something with them that left Hogwarts in a fractured state. And they both played an unknowing role in Voldemort’s rise to power, Slytherin as his ancestor and inspiration, Helena by telling him where to find Ravenclaw’s lost diadem.
Helena didn’t have the greatest relationship with her mother, so perhaps there was another teacher she saw as a role model instead – and there’s not much Gryffindor or Hufflepuff about her. Perhaps she looked up to Slytherin and wanted to be more like him; perhaps he even told her that if she weren’t Rowena’s daughter, he would have picked her for his own house. The lover who comes to find her when she runs away was a Slytherin, so perhaps she associated herself with Slytherin house in other ways as well.
Depending on the timing, her decision to steal the diadem and flee might even have been influenced by Slytherin’s own departure. She didn’t steal it out of longing for the wisdom it could bring, but rather, because she thought it would help her become greater than her mother. That’s pure ambition right there. If she witnessed Slytherin’s fight with Gryffindor and subsequent departure, if she knew what he had left lurking inside the school, if she saw the growing fracture between the houses and perhaps felt torn between her mother and her mentor, she might not have had much reason to want to stay.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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”.
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.
“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”.
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.
I’ve written a lot about the Hogwarts houses, and I think I’ve mentioned that I see myself as a Ravenclaw, but until now I haven’t written much about why. So this weekend, I’m going to explore that a bit.
I think a lot of people who know me in real life would assume I’m a Hufflepuff. In many ways, I could be. I do take a lot of pride in my work ethic, and I’ve said many times that my good grades in school were due to hard work as much as intelligence. Like a Ravenclaw, I never want to stop learning about the things I’m passionate about, but like a Hufflepuff, I care enough to keep trying even when I’m not passionate at all.
There’s some Slytherin in that, too. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I’m never happy with less than what I know is my best. And in my own way, I’m ambitious. My goals are more typical of Ravenclaw than Slytherin (ie. “I want to write a novel”, “I want a college education”, or “I want to find a fulfilling career”), but I’m all about thinking things through, making long-term plans, and taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. I find that I over-analyze Slytherin perhaps more than any other house, and that’s probably at least in part because I see ambition as a positive trait, essential to society, and only evil if taken to unhealthy extremes.
However, I’m not a Slytherin. I value ambition, and I’d probably describe myself as resourceful, but I’m not really cunning. I’d drive myself crazy trying to fit in with all the subtle manipulations and mental chess games of Slytherin. I’d much rather be in Ravenclaw, where the emphasis is more on sharing knowledge than using it as a weapon, or Hufflepuff, where community and teamwork prevail. The other big reason I’m not a Slytherin is because I wouldn’t “use any means to achieve [my] ends”. When I have to make a choice between what I want and what I believe to be right, I sincerely hope that I would always choose what’s right.
Does that make me a Gryffindor? The main Gryffindor trait is bravery, which – if you define it as thrill-seeking, looking for dangerous or scary situations just for the sake of it – I don’t have much of. On the other hand, if you define bravery as doing the right thing even when it’s not easy, or making a choice even though it scares you, then I certainly hope I’d be able to be brave, and I believe I have been in the past. However, bravery is not the focal point of my life in the way that it would be for a Gryffindor. Hogwarts houses are all about what you value most, and for me, both Ravenclaw’s lifelong learning and Hufflepuff’s fairness come in ahead of Gryffindor’s courage.
So, back to Hufflepuff. On Pottermore, the Hufflepuff mascot – the badger – is described as “an animal that is often underestimated, because it lives quietly until attacked, but which, when provoked, can fight off animals much larger than itself.” This is very much how I choose to live my life. I try to get along with everyone and stay out of drama. I am deeply loyal to those I care about, and I try to be polite even to those I don’t like. Because of this, and because I look younger than I am, I think people tend to underestimate me.
On top of all that, there’s a side to me I’ve only had a chance to start discovering this past year. For most of my life, I’ve been a student, but now I’m a teacher, and as a teacher, I aspire to be more like Helga Hufflepuff than any of the other founders. She was the only one to take all students, including those rejected by her three colleagues. While I don’t find all children easy to deal with, I want them all to feel welcome and supported in my classroom. In fact, I often find that the kids I like the most are not the academic superstars or the most popular kids, but the Hufflepuffs of the group, who are kind and respectful and always try their best.
And yet, despite all that, I don’t see myself as a Hufflepuff. I interact with the world around me in a way that may look Hufflepuff, and perhaps even is Hufflepuff, but that barely scratches the surface of who I am. The rest of me – the way my mind works, the reasons I do what I do, the things I pursue in my free time, the person I am when I’m alone, everything that makes me me on the inside – is Ravenclaw. Maybe it’s an introvert thing.
I’d actually be very interested to know: are introverts more likely to choose a Hogwarts house based on who they are inside, as opposed to their actions or outward selves? Are extraverts more likely to do the opposite? I would guess so, but I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m definitely a Hufflepuff on the surface and a Ravenclaw deep down, and that it’s my Ravenclaw traits that fuel a lot of those Hufflepuff ones in the first place.
It’s not just that I’m smart. I mean, I think every nerdy middle-schooler wishes for a place where their intelligence would be valued instead of mocked, and that’s where I was when I first started to think of myself as a Ravenclaw. But, as Hermione proves, members of any house can be intelligent. If book smarts and middle school wishes were the only thing tying me to Ravenclaw, I’d probably have started to see myself as a smart Hufflepuff by now, which would be no more of a contradiction than being a smart blonde.
That’s not the case. If Hogwarts houses are based on what you value most, the passion that drives you in life, then I absolutely am a Ravenclaw. I am constantly curious, constantly questioning and looking for answers. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be done learning, because there will always be something I don’t know and want to. When I have a passion for something, whether it’s Harry Potter or a foreign language or a time in history or whatever, I want to learn absolutely everything about it. I devour books, fiction or nonfiction, classics or new releases, anything and everything that intrigues me enough to want to pick it up.
It doesn’t matter to me whether what I’m learning is “useful” or not. For example, when choosing a college major, it never occurred to me to specialize in field with higher paying jobs or better prospects; I thought carefully about which major to choose, but only considered ones that I have a passion for. My academic success is driven primarily by my love of learning (even Hufflepuff work ethic comes in second to that), so I knew I’d have a better chance to succeed if I was truly driven to learn more about what I was studying in my classes.
I try to embody Hufflepuff values as a teacher, but I was drawn to teaching in the first place for very Ravenclaw reasons. There’s nothing more fulfilling for me than sharing what I know and love with others and learning more about it along the way. I love teaching actual lessons, but I also love preparing them and figuring out the best way to teach something, making connections that escaped me when I was an elementary school student myself. I love that it’s different each day and that I have to be creative and adaptable in order to make things work. And I love that look in a kid’s eye when something finally clicks. I don’t think I could stand to do a desk job in an office. I would go crazy without something to stimulate my mind.
I would like to think that I make wise choices, and that I learn from my mistakes in order to become wiser as I grow older. Part of this, I think, is listening to both my head and my heart when I make a decision. I don’t like to make split-second gut instinct choices. I want to know all the facts first, and I also want time to consider my emotions and listen to my conscience. I find it easiest to solve a problem when I have the chance to “sleep on it” and process all the information.
In fact, processing and analyzing comes as naturally to me as breathing. Even when it comes to fictional stories, I can never just watch a movie or read a book, then put it down and forget about it. I have to overanalyze. I have to pick apart the details, the characters, the subtle uses of foreshadowing or horribly obvious plot twists, the themes and questions interwoven throughout. Everything that I read, I read it as literature, whether it’s Shakespeare or just some kids’ series about a wizard. 😉
I connect things. My mom calls me a “creative connector”, and she’s not wrong. I spend a lot of time thinking, for example, about what Hogwarts houses characters from other works of fiction would be in. As a teacher, I try to draw connections between different subject areas, because everything is connected, especially in the broad ways things are taught at the elementary school level. And as a student, I used to find those same sort of connections between my college classes, when – for instance – the same topic came up, from different perspectives, in a communications class, a linguistics class, and a foreign language class. The whole world is a huge web of connections, and …
I’m sorry. You were here to hear me talk about my Hogwarts house, not go off on a tangent about everything being connected. But do you see why I’m so sure I’m a Ravenclaw?
It occurred to me a while back that, as much as Gryffindor and Slytherin are sometimes portrayed as two sides of the same coin, Slytherin is just as much a foil to Hufflepuff as it is to Gryffindor. After all, ambition and work ethic go hand-in-hand. Both houses are more practical and focused on the real world, whereas Gryffindors and Ravenclaws tend to be more abstract and idealistic. And while Slytherins tend to be ruthless and harsh, whereas Hufflepuffs are kind and selfless, that’s certainly not universal. Zacharias Smith is far from selfless, and there’s nothing harsh or ruthless about Professor Slughorn. Both houses are even defined by their loyalties – or, rather, Hufflepuffs are defined by their loyalty, while Slytherins are the opposite: not necessarily disloyal, but very selectively loyal, fighting amongst themselves to prove themselves to Voldemort or betraying their side for a single person.
Couldn’t we also say, though, that Slytherin is a foil to Ravenclaw? Both houses value intelligence. However, with Ravenclaws it’s creativity, wisdom, and the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake that is valued. Slytherins, on the other hand, are sly and cunning, using their minds as weapons and their knowledge as a tool to help them get what they want. When I did my Divergent Sorting Hat Saturday posts, I found that most Erudite characters fit into Slytherin, even though their Faction aligns more closely with Ravenclaw at first glance. Even the mascots each reflect the other house’s traits if you know your heraldry: the snake was a symbol of wisdom, while the eagle represented power.
Is it fair to say that Ravenclaw and Slytherin represent two ways of valuing intelligence, that Hufflepuff and Slytherin represent two types of hard work and loyalty, and that Gryffindor and Slytherin represent two ways of taking action for what you think is important?
I talk a lot on this blog about how Slytherin doesn’t have to mean evil. I’ve sorted a lot of positive characters there (and a lot of negative ones into other houses). But within the series itself, looking at the contrast between the different houses, does it make sense to say that Slytherin is the “dark side” to all three “good” houses? I would say so.