Lately I’ve been diving back into Harry Potter. I’m going through some changes in my life — I’ll fill you in soon! — and that leads to stress, which leads to this need for something familiar. Something safe. That’s where Harry Potter comes in.
A lot of people say they re-read the Harry Potter books or watch the films when they’re going through difficult times, like a break-up, major move, or job change. I believe that’s because Harry Potter offers an escape from reality that feels safe rather than dangerous. Most of us already know the story, and while it’s certainly full of danger, it’s also an inspiring story about friendship and bravery, set in a magical world that feels like it would be a happy place to live.
And one of my favorite things about Harry Potter is choosing my house.
At the wizarding school of Hogwarts, where protagonist Harry Potter goes to study, students are divvied up into four different houses: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. If you know Harry Potter, you know all about this — you might even have your house picked out based on your personality! But for those who don’t, a quick profile:
- Gryffindor: Known for courage and chivalry. I like to think that Gryffindors will always stand up for what’s right, as their sense of justice is their guiding force.
- Ravenclaw: Known for intelligence. Ravenclaws are the most academic of the houses, although I imagine there’s a healthy mix of pretentious show-offs, witty daredevils, and shy bookworms…
- Hufflepuff: Known for their loyalty and work ethic. These are the people you can always count on — they’re great friends who understand the value of love, trust, and life’s simple pleasures.
- Slytherin: Known for cunning. They’re ambitious, and when they set their minds to something, they know just how to manipulate things to get their way. I think of them as the Machiavellis of Hogwarts, but they can be good-hearted as well as determined.
Students are sorted on their first night at Hogwarts. Each takes a turn sitting on a stool at the front of the Great Hall, at which point the Sorting Hat is placed on their heads. This Hat has insight into each student — and a voice, too. When Harry takes his turn, he thinks to himself, Not Slytherin, because he’s met a Slytherin boy who seems like a bully and doesn’t want to be like that himself. The Sorting Hat admits that Harry would make a great Slytherin but, taking Harry’s will into account, places him in Gryffindor instead.
Of course I had to choose my house too, and Ravenclaw felt like the best fit. I’ve always been a little nerdy, caught up in my own interests and imagination. Some of the most iconic Ravenclaw characters are a little out there — like Professor Sybill Trelawney and student Luna Lovegood — and I identify with their focus on the inner life.
And so, over the years, I’ve bought Ravenclaw notebooks, blue scarves, a themed eagle keychain. Ravenclaw is my house, and I’ve always been proud of it.
But only recently did I decide to take what I consider to be the true online Sorting Hat test, on the officially Harry Potter website Pottermore. The quiz is a strange one; it includes a lot of abstract questions like, “What scent would attract you most?” in addition to the more obvious, “Would you rather be granted wisdom, bravery…” etc. Still, I answered the questions as best I could, fully expecting to be tossed into the Ravenclaw common room at the end.
Instead, I was placed in Gryffindor.
My first instinct was to retake the quiz, but I was already logged into the Pottermore website. It wouldn’t let me retake it.
Next, I researched everything I could about Gryffindor vs Ravenclaw. I wanted to hear what others had to say about their placement, and it sounds like the Pottermore quiz sorted a lot of people into unexpected houses.
Then I tried to come to terms with my new allocation. Gryffindor is a noble house, after all. What I love about Gryffindor is that they value what’s right above all else — and in a way, I identify with that. I don’t want knowledge just for the sake of knowledge; I want to use it for good. I’ve never thought of myself as brave, given how shy I can be, but in thinking it through I can see times in my life when I did make bold choices.
Even so, the creativity and curiosity that I always associated with Ravenclaw kept nagging at me. Plus, all that merchandise!
So I decided to create a new Pottermore log-in and retake the quiz that way. I have two e-mail addresses, after all. If I got Gryffindor again, I would know that it’s my house. It’s meant to be. If I got Ravenclaw, I’d have some thinking to do. And if I got anything else — well then, I would have to just pick my house and be done with it!
At the end of the quiz, I had to smile at the result: Ravenclaw.
I immediately jumped into the website to research about my house. Pottermore is a gorgeous site that’s designed to lead you down the rabbit hole, clicking on one post after another to learn about the world of Harry Potter. In the Ravenclaw section, I clicked on profiles of famous Ravenclaw characters, read about ghosts like Helena Ravenclaw, and tried to picture myself in the Ravenclaw common room. I felt right at home.
I still have some thinking to do about all of this. It’s funny how a seemingly simple quiz that sorts you into a fictional house can lead you to analyze yourself so much. That was the fun of it for me, though: it’s an excuse to dig into who I am, why I do the things I do, and the kind of person I want to become.
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, once said, “Sometimes I think we sort too soon,” when discussing the traits people can exhibit. Being part of one house doesn’t cut you off from the traits of another house, and you can evolve over time too. Nobody truly fits a specific profile — we’re all a blend of characteristics, and our house is just an indicator of one facet of ourselves that we value. For example, Hermione Granger is often held up as an example of a Gryffindor who could have easily been a Ravenclaw due to her intelligence and love of academia, but perhaps it was her inner courage that guided her more than anything else.
If you haven’t taken the Sorting Hat quiz, I highly recommend it (despite the confusion it can cause). If you’re ready for an existential crisis of your own, here it is: https://my-pottermore.wizardingworld.com/sorting-hat. Enjoy!
What Hogwarts house do you identify with? And what do you think of the sorting process?
Featured photo by Clark Young