Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hogwarts Houses – are you prejudiced?

I’m a big Harry Potter fan (see previous blogs here for other HP thoughts). You won’t understand this blog unless you’ve read the books.

Four houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin. Each house has different characteristics and favours different types of pupils. But I think that most Harry Potter fans are prejudiced against at least two of these houses: Slytherin and Hufflepuff. Before tackling each in turn, here’s a summary of the features of each house, taken mainly from Sorting Hat songs.

Gryffindor: brave at heart, daring, nerve, chivalry, boldness

Hufflepuff: just, loyal, true, hardworking, accepting

Ravenclaw: ready/sharp mind, wit, learners, clever

Slytherin: cunning, ruthless, ambitious, resourceful, determined

Looking at those lists, if you knew nothing about the Harry Potter stories, which house would you pick? Which qualities would you want to be known for? I doubt the vast majority would pick Gryffindor, as usually happens on online ‘which house would you want to be in’ quizzes.

People seem to prefer Gryffindor, obviously because most of the protagonists are or were in that house.

People’s last choice is usually Slytherin. This is partially understandable, because Voldemort was one. But I think Harry Potter fans make the same mistake as Hagrd, who says “There’s not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin”, forgetting, of course, about Peter Pettigrew. Admittedly Hagrid didn’t know at the time of this quote that Pettigrew was a Death Eater, but he did think Sirius Black was one, and still claimed that all Death Eaters were Slytherins.
Most fans actually seem to go one step further than Hagrid and assume that all Slytherins are ‘bad’. This is of course nonsense – well under half of the Death Eaters mentioned in the books are known to be Slytherins. None of Harry Slytherin contemporaries are Death Eaters (Malfoy backs out of course). Snape and Slughorn are not Death Eaters.
But many fans seem to have got it into their heads that Slytherin=bad. All because Voldemort was one. Yes, quite a few death eaters are too, but remember that Voldemort was pro-pureblood, as is Slytherin house, so it’s statistically to be expected than many of his followers would be from that house.

Now to Hufflepuff. After Gryffindor, most fans would choose Ravenclaw way above Hufflepuff. I was talking to two fans recently who said they’d hate to be in Hufflepuff. I just don’t get this. Look at that list again – just, loyal, true, hardworking, accepting – why would anyone be ashamed of these attributes? I think we might be able to blame Hagrid again: “Everyone says Hufflepuff are a lot o’ duffers but–“. This throwaway comment seems to have persuaded many fans that Hufflepuff are just a bit week and useless, which, as far as I can tell, is completely unfounded.

This annoys me a bit. Prejudice is probably the third main theme of Rowling’s books (after love and death). She writes very clearly against prejudice of all kinds. And her fans, unthinkingly, are prejudiced for or against the four houses. How ironic.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

One other thin about Hufflepuff - probably the Hufflepuff that we (readers) get to know best is Cedric Diggory.
Why do people find Cedric annoying? He's a legend! He's honest, modest, considerate, loyal, brave...I could go on. He is the closest we get to a personification of Hufflepuff house. Why, based on Cedric, would anyone not want to be in Hufflepuff?