The Sorting Hat

chapter seven of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry and his classmates enter Hogwarts for the first time and are sorted into houses; Harry becomes a Gryffindor when he requests not to be placed in Slytherin. The students then join the feast, where they meet their housemates and a few other Hogwarts characters, discuss their professors and classwork, and sing the Hogwarts school song before being ushered to bed at the top of Gryffindor Tower.
 

Admiring Hogwarts, by gerre

The entrance hall was so big you could have fit the whole of the Dursleys’ house in it. The stone walls were lit with flaming torches like the ones at Gringotts, the ceiling was too high to make out, and a magnificent marble staircase facing them led to the upper floors.

(by gerre)


 

Professor McGonagall, by Laurence Peguy

Professor McGonagall now stepped forward holding a long roll of parchment. “When I call your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool to be sorted.”


 

The Sorting Hat, by Hala Zabaneh

“Potter, Harry!” As Harry stepped forward, whispers suddenly broke out like little hissing fires all over the hall. “Potter, did she say?” “The Harry Potter?”


 

Nearly Headless Nick, by Laurence Peguy

“I don’t think I’ve introduced myself? Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington at your service. Resident ghost of Gryffindor Tower.”


 

Not So Great Hall, by NicoPony

It happened very suddenly. The hook-nosed teacher looked past Quirrell’s turban straight into Harry’s eyes – and a sharp, hot pain shot across the scar on Harry’s forehead.


 

Hoggy Warty Hogwarts, by gerre

Everybody finished the song at different times. At last, only the Weasley twins were left singing along to a very slow funeral march.

(by gerre)


 

Peeves, by haystax45

“Oooooooh!” he said, with an evil cackle. “Ickle Firsties! What fun!”


 

Gryffindors, by Chantelle

At the top of a spiral staircase they found their beds at last: five four-posters hung with deep red, velvet curtains…. Too tired to talk much, they pulled on their pajamas and fell into bed.


 

about the chapter

 

Just as an aside – if you’ve never been in a large hall in which hundreds of people simultaneously attempt to sing the Hogwarts school song to their own individual tune, it’s an experience. Having done it once, I can confidently list “utter chaos” among the things that Dumbledore enjoys (enough to be “wiping his eyes” after it’s done!).
 

The Wizarding World

The first years’ reaction to the ghosts entering the room is interesting. They’re all so startled that it’s clear even those raised by wizards have probably never before come across one. So then, are there other ghosts in Britain? And if so, where do they live (or haunt)? Sadly, we’ll only ever hear about others in passing, so it’s hard to know the full story.
 

Another insight into the workings of the Wizarding World comes through Harry’s conversation with Neville, where Neville explains how scared his family was that he “might not be magic enough to come” to Hogwarts. Though the story is little more than a humorous aside for the eleven-year-olds at the table, it’s also an early inkling of how deep the prejudices of the world really are. After all, the Longbottoms nearly killed Neville trying to “force” magic out of him. Malfoy has already shown us that wizards descended from Muggles are considered lower-class; now we’re seeing that other “deformities” can turn even a child into an extreme outcast as well.
 

Life at Hogwarts

How many students are there at Hogwarts? It will become clear over time that there are precisely 40 in Harry’s year, or ten per house (which, if it’s the case for every year, would mean a school of just under 300). But in an early interview, Rowling claims the school to have “about a thousand” students, and other estimates based on any number of other lines from the books and interview tidbits place the numbers somewhere squarely in the middle of those two estimates. It is worth remembering that Harry and his classmates were born during the height of a war, and thus at a time when there were likely to be fewer children coming around; so it’s reasonable for his class to be smaller than most, perhaps even by a significant margin. But probably a more important thing to remember is Rowling’s frequent assertion (backed up by her writing) that she struggles mightily with numbers, and we probably shouldn’t put too much stock in any one number she gives us. My best guess is that there are around 400 or 500 students at Hogwarts, generally speaking, which is based on lots of different facts. But an educated guess or gut instinct is almost certainly the closest we will ever get to having an actual figure.
 

The Boy Who Lived

Though his dislike for Slytherin isn’t founded on much – hearsay from Hagrid and Ron, and a couple of encounters with Malfoy – Harry trusts his instincts enough to avoid the house. Notice that he doesn’t specifically ask for Gryffindor, though, despite hearing nearly as many negatives about Hufflepuff as he has Slytherin. In other words, it’s not Harry’s normal fears of acceptance that drive his choice (even Hagrid said that Hufflepuffs are “duffers”). Instead it’s his gut feeling about Slytherin specifically – and quite possibly the air of presumed superiority that surrounds the members of its house. Knowing full well what it’s like to be treated as an inferior, Harry wants no part of that game.
 

Something to Remember

The Sorting Hat very nearly placed Harry in Slytherin, despite the fact that, at least from Harry’s perspective, he doesn’t have much in common with any of the Slytherins he ever meets. Harry will later wonder why the Hat nearly made this choice, but it will be a long while before he discovers what it was the Hat was seeing inside him when it considered placing him there.
 

The Final Word

(When asked, “Where did you get the idea for the Sorting Hat?”)
“That was a bit of hard work. First, I considered the many different ways we sort things. Pulling names out of a hat was the one that kept coming back to me. So I twisted the idea around and came up with a talking hat that could make decisions.”–J.K. Rowling, October 1999
 

“My favourite book was The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge…. And perhaps more than any other book, it has a direct influence on the Harry Potter books. The author always included details of what her characters were eating and I remember liking that. You may have noticed that I always list the food being eaten at Hogwarts.”–J.K. Rowling, November 2002
 


46 Responses to “The Sorting Hat”

  1. I just love the pictures of all the Hogwarts characters! Laurence Peguy has such beautiful drawings, and the pictures of the school are amazing.

  2. My favorite part of this chapter are the “few words” before the banquet by Dumbledore!

    Neither in the British nor in the German version of the book do we see Dean Thomas getting sorted. Therefore we don’t learn that he is black as it is never mentioned again. In fact, I once heard that the makers of the film had to be told by JKR as they had cast a white boy as Dean.

    Seamus asks, why the Bloody Baron is covered in blood. We’ll learn why in book 7.

    Neville: “The family thought I was all Muggle.” We later learn that there is a word for those who are born to wizards but is non-magic.

    We never hear the school song again.

    Note Harry’s dream about the turban that talks to him.

  3. Yes I thought that was very interesting about Harry’s dream. I love the foreshadowing in these books, how you don’t realise but something in there is vitally important. I also love how J K Rowling mentions little details about what food or drinks her characters are having. I think it’s cleverly hinting at what sort of people they are.

  4. I love that Ron mentions his relief that he doesn’t have to wrestle a troll in order to be sorted, as Fred had suggested. What beautiful foreshadowing to the events that take place a few chapters later!

  5. As I recall the teachers all had very strained smiles while singing the school song, my guess is that they all told Dumbledore that it sucked and that’s why we never heard it again.

  6. Wasn’t there a JKR quote out there mentioning that Dumbledore only made them sing it because he was feeling particularly celebratory and *that’s* why we never hear it again?

  7. I was really taken by how small the class sizes were. I mean 10 kids per year in each house, or roughly that; so just 40 new kids per year on average? For the entire population of the UK?! Or .00000066 percent of the population every year roughly. So, less than one in a million kids are born wizards or witches each year. Wow.

  8. One more thing I wondered is if the ratio of students/house is kept constant , and if so, how?

  9. This chapter is great. Knowing Hogwarts. What Natalia says it’s true, I didn’t realize that. And I love that Jo includes those little details, like the food they eat.

  10. I’ve always been confused about the small number of first years, too. If that’s the case every year, where are the “hundreds” of students that are mentioned in this chapter.

  11. Remember, everyone in Harry’s year was about one year old when Voldemort was first defeated. During the First Wizarding War, wizards and witches might have been afraid to have chilren. That might be why there are only 40 children in Harry’s year.

  12. Good point, Jeremy. After all, that’s what happened in the US (at least) during WWII. But they’d seriously need to have more teachers for when the population starts increasing again. :)

  13. I’m currently listening to OotP and there are a “hundred or so” carriages. 6 kids are riding in Harry’s carriage. If that’s average, that would make 600 or so students, which would 100 students per year, since the first years are taking the boats. So yeah, it seems there are only few in Harry’s year.

  14. I’ve always been very interested in the question of the number of students in each year. It does seem to me that forty is about average for a year at Hogwarts, not only because it’s the apparent number in Harry’s year, but because it makes logistical sense.

    We know there’s only one teacher per subject at Hogwarts, and first and second years only take eight subjects. For now I’ll discount astronomy, because we know this takes place at night, outside normal class time. This still leaves seven subjects for the first and second years, and we know that every student takes every subject.

    Based on this information, it would be impossible for each house to have all their classes separately (i.e. with students from their own house only). The first year alone would have four teachers, leaving three for the second years. Even without considering the older students, there just aren’t enough teachers to go around without houses doubling up for some subjects.

    If the average year at Hogwarts contains around 100 students, this would mean some classes are taken by 50 students at once. English state schools very rarely have more than 35 students in one class. Class sizes in private schools don’t usually go much over 25, and can be as small as 10 depending on the subject. This ensures that teachers are able to keep an eye on all the students, and give attention to each student that requires it.

    Consider the amount of trouble that can be caused by just twenty students in a potions class, under Snape’s watchful eye. How much more chaotic it could be with 50! I doubt even Snape has the ability to watch fifty students at once to prevent dangerous mistakes. In fact, he sometimes misses things with twenty (such as when Harry throws a firework into a cauldron in CoS without being noticed).

    Instead, I think an average of forty in a year is about right. That means classes of 10-20 people, which is in line with the average for an English private school. Of course, this doesn’t answer the problem of the ‘hundreds’ of students in the Great Hall or the ‘hundred or so’ carriages, but
    I choose to take these references as hyperbole on JKR’s part. Everything we see is from Harry’s perspective, and it’s quite normal for a young boy to see things in exaggerated terms.

    Next, I want to answer Grreg’s point about there being less than one in a million magical children born each year. This seems to be based on the number of children in Harry’s year (40) as a percentage of the overall population of the UK (roughly 60,606,000 based on the percentage given).

    In fact, we need to find the number of magical children born in 1980 (40) as a percentage of the number of children born in 1980. As I haven’t been able to find the number for 1980, I’ve taken the number for 1977 (the closest I can get). In 1977 there were 569,259 live births in the UK, and roughly forty of these were magical:

    40 / 569,259 x 100 = 0.007026679

    So around 0.007% of children born each year are magical, or 7 in 100,000. This seems fair to me, particularly considering that the wizarding population in general appears to be quite small.
    Finally, I have a comment on Jeremy’s suggestion that wizards and witches might have been afraid to have children at the height of Voldemort’s power. In fact, there is a school of thought that the number of marriages and births actually increases during times of national turmoil, because people are terrified that they won’t have time for all this later in life. Consider Molly Weasley’s comment in HBP:

    “I know why it’s happened, of course. It’s all this uncertainty with You-Know-Who coming back, people think they might be dead tomorrow, so they’re rushing all sorts of decisions they’d normally take time over. It was the same last time he was powerful, people eloping left, right, and centre…”

    I realise she’s talking about marriage, but “decisions they’d normally take time over” could certainly include the decision to have children. The Weasleys are actually an excellent example of this: Bill Weasley was born in 1970, right around the start of Voldemort’s first reign of terror, and the Weasleys proceeded to have five more children, all while Voldemort was gaining power. Only one of their seven children was born after the fall of Voldemort. Similarly, Tonks and Lupin have a child at the height of Voldemort’s power the second time around.

    Of course, these are just two examples, and they could have been the exception rather than the rule. But the evidence is that Voldemort was powerful for more than just the year Harry was born, as per Dumbledore’s comment in the first chapter of PS: “we’ve had precious little to celebrate for eleven years.” If fear of Voldemort was stopping people from having children, why did it only start in 1980? We would expect the years above Harry to be similarly small if this was the case, and that makes the literal interpretation of ‘hundreds’ of students very difficult indeed.

  15. I just re-read Natalia’s comment (“they’d seriously need to have more teachers for when the population starts increasing again”) and realised this could be put forward to counter my first point above – there are so few teachers because there are only a few students. This is a fair argument, but it doesn’t sit well with me. Everything in the books seems to point to the idea that there has always been just one teacher per subject, particularly the fact that most of the teachers around now were teaching during Riddle’s time at Hogwarts (before the proposed drop in births). It seems odd that if there were more teachers in previous years, we’ve never seen or heard about any of them (even in various memories). For example, Slughorn taught potions (surely one of the subjects requiring extra teachers for more students, to ensure everyone can be watched closely) when Riddle was at school, and it definitly seems to be implied that he was the only potions teacher.

  16. When the students are discussing their parentage at the dinner table, I notice that Neville sidesteps the issue altogether by talking only about his Gran and other extended family. I didn’t spot this the first time I read the book, but it stands out on a second reading.

  17. I love the songs included in this chapter! So creative and adds much richness to the text. The Hogwarts school song sounds like something a young student would compose… I can picture that it was originally chosen as the winning entrant in a “Write the School Song” contest.

    In the FAQ section of her website, when asked why we haven’t heard the school song since the first book, JK Rowling replied that “Dumbledore called for the school song when he was feeling particularly buoyant, but times are becoming ever darker in the wizarding world…”

    Surely Dumbledore was feeling particularly buoyant and celebratory in this chapter because Harry (who Dumbledore had been watching and planning for so closely for years) was finally at Hogwarts and back in his care.

    Harry’s dream at the end of the chapter always stands out for me. This is the first of the many predictive nightmares/visions Harry will experience over the next seven years. I think it’s interesting that Harry forgets all about the dream and consequently can’t share it with anyone, so only the reader is left with this clue about the sinister nature of Quirrell’s turban.

    Great site, by the way! Quite a treat to read.

  18. I’ve always wondered – is it possible to change the house you’ve been put into? I’ve yet to come up with a reason why someone would need to do it, but it could be possible. If so, has anyone ever done it? Just pondering out loud.

  19. As far as the debate about the number of students per year/class and so forth, I read somewhere a quote of J. K. Rowling’s where she said she’s terrible at numbers. This could explain a lot.

  20. Where is it mentioned that there are 40 in each year? I haven’t read the last 3 books in a while so I’ve forgotten the details, but is it actually mentioned or do we just assume that’s how many there are since there are 5 boys in Gryffindor, and go from there?
    Is it possible that it just so happened the Sorting Hat decided 5 boys were worthy of Gryffindor that year, but the numbers for the other houses varied depending on the students? I can’t imagine the Sorting Hat going “Well this boy here is clearly evil personified, but I’ve already put 5 boys in Slytherin this year, so I’ll put this one in Ravenclaw, since there are only 3 boys in there so far”. I always thought the numbers across the houses weren’t quite even, since the Sorting Hat wouldn’t know what people were coming up next, so couldn’t exactly plan ahead which 10 people would go to each house. Maybe Harry’s year was just a quiet year for Gryffindor?
    Of course I have no proof to back this up, so it’s quite possible there’s a quote somewhere that would ruin my theory!

  21. Hi Samantha – it’s never explicitly mentioned in the books that there are 40 students in Harry’s year, but Rowling gave an interview (actually a TV special) in which she flashed a piece of paper on which she’d written information about all the students in Harry’s year, and it’s pretty clear from that that there are 40 altogether, 5 boys and 5 girls in each house. You’re right that this doesn’t make much sense from the Sorting Hat’s perspective (in fact if you calculate the odds that this would happen with 40 kids they’re something along the lines of 0.001%) but it’s the way Rowling laid it out, so Harry’s year must have defied the odds. :)

    Here are a couple of links to the Lexicon for more information:
    A picture of the class list (screen captured from the TV show) can be found here;
    There is also a very well-thought-out analysis of the list here.

  22. Another thing to consider is that it seems very clear that there are some classes that are only a few times a week, if not just once a week. I seem to remember that in book 4 Ron lamented not having Moody “until Thursday” and there was double potions on Friday, but potions wasn’t mentioned any other time so it’s possible potions was only once a week. It’s possible the teachers manage their huge course load by only teaching the students once or twice a week, in addition to there being a few classes where houses are doubled up, like Care of Magical Creatures, Herbology, and Potions.

  23. So McGonagall would have had 20 classes of Students of year 1-5 and 4 NEWT-classes per week, provided that half of the students would take NEWT in transfigurations. That means 4-5 classes a day.

    Snape of course had only about half of the classes, it is mentiones “double-potions”, what means, that potions classes lasts double the time than other classes. And don´t forget . Snape must be prepared to substitute for the DADA-teacher, and I bet, that he had to do this more often than in PoA.

  24. as to the class sizes. it could easily be that harrys year and perhaps previous years were smaller than usual simply because of the first war. the first war lasted roughly 11 years. and we know many of the original OOTP were killed. likely many witches and wizards not in the OOTP also died during that time. and many were put away in azkahban. considering the small magical population in britain to start with, the loss of life in the first war could easily have affected the population for a generation or two.

  25. The first broomstick lesson and the herbology lesson with the mandrakes both give indications of the numbers of students in those lessons – twenty. Both lessons include – and as each lesson include members of two houses: if there were more students in each house, they wouldn’t divide them between two lessons, but schedule one lesson for each house. So there are the same number of Huffelpuffs as Slitherins, and that number plus the Griffinfors equals twenty.

    But I agree with John: if the Sorting Hat has to put equal numbers in each house, it has no choice with the last student. If the Hat had persuaded Harry to go to Slytherin after all, the last student to be sorted in Harry’s year, Blaise Zabini of Slytherin, would have had to be put into Griffindor instead.

  26. I’m not sure if this has been noted, or explained, but…
    How come Quirrell isn’t introduced at the feast? How come everybody seems to already know him? Why is the fact that he’s new not mentioned at all?

    Because he must be new to the school that year, as they have had one new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher every year since Tom Riddle applied.

    At least, that’s how I see it. Maybe I’ve missed something? It seems to me to be another thing JK hadn’t thought of when she was writing the first book.

  27. Margherita, an interesting observation – and probably just something Rowling hadn’t planned all the way through when she wrote the first book (there were several pieces like this that were contradicted later). Quirrell wasn’t a new teacher – he had previously taught Muggle Studies, according to Rowling’s website – but this was his first year teaching D.A.D.A., which surely Dumbledore would have mentioned. Ah well.

  28. after reading the 3rd book, i realised that during the quidditch final between gryffindor & slytherin, JKR says that

    harry saw a lot of students cheering gryffindor while more than 200 kids behind the goalpost were all for slytherin

    it is mentioned that all hufflepuffs and ravenclaws were cheering for gryffindor as they wanted slytherin to lose.
    this makes 3/4 of all students.
    200 students cheering slytherin makes 1/4 approx.
    meaning we multiply 200 by 4 we should get all the students in the stadium.
    200×4=800
    or more than 800
    so, what is the total no of students???
    and

  29. While I agree that the even division of students to the four houses seems highly unlikely there is something else in the chapter that puzzles me even more. In “The Journey From Platform Nine and Three-Quarters” Hermione mentions that she read all the required school books and some more for “background reading”. She certainly has read “Hogwarts: A Historty” since she mentions it to Harry in the chapter “The Sorting Hat”. Even though I already find it hard to believe that none of the first years from wizard families know about the Sorting Hat, I can’t imagine that the sorting hat would not be mentioned in “Hogwarts: A History” or any of the other books.
    So I’m alway confused about the passage: “[Harry] looked around anxiously and saw that everyone else looked terrified too. No one was talking much except Hermione Granger, who was whispering very fast about all the spells she’d learnt and wondering which one she’d need.”
    Maybe anyone of you has an explaination for this, that I simply overlooked. This site (the site itself, as well as the comment section) has already provided me with a few new view points and explanations I would never have come up with myself.

  30. Tricia, I think you picked out one of the things in the books that just don’t make any sense. There isn’t really a way to explain it, especially given that there’s basically zero chance that the Sorting Hat wouldn’t be in the book (Hermione does this again later with the Triwizard Tournament – she doesn’t seem to know what it is, but later mentions that it was described in Hogwarts a History).

    To be fair, most of these types of flaws happen in the first book, before Rowling was really thinking things through all the way as she did later on….

  31. I’m rereading the series again and I noticed that there are 5 students that get Sorted here that don’t make an appearance in the rest of the series. They are Mandy Brocklehurst, Morag MacDougal, someone with the last name Moon, Sally-Anne Perks, and Lisa Turpin. Did JKR ever explain why these 5 students disappeared after this chapter?

  32. Jeremy, we don’t ever get an explanation exactly, but in a TV special Rowling once showed a list of *everyone* in Harry’s year, which included some that weren’t even mentioned in this chapter. She mapped out all the names so she would have characters if she needed them, but in the end didn’t need to use them all (including two girls in Harry’s own house – each house had five boys and five girls, but there are two Gryffindors who are never mentioned).

  33. Hi Mike,

    I found this site really randomly, thanks to a fateful Google search, and just wanted to say I love it! It’s really so much fun reading the book along with this, and can’t wait to go through the whole series with it! :)

    I also just wanted to mention the fact that Hagrid himself doesn’t call Hufflepuffs “duffers”, but merely says, “Everyone says Hufflepuffs are a lot o’ duffers, but-” and Harry cuts him off. But my guess is that he was going to argue with that idea, knowing Hagrid.

    Hope I cleared things up a little!

  34. The thing that struck me most in this chapter was Neville describing his home life. It really upset me how much he questioned his place in the wizarding world. I love Neville so much and I think he had an even worse time than Harry growing up. Sure Harry didn’t know his parents and was bullied by his relatives but Neville, bless him, grew up knowing his parents were alive and yet had no idea who he was. He was also made to feel worthless by his family for not being ‘magical enough’. It’s amazing how much the story of a fictional character can break my heart. I’m just so glad Neville gets his moment and proves his parents proud.

    I also wondered about how nobody knew about the sorting hat. There is no way it would be missing from Hogwarts: A History.

    Also the line “The hook-nosed teacher looked…straight into Harry’s eyes” has so much more meaning now. I can just imagine what Snape is feeling. I feel for him, I think he was brave and loyal but I still hate him. So far I’m feeling more empathy than I usually do towards him but I’ll never forgive him for how he treated his students, especially Neville. I know in his head he thought Neville was partly to blame for Lily’s death (being the other boy in the prophecy) but he was a bully plain and simple and that is unforgivable.

    One last point. I noticed that Harry was going to ask Ron if he had tried the treacle tart before he fell asleep. I was wondering, did Harry have the treacle tart that night because he liked it (I doubt it since Dudley took all the nice food before Harry could get it so Harry’s probably never eaten it before) or does Harry like treacle tart (enough for it to be one third of his amortentia smell) because it was the first pudding he ever had at Hogwarts?

  35. It IS impossible for Hogwarts: A History to have neglected to expound on the Sorting ceremony, seeing as how it has formed part of the school’s tradition for centuries now. I also doubt that Hermione might have only failed to comb the whole book thoroughly for details. It just doesn’t seem like her. The whole mishap could have been a writing inconsistency.

    One thing I’ve noticed: Arthur Weasley reprimands Ginny in CoS, telling her to “never trust anything that can think for itself, if you can’t see where it keeps its brains”. I wonder what he would have made out of the Sorting Hat…

    Another thing I’ve noticed: Sally-Anne Perks was never mentioned again during their practical OWL tests in Book 5, was she? Her name was skipped over. Was there any mention on the books as to what happened to her? I might have missed out on something…

    Great observation on The Boy Who Lived, John! Harry trusting his gut instincts to avoid Slytherins, indeed. I remember Lupin’s words on PotterWatch in DH: about how Harry’s gut instincts are nearly always right. Quite a nice warning for us, readers, about the true nature of Slytherins.

  36. I disagree with the whole gut instincts thing. At this time, Harry has heard from Hagrid and Ron that they’re evil and/or not to be trusted. Then he looks at their table, and his thoughts are (not verbatim): “Maybe it was everything he’d heard about them, but they looked like a nasty lot.” This has always bothered me – he makes that judgement before he’s got to know any of them, and that doesn’t seem like good gut instincts to me so much as being easily influenced by other people’s prejudice. OK, in the end it turns out that his assessment was largely correct, but that doesn’t excuse his snap judgement at this point in the story. He basically writes off 25% of the school, because they look prety nasty – something about that just seems wrong to me. He’s only 11 (and already dislikes Malfoy for legitimate reasons) so I think that excuses his behaviour to an extent, but I don’t see this as his famous gut instinct at work.

  37. I’ve always seen Harry’s aversion to Slytherin in this chapter not so much as a snap judgment of the whole House or an instinctive dislike of the qualities they may (or may not) possess, but as a deep conflict in Harry’s own nature. He carries a piece of Voldemort’s soul, and thus has a certain potential to go down a dark path, something he worries a lot about both in this chapter and through Chamber of Secrets. I think his almost irrational fear about getting placed in Slytherin demonstrates that on some subconscious level he is aware of the presence of that fragment of soul within him and fears its influence. Harry’s dream at the end of the chapter also speaks to this idea: I’ve always assumedthe voice of the dream-turban was really the voice of that little piece of Voldemort, whispering in Harry’s ear and trying to lead him astray. You’ll notice that the pain as it tightens around his head is reminiscent of the pain in his scar. So Harry’s fear is not so much a prejudice against Slytherin so much as a fear of something inside Harry himself.

  38. Harry dislikes Slytherin because he dislikes Draco. Remember, before Harry had heard anything about the houses at Hogwarts, he meets Draco inside Madam Malkin’s. Draco immediately makes a poor impression on Harry as Draco reminds him of Dudley.

    After this poor first impression, and complaining that it would be a crime if he isn’t allowed on the Quidditch team—Harry doesn’t know what that is yet—Draco mentions that he *knows* he’ll be in Slytherin. Draco compounds this poor first impression by then mocking Hagrid.

    The comments by Hagrid and Ron only confirm what Harry already believes about Slytherin. So, I’d say his gut instinct was spot on, in this instance.

  39. Liy and Nathaniel, both fair points! I suppose he is told that the house you go in says something about your personality, and Draco’s secure belief that he’ll be in Slytherin combined with his rather obnoxious personality does give Harry a fairly strong reason to tie the two together and assume Slytherins are probably unpleasant. I think I’ve always got hung up on that line (the one I quoted above) which makes it seem like he’s basing his opinion on looks and hear-say; I’ve never thought to put that line in the context of everything else he’s experienced so far.

  40. Honestly, I’ve always had a bit of a problem with Harry’s immediate dislike of Draco. From meeting him in the robe shop to the incident on the train… I don’t know. Obviously, Draco DOES turn out to be an insolent little shit, but I kind of wonder what things would have been like if Harry hadn’t made a snap judgement that he was too much like Dudley.

    To me, Harry’s first time meeting him in the robe shop just reads like a little kid trying to impress another little kid. They’ve both been fairly sheltered growing up (albeit in two entirely different ways) and are probably both kind of unsure of how to act in social situations. I would venture to guess that Draco is just going by what he sees his parents doing when they meet new people, and Harry, who’s never really had a chance to make a friend, doesn’t really know how to react to him.

    If you look at the entire thing from Draco’s perspective, really, Harry kind of comes off as rude and unresponsive, since Draco obviously doesn’t know what’s going on in Harry’s head. Even Draco insulting Hagrid kind of turns into an slightly awkward kid trying to make conversation. He finally gets more than just a one word answer or a grunt out of Harry, so he tries to keep the topic going.

    When they meet again on the train, Draco again attempts to make friends with Harry, but makes the mistake of insulting Ron, again something he’s probably just copying from his father, and things take a turn for the even worse.

    Sorry about the misplaced rant about Draco Malfoy. Haha It just kind of frustrates me that Harry does kind of seem to be basing his judgement of Slytherin house as a whole on two brief and awkward encounters with another eleven year old boy.

  41. @Sara I’ve just written an essay on prejudice in Harry Potter and part of that included the dislike of anyone in Slytherin house. There is prejudice but Harry’s isn’t just based on the two encounters with Malfoy that you mention. The first time he hears about Slytherin house is when Malfoy mentions it in Madam Malkins. However, he then has Hagrid tell him that there wasn’t a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin and that you-know-who (the man who is responsible for Harry being an orphan) was one. I think that it’s Hagrid’s words that stick with Harry rather than Malfoy’s actions.

  42. Also, a thought on the number of students vs. the number of teachers debate…

    Isn’t it entirely possible that there’s more than one professor for each subject, but they’re just never mentioned? If Harry’s never been taught by any of them, and we see everything from his perspective, it would make sense that they wouldn’t show up. After all, there are other characters, ones that would seem more likely to get at least a passing mention (such as the two unnamed Gryffindor girls in his year that Hermione actually lives with for six years but never speaks about).

  43. Given the relative sizes of the Wizarding and Muggle populations, the birth rate in the UK, and the amount of children sent abroad for education (taking into account the lack of variety in schools within Britain), Hogwarts should average 40968 students at any given time. Obviously, given that the majority of students there during Harry’s first year would have been born during wartime, this has been diminished, but the few years below Harry should have an above-average level of students, due to the post-war high spirits, as seen in the post-WWII “baby boom”.

  44. I can’t help but wonder what McGonagall is thinking when she sees Harry again for the first time since he was a baby. She obviously cares about the boy, otherwise she wouldn’t have spent so much of her time checking up on his new Privet Drive family. She also knew both his parents and since his mother was such a talented witch, you know her Head of House would’ve taken notice. She must’ve been hoping as hard as she could to have him in her house. I’d imagine she smirked at Snape for weeks after the Sorting!

  45. Maybe there are a handful of different tunes for the Hogwarts song, and most people sing their favorite tune, with the exception of the few like the twins who have tunes of their own. I’d imagine it would be slightly less chaotic.

  46. “Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you.”

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