Every Harry Potter fan knows that the Sorting Hat is the cornerstone to life at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. We’ve spent hours sorting everyone we know before using Pottermore to learn what house we’re ~really~ in. It’s been long implied that Gryffindors are brave, Slytherins are cunning and clever, Ravenclaws are witty and intelligent, and Hufflepuffs are kind, but a new fan theory about the sorting hat may change the way you look at how the sorting hat works.
Reddit user Straw_Boats was recently rereading the Harry Potter series and realized that the sorting hat may not sort students based on the type of person they are, rather on what they value most.
Straw_Boats writes that many of the characters who are sorted into their houses don’t necessarily possess the traits their houses boast.
“First of all, many of the kids sorted don’t actually have the traits espoused by their heads,” they write. “11-year-old Neville isn’t brave at all; he’s even scared of his own shadow. 11-year-old Draco isn’t anywhere near cunning (basically alienating Harry Potter, the wizarding world’s biggest celebrity).”
While sure, Neville becomes ~very~ brave throughout the series and Malfoy develops some cunning tendencies, Straw_Boats notes that the sorting hat would need extraordinary information in order to properly predict that students would grow up to accurately reflect their houses. Most Harry Potter fans know that ~sometimes~ the sorting hat had gotten things wrong (*cough* *cough* Peter Pettigrew).
One of the most important moments in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is when an 11-year-old Harry sits under the sorting hat in the Great Hall of Hogwarts and begs the sorting hat to put him anywhere except Slytherin, the house he’s heard terrible things about. We find out in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that Hermione chose Gryffindor over Ravenclaw, meaning that the sorting hat ~really~ does take preference into consideration.
“I’d argue it sorts a child based on their values. Specifically, a child who believes Bravery and Courage are the most important traits would go to Gryffindor, where as a child who values Intellectualism and Love of Learning above all else would go to Ravenclaw,” Straw_Boats continues. “The key difference is that a child need not possess that trait, but merely value it.”
“This explains how Draco, completely inept at becoming cunning (but growing up in a family where it is prized), can be sorted into Slytherin while Hermione (who is an intellectual, but wishes to become like her heroes in Gryffindor) can choose to become a Gryffindor. Additionally, this neatly explains how polarized the houses are towards one another. If you take all the kids that value bravery and stick them into one house (an environment where everyone else also values bravery above all else), you’ll start to see them all become brave (and, in some cases, to the exclusion of the other traits).”
While we’re not exactly surprised by the sorting hat choosing values over personality, the theory explains a ~lot~ about inter house relationships. We definitely need to go back and reread the series with this amazing revelation in mind.