Hogwarts Houses Explained

An explanation that goes beyond good, evil, smart, and other.


Sydney Gager, Editor

With Harry Potter still a popular staple of pop culture (and my own obsession returning), I’ve been inspired by RHS sorting hat, Maddy Saffer, to explore the Hogwarts Houses. Whether you believe the houses are a fun form of self discovery or simply a form of rivalry among fans, I have a few articles planned: Why Gryffindor is Overrated, Why Slytherin isn’t (Inherently) Evil, Why Ravenclaw Uniqueness is Important, and Why Hufflepuff is Underrated. To prepare readers for my takes on the four Hogwarts Houses, I am going to review each house’s basic traits as exemplified by an important character. 

Here’s a pause for a spoiler warning! The Harry Potter series is about a decade old, so if you’re taking time out of your day to read my take on fictional sorting, I’m going to assume you’re an up-to-date fan. If you’re afraid of spoilers, this is not the article for you. 

We all know that Gryffindors are brave, Hufflepuffs are loyal, Ravenclaws are smart, and Slytherins are cunning. When the sorting hat first introduces readers to the houses, Gryffindor is for “the brave at heart,” people who are “daring” and full of “nerve and chivalry.” Hufflepuffs are “just and loyal,” “patient,” “and unafraid of toil.” Ravenclaws are “wise,” with “ready mind[s]” for “wit and learning.” Slytherins are “cunning folk [who] use any means to achieve their ends.”

Maddy Saffer described the houses slightly differently: Gryffindors value justice, Hufflepuffs value altruism, Ravenclaws value logic, and Slytherins value self-empowerment. I’m drawn to her descriptions because they’re less simplistic. As a Gryffindor who lacks typical bravery, I understood my house better by what it values more than being told I was “daring.” (And I believe that a better understanding of the houses can help every fan with understanding themselves).

When asked what each houses’ best and worst traits were, Maddy went on to give amazing descriptions: “Gryffindor has a strong moral compass which I love. They have super steadfast beliefs and always want to do the right thing: this is a double edged sword, however, cuz when their beliefs are challenged, gryffindors can be adamant and inflexible. They also have a large hero complex and enjoy attention.”

An example of this is Hermione Granger. Hermione has a strong sense of justice, a defined moral compass, and unabashed beliefs. When Hermione decides that house elves deserve equality, it doesn’t matter that no one (including the house elves) agrees with her. She forms S.P.E.W because of her Gryffindor hero-complex and inflexible drive for justice.

“Hufflepuff is full of altruistic and compassionate people, mom friends with dad jokes. They’re also hard workers. Of course, they don’t believe in self care and never focus on themselves, overworking themselves until they become an emotional wreck. They can also be clingy.” 

It’s difficult to flesh out an example of this, as the Hufflepuffs are notoriously underrepresented in the books (generally they are the brunt of the jokes or killed before we get to know them). Nymphadora Tonks is the best example we have–from her sense of humor, loyalty to Remus, kindness to all, and clumsiness, she could never be anything but a Puff. I think this is best exemplified by her state in the beginning of book six when a combination of guilt over Sirius’ death and pining over Sirius. (Don’t remember this part? That’s because it’s a background plot, because Hufflepuffs can’t possibly have the spotlight). Basically, Tonks punishes herself for not saving Sirius because she holds herself to too high of a standard. Additionally, once her love for Remus develops, she refuses to let it go, despite his attempts to protect her. This isn’t particularly healthy for Tonks, but shows her deep emotions–a very Hufflepuff trait. 

“Ravenclaw is intelligent and unique. They’re all scholars and are intellectually curious, and are also creative and unique and logical. They’re head over heart people. Like gryffindor, they also have a habit of being inflexible with a superiority complex. Their head over heart also tends to suppress their moral compass at times. Even Luna Lovegood is a head over heart person, although she might not come across that way at first.”

Luna Lovegood, of course, is going to be our example here. Her belief in absurd magical creatures shows not only her oddness, but also that she is steadfast in her beliefs–regardless of what other “more educated” people may tell her. Although she’s more connected to her heart than most Ravenclaws, she does ultimately lead with her head (even if her reasoning differs from most). 

“And slytherin’s ambition and drive and determination is unmatched. They also know how to care for themselves, and are very adaptable. But due to their driven nature, they come across as selfish.”

Our Slytherin example is Narcissa Malfoy, a driven, determined, adaptable, and selfish character. The greatest example of this is her relationship with Voldemort. As the series progresses, it becomes clear that Narcissa is driven by her love for her family; she does not truly value the Death Eater agenda, she simply uses it to remain close to her family and protect the ones she loves. This is demonstrated when she lies to Voldemort (which shows how well she’s acted loyal that he doesn’t question her) in order to find her son. Her loyalty in the war is–in her eyes–insignificant in comparison to her family. 

So now that you know what each house represents, it’s time to get excited. I’m going to try to change your perceptions about each house. Be on the look out for the follow up Hogwarts House focused articles, starting with Why Gryffindor is Overrated.