Since Pottermore began opening up its experience to beta testers, fans have talked long and hard about the Sorting. It’s a high-stakes moment; most of us have spent years self-Sorted into one or the other of the Houses.
With Rowling so deeply involved in the production of the site, the Sorting has taken on final authority for many fans. Though the internet is crawling with Sorting quizzes, they’re of widely varying quality, are generally easy to rig, and none of them were created by J.K. Rowling. The pressure is on when you approach the Hat in Pottermore: like Hogwarts, Pottermore only allows you to get Sorted once. This raises several questions: is it possible to ‘choose’ your House, as Harry did? Should you answer the Hat’s questions in a manner true to yourself, or to your own self-Sorting? If you don’t get the House you want, do you open a new account and try again?
In discussion about our Sortings, four of us from the Blogengamot discovered we’d shared the experience of being put in a second-choice or unexpected house. Here are some thoughts from each of us on the process and results.
I cannot understand how some people have earned over 10,000 points for their house already. By the time I was done walking through the first book and collecting hidden items (which earn you points), I had 31 points. I’ve managed to get a couple potions done (after spilling lots of ingredients and blowing up my first cauldron – I had to return to Diagon Alley to get a new one), I’ve earned 45. The most points you can earn on a potion at this point is 11. I don’t know how many points you can earn dueling, since that feature is currently down. But you must have to dedicate a huge amount of time to get 10,000 points.
Or there’s a secret I don’t know about. Which is quite possible given that J.K. Rowling is behind this. On the other hand, it’s just as likely some people are obsessed enough with being part of the “real” experience that they’ve literally made the sleeping draught 1,000 times. Harry Potter does inspire levels of obsession many of us never knew before.
What’s interesting about Pottermore is that it feels like you’re participating in the real thing. Oh, we’ve all taken online Sorting Hat quizzes. We’ve all identified with a particular House. Many of us have mused about what kind of wand would choose us. But with the Wizarding World’s creator as the mastermind of this online experience, it feels very much like when you get Sorted, you’ve really been chosen for that House. And when the wand chooses you, it really was destiny. I’m sure that’s precisely what they’re going for, of course.
Being Sorted really is a fun experience. I’d heard a lot of complaints ahead of time about people getting sorted into the “wrong” house. I went into it fully expecting and even hoping for Ravenclaw. And I knew I could game the system; if you think hard enough about the questions, you can probably figure out how to get into the house you want. (Although I do wonder if choices you make in the journey previous to the Sorting quiz–for example, the wand-choosing quiz–factor into the Sorting at all.) But I determined to answer the questions honestly, and at the end, I was sorted into Gryffindor. It wasn’t Ravenclaw, like I expected, but it occurred to me recently that there’s definitely a significant Gryffindor/Slytherin component to my personality. As fun as it is to be the brainy sort who does well in school, the Gryffindor/Slytherin side of me is perhaps more natural. (My study tendencies, for example, have always been much more like Harry’s than Hermione’s.) The only house I couldn’t see myself in was Hufflepuff. Tricia, my wife, got Hufflepuff. At first, we were both very surprised by this, but the more I think about it … My wife really is a Hufflepuff. And I like that.
Much of your experience with Pottermore will depend on your skepticism about the commercialism of the ongoing Potter phenomenon. I have to admit that the look and feel of it all, while bearing the WB/film influence, is not straight-up images and trappings of the movies. It really does look quite good. For me, much like with the films, I’m enjoying it for what it is. And with Rowling so involved in it, it does feel a bit like an ongoing experience in Potter. It bears Rowling’s influence and charm. The new information is quite good, and she continues to hat tip the secrets of Potter. For example, we learn that alchemy is a higher-level elective at Hogwarts if there is enough student interest. We also learn that Luna Lovegood’s name was originally Lily Moon. Fascinating stuff, that.
Now, if they could just get the site to work properly…
Really, so far the ultimate highlight of Pottermore has been the Sorting. It’s really amazing how intense the experience is. Going through the questions was a bit nerve wracking and the anticipation for the Sorting Hat’s answer was high. I originally compared it to the terror but joyous anticipation of getting married. However, my wife later informed me it was not like that at all. So maybe it’s more similar to finding out whether or not you got into Harvard as opposed to Middle of Nowhere Community College.
My Sorting was perhaps different from others in that I didn’t necessarily have a high stake in which House I got. I’ve long self-identified with Hufflepuff but have recently come to see that Slytherin and Ravenclaw would be good alternatives for me. And to also see that maybe Hufflepuff wouldn’t have been the right place for me. That “unafraid of toil” description for Hufflepuff isn’t really me at all. So, when the Hat cried out “Ravenclaw” I was pretty happy and in fact positively giddy with delight.
I’m not necessarily surprised (but I do find it a bit surprising) at the visceral reactions many people are having to the Sorting, even going so far as to delete their accounts when the Hat places them somewhere other than their self-chosen House. Some have complained that no quiz of a little more than 7 questions can tell them where they should go better than themselves. But really, is that true? Oftentimes, it’s easy to get an idea of yourself that isn’t necessarily how others see you. We need other people to help us see our blind spots or to point out things we may not necessarily recognize about ourselves. I thought the quiz itself was pretty good at picking out those characteristics that might place you in one House or another.
If one wanted to, it would’ve been pretty easy to game the questions in order to get a desired result. I knew I was picking answers that were weighted toward Ravenclaw, but it didn’t matter because those were the answers that honestly described my position.
Regarding the fairly even number of members in each House, some have seen this as nothing more than Pottermore just randomly assigning people to Houses in order to have equal numbers across the board. I kind of thought that way at one time, but after actually going through the Sorting, I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s because most people have, in varying degrees, qualities from each House. It’s simply a matter of which are priorities for you. I also think the large number of Hatstalls, where the Hat can’t figure out where to put you and thus gives you a choice between Houses, also argues against it just being a numbers game.
Unlike other Pottermore beta users, I’d not fretted much about where I’d be sorted. In fact it was only with the pending release of DH2, and the expectant chatter around the offer (academics read Harry Potter, too, you know) that I’d even begun to think about it.
It started simply, the usual geek-party numbers: What character are you most like? Well, that’s easy. Retiring, scruffy academic with long hair and beard, possibly with A Past and probably a lycanthrope? That’s me: Remus Lupin.
But I parted company with Lupin for choice of house. I’ve taken some care to cultivate intellect, analysis, and critical thinking from a young age, so to me “wise old Ravenclaw | [...] Where those of wit and learning | Will always find their kind,” rather than Quidditch-mad Gryffindor, seemed apt.
What’s more, the Personality Lab sorting test, with its formidable 122 questions and scientific grounding in psychological research, confirmed this: my Ravenclaw score was 97 out of a possible 100.
I was curious, and more than a little excited, about the Pottermore Sorting hat. This, after all, was the proverbial It. This was the test that JKR herself had written. This was the test that was supposed to be more accurate than any other. This was the Sorting Hat’s moment.
“Well, if you’re sure—better be GRYFFINDOR!”
I was, frankly, shocked. Me, a Gryffindor, with “[d]aring, nerve, and chivalry?” I retook the Personality Labs test to see if it still sorted me to Ravenclaw. (It did.) I’d wanted to be Ravenclaw. Doesn’t the Sorting Hat take that into account?
Or does the Hat know something I don’t?
On one level, it doesn’t matter. Pottermore is only a game—excuse me, only an online reading experience like no other. It’s not a scientific, theoretical, or professional test. It’s a lark.
On another level, though, maybe it does matter. We shape our lives and our understanding of the world with stories, after all. Like the Javanese wayang kulit, or shadow-puppetry, stories and characters show us how to act—and how not to. And in the realities of the shadow-stage, we can learn things ourselves we wouldn’t otherwise dream.
So now I’m wondering what it’ll be like to be Gryffindor. I wonder if I should let it shape how I think about myself. I think perhaps I should. After all, Lupin did.
I’ve always identified with Gryffindor–not because I’m brave, but because I’m iron-willed, fond of challenges, and because so much of my life has been about conquering my endless fears. Gryffindor gave me impetus to push myself, to try overcoming my great weakness. It helped, though I often felt like a follower and a loner who barely had a right to wear the red and gold.
But I have another defining quirk: a determination to stay as far from the Dark Side as possible. So when I put on the Sorting Hat, I mostly thought “Not Slytherin, not Slytherin.” And then, this happened:
“Congratulations! I’m Prefect Gabriel Truman, and I’m delighted to welcome you to HUFFLEPUFF HOUSE. Our emblem is the badger, an animal that is often underestimated, because it lives quietly until attacked, but which, when provoked, can fight off animals much larger than itself, including wolves.”
Though I’d always liked Hufflepuff, I’d underestimated it. With a will like mine, I expected boredom and lack of challenge in this House. Prefect Gabriel Truman taught me otherwise. His words showed me a value system that played not to my weakness, like Gryffindor, but to my strengths. Helga’s students don’t just work hard: they show a unique combination of gentleness and ferocity, and open-heartedness, generosity, and tenacity.
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” I always thought I’d choose Gryffindor, until I began answering the Hat’s leading questions. At least two or three times, I had to deliberate over an answer that, with near equal honesty, could have meant Gryffindor or even Slytherin. To my own surprise, I chose the Hufflepuff response every single time.
I’m thrilled, now, to be in the House that so faithfully stood for Harry. The House that rarely produces Dark wizards. The House that opens its arms to the weak. Call me a duffer if you want, but I love being a Hufflepuff.