by The Collected Mutineer
Once upon a time, there was no such thing as Pottermore. Back in these Dark Days, you had to take any number of unofficial quizzes in order to find out to which Hogwarts House you belonged. I took them all—and each one told me I belonged in Gryffindor.
The continual placement into this fictional house was incredibly pleasing to me. It felt reassuring to know that I belonged among a certain group of people, even if it was all make-believe. J.K. Rowling had created a world in which I knew for sure the type of person I was—or at least, the type of person I would grow up to be. For most of my teen years, and even through college, my identity was somehow shaped by these online quizzes. I had been told that I was a Gryffindor, and I was proud to be a Gryffindor.
Fast forward to the creation of Pottermore, and the Rowling-approved Sorting Hat quiz. Much to my dismay, the hat placed me the furthest away from the identity I had built up around myself for years. It told me I was a Hufflepuff.
My distress wasn’t so much that I had been placed in what is arguably the least popular house. As a self-proclaimed Hogwarts aficionado, I knew that many an amazing witch and wizard had been a Hufflepuff. Tonks, Newt Scamander, Cedric Diggory just to name a few. My problem was with the realization that what I’d always been told, and therefore had always assumed was true, was in fact false. I felt as though I had been lied to, cheated somehow, tricked or beguiled.
On top of everything else, I felt ashamed for being upset. After all, this was a made up quiz based on a fictional house in a fictional book. This was in no way going to have an effect on my real life. So why did it hurt so much? Why did I care?
A person’s personality traits are often at the forefront of their behavior. Psychologists, like Carl Jung, categorized people depending on their functions of consciousness, their extrovert or introvert nature, their attitudes and emotions. Perhaps the most famous personality test is that of Myers-Briggs, which was designed to help someone learn more about their learning styles, how they make decisions, and how they relate to the world. In many ways, the Sorting Hat is an instant Myers-Briggs Type Indicator; after all, the four houses are built around personality traits.
But not everyone fits nicely into such neatly labeled boxes. This is even evident in Rowling’s writings when we see cowardly, traitorous evil in the shape of Gryffindor member Peter Pettigrew. Though he had enough to land him there, he was a poor example of someone who is courageous, daring, brave, and chivalrous.
Many people struggle with these real-life labels. Some find comfort in them. When I was a child, I was told that I was a Sanguine/Choleric (part of the ancient four-temperament theory). According to my friends and family, and even personality tests, I was an extrovert. I believed this for years because it was all the world presented to me. I didn’t know that there were options outside of labels, so I blindly accepted the label I was given.
When I was in my last year of graduate school, I stumbled across an article that explained the concept of ambiverts, aka someone who has both extrovert and introvert tendencies. I knew immediately and innately that this was something that described me. And yet, I silently struggled with it. Was it true that what everyone had seen in me wasn’t accurate? Why had I never noticed before? Why had I just nodded and happily contorted myself into a box that was the wrong size? What other parts about my personality did I not know anything about?
The ambivert realization made me think deeply about many other parts of my life, including—you guessed it—my Sorting Hat quiz results. I’m now a happy Hufflepuff who is proud to be loyal, accepting, dedicated, and optimistic. Being able to recognize these traits in my life was a relief in many ways, but what was even more cathartic was knowing that even the Hufflepuff box isn’t an exact fit, and that’s okay.
But my ultimate realization (and the point of this rambling post) was this: that no matter what house you’re placed in, regardless of what some personality test tells you, you’re the one who gets to decide where you belong. And the answer was in Harry Potter all along; Harry was a Slytherin, Hermione was a Ravenclaw, and Ron was a Hufflepuff—yet all three chose Gryffindor. Perhaps my favorite headmaster said it best.
It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are… —Albus Dumbledore