A Nerd’s Reaction: Did Pottermore Sort Me in the Wrong House?

Earlier last month, Pottermore launched the “Find the Magical Quill” challenge, offering Potter fans a chance to take part in the beta testing of the latest Harry Potter project undertaken by author J.K. Rowling. It just so happens that I was one of the lucky few to receive the Pottermore beta email during this period. Lucky I say, because Pottermore promised a myriad of exciting new features for the avid Potter fan: additional content and backstory on characters, interactive chapter exploration, the chance to acquire a magical wand, brew potions, and best and most tantalizing of all, be sorted into a Hogwarts House.

Yes, the four houses of Hogwarts: Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, and Slytherin. Each have their own identifying characteristics and virtues that all young wizards and witches at the magical school are placed into depending on which house is the best fit to their own likeness. As a great deal of fans have grown up with Harry Potter and desired nothing more at age 11 to receive their own Hogwarts acceptance letter, it is not uncommon for Potterheads to have made an association with one (or two) of these houses.

While Pottermore could not promise fans the true experience of attending Hogwarts as a young witch or wizard, one of its core attractions is the simulation of Harry’s world. The concept of being sorted into a house appealed so strongly because the questions were crafted directly from the head of J.K. Rowling herself. Every Harry Potter fan seeks validity on the matter of “where they belong among their Hogwarts peers” and since no actual “Sorting Hat” exists, the online test on Pottermore was easily the closest one could hope for.

When I finally received my official welcome email, I had to remind myself to enjoy the first few chapters before rushing straight through just to arrive at the Sorting Hat. When the quiz finally popped up on my screen, I remember telling myself “this was it” and proceeded to answer to the best of my ability. A good deal of the questions required moments of self-reflection as I pondered “which of these is most true to me?” I often hesitated over two responses and some of the questions were quite vague, such as selecting a piece of treasure from a chest of several different items. After submitting my final response, I waited a split-second with bated breath as the reveal screen loaded…

Oh, but it’s Gryffindor! The “best house at Hogwarts,” as Prefect Percy Weasley proclaimed in my welcome message. The house of the Golden Trio that is Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger, who embody all that is brave and good. Not only that, but Gryffindors are essentially placed onto the same level of Albus Dumbledore, the greatest, most wise wizard in the entire series. Even Percy Weasley adds in his note “if that’s not enough for you, I don’t know what is.”

Well, Percy, sorry to disappoint you, but no, it isn’t enough. It’s not enough when I consider all the years I spent believing at heart I was a Slytherin.

You see, for Potter fans, the Houses are, aside from the whole magic thing, one of the most defining and constant aspect of Hogwarts. The Harry Potter generation who grew up with these books, myself included, had found themselves identifying with a particular house of their choosing long before the incursion of J.K Rowling’s Sorting Hat test on Pottermore. For me, that house was Slytherin, from the very moment I first fell in love with the wizarding world at age 11. I identified with the Slytherin mentality of the cunning and capable mind, the desire to thwart adversaries, and the aspirations of greatness. I always wanted to be something more than what I was in middle school: an awkward, loner of a girl who felt frequently misunderstood among her peers.

Eleven-year-old me wanted to have the satisfaction that I had been right about being a Slytherin, that it was okay for me to identify with them because I understood them. Eleven-year-old me wanted wish-fulfillment. But 11-year-old me didn’t get that. When I first saw the scarlet banner pop up on my screen, it was like discovering that I had been adopted. My heart sank and I felt… well, empty.

I believe that’s how a lot of Harry Potter fans feel when they don’t get the house they were expecting. It’s like you misjudged the type of person you are the characteristics you take pride in the most… and if you don’t understand that, then who does? Sure, I know this sounds melodramatic, but for Harry Potter fans who have come to personally self-ascribe their ideal house, it’s a rude awakening to end up with your least anticipated result. Self-ascribing the Hogwarts house to one’s personality has almost been a right of passage, one that fans take deep pride in. Knowing this, is the house self-ascription more about who we are, or more about who we want to be? If so, this makes Potter fans likely to take the traits we desire most (the ones associated with our house of choice) and adhere them to our being. When considering that “house self-ascription” is likely to take place as a burgeoning child or young adult, this has an impact on the type of person one strives to be. For example, if you value intelligence the most you pride yourself in being a member of Ravenclaw and are perhaps more driven to invest time in studying than socializing while at school.

Does J.K. Rowling know you better than you know yourself?

If you spent all this time believing you were a Ravenclaw but J.K. Rowling tells you that you have the personality of a Hufflepuff, there’s bound to be some confusion, right? What about making a new account and re-taking the quiz, is that acceptable? There are some fans who would argue that to do so would be blasphemous, and that once you’ve taken the quiz on Pottermore, you would be lying to yourself to deny the outcome.

I have to disagree.

As much as I can appreciate the qualities of Gryffindor, it’s never been “my” house, and in all honesty, I will be creating a new account come October and retaking the Sorting Hat quiz. I won’t flat out say that Pottermore placed me in the “wrong house,” but it was certainly my least expected outcome. Because of this, I don’t know if I can ever fully agree with it unless I feel more confident about my answers. No, I don’t plan to re-take the quiz simply to lie and select the most “Slytherin-like” responses, but I’m going to make sure that I’m more certain about my choices. I do believe that for the die-hard Potter fan, there is a lot of surmounting pressure during the sorting. It’s easy to second guess yourself and over-think the responses. If anything, re-taking the quiz may allow for additional clarity.

And if I’m in Gryffindor again, then so be it. Life goes on, and there’s no one to tell me that I can’t value my Slytherin side and still respect my inner Gryffindor as well. For the eleven-year-old who fell in love with the idea of attending Hogwarts, Slytherin will always be my true home. During my childhood I needed a place, even a fictional one, to belong to (as is true for so many other Harry Potter fans), and part of me may always crave the type of unconditional acceptance I found there, even if it was all inside my head.

The nice thing about surprises like this, however, is that it can allow one to self-reflect. Perhaps I have, over the years, down played my bravery; that there is a lot more to me than even I’m aware of. After all, even Dumbledore remarks “I sometimes think we sort too soon” in Deathly Hallows when referring to Slytherin Severus Snape. So don’t fret too much if you wanted Ravenclaw and received Hufflepuff, all that it shows is that you’ve grown over the years; it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve become dumber. And no one can tell you that you can’t retake it if you want your childhood wish fulfilled.

The bottom line is, we wouldn’t be Harry Potter fans if we didn’t place more faith in the Pottermore Sorting Hat quiz than we would on a psychological evaluation. So yes, we are over-analyzing it. We’re either hoping for a childhood wish to become reality or hoping to learn something about ourselves along the way. Or in the best of worlds, both.

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