The Sorting Hat’s New Song

chapter eleven of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

As he makes his way to Hogwarts, Harry notices Hagrid’s hut is dark; then, at the feast, the Sorting Hat sings about the need for unity, and Dumbledore’s speech is interrupted by one from the new D.A.D.A. teacher, Dolores Umbridge. Finally, in the dorm, Harry discovers that Seamus doesn’t believe him, and the two nearly fight before huffing off to bed.

Carriages, by Chantelle

Rattling and swaying, the carriages moved in convoy up the road.


Dumbledore, by Alicey

“Well, now that we are all digesting another magnificent feast, I beg a few moments of your attention for the usual start-of-term notices.”

(by Alicey)


Prof Umbridge, by lberghol

As she was not much taller than sitting, here was a moment when nobody understood why Dumbledore had stopped talking, but then Professor Umbridge said, “Hem, hem,” and it became clear that she had got to her feet and was intending to make a speech.


Neville Longbottom, by Heather Campbell

“Harry, I know [the password]! Guess what it is? I’m actually going to be able to remember it for once – “Mimbulus mimbletonia!”


Fight in the Dorm, by Marta T

Ron had appeared in the doorway. His wide eyes traveled from Harry, who was kneeling on his bed with his wand pointed at Seamus, to Seamus, who was standing there with his fists raised.

(by Marta T)


about the chapter


One of the things I always enjoy about re-reading the books is noticing when a character is cut off before finishing a sentence or thought. Rowling uses this technique quite a bit to avoid revealing critical information too soon, and a reader who knows how the book ends can often complete these sentences by plugging in plot bits that have not yet been revealed. So there’s a portion of this chapter that always makes me laugh:

“I wonder if it’s ever given warnings before?” said Hermione, sounding slightly anxious.
“Yes, indeed,” said Nearly Headless Nick knowledgeably, leaning across Neville toward her…. “The hat feels itself honor-bound to give the school due warning whenever it feels-“
But Professor McGonagall, who was waiting to read out the list of first years’ names, was giving the whispering students the sort of look that scorches. Nearly Headless Nick placed a see-through finger to his lips and sat primly upright again as the muttering came to an abrupt end.

Every time I read this I think the same thing: “What was he about to say? It must be important. It has to be important. What could it have been?” And after thinking about it for a few minutes, I finally read on, where two short pages later…

“What were you saying before the Sorting?” Hermione asked the ghost. “About the hat giving warnings?”

At which point Nick promptly completes his entirely undramatic thought. Oh well.


Life at Hogwarts

I feel bad for Hufflepuffs when I read this song of the Sorting Hat’s, when the Hat pretty explicitly states that Hufflepuff house was home to all the leftovers once the brave, smart, and cunning students had been taken for the other three houses (“Good Hufflepuff, she took the rest, / And taught them all she knew.”) The attributes of the various houses are always a little murky, probably thanks mostly to the fact that Rowling has to fit those definitions into a rhyme scheme as sung by a hat. But Hufflepuffs do have defining characteristics just like the other houses, and Helga Hufflepuff herself was exhibiting those very characteristics – like fairness and inclusiveness – when she wanted to teach everybody the way the Hat describes. And for what it’s worth, I’d bet their common room is a lot less clique-ish and a lot more drama-free than those of the other houses. I’d probably be Sorted into Ravenclaw, but I think I’d always be a little bit jealous of the Hufflepuffs. :)

The Boy Who Lived

Harry’s never really been one to ask for attention; even when he first arrived at Hogwarts all he really wanted to do was blend in. But he’s certainly gotten plenty over the years, and it’s clear from all the mutters and stares he gets on day one that this year will be no exception. You can see where the other students are coming from, of course; it was never made clear that Harry didn’t put his name in the Goblet of Fire, and he’s never shared his side of the story to combat the one the Daily Prophet has been pushing on people for months now. But it’s clear he’s in for a rough time, for a while at least. I wonder if it ever occurred to him (or Dumbledore) to get an image consultant or something, just to help him work through everything?

The Final Word

“In this book no-one believes [Harry] and also he’s a teenager. To have these two burdens in life at once is quite horrible.”–J.K. Rowling, June 2003

28 Responses to “The Sorting Hat’s New Song”

  1. Josie, you’re right about what the hat sings about Hufflepuff, especially since I just noted how in book 4 Dumbledore toasts to Cedric, who was a defined Hufflepuff.

    Here’s what I’ve been wondering about the hat’s song. It clearly stated that Slytherin only took pure-bloods. But we know that Voldemort is a half-blood. Was he an exception because he was Slytherin’s heir? Or when did the sorting hat start sorting non-pure-bloods into Slytherin?

  2. Wasn’t there something in the books about how pure-bloods had pretty much died out, and really most wizards had some Muggle blood in them after a while? I don’t remember.
    Maybe by Voldemort’s birth the conditions had changed, because nobody fit them anymore.

  3. I think Slytherin takes half-bloods as well, particularly ones from old wizarding families – like Snape, Millicent Bulstrode, and so on. As long as they’re cunning, ambitious, and all the rest of it.

  4. Poor Hufflepuffs. Hufflepuff House, more than Slytherin in my view, seems to get an unfortunate reputation. At least Slytherins are known for being powerful, if also dark.

    Hufflepuffs do, as you say, exhibit traits of fairness (Cedric wanted to renounce his win against Gryffindor when Harry fell off his broom in book 3), and inclusiveness (Tonks seems as unbiased as any character in the series). But in further defense of Hufflepuff, I’d mention that Helga Hufflepuff says she’ll take the “lot,” which as I read it, means she’ll take everyone, not just “the rest,” which is, unfortunately, what she seems to be left with after the other three founders take their preferred students.

  5. I agree with everyone here.
    Hufflepuffs need more credit for their awesomeness!

    I don’t think the hat cares if you’re pureblood or not. But how would it feel to be a muggleborn in Slytherin?

  6. Inky Squirrel: I like your reasoning, that Helga was willing to take everyone and not just “the leftovers.” Brings that into a better perspective. :)

    And poor Harry. Some people just tend to be attention-getters, whether they want it or not. And, I’ve got to admit, I don’t think I’d’ve handled most of his situations quite as well as he did.

  7. I concur with what’s been said about Hufflepuff House. One more point to remember: the Sorting Hat was Gryffindor’s, so it has perhaps a small amount of bias. To someone who prizes bravery and courage, the less obvious traits of fairness and honesty may be easier to overlook.

    And taking a broader view, doesn’t it seem counterproductive to segregate the student body based on their characteristics? Surely a more rounded collection of students in a House would benefit everyone in it. Is this common practice in Britain, or just at Hogwarts?

    And on a slightly related note, that should perhaps be saved for the appropriate chapter post in Book 7, one of my favorite lines in the entire series is when Dumbledore tells Snape, “Sometimes I think we sort too soon”.

  8. I also like the part about Hufflepuff taking “the lot.” It seems like Hufflepuff gets a bad break since, probably, there just isn’t space to concentrate on all four houses and Ravenclaw usually gets to be the one after Gryffindor and Slytherin.

  9. Mickey, I presume that a muggleborn in Slytherin would quickly try to pass themselves off as quarterbloods (or halfbloods, if they can get away with it.) Anyone ambitious enough to get sorted into Slytherin would be willing to launder their origins.

    Ben, I can’t speak for boarding schools in particular, but I’ve run across themed dormitories in other places, so it’s not unheard of to group people by like interests.

  10. After reading the comments so far, no wonder Hufflepuff House turned on the Harry the previous year. Think about it, Cedric gets chosen as a Triwizard Champion bringing glory to Hufflepuff House for the first time in a long time. Then comes Harry who somehow gets chosen as fourth champion taking away Cedric’s (and by extention, Hufflepuff’s) glory. We all know that Harry did not put his name into the Goblet of Fire but how many Hufflepuffs still hold a grudge against Harry at this point in the story after all that has happened since the end of the previous school year?

  11. Jeremy, I don’t think Hufflepuff has much of a grudge against Harry at this point – notice how many of them were in the DA. Hannah, Susan, Ernie, Justin, even (ew) Zacharias.

  12. I seem to remember reading somewhere (I THINK it was the mugglenet/Leaky interview) that JK was asked whether or not that the voice that was heard when they were sorted was their own thoughts or something like that and she said yes it was something along those lines.

    If that is true then all those from pure blood families would have grown up with the Pure blood rant being shoved down their throats all their lives so they would want to be in that house anyway and the Sorting hat would grant them their wish . It certainly did with Draco . And Snape certainly got his wish to be in Slytherin and we know he wasn’t pure blood .. Maybe it is just the way they are brought up and their wishes rather than the blood status.

  13. Kim/Hayley/hpboy13: The Hat definitely seems inconsistent to me. Elsewhere it talks about Slytherin attributes of “cunning” and “ambition,” and what do those have to do with ancestry? Although I suppose the most ambitious wizards would tend to be those who grew up in the world (Muggle-borns are just excited to be there?), but it’s a stretch.

    Remember also the historical context. 1000 years ago, there were presumably a lot more pure-blood wizards. The quote Hayley mentions is in Dumbledore’s comments for ‘The Fountain of Fair Fortune’ in TBB:

    “So-called pure-blood families maintain their alleged purity by disowning, banishing, or lying about Muggles or Muggle-borns on their family trees. They then attempt to foist their hypocrisy upon the rest of us by asking us to ban works dealing with the truths they deny. There is not a witch or wizard in existence whose blood has not mingled with that of Muggles.”

  14. auntypsycho: The quote you’re remembering is from the TLC/Bloomsbury interview, but it’s pretty noncommittal:

    ES: Has the sorting hat ever been wrong?

    JKR: No.

    ES: Really?

    JKR: Mm-mm. Do you have a theory?

    ES: I have heard a lot of theories.

    JKR: I bet you have. No. Sorry.

    MA: That’s interesting, because that would suggest that the voice comes more from a person’s own head than the hat itself –

    JKR: [makes mysterious noise]

    MA: And that maybe when it talks on its own it comes from –

    JKR: The founders themselves.

    After which they change the subject. So I’m not sure what can be gleaned from that, although it’s an interesting thought….

  15. I agree Hufflepuff is AmaZing!!

  16. Ben, we had houses at my old school but I have absolutely no idea how they chose which one to put each student in. But I was basically in the equivillant of Hufflepuff, the house that had very little glory. Certainly the house were not organised to be about the same size as each other.

    I think with Hufflepuff house’s lack of recognition and glory Jo is actually (unfortunately) being quite realistic. Bravery, intelligence, success, wit… these are all qualities that society values. Niceness, honesty, fairness… these are greatly undervalued, and people who exibit them are often considered goody goody stick in the muds. :( (I myself am a proud Hufflepuff! Yey Sue Upton! :D)

  17. I feel kind of funny posting so long after the last post, but I know some people are still reading this!

    I think JKR was insinuating in her interview that the hat basically puts the students where they want to go. I think that explains a lot, like Peter Pettigrew, and for that matter, Zacharias Smith. Peter was, by Griffindor standards, rather cowardly, but for some reason he wanted to be in Griffindor and that’s where he went. Zacharias didn’t seem to fit the kind, fair description of Hufflepuff, but he wanted to be placed there because he was a Hufflepuff descendant. We never hear of a student who is unhappy about their house assignment. I think Harry and Hermione took longer to sort because, being new to the wizard world, they didn’t already have a specific house picked out (other than “not Slytherin”). Draco had no doubt that he must be in Slytherin, so he was sorted immediately.

  18. I like the idea that the Sorting Hat’s “voice” is really the thoughts of the wearer. It expands beautifully on my idea that every student in Hogwarts makes their choice of their House inside their heads before they’re sorted… some just aren’t aware of it. It also brings a whole new light on Dumbledore’s “sometimes I think we sort too early” in which he meant (if he was aware of this quality in the Hat) that the youngest students have a pre-conceived notion about what House they would like to be in, and then it turns out they find themselves with much different qualities down the road!

    I took the supposedly accurate personality test that sorts you into a House online, and my highest scores were Hufflepuff AND Gryffindor as exactly the same. So I have no idea what House I’m in! But if I were to choose, I’d have to pick Gryffindor. Sorry Hufflepuffs! xP

  19. what is a Hufflepuff?

    (moderated for language)

  20. n8: that is the exact quote my old roommate put on a T-shirt for the midnight showing last night! (She’s a super proud Hufflepuff and puts up with a lot of my teasing.) :D

  21. Some of the talk about Hufflepuffs reminds me of a passage in Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, where he talks about a few Russian officers in the 1812 invasion of Russia, who aren’t dramatic or showy, but who are able to carry out their appointed tasks with great efficiency and success – and conjured up a picture of a wheel in a machine, quietly fulfilling its function in the background, compared to a nut which has fallen in, is bouncing about disrupting the process, but gets all the attention because of its drama. That could be a good description of the contrast between Hufflepuff and Gryffindor respectively. (Some of Harry’s heroics have had near-fatal results – like heading down the trap door to stop Voldemort, unaware that the Mirror of Erisde is doing a fine job of keeping him from stealing the Philosopher’s Stone until Harry shows up.)

    And the Hufflepuffs certainly sound like the most welcoming group. (We never visit their common-room in the books, but I’ve read that Rowling described it as a cozy place near the kitchens with a round door – evocative of Bag End in Tolkien. Sounds like a great place to hang out.)

  22. Josie, one of your last comments on here voiced something I’ve been wondering about recently while listening to the audiobook, and that’s the question of the link between pure-blood ancestry and a person’s cunning. What the Hat says is ‘Said Slytherin ‘We’ll teach just those whose ancestry is purest’’… ‘Slytherin took only pure-blood wizards of great cunning, just like him.’ So it certainly seems like there’s a correlation – I suppose the pure-bloodedness is the cause and the cunning is the effect, but it’s interesting to think about why that might be!

    I’ve also been wondering about the differences between the Houses recently, since two of my closest friends were both sorted into Hufflepuff on Pottermore. Both thought of themselves as Gryffindors and are very brave in their own ways, so I wondered why they weren’t put in Gryffindor. But then I remembered a quote that I love from C.S. Lewis about courage: ‘Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.’ What I think he’s saying here is that if you take any virtue you can think of, e.g. honesty, kindness, etc, there are situations in which you do have to be brave to have that virtue, or to act on it. Sometimes it takes great courage to tell the truth, for instance. So in a way, it seems like there might be more to be said about members of the other houses than about members of Gryffindor. If a Gryffindor’s main character trait is that they are bold, or daring, then that might be all that they are – but if a Hufflepuff’s nature is to be honest, trustworthy, a good friend, fair, etc – then they are all those things and also potentially very brave as well. Oh dear, I hope that made sense! I suppose it could be said that a Gryffindor is brave and potentially honest and fair as well, so it could work both ways.

  23. Jenny, that’s a really interesting point. I think part of the answer might lie in what you value – if you stand up for your friends and you’re most proud of your own bravery in the situation, you’re a Gryffindor; whereas you could alternately stand up for your friends in an identical situation and be most proud of the fact that you defended them at all costs, and be a Hufflepuff. Does that make sense? I’m still not sure it’s a complete response to your thoughts, though.

  24. @Jenny. I love your thoughts about the C.S. Lewis quote. And I think Josie summed it up very well.

  25. Thanks Josie and Natalia. Josie, I like the way you summed it up too – it did make sense :)

  26. This chapter of course gives us the only insight (albeit that JKR needed the specific words to fit the rhyme scheme) as to where the other 3 founders are from. Imagine if she’d been more specific; there’d have been festivals by HP fans in specific towns commemorating a founder (possible exception Slytherin). Inferrably, Ravenclaw’s Scottish (glen), Hufflepuff’s Welsh (valley broad) and Slytherin’s from “fen” i.e. the east of England ie Lincolnshire/Norfolk kind of area. Boston perhaps?

  27. I love reading the insightful comments on these threads! I’ve never seen a group of commenters anywhere else on the internet that is this respectful and intelligent.

    To put in my 2 cents about one of the topics above, I think we’re trying too hard to link ancestry to the personality traits of cunning and ambition, when it’s not actually necessary to do so. Slytherin, just like the other 3 Founders, wanted people for his house who were similar to him. He also distrusted anyone with less-than-pure blood. Therefore, he chose people who had pure blood and who also shared some of his personality traits (e.g., cunning and ambition). The Hat then continued his preferences on down the years. This doesn’t mean, though, that those particular traits necessarily stem from being a pureblood. After all, plenty of purebloods get sorted into other Houses (e.g., James and Sirius).

  28. Go Hufflepuff! Thanks Jenny. And it’s interesting…. I always thought of myself a a Gryf. Then I took a personality test last year which indicated I was mostly Hufflepuff, with a large dash of Gryffindor, a high portion of Ravenclaw and fairly little Slytherin. I was surprised, but grew to be happy. And now I’m in with the Puffs on Pottermore!
    It’s interesting, though…. That test was actually good at getting my measure!

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