Is there an inherent and perpetual flaw in Gryffindor House? As someone pointed out in one of the chatrooms, some people have been questioning the sorting hat's decisions when it comes to Gryffindor:

  • First there were those who questioned Peter Pettigrew

  • And soon after came the Neville Longbottom wonderers

  • There was Hermione Granger, even questioned within the books by Terry Boot

  • Many doubted Percy Weasley (although spoiler he came back when it mattered)

  • I, myself, have dared to question Fred and George Weasley

  • And although these haven't been questioned, Remus Lupin could have been a Ravenclaw (brilliant), Lily Potter could have been a Ravenclaw (brilliant), Rubeus Hagrid could have been a Hufflepuff (kind and caring for all creatures), Oliver Wood could have been a slytherin (incredibly ambitious), and so on.

The larger problem, however, is with those who weren't in Gryffindor but where just as brave:

  1. Tonks was a Hufflepuff, Luna Lovegood was a Ravenclaw, Snape was a Slytherin, Narcissa Malfoy was a Slytherin (yet she risked her life protecting her son, like Lily Potter), and other members of the order who are unknown, but statistically, not all of them would have been in Gryffindor.

  2. While the Slytherins were more cunning than the other houses, the Hufflepuffs were more tolerate and understanding, and the Ravenclaws were more clever, were the Gryffindors really more brave? What about those in the other houses who fought in the Battle of Hogwarts? What about those from the other houses risking expulsion by joining Dumbledore's Army?

My question is, why is Gryffindor a house? Anyone can be brave!


8 Answers 8


There is not an inherent flaw in having a house reserved for those who value or demonstrate bravery above all else.

What about those who seem to demonstrate characteristics other than bravery?

As you point out in your question, many have questioned why people such as Peter Pettigrew, Percy Weasley, Hermione or Fred and George ended up in Gryffindor, when they demonstrate other features such as cunning, loyalty or intelligence. I believe these are adequately answered in the questions you link to, but the reasons, briefly, are:

  • The Sorting Hat realizes their potential, rather than their current state (Neville certainly had the potential to be brave, but hadn't necessarily demonstrated it)
  • They're smart, but they're not into learning for learning's sake (as demonstrated by Fred and George)
  • They valued bravery more than intelligence, for example:

"Me!" said Hermione. "Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery and – oh Harry – be careful!" - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

"Ultimately, she had a bigger heart than she had a brain, and that's saying something for Hermione." - J.K. Rowling on Hermione Granger

What about brave people in other houses?

Just as members of Gryffindor present intelligence, cunning and loyalty, members of other houses can present bravery. Because it goes both ways, I don't think that Gryffindor is any more redundant than the other houses.

  • Luna is brave as hell, but is better known for her thirst for new (sometimes slightly squiffy) knowledge and natural curiosity.
  • Snape was brave, sure, but also side-switching, manipulative and drawn to Death Eaters and dark magic. He lashed out at Lily when she tried to defend him, and was less-than-chivalrous during his teaching (trying to snitch on Lupin, becoming Neville's Bogart, etc).
  • Narcissa risked her life protecting her son, but also would only have done so for her son, not anyone else. She displayed no intentions to protect anyone beyond her loved ones during the books.

They all show individual bravery, but ultimately, are not characterised by it. By contrast, Harry's, Neville's, Hermione's (etc.) key features are their bravery. Harry is never particularly portrayed as cunning or academic, Neville steps up whenever it really matters, and Hermione is far more at home among books but still decides to dedicate her time to helping the Boy Who Lived, because she thinks it's the right thing to do. Importantly, they do so every single time. So yes, I'd say that the Gryffindors are really more brave in that respect.

You mention members of the other houses who join the Order, or help during the Battle of Hogwarts. This is, no doubt, a brave thing to do. However, in the midst of battle, knowing what's at stake, it isn't surprising that they would choose to do so - they might just consider it a bit more carefully than the Gryffindors. And, again, it's not their defining action.

  • 1
    I agree on all accounts, except for Hermione. The first word any reasonable reader would use to describe her is "smart". Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 22:26
  • 4
    Probably because she has more opportunity to demonstrate that than bravery in a school setting. :P Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 22:33
  • 19
    @user1717828 Yes, Hermione is smart. But the point is that even though she could stay at home with books, she doesn't. Think of your typical bookworm - would they go and fight a 3-headed dog, use their knowledge to break Umbridge's Ministry rules to teach other kids to defend themselves, and then drop out of school to go camping with the Boy Who Lived? Remember, Hermione didn't just join the DA, she organised the whole thing, and got Harry's Quibbler interview. Yeah, Hermione can demonstrate smarts, but standing up for the right thing (SPEW anyone?) is way more important to her.
    – Luna
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 22:41
  • 7
    "Snape was unwilling to stand up for Lily in school" - surely it was him who was getting bullied and needed standing up for?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 0:59
  • 2
    @JonStory If his teaching methods are bullying and terrifying enough that the though of him becomes the thing a child fears the most, it's not a sterling character recommendation :P
    – Luna
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 14:06

Your argument can be applied to literally any trait

You can learn to be cunning, you can be studious, you can be patient. People literally take classes and meditate to try and be patient. Bravery is more of a resolve than any of the others, to be Brave you have to face your fears.

The brass Gold and Red Tacks

Gryffindor is a house for the same reason all the others were a house: the four founders.

Originally when they ran the school the houses were a way of identifying which of the founders chose you. What you have to understand is that originally they did not have a sorting hat. Now the sorting hat assigns houses based on the ideals that the founders wanted in their students.

Being brave is not the defining feature of Gryffindor; it is what you do with that bravery best defined in the first song by the sorting hat.

You might belong in Gryffindor, Where dwell the brave at heart, Their daring, nerve, and chivalry Set Gryffindors apart;

Just after the time of Hogwarts inception the Chivalry code was created (1000-1200AD) there are many traits to this code but among them we have this:

Thou shalt respect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them (Respect and defend all weaknesses).

Wikipedia - Chivalry

Voldemort could be deemed brave so could all the Death Eaters, but none of them are chivalrous.

Said Gryffindor, "We'll teach all those With brave deeds to their name."

Another part of one of the sorting hat songs, I'd highly doubt that Gryffindor would refer to brave deeds as anything with a negative connotation behind it.

Let's be honest

They are literally meant to be the White Knights, the saviours, the good guys or the heroes, what better way to define them than as Brave and Chivalrous?


tl;dr: The Hat sorts as the Founders would have, character traits are a guideline helping with that

The literal answer to the question is of course obvious: There is a Gryffindor House because one of the Four Founders was named Gryffindor!

Tackling the intent of the question is a bit more difficult:

The Sorting Hat is not a computer, nor is he a "character test" in Witch Weekly. He does not even follow a very logical structure in his decision making:

We know the Sorting Hat picks students for each particular house exactly like the Founders would pick them, if they were still alive (or as they had picked them back in the day, when the Hat was still just a piece of clothing on Godric's head).

But even back then, there must have been students were there was contention: For instance, a really clever pure blood would have been a contention between Slytherin and Ravenclaw, so presumably they would have talked it out or found a way to resolve the issue.

Nowadays, in a case where they would have been in contention, i.e. more than one Founder would have picked the applicant, a hatstall results (or rather a near-hatstall, as those are far more frequent), and ultimately the Hat has to make a choice, so he makes one, either as an educated guess or by taking into account the wishes of the student (the hat is after all a really good legilimens, so it can deduce which trait the applicant values most), something the Founders would probably have done as well.

  • PS: Apologies - especially to @Slytherincess - for the use of a wiki-link. ;)
    – BMWurm
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 11:14
  • Citation needed.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 23:11

The characteristics the Hat knows is what the child is when they are sat down and what their mind hints they have the potential to be. This seems to be highly biased by what their family was and what they want to be.

Hermione was obviously sorted into Gryffondor out of universe so she would be friends with Harry. In universe, however, it is easy to argue that she was influenced by the romantic ideals of Gryffindor she read about and her desire to learn from the wise woman who took her to Diagon Alley. Both McGonagall and Hermione (and Flitwick) were under the hat a long time deciding between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. Nevertheless, it appears this subtle preference for Gryffindor pushed Hermione to that house. In it she is almost always right on the boys heels even if she is complaining about the rules. Frankly she could have been sorted into any house except for Slytherin.

Longbottoms are always Gryffindor's. Neville therefore wanted to be Gryffindor and repeatedly showed his capacity for bravery.

For the most part, the bravery trait seems to be a euphemism for authority defying hellions who break every school rule that they can break while still viewing themselves as the good guy. When you realize this, Fred and George fit Gryffindor more than any other character in the series including Harry (because he gets less pure later in the series). Note that, again, Weasleys are always Gryffindors so that house is their default.

Finally, we don't know what Pettigrew was really like when he first came to Hogwarts but he certainly seemed to belong at Black's side while he was there. It might be that he belonged in that house when it started but events there and during the war changed him.

Excluding that last one, all of these indicate that how the students view the houses and themselves influences where the hat will place them. There is no reason the Hufflepuff Cedric can't be brave or the Gryffindor James can't be a jerk. Basically there are many more than 4 personalities in the world and those personalities change. The Sorting Hat is trying to figure out where each child will be the happiest while keeping the houses balanced.

  • Hmm. Neville asked to not be put in Gryffindor, actually, so he certainly didn't want to be in it. And you don't need an out of universe reason for Hermione to be in Gryffindor; she shows an immense amount of bravery throughout the series. Even standing up for what's right rather than doing what's easy. Even risking expulsion when that was something she at one point said would be worse than death (obviously that was to show just how important school was to her but still).
    – Pryftan
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 0:00

And remember the Sorting Hat isn't infallible. "You know, I sometimes think we Sort too soon" - Dumbledore to Snape (DH, The Prince's Tale). The flaw is not in Gryffindor's characteristics, the flaw is with sorting 11-year-olds on the assumption that their characteristics are fully defined at that young age.

  • And remember the Sorting Hat isn't infallible. Of course it is! If anything or anyone knows itself it would be itself or themselves wouldn't it? And it insists it is perfect and therefore it's perfect! But humour aside I would say that Dumbledore's statement isn't relevant to the fact it can make mistakes. Because the Sorting Hat isn't given access to the older student so you can't judge its mistakes (or otherwise) for something it has no part in. But yes it can make mistakes unless you ask itself.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 23:56

That is not only a question of what qualities you consist of, but what qualities you value the most. So answering your question - anyone can be as brave as smart, but not everyone put bravery over intellegence.


Think about the real values of the houses, not just one or two characteristics.

Gryffindor: not just brave and chivalrous, but also aiming for the greater good even if it demands sacrifices. Percy, for example, sacrifices his time and energy to help and guid other students as a prefect. That's a pretty Gryffindor thing to do.

Ravenclaw is not about being smart. It's about being curious, wanting to learn and amassing knowledge. While this fits Hermione pretty well, she is even more of a Gryffindor than a Ravenclaw (remember the House Elf revolution?).

Slytherin is not about being mean and evil: it's about ambition, reaching your goals by any means. This, in turn, makes most of them just look evil; but, really, they are not inherently that way. Did Snape openly oppose Voldemort and fight him? He was reaching his goal of fighting the Dark Lord by being a spy for many years.

For Hufflepuff, I actually forgot, but if you really think about it, you will also find an answer there.

  • By your words, shouldn't all prefects be from Gryffindor? Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 0:15
  • not necessarily for example a slytherin could be prefect only to have it in his cv thus its ambition again, a ravenclaw can do it for the experience of it and a hufflepuff because he enjoys it.
    – Eumel
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 9:16
  • @JustAnotherDotNetDev No, every house has their own prefects, 6 people at any given time (3 per gender, 1 & 1 for each year after 4th). If you meant Headboy/-girl, the argument is valid, and weirdly true: from memory I can recall four people being mentioned in that position throughout the books: Lily, James, Bill and Percy, weirdly enough, all Gryffindors. Just saying... PS: Ok Tom M. Riddle too, but one tiny exception in a century... it was probably a pity appointment of the brainy orphan kid; we know the headmaster at the time was rather fond of him...
    – BMWurm
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 12:50
  • @BMWurm He also won special award for the school. So it's absolutely not just pity. Of course Riddle was a deceptive person but that's all the more reason Dippet (I think that's the name and spelling) didn't appoint him it out of pity.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 0:03

Bravery is not the only quality for Griffindors. It's always a combination of qualities that work together

It is incorrect to consider "bravery" to be the main Griffindor characteristic. It is very simplified, because (same as for other Houses) the qualities needed for the House can be more vague and abstract. We see that the Sorting Hat actually name the qualities for each House using different words every the time. What are Griffindor's qualities?

Only a true Gryffindor could have pulled that out of the Hat. And what were the qualities that defined a Gryffindor? A small voice inside Harry’s head answered him: their daring, nerve and chivalry set Gryffindors apart.

That means being brave is not enough to fit Griffindor. You also need to be daring and chivalrous, ready to help those in need. Or have some combination of these qualities (like, maybe you are daring as hell, but not that much chivalrous - the Hat can still put you in Griffindor, probably aiming that you will develop the qualities you lack).

Fred and George are daring and chivalrous, same as Lily. Narcissa is not however brave she can be.

There are not only good qualities, we should consider the negative tendencies for each House as well

We usually consider only good qualities for each house, like brave, smart, loyal, ambitious etc. But apparently there is more to be fitting to each house and there some negative qualities as well that are typical for each house. For example, noone ever claim that they pick all evil children or muggle-haters into Slytherin. No, they say - ambitious, cunning and resourceful. Doesn't sound that bad, does it? The thing is - combination of being ambitious and cunning can more often result in selfishness and moral flexibility than in other cases. So we can say that there are negative features that can be typical for each House together with positive ones. And for Griffindor those would be recklessness and impulsive actions.

Hence, Griffindor is not only about being brave. It's about being brave, chivalrous, reckless, impulsive and hot-headed, ready to fight for good course regardless the possible outcome. And it's still just a general description. Those sorted in Griffindor may have different combination of the qualities mentioned or have only potential for them, not the qualities as such.

While the Hat sees your future potential, there is always a risk you will not reach it

The whole concept that "only a true Griffindor can pull the sword out of the Hat" implies that being sorted in Griffindor does not make you "true Griffindor" immediately. You are sorted by your potential, but if you will grow into it or not - noone can predict. Hence we have Neville who did grow into being brave and daring and Pettigrew, who didn't.

Bearing this in mind, it is hard to judge the Sorting Hat - it makes some huge job there with so many factors to include that it is still difficult to predict the outcome for each student.

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