I was recently rereading chapter 7 of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. In this chapter, the Sorting Hat lists off the virtues associated with each House:

You might belong in Gryffindor,

Where dwell the brave at heart,

Their daring, nerve, and chivalry

Set Gryffindors apart;

You might belong in Hufflepuff,

Where they are just and loyal,

Those patient Hufflepuffs are true

And unafraid of toil;

Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,

If you’ve a ready mind,

Where those of wit and learning,

Will always find their kind;

Or perhaps in Slytherin

You’ll make your real friends,

Those cunning folk use any means

To achieve their ends.

Shortly after hearing this, Harry jokingly points out that he's not feeling "brave or quick-witted or any of it at the moment". This got me thinking - this far in to the book, when has he shown any of the virtues of the House that he eventually got sorted in to?

I can confidently say that he's not shown off any of Ravenclaw's and he quite clearly rejects Slytherin, but from what the reader's read this far, I can't see what makes him stand out as brave, daring, having nerve, or chivalrous. Most of his character moments appear to have been acting out of fear and desperation (vs the Dursleys) or politeness (following Hagrid around). The only standout moments that I've seen, namely his encounters with Malfoy and Ron, frankly seem to put him more in the "just and loyal" category than the others. There's nothing brave about trading food or politely declining a questionable offer of help. What have I missed? The only brave moment that I can recall is when he made a clever joke about Dudley making the toilet sick.

Note: Answers are expected to refer only to content found in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and only content prior to the moment that the Sorting Hat declares "Well, if you’re sure — better be GRYFFINDOR!". In particular, I don't care much about the author's intent. I just want to see things that are entirely internal to the story.

  • 7
    He didn't need to show any of those virtues prior to his Sorting, he just needed to value those virtues within himself. The whole idea here is that the Sorting Hat knows what you're all about, perhaps better than you do. Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 14:06
  • 3
    Remember, as Harry later notes, he had many early life experiences similar to Tom Riddle's - but his emotional reaction to them was much different than Riddle's. Riddle grew up as a mistreated orphan, and showed up to Hogwart's ready to hurt people. Harry grew up as a mistreated orphan, and is instinctively generous to Ron on the train, and instinctively rejects Malfoy's invitation to abandon Ron for a larger group of friends. So although Harry hadn't yet had time to behave heroically, he had already started demonstrating that he could act virtuously.
    – tbrookside
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 18:27
  • 3
    The bravery and nobility isn't in the actions themselves, which as you point out are more Hufflepuff-oriented. The bravery and nobility comes from overcoming bitter life experiences - experiences that had turned another wizard into the Dark Lord.
    – tbrookside
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 18:29
  • 1
    He saw through Malfoy’s attempts to win him over and rebutted his bullying attitude to stand by his new-found friends; in Hollywood high school movie terms, he stood up to the arsewipe cheerleader/captain of the football team and went and ate his lunch with the lovable outcasts. That shows more chivalry and moral fibre than most eleven-year-olds would muster in a new school. Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 17:58

3 Answers 3


The Sorting hat looks for certain traits that are mentioned in the questions. Firstly the sorting hat had offered Slytherin to Harry Potter, reasons for which are explained in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Since we are looking for traits preferred by Gryffindor. Lets see


Harry was mistreated all his childhood, yet he had the courage to standup to his uncle, Vernon Dursley.

“I want to read it,” said Harry furiously, “as it’s mine.”

“Get out, both of you,” croaked Uncle Vernon, stuffing the letter back inside its envelope.

Harry didn’t move.

“I WANT MY LETTER!” he shouted.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 3, The Letters From No One

Another instance would be his meeting Hagrid was the first time, Harry wasn't scared.


While people were running around wildly, Harry stood (sat) his grounds! He was shocked that the glass disappeared, but was not scared of a giant snake.

Harry sat up and gasped; the glass front of the boa constrictor’s tank had vanished. The great snake was uncoiling itself rapidly, slithering out onto the floor. People throughout the reptile house screamed and started running for the exits.

As the snake slid swiftly past him, Harry could have sworn a low, hissing voice said, “Brazil, here I come. … Thanksss, amigo.”

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 2, The Vanishing Glass

Finally, you will realize by the time you finish the Harry Potter series that the Sorting Hat is not always right. I will not quote the complete text here, because it is a major spoiler!

“No,” agreed Dumbledore. “You know, I sometimes think we Sort too soon. …”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33, The Prince’s Tale


The Sorting Hat looks at potential and choices as well as the past.

Only using on-page references, why did Hermione or Neville get sorted into Gryffindor? Neither showed any bravery or daring before being sorted. Hermione later states that "friendship and bravery" are more important than "books and cleverness." Neville took almost the entire book to show any bravery. Along with Harry's request of "not Slytherin" these point to the fact that the Sorting Hat takes your values and choices into account even if they are not shown ahead of time.

Specifically for Harry, the Sorting Hat said it could see his potential and chose his house accordingly.

You could be great, you know, it's all here, in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that - no? Well, if you're sure - better be GRYFFINDOR!

  • 1
    Also, it took quite a nerve to be growing up with the Dursleys. And the situation with the snake in the Zoo also required bravery from a ten year old.
    – doomista
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 14:12
  • @doomista You are right, why didn't you answer the question?
    – Vishvesh
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 14:11
  • 1
    @Vishvesh I don't have these books in english, so it wouldn't be as well sourced as your answer ;)
    – doomista
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 15:36
  • Sometimes it is kind of sad, that we depend on English for communication. Universal Communicators would have been handy
    – Vishvesh
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 15:20

IMHO maybe the sorting hat doesn't read eleven-year-old kid's memories to see what they did in the past and assume that heir personalities and behavior are not going to change in the future, as J. Mini seems to assume the sorting hat does.

Instead, perhaps the sorting hat scans the hyper complex structures of the brains of eleven-year-old kids to see how they are "hard wired" (to use an analogy), to behave. So the sorting hat might be able to predict from analysis of brain structure and chemistry which kids are more likely than others to be exceptionally brave like those in Gryffendor, and which kids are more likely than others to be very cunning like Slytherin kids, and so on.

Or maybe there is a magic spell on the sorting hat which enables it to see into the future enough to tell which house's qualities the kid will display the most in their future lifetime. After all, there is a magic spell which enables the sorting hat to talk.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.