28

Is it against the Hogwarts rules for a first year to play Quidditch, or is it simply an unspoken tradition that first years never make their house team?

‘You’re joking.’ [Ron said] It was dinner time. Harry had just finished telling Ron what had happened when he’d left the grounds with Professor McGonagall. Ron had a piece of steak-and-kidney pie halfway to his mouth, but he’d forgotten all about it.

‘Seeker?’ he said. ‘But first-years never – you must be the youngest house player in about –’

‘– a century,’ said Harry, shovelling pie into his mouth. He felt particularly hungry after the excitement of the afternoon. ‘Wood told me.’

Philosopher's Stone - page 113 - Bloomsbury - chapter 9, The Midnight Duel

Oliver Wood told Harry that Harry was the youngest Quidditch player (at Hogwarts, I presume; not necessarily nationally) in a century; however, Wood didn't mention whether the previous youngest player was a first year, like Harry is, or if the previous youngest player was younger than Harry -- say 10-years-old -- or older, like a 12-year-old second year. I know we have no way of knowing who the last youngest player was before Harry, but has J.K. Rowling addressed anywhere whether first years are not allowed to play for their house teams, or if it's just kind of an unspoken rule that it doesn't happen?

For what it's worth, I don't think McGonagall getting special permission to get Harry a broom is a definitive statement on whether the Quidditch thing is either a rule or a tradition; first years are not allowed to have their own broomsticks at Hogwarts, we know this. But there are school brooms students can use.

★ A canon-based answer would be great -- books, J.K. Rowling interviews, Pottermore, etc.

  • 4
    It was probably more a case of there always having been older and better students wanting to play on the House teams, so there weren't spots being filled by first years. I'm not sure if I'd consider that to be a tradition though. – Anthony Grist Nov 28 '12 at 16:57
  • 1
    As in real life sports teams, "if you're good enough, you're old enough" – PhilPursglove Dec 2 '12 at 20:34
  • 3
    McGonagall does say “I shall speak to Professor Dumbledore and see if we can’t bend the first-year rule” when introducing Harry to Wood – would that count as evidence that it’s more than just convention preventing first-years from playing? – alexwlchan Mar 5 '17 at 17:29
  • Wood didn't mention whether the previous youngest player was a first year, like Harry is, or if the previous youngest player was younger than Harry -- say 10-years-old -- or older, like a 12-year-old second year. If the previous younger player was 12, then Harry wouldn't be the youngest in about a century but the youngest ever. – Evargalo Jan 31 at 17:16
45

I just came across the following in The Half Blood Prince, Chapter 11: Hermione's Helping Hand:

As Harry had expected, the [Gryffindor Quidditch team] trials took most of the morning. Half of Gryffindor house seemed to have turned up, from first years who were nervously clutching a selection of the dreadful old school brooms, to seventh years who towered over the rest, looking coolly intimidating.

Harry doesn't tell the first years to leave, but lets them try out "and it could not have been plainer that they had hardly ever flown before."

So it looks like it's just fine by the rules for a first year to play on the Quidditch team using, as you suggested, school brooms. It's just that it's a bit rare for a first year to be any good.

  • Another reason is maybe Harry simply was humouring them? He wouldn't accept them on the team unless they were exceptional (like he himself was) but he would still let them do a bit of playing (maybe for the future?). I thought somewhere in the books it says that they're not supposed to but an exception was made - whether you call this a rule or tradition is a matter of semantics I would say. – Pryftan Aug 1 '18 at 23:32
13

What is not prohibited is allowed. There's no mention of McGonagall ever worrying about Harry's class/age being an issue, just the broom. There's also no age restrictions for Hogwarts listed in QTTA. In the absence of Hermione stating "Of course Hogwarts: A History says First Years aren't allowed to play Quidditch!", we can safely conclude it was not against the rules.

7

In the first HP book the acceptance letter strictly states that First-year students are not allowed to own their own brooms (at school that is, what their parents allow them to do is not important). I suppose first year students could be on their house team if they are the best during try-outs as commando pointed out. Harry gets special permission because he's Harry Potter...

As far as how old the last youngest player at Hogwarts is... I believe he/she would have been eleven. If he/she were older than eleven, the century would stretched back longer (to the youngest player ever if it got that far). According to the timeline on the Harry Potter Lexicon, Hogwarts was founded sometime in the 900's and there could have been several eleven year old players between then. Also the youngest player at Hogwarts could have not been less than eleven as we know Harry and Draco were the youngest in their year (as neither of them were able to take their apparition test in the sixth box as they were not of age) so it's safe to assume a ten year old would have to wait until the following year to start at Hogwarts. As seen with Hermione who's birthday is September 19th, making her one of the oldest (if not the oldest) in her year.

So to answer your question, First year students can play on their house team... if they are good enough to play on their house team.

  • Neville and Harry were actually the youngest.Neville's birthday was 30th of July and Harry's was 31st of July.Draco's birthday was 5th of June. – Hermione Granger Aug 29 '18 at 7:01
5

There seems to be some sort of rule against first years playing in the teams, at least when Harry joined the school. Whether this is specifically against first years playing in a house team (or as was previously mentioned, simply against them owning a broom) isn't clear, nor is it entirely clear how McGonagoll "bent" the rules to make him eligible. It's also not clear why this rule was loosened in later years, although allowing Harry to play as a first year probably opened the floodgates of applications.

‘I shall speak to Professor Dumbledore and see if we can’t bend the first-year rule. Heaven knows, we need a better team than last year. Flattened in that last match by Slytherin, I couldn’t look Severus Snape in the face for weeks …’

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.


Assuming the rule was simply against a first-year owning a broom, this would explain their absence from the teams since the school brooms are notoriously poor

The Slytherins were already there, and so were twenty broomsticks lying in neat lines on the ground. Harry had heard Fred and George Weasley complain about the school brooms, saying that some of them started to vibrate if you flew too high, or always flew slightly to the left.

  • Dumbledore: "Harry, as of today your broom will the property of the school. Please sign this waiver." wink wink – Skooba Jan 8 '18 at 21:07
2

There is nothing mentioned that first years are not allowed to play Quiddich, but they would have to use a school broom, if the school even permits to use those brooms for Quiddich. But as the school brooms are of bad quality, it is unlikely someone will be good enough on a school broom to be picked for the team, so the question whether students are allowed to play on school brooms is moot.

first years who were nervously clutching a selection of the dreadful old school brooms

There is the rule about brooms, from the Hogwarts letter:

PARENTS ARE REMINDED THAT FIRST-YEARS ARE NOT ALLOWED THEIR OWN BROOMSTICKS Pottermore

That should mean that students are not allowed to bring their own broomsticks to school in their first year, not that they are not allowed to own one, as the school has no right to forbid the ownership of brooms.

Because school brooms are not good enough to play, Harry gets his own broomstick. As the rule says that first years are not allowed their own broomsticks, Harry needs an exemption from that rule, or as McGonagoll says:

"I shall speak to Professor Dumbledore and see if we can’t bend the first-year rule."


Regarding your question about the age of the previous youngest player, I agree that this must refer to Hogwarts. Because all students are eleven year old when they start Hogwarts, that previous player must have been at least eleven. Because Katie Bell, own of the chasers, is in second year when Harry starts, and therefore twelve years old, the youngest player must have been younger, and therefore eleven years old.


So it is tradition that first years don't make their house team, unless one of the teachers thinks they should "bend" the rule on first years having their own broom, and such exemptions seem to happen about once in a century.

-1

It's probably like freshmen having cars on college campuses. Its not like their banning them from driving, they're just not sold parking spots on campus. The freshmen may have jobs with transportation driving buses or be allowed to drive university vehicles with the right job/club affiliation&training (aka the equivalent of using a school broom), but that doesn't mean they're allowed to have their own, personal vehicle there.

  • 1
    Interesting analogy. Could you further integrate this to Harry Potter context? – Gallifreyan Mar 5 '17 at 13:08
  • Do you have anything to back this up, or is it just speculation? – Blackwood Mar 5 '17 at 14:03
  • ...Except that no one in the UK would be saying words like 'freshman' and whatever the others are. First year, second year, etc. I haven't a clue where 'freshman' and the others come from but I'm not surprised either that America has its own words. But point is HP isn't an American novel so regardless of any validity in your analogy it'd be improved by making it not American. – Pryftan Jan 8 '18 at 21:46
  • 1
    Freshman is an American term and Harry Potter is a British book. – Hermione Granger Aug 8 '18 at 7:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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