45

My daughter recently asked me, Why wasn't Professor Flitwick at the Sorting Ceremony?

I wanted to know why she had asked and she pointed out two things:

  1. Professor Flitwick is not described as being present at the High Table right after Harry gets sorted (PG 122 HP and the SS paperback, 1999). I began to reply, but that doesn't mean he wasn't there and then she said,

  2. "Flitwick is surprised when he finds Harry's name on his roster."

Professor Flitwick, the Charms teacher was a tiny little wizard who had to stand on a pile of books to see over his desk. At the start of their first class he took the roll call, and when he reached Harry's name he gave an excited squeak and toppled out of sight.

(HPSS pg.133 paperback, 1999).

Obviously, and reasonably, my daughter is concluding that if he had been at the sorting ceremony, he would not have been surprised at Harry's presence. Honestly, as a former teacher myself, I think he should have known ahead anyway - must've been fairly out of touch with the other teachers to not have had an inkling there was at least a possibility.

I understand this is sort of an inconsequential point in the book so it is likely there isn't an answer that is "in universe" and "in cannon." But I am trying to teach her to be a thoughtful reader and I felt it was an astute observation for a six year old and didn't want to just poo poo it. So, just in case there is something in an interview out there, I thought I'd ask - you guys seem to be able to answer it all.

Update

My Daughter has decided to write directly to Rowling and ask. This is really bugging her. She say's "even if he wasn't there, he still should've known." We'll see if there is a response or not and update if there is. I am trying to talk to her about other possible reasons he was startled by the name as well. No return letter - not even a form letter from Scholastic - yet.

Final update: We got the standard Scholastic response packet which didn't even attempt to add any response to her specific question about Flitwick (though she proudly has her letter "from Rowling herself" hanging on her bulletin board). Alice has decided to move past it and recognizes different people interpret different things differently at this point.

  • 1
    Professor Flitwick was either 1) there and not mentioned or 2) not there and the reason why is not explained. I totally support you nurturing the abilities of an astute questioner in your daughter. I'm not sure if Stack Exchange is the right place to present questions that are known to not be answerable except by speculation. When my kiddos would ask something like that, I liked to give the question back to them and engage their imagination: "Hmm, where do you think Prof. Flitwick might be? Why do you think he's not here? What could he be doing?" Make sense? :) – Slytherincess Jan 17 '13 at 18:50
  • 4
    @balancedmama - technically speaking, it's called "Pottermore". But it's an awful design for anyone interested in obtaining information as opposed to playing interactive web games, and I pretty much refuse to go there anymore after struggling through first couple of chapters. Whoever "designed" that POS should be forever barred from any work aside from flash quiz games. I will wait till someone digitizes that mess of un-copy-pasteable text fully and puts it on a searcheable data source. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 17 '13 at 19:04
  • 3
    A little more pertinent to the question, perhaps - it's entirely possible that the squeak-and-topple was more about excitement than surprise. – Darael Jan 20 '13 at 7:41
  • 2
    My daughter is assuming that such excitement would be expressed at the moment one discovered the item that made you excited. I completely agree with her reasoning. I don't think an accomplished and intelligent professor such as Flitwick would topple over with excitement in front of a class full of kids if he had already known he would be seeing HP in his class. – balanced mama Jan 20 '13 at 17:38
  • 2
    The answer is simple: He was sitting right there, but nobody could see him because he'd forgotten his booster seat. – Zibbobz Jul 22 '14 at 14:11
17

I don't think it was surprise at all, I think it was excitement. (From your own quote: he gave an EXCITED squeak.) I mean, we are talking about the most famous boy in magic history sitting in his classroom! On top of that, IIRC all teachers have their own classrooms, which means they do not need to walk to their next lesson. They only need to know how long they have to be in their classroom, not where they will be teaching or which class. Which year might be convenient. Due to that, he was excited to learn that Harry Potter was in that particular class. Plus, I don't know my timetable by heart, the first week. Heck, I've had my second week with my current timetable and I still only have a very vague idea of when I have what lessons.

Summary: Flitwick didn't necessarily realise Harry was in that class, and jumped of his stack of books out of excitement upon learning that this was the lesson Harry participated in.

  • As a former teacher myself, I did not have to walk from class to class either, but I had a roster, files on each kid and I still interacted with my fellow teachers enough to know what everyone might be "buzzing" about. As part of preparing for class, I had a general idea of whom to expect and which class I was about to teach - even the first week. However, I understand your point that he may have just been startled THIS was THE CLASS. and that makes sense. I'll share the idea with Alice Thanks. – balanced mama Oct 23 '13 at 21:18
  • I've always assumed it was a squeal of excitement, too, but reading it just now, I realised that doesn't make much sense either. Many wizards are excited to meet Harry because they know him only as a ‘celebrity’, the Boy Who Lived. But Flitwick taught and knew Harry’s parents. He was probably at least indirectly involved in the original Order, and had likely met Lily and James after Harry was born—he knew them. So why the excitement? Toppling over on your pile of books seems an odd sort of excitement just for seeing someone you haven't seen since they were a baby… – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 3 '15 at 16:43
  • I don't know about other cultures, but I wouldn't keep such close contact with my high school teachers. Unless there is a solid reason to assume he was an active member of the Order, I'd say the last time he saw James and Lily was at their graduation. @JanusBahsJacquet – 11684 Apr 3 '15 at 21:06
  • I suppose he mightn’t, even though the magical community does appear to be rather more tightly knit across geographic distances than normal communities (e.g., McGonagall immediately thinking Dedalus Diggle when she heard of fireworks in Devon (?) in the first few pages of the series, even though she wouldn’t really be expected to have anything to do with him in general). Isn’t there something about Lily being a favourite student of Flitwick’s at some point? Even if he hadn’t seen them since graduation, it still seems odd to me… – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 3 '15 at 21:11
  • Maybe I'm not yet old enough to appreciate the oddity of his reaction. Something else maybe worth considering: the last time I read through all seven books I noticed a distinct improvement between each book. Since Flitwick's nosedive occurs in book 1, we could perhaps just write it off to inexperienced writing. – 11684 Apr 3 '15 at 21:59
13

What a fantastic question. You are right, your daughter has acute reading skills. It also helps that the story of Harry Potter is very entertaining. Flitwick has a very emotional sort of personality which accounts for his reaction to seeing Harry on his register along with many other encounters in the Harry Potter series. Go to Flitwick's page on the Harry Potter Wikia and read about his personality and traits as well as relationships.

If there was a reason for his being absent from the sorting ceremony he certainly wouldn't have been included in the film production of Book 1 as Rowling had a close hand in the making of all the films. You can see him at the table on the left hand side of this image, just as Susan Bones is being sorted.

enter image description here

  • 1
    Well spotted on the movie! – AncientSwordRage Feb 16 '13 at 18:18
  • 3
    We had seen the movie too, and saw this as well. Even though she was involved with the movies, changes were made from the books (many) so we didn't consider this an answer when discussing it. I'm guessing it was a mis-step on Rowling's part, frankly and that there is no reason. He was at the Sorting ceremony AND surprised Harry Potter was at the school - which of course, makes absolutely no sense. But great screen shot and timing! – balanced mama Feb 18 '13 at 14:51
  • Did Rowling have a close hand in the movies? – Harry Weasley Nov 23 '17 at 10:20

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.