In the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, just before the Sorting ceremony, all the first years were quite terrified. No one had any idea what was going to follow (even Ron who came from a wizarding family). Why is this?

The ceremony itself is not a secret since most of the wizards in England went through it. Even if there is an unofficial rule not to talk about it, at least some of the kids would probably have heard about it and spread the news.

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    I guess maybe it was not relevant enough to bring up at home. Maybe it was not that interesting enough to talk about. They also probably referred to it as 'sorting' and listeners may not have though much of it as a ceremony. These kids would also be in a strange magical castle with ghosts running around and at a new school. I would probably be terrified as well. Jan 18, 2015 at 20:54
  • @CodesInChaos - I assumed it was a typo :-)
    – Valorum
    Jan 18, 2015 at 21:17
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    Many things like this are hazing rituals. There are many analogues in the real world, particularly for organizations like college fraternities/sororities. For example, I work for Georgia Tech, and it's common to talk to freshmen about the accomplishments of George P. Burdell as if he were real, even though everyone on campus knows it's a joke.
    – asteri
    Jan 19, 2015 at 1:58
  • Didn't Harry tell his son at the end of the Deathly Hallows about the sorting hat? Jan 19, 2015 at 14:21

3 Answers 3


Ron has heard about it, it's just that his brothers have taken great time and care to tell him a load of rubbish in order to scare him, one assumes for their own amusement :

‘How exactly do they sort us into houses?’ he asked Ron.

‘Some sort of test, I think. Fred said it hurts a lot, but I think he was joking.’


‘So we’ve just got to try on the hat!’ Ron whispered to Harry. ‘I’ll kill Fred, he was going on about wrestling a troll.’

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Within the book, the only character we see who actually seems clueless about the ceremony (aside from our hero, who's been raised by Muggles) is Hermione, who's been raised by Muggles. The others just seem nervous/terrified in general terms.

With regard to what first years know in general, certainly the Sorting Hat is expecting that the first years will be aware of its purpose, although this may be because McGonagall (or whoever filled her role for the previous thousand years) is expected to explain it to them before they walk in:

And now the Sorting Hat is here
And you all know the score
I sort you into houses
Because that is what I’m for

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

And when Harry's son goes to school in the final book, it seems that he has told him about the ceremony in general terms, but without offering any specifics about the sorting itself or the choice that the Hat makes. The implication being that the Sorting is something of a rite of passage that the parents don't wish to spoil:

'...But if it matters to you, you’ll be able to choose Gryffindor over Slytherin. The Sorting Hat takes your choice into account.’
‘It did for me,’ said Harry.
He had never told any of his children that before

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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    -1 for using that atrocious epilogue as support for an otherwise good story. (Kidding. About the downvote, at least.)
    – asteri
    Jan 19, 2015 at 1:56
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    @asteri: I remember being really disappointed by the epilogue. I remember having on Ms. Rowling's web site, before the publication of book 6 IIRC, that Ms. Rowling had the last chapter of the last book in a safe somewhere [or something to that effect]; I think she said that to indicate she knew where the overall story was going, but the epilogue didn't seem to have much to do with the events of the main story beyond the naming of Harry's children.
    – supercat
    Jan 19, 2015 at 3:16
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    @supercat Pretty sure there are quotes from Rowling herself saying she screwed up the epilogue. I know she at least blatantly admitted that the Hermione-Ron thing was completely wrong.
    – asteri
    Jan 19, 2015 at 3:34
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    Nice analysis but I still find it very unlikely that no one know what exactly expects them :) For example Hermione mentions that she did already read "Hogarts: A History" and I find it very unlikely that the sorting hat is not mentioned there.
    – vap78
    Jan 19, 2015 at 11:50
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    @petra_delphiki - I suspect it's because the sorting ceremony is supposed to be a pleasant surprise for new students and part of the school's mystique.
    – Valorum
    Mar 28, 2016 at 11:05

I am not sure I agree with this theory, but it may help.

The video is from Super Carlin Brothers, a really great youtube channel.

If you do not want to watch the full video, here is a quick summary: Ben says he believes it is the Fidelius Charm. He then encounters the problem of who is Secret-Keeper. As Hogwarts has been around for a thousand years, then the Secret-Keeper would have died. He explains his further research and then concludes that the Hat is its own Secret-Keeper. Watch the video for more details.

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    link-only answers are to be avoided. If the video dies (as they often do on Youtube) then your answer becomes worthless. Perhaps you could provide a transcript of the important bit/s for those who don't want to watch all 11 minutes
    – Valorum
    Aug 25, 2018 at 19:26

It may be that the parents or the elders want it to be random. The Hat gets the thought of mind and on the basis of their ability it selects the house. So elders want their children go to their house based on their ability. Not which one they want, it can be possible for the children to change their thoughts and go into the tough house, which they are not related to.

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