Most people don't enjoy being judged, especially when that judgement comes from a talking hat, but this is a ritual all Hogwarts first years must endure in order to become an official student of the great School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Once the Sorting Hat is placed upon the nervous newbies head, the decision over which of the four houses (Slytherin, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff or that other one) the student will be placed in determines much of their future, and certainly how they are judged by their peers for the rest of their lives.
But what if the Sorting Hat doesn't choose which student to allocate to each house dependent on their most prominent personality trait, as is so commonly believed? Indeed, this particular fan theory suggests that the talking Hat might not be making the decision at all....
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The Sorting Hat Allocates Each Student By Their Personality Traits...Or Does It?
It is commonly believed that the Sorting Hat looks deep into the psyche of each individual 11-year-old and sorts them into the following categories:
- Gryffindor for the brave
- Slytherin for the cunning
- Ravenclaws for the intellectual
- Hufflepuff for the hardworking
However, a fascinating theory by Redditor @Staw_Boats turns this sorting process on its head (excuse the pun).
However, There Are Many Instances Where This Just Isn't True
Let's take a closer look at this sorting method. At 11-years-old, Neville Longbottom was actually the opposite of brave, fainting over the sound of a Mandrakes scream and being mortally terrified of Professor Snape and yet he was placed in Gryffindor. Crabbe and Goyle were noted for their intellectual incapacity, something that is required to be 'cunning' and yet they were placed into Slytherin.
Further, if there's one characteristic 11-year-old Hermione embodied, it was her stunning intellect, not her bravery and yet off she leaps to Gryffindor rather than Ravenclaw — so what's going on here?
Hmm, Perhaps The Sorting Hat Is Able To Predict The Future?
Given the above examples, it's clear that all of these characters then go on to demonstrate that the house they were sorted into when they were 11, was clearly the right choice. Neville becomes defined by his persistent and loyal bravery, even managing to destroy the final Horcrux while wearing a cardigan, Crabbe and Goyle while not as sharp as Draco, do become increasingly cunning as time progresses and Hermoine ultimately uses her intellect as a tool for her bravery in the relentless quest to help defeat He Who Shall Not Be Named.
But then we have the problem of Peter 'Wormtail' Pettigrew, who was finally placed into Gryffindor after the Sorting Hat spent 5 long minutes decided exactly where he should be go. Peter was the embodiment of cowardice, betraying James, Lily and Harry to Voldemort which ended in Harry becoming a lightning-scarred orphan — not your typical Gryffindor.
The Students Actually Decide Where The Sorting Hat Will Place Them
So, if the Sorting Hat seems to sort the students by an agenda other than that of their existing personality traits and yet cannot predict the future — just what is going on when those Hogwarts first years don that wide-brimmed talking cap!? Well, this is where the theory gets really interesting: the students seem to be able to choose their houses whether they realize it, or not.
For example, we see Harry actively choosing to be placed into Gryffindor over Slytherin, Hermione's greatest wish to be placed into Gryffindor over Ravenclaw being fulfilled, Ron who's entire family were Gryffindors and therefore had the honor of the Weasley clan riding on his shoulders, conveniently getting placed into Gryffindor, with the same happening the Malfoy and Slytherin.
If the hat sorted on personality traits alone, it would seem that in these long lines of hereditary house allegiances, no leeway is made for personality divergence amongst family members. We need only compare Ginny and Charlie Weasley for proof of that.
So Then, The Hat Allocates The Students Based On Their Values & Aspirations
Ultimately then it would seem that the Sorting Hat is able to look within the child and asses what their most prominent values and aspirations are, and sorts them out accordingly. As such, Hermoine, Ron and Neville, while not shining examples of bravery at 11-years-old, all value bravery above all else — they all aspire to be as courageous as their heroes. Malfoy has grown up in a family in which cunning is rewarded as the most important trait for succeeding in life and therefore, he values this above all else and finds himself in Slytherin.
And this is apparently something that Harry, with the passing of time, understood, telling his son Albus in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows not to worry about the process and that:
“The Sorting Hat takes your choice into account.”
So it would seem that in reality, the students have already chosen which Hogwarts house they will be placed in, long before they step up to put on that frowning hat - cool eh?