You’re probably familiar with the Hogwarts school and house system in the Harry Potter series.
They’re some of the main features in the story and are a means of moving the plot forward.
After all, the school is where most of the events take place.
Even so, there’s more to understand about this institution and the way it works.
With so much going on in the story, not everything is explained in meticulous detail.
Harry Potter House Traits And Characteristics:
- Gryffindor: Harry Potter’s House – Chivalry, courage, and daring
- Slytherin: Tom Riddle’s House – Ambition, resourcefulness, cunning, and leadership
- Ravenclaw: House of the Wise – Wisdom, intellect, and learning
- Hufflepuff: House of the Loyal – Loyalty, dedication, patience, fairness, and hard work
These things didn’t come out of thin air and are actually representative of how education works in the United Kingdom.
Most of it is very traditional, but many aspects still exist today.
This is especially true of private schools that are more conservative.
Keep in mind that while this article will go over various aspects related to how the institution functions on any given day, there are bound to be a few spoilers here and there.
Table of Contents
Britain’s Educational Houses
This way of organizing education originally came from England and has been around for quite some time.
It spread to other areas in the British Empire and the United States.
It still exists in one form or another, particularly in universities and private schools.
Consisting of a subunit of an educational institution, students are placed in one or the other.
There’s a bit of group loyalty with students participating in competitive activities between groups.
There are multiple ways to name a house.
Traditionally, they were named after saints because much of education had been related to religious systems, including studying religion as well as academics.
A more modern practice involves naming such houses after famous historical alumni or noteworthy regional topics.
The name could also be something more general, such as an animal or even a color.
Such subdivision in an institution has its own symbols and colors that signal to others which one a student belongs to.
Along with the general competition, such as through sports, this develops a strong allegiance that usually lasts a lifetime.
Such can be seen with long-time fraternity and sorority members of different universities.
While these groups are usually male or female, the houses at Hogwarts are co-ed.
Harry Potter’s Magical World
The main series starts shortly before the famous young aspiring sorcerer starts his first year of school.
This makes the educational system a major aspect of the original story, including how the students learn and develop.
It also makes the audience interested in how it works compared to their own education system, particularly if they’re enrolled at one of the many public schools.
Students are taken through learning various forms of spellcraft and magic, consisting of defending against evil magic, brewing potions, breeding animals, and much more. It’s quite an interesting experience than one would normally go through.
Notable students include the Harry, Hermoine, and Ron trio; Draco Malfoy and his associates; and even Tom Riddle during his time before the main story.
Much like aspects of European society today and much of it in the past, a person’s family is incredibly important.
There are only about a handful of them considered as “pureblood.” Some of the most historically powerful include the Black, Malfoy, and Lestrange families.
After the events in the main series, the Potters, Weasleys, and Longbottoms became much more famous and influential.
The Hogwarts Wizarding School
This institution was founded approximately 990 AD by four of the most powerful and notable wizards in history, including Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, and Salazar Slytherin.
Each of these four individuals wanted to bring certain aspects out of the students attending the institution.
In fact, each of the houses was named after one of these founders.
However, Slytherin disagreed with allowing muggle students and left.
Much of this place is related to how things work in the real world in the United Kingdom, particularly in its education systems.
After all, the author of the series was a schoolteacher in England.
This includes the way the school is set up, such as the years its members attend it.
Instead of breaking it up into three and four years like in the United States, students stay the full seven years before they graduate and move on.
These details may just seem solely related to this fictional world if one isn’t familiar with these systems.
To really understand how this world works, it’s important to at least have an overview of its background and where its aspects come from.
While the previous section is enough to go on, you may also look into it further if you’re interested in the subject.
Almost surprisingly, the series has developed in people an interest in the way education works.
Throughout the series, you see that many school allegiances remain throughout a wizard’s lifetime.
An example of this is Harry and his friends Ron and Hermoine who were all placed in Gryffindor during their first year.
Another example is the fact that many of Voldemort’s Death Eaters were placed in Slytherin during their time at school, including Tom Riddle himself.
These aren’t strict loyalties as some of the Death Eaters weren’t in Slytherin.
The Four Hogwarts Houses Characteristics
As stated previously, these subdivisions within Hogwarts each displays aspects of a particular founder’s traits and beliefs.
They include Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin.
The names of each are taken after a founder’s last name.
Additionally, they represent the students’ living quarters as well as the communities they’re apart of.
Sorting between one of the four is done at the beginning of the school year for all first-year students.
Various competitive events take place between the different groups, including gaining and losing points dependent on a student’s behavior.
For example, causing trouble in class could remove points from one’s house while solving a mysterious disappearance could add them.
The magnitude of points added or lost depends on the behavior’s effect.
At the end of the school year, the house with the most points wins the House Cup.
Also, Quidditch is a type of sport that each house participates in and is similar to those popular in Britain such as football, rugby, and cricket.
It’s the most popular sport in the wizarding world, with the Quidditch World Cup being the biggest event.
The competitions between the students mean that some of the rivalries are quite intense, the one between Gryffindor and Slytherin being the greatest.
Students are sorted by an intelligent and talking Sorting Hat.
It was created by Godric Gryffindor for the sorting after the founders were no longer around.
While there’s fate and destiny that decide where a student goes, there is some choice in the final decision.
Harry Potter almost sorted into Slytherin but asked to be sorted into Gryffindor instead.
Once the sorting is done, the hat announces it to everyone.
The structure of each house includes a Head of House. In the main story, this includes Minerva McGonagall as head of Gryffindor, Pomona Sprout as head of Hufflepuff, Filius Flitwick as head of Ravenclaw, and Severus Snape as head of Slytherin.
Horace Slughorn, the previous head of Slytherin, gained this position once again after Snape became headmaster.
It’s not clear who replaced McGonagall after becoming headmaster.
Gryffindor: Harry Potter’s House
Being that Harry Potter was placed here, this is one of the most influential houses at Hogwarts.
While you may think that the symbol of Gryffindor would be some kind of griffin, that’s not the case. It’s actually a lion, which is still pretty close.
It approximately correlates to the fire element, making scarlet one of its main colors.
The gold color relates to this as well as to its lion nature, as well as the firey mane that a lion has.
Gryffindor emphasizes typical heroic and fantastical knighthood traits, such as chivalry, courage, and daring.
This particularly relates well to the lion imagery.
However, sometimes it’s such an extreme that its members move towards a reckless and short-tempered nature.
Some of this behavior was seen with the Weasley twins with their various pranks and antics.
Even so, the attitude has done more good than not.
In addition to a house head, each one also has a particular ghost.
In this case, it’s Nearly Headless Nick, who lived during the 15th century in Britain.
He’s nearly headless due to a rough decapitation, which occurred because he accidentally made Lady Grieve grow tusks instead of straightening her teeth.
Since he was sorted in Gryffindor at Hogwarts, he became its ghost.
His head sometimes wobbles over since it’s still barely attached to his body.
The common room is in the Gryffindor Tower, which would be more congruent if their animal was an actual griffin.
The speaking Fat Lady painting allows entry only after giving her the correct password, which changes routinely.
The actual room is quite large and has a fireplace. A charm prevents boys from entering the girls’ dormitory, but there isn’t any such thing for the boys.
This is because the founder believed that girls are more trustworthy.
The intense rivalry is probably due to the intense falling out between Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin because Slytherin believed in blood purity and that muggles shouldn’t be admitted into the school.
There also seems to be some jealousy because Gryffindors typically get most of the praise and attention to the point where it could seem unfair.
With that being said, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff typically side with Gryffindor.
Slytherin: Tom Riddle’s House
This is where Voldemort was placed during his time at Hogwarts when he was still a student.
As it relates to the name, the symbol is a serpent, and it displays the colors green and silver.
One of the main characteristics of this is ambition, along with resourcefulness, cunning, and leadership.
While Slytherin and its founder favor pure-blood wizards to the exclusion of muggles, there are some rare muggle-born and half-blood members.
While its color doesn’t have any blue, the water element relates well to Slytherin because of various lochs and sea serpents in mythology associated with water.
The green corresponds with the surrounding areas of lochs and lakes, which are popular among different snake species.
Also, grey rainwater has a silvery color to it.
This extends to the Chamber of Secrets, a hidden room lined with water and connected to various pipes.
The ghost of Slytherin is the Bloody Baron, who lived around the 10th and 11th centuries in Britain.
This actually places him during the founding of Hogwarts. In fact, Salazar Slytherin actually educated him during his time at the institution.
Without giving away too much, his death involved him killing himself due to an issue between Rowena Ravenclaw and her sister Helena.
The blood on him is from a murder he committed shortly before killing himself.
Slytherin’s reputation is for producing many of the most powerful and nefarious dark wizards and witches.
In addition to Voldemort, many of the Death Eaters were sorted here when they were at Hogwarts.
While this is partly because Voldemort recruited others while he was a student, it’s also due to the founder’s intentions against muggles; he wanted to eliminate them from Hogwarts, whether willingly or unwillingly.
Ravenclaw: House of the Wise
Although not as much is said about this house as Gryffindor or Slytherin, it still has its place at the school.
One of the notable members during Harry’s time include Luna Lovegood.
Ravenclaws typically value the characteristics of wisdom, intellect, and learning.
This develops students that are highly talented in academics and different studies.
This is why Hermoine Granger was almost sorted into Ravenclaw instead of Gryffindor.
This group relates to the magical element of air. Like Gryffindor, the symbolic animal relates to but doesn’t exactly correspond to this house; instead of a raven, it’s an eagle. Its colors blue and bronze respectively relate to the sky and the flying eagle.
This animal strongly corresponds to how ambitious its members are in academics.
Sometimes, students will even backstab each other to become top of the class.
The official ghost is the Grey Lady, who lived during Hogwarts’s earliest years along with the Bloody Baron.
Without giving too much away, she is actually someone related to Rowena Ravenclaw.
On another note, while not the official ghost, Moaning Myrtle is still a prominent figure in the girls’ bathroom on the second floor.
She was sorted into Ravenclaw while alive and is a possible candidate for the next “head ghost.”
The members of Ravenclaw aren’t competitive with the other houses, especially compared to the rivalry between Slytherin and Gryffindor.
However, when it comes to Quidditch, Ravenclaws typically side with Gryffindor against Slytherin.
Besides academic achievement, traits such as creativity and individuality are accepted, almost to the point of eccentricity.
Also, it’s worth noting that Odin in Norse mythology is associated with wisdom and ravens.
Hufflepuff: House of the Loyal
This is of the most inclusive houses at Hogwarts and values loyalty, dedication, patience, fairness, and hard work.
While its members aren’t the most ambitious, they are quite pleasant and friendly.
The animal that represents this group is the badger, and it associates with the magical element of earth.
The colors yellow and black correspond to this, with yellow representing plants such as wheat and black representing the soil.
While these members are modest and don’t favor a certain aptitude, they have a tenacious and persistent moral code.
They treat everyone as equals and values people no matter what family they come from.
Even though they don’t have a particular interest in ambition or rivalries, various famous magic users come from this group, including Newton Scamander from the Fantastic Beasts series.
The difference is that they don’t boast about it.
The Hufflepuff ghost is the Fat Friar, who is a cheerful fellow who’s also forgiving.
As his nickname suggests, he dedicated himself throughout his life to religion.
He also lived around the founding of Hogwarts and was taught by Helga Hufflepuff herself during his educational years.
While he dedicated himself to generosity and charity, he had a penchant for loving food.
He was executed because other clergymen were suspicious of his magical abilities.
The cheery and amiable nature makes Hufflepuffs some of the most likable witches and wizards.
In fact, this house produces the least amount of dark witches and wizards throughout its entire history.
During the conflict against Voldemort, this group produced the second biggest number of forces against the evil wizard, with the most coming from Gryffindor.
Their likable demeanor doesn’t mean that they’ll stand back when there’s malevolence lurking.
You can see that there’s more to the school of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books and movies than you probably expected.
It comes from a long history of educational systems in Europe, particularly in Britain.
Since this aspect is such a significant part of the main series, it’s important to understand it if you want to fully understand the story.
Otherwise, it’s just a background for various events that happen throughout the series.
If you want to go into the actual history of Britain’s educational institutions, there’s a lot more to learn.
You’ll get a much greater depth into the series and why things are the way they are.
You’ll also get a much better idea about the meaning of the houses’ symbols and where they come from.
Much of it has to do with culture related to northern Europe, even including countries such as the ones in Scandinavia.