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Harry Potter and the Identity Crisis

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Ravendor Gryffinclaw Pottermore Gryffindor Ravenclaw

Yesterday the new Pottermore website (an official all-things-Harry-Potter website) re-launched its new and improved interactive platform where users get sorted into one of the four Hogwarts houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff. Naturally, I’d had a Pottermore account for years and knew that I was a Ravenclaw. But I took the test again – partly to make sure that I was indeed a true Ravenclaw, and partly because I love the beautiful illustrations that go with anything to do with Pottermore. Plus, who doesn’t like a good quiz?

I took the quiz, fairly confident I would get sorted into Ravenclaw again, when this happened.

Hold your hippogriffs – I’m a what?

Hippogriff Harry Potter

A Gryffindor. I am now a Gryffindor. What is this dark magic?

Obviously, this surprise got me asking a handful of tough questions. Have I not been a true Ravenclaw all this time? Is the test faulty? Have I changed this much since 2009? Am I not smart and creative enough anymore?

This identity crisis echoed the one I had almost 7 years ago, when the website first launched and sorted me into Ravenclaw House. I’ll be honest: I was disappointed. Ravenclaw seemed a little too brainy for my taste; I didn’t like how all the adjectives used to describe its students revolved around their intellect. I felt like I was more than just smart; I wanted the test to tell me I was brave. I wanted it to tell me I was cool. 

But I had to accept this decision since it was, for the first time, a true authority that told me where in Hogwarts I belonged; and therefore, who I was. And so I learnt to like Ravenclaw. I appreciated its values and its role models. I liked that it accepted eccentrics like Luna Lovegood. And though I never quite loved the seemingly limiting trait of ‘just smart’, I decided that it did relate to who I was.

And so when Pottermore sorted me into Gryffindor, it felt both like a victory and a betrayal. I was a Ravenclaw. I had accepted that. Yet now I also got to be cool.

But why did it matter so much what a website had to say about who I was?

Harry Potter Sirius Black Hermione

If you think about it, your identity depends on so many more things than the person you are. The world shapes you, and then you may get a little say in who you want to be within the parameters you have been given. But how much of a choice do you really have? I was raised with books and a tendency for shyness. Does that define who I am and always will be? Does that make me a studious librarian by default?

I would say not. While I enjoy philosophical debates and spiritual reflections, I wouldn’t call myself studious. And my shyness feels more like a barrier than a true part of ‘the real me’.

All in all, this change in allegiance seems to be fitting to the person I am growing into. Seven years ago I was in high school and my life revolved around learning and studying. Nowadays, I am having to get out of my shell a huge amount, whether that has to do with living abroad, making friends or simply searching for a job. Perhaps my being sorted into Gryffindor beautifully reflects how I am working on becoming more courageous.

Identities don’t have to be limiting. They are a tool for understanding where you are at right now. They don’t have to define who you will always be.

We know what we are, but not what we may be. ~ William Shakespeare

Dumbledore once said that he was afraid students got sorted into their Hogwarts houses too soon. Maybe it’s always too soon. Maybe you’re never fully one thing; but rather, you adapt and shift from one quality to another depending on what you need to be at the time. Recently, a user got sorted into Hufflepuff after having been sorted into Slytherin… to which J.K. Rowling responded:

And to that I say: I am a Ravendor.

And proud to be.

Marianne
Marianne is a lover of cats and chocolate. She enjoys pretending she is a local (wherever she is) and will gladly engage you in a philosophical debate about Harry Potter.

4 Comments

  1. M, This is a very well written exploration of something I care nothing about – now I know how people feel when they’re reading my blog. But I do believe people change dramatically throughout their life. I believe we each have a core personality type that we can alter with our jobs, hobbies, desires, etc. I’m more familiar with the Meyers-Briggs personality test than the sorting hat. I’ve taken this test several times over the course of my life and the outcome changes each time – usually between introvert and extrovert. In retrospect I can see that my activities at the time of the test have made me more or less extroverted. Right now, all I do with my spare time is run and write. I took the test a couple of months ago and I was deep into the introvert side of things. So yes, you’re changing. It’s been a long time since I read any Harry Potter, but wasn’t Gryffindor the group Harry was in? Those people don’t strike me as cool.

    1. Hi Jeff, thank you for taking the time to read my post in spite of it being about Harry Potter! 😉
      It’s very interesting how much your life circumstances influence your (apparent?) personality. I haven’t taken the time to take the Myers-Briggs test yet, but I’ve heard it is one of the most ‘accurate’ or at least well-developed ones out there. But even if that is the case, I feel like it would only tell me things I already know about myself!
      Gryffindor is indeed Harry, Hermione and Ron’s house. The main characters, the heroes of any (fantasy) story, the ‘chosen ones’ – they’re always brave and in charge of fulfilling their own destinies. They challenge the authority. I guess that’s what I mean by cool; being brave enough to go after what you want or believe in, regardless of common sense or rules.

  2. We know a lot about ourselves, and we’re always told that knowing such things is important, which it is, but there’s always something exciting about having a higher power tell us who we are. That higher power is a hat.
    The fact that Pottermore was the official site, made by JK herself, we are way more inclined to just accept what we’re told. When I was sorted the first time years ago, I was sorted as Hufflepuff, and I was not thrilled as I thought myself more of a Ravenclaw. But I accepted it, and like you saw myself as a neat mix of the two. But when I was sorted again last week, I was Slytherin. Out of the four, Syltherin was the one I thought myself least to be, so I was pretty upset.
    However, someone online did tell me that the test is flawed and many people are getting weird results and the test isn’t the same for everyone. I think I needed that wakeup call to realise that I can’t base who I think I am on some online test, even if it’s Harry Potter. It’s fun and all, but I am not a Slytherin.

    1. Too true. Figuring ourselves out is a messy business, which makes it so much more comfortable when someone else tells you that we’re obviously this or that.
      I did hear that a lot of people were getting weird results on Pottermore… But like you said; it’s just an online test. The fun of it shouldn’t make you question who you truly are. Besides, the test doesn’t allow for us to state our preferences, which might change things quite a bit.
      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts! :) x

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