This Harry Potter Sorting Hat Fan Theory Is So Good, It's Probably True
Yes, it's 2017 and we're still investigating Harry Potter fan theories. But that's how good Harry Potter is! And this latest fan theory is so simple, so clever, that it barely counts as a "theory". Now that Redditor Straw_Boats's theory about how the Sorting Hat works is going viral, it should probably just be considered canon. Here's the theory:
"...I’d argue [The Sorting Hat] sorts a child based on their values. Specifically, a child who believes Bravery and Courage are the most important traits would go to Gryffindor, where as a child who values Intellectualism and Love of Learning above all else would go to Ravenclaw. The key difference is that a child need not possess that trait, but merely value it...This explains how Draco, completely inept at becoming cunning (but growing up in a family where it is prized), can be sorted into Slytherin while Hermione (who is an intellectual, but wishes to become like her heroes in Gryffindor) can choose to become a Gryffindor. Additionally, this neatly explains how polarized the houses are towards one another."
What Straw_Hat is saying is that the Sorting Hat doesn't sort a kid into a house based on the traits they possess (courageous kid goes to Gryffindor, intelligent kid goes to Ravenclaw, etc.), but the traits they want to possess one day. If this doesn't exactly blow your mind right off the bat, just think of all the characters who seem "misplaced" in their houses throughout the books; characters who — if this theory holds up — aren't actually misplaced at all. Neville, Peter Pettigrew, Hermione — based on the characteristics they portrayed, they don't exactly scream "Gryffindor", do they? They seem like they'd be better suited in Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff, respectively.
This is probably not a theory that's been discussed a bunch because the Sorting Hat has always been this ethereal mystery object that we've just assumed knows the true makeup of a child's heart in a way that isn't always obvious on the outside. For example, while Neville seems like the most Hufflepuff-ly of students at first, we just assumed the Sorting Hat knew something about his character that we didn't. But perhaps we were giving the Sorting Hat too much credit, and when Dumbledore says to Harry “The Sorting Hat takes your choice into account", he's probably doing that cheeky Dumbledore thing where he says something that means so much more than it seems to on the surface. GODDAMNIT that man continues to be full of surprises years after we were first introduced to him, which is the mark of a truly fascinating character.
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