Every thirty seconds, someone starts reading a Harry Potter book. With Harry Potter books being published from 1997 to 2007, movies released from 2001 to 2011, and the 2010 opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, millennials lived through a saga that changed the world of literature. What makes the series so immersive is not the story or even the wizarding world. Rather, it is what lies at the heart of each character’s (and fan’s) identity: their house.
The Sorting Hat song that describes each house is absent from the movie. Any movie-watcher can tell you that Gryffindor is good and Slytherin is evil. The Hat says otherwise; Gryffindor is “the brave at heart;” Hufflepuff “just and loyal;” Ravenclaw “those of wit and learning” and Slytherin “cunning folks.” J.K. Rowling taught us the complexities of good and evil largely through the lack of dichotomy within the houses.
It only takes a Google search to find more “Which Hogwarts House are You?” quizzes than one has time to take, as well as Pottermore, where over one million users enjoy their own Hogwarts experience. Pottermore is also home to what is widely known as the “conclusive” sorting hat quiz, where one’s house is officially determined.
On Pottermore, the number of students in the four houses continues to be evenly distributed. Some argue that the game is “rigged” to keep the houses even. Nevertheless, fans find homes in all four houses. Maybe this explains our fascination with where we belong in stories, as illustrated by online quizzes such as “Which Disney princess are you?” and “What’s your Game of Thrones house?”
Despite our captivation with houses, we are also a generation defined by an opposition toward labels. This is depicted in the “Divergent” series, in which protagonist Tris defies her dystopian faction system by proving herself eligible for three out of five factions rather than only one. Tris provides catharsis for those who feel they cannot be defined by a single label. Author John Green further demonstrates the lack of need for polarity by declaring himself a “Ravenpuff” because he displays qualities of both Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. Despite the message of “Divergent,” readers are still eager to identify with a particular faction.
There are many magical components of Harry Potter, but the selection of one’s house allows readers to participate in the saga rather than simply read it. Many fantasy stories are relevant to readers in one way or another. There are some people who associate themselves with the bucolic Hobbits and those who relate to the rags-to-riches tale of King Arthur. However, Hogwarts takes immersive to a new level of inclusive. In the words of Rowling, “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home,” especially with the new play, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” being released on July 31, 2016.