Photo by Maddy Hemlock
Article by Persephone Vitrac
Long ago, when Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was first built, the four founders chose to divide the students accepted to the school into four individual houses, each named for the founder who served as its head. These houses serve as the living and learning communities of the students, as we share a common room, dormitories, and at times, classes. Thus these houses became a sort of fraternity among the students within them, a fellowship of students who share similar traits and values. Naturally, over time however, these houses began to develop stereotypes. And it is those stereotypes which I write of today.
Gryffindor, the house of Godric. It is this house and its stereotypes I intend to discuss this week. Bravery, nerve, courage, chivalry, and daring. These are the traits for which Gryffindor is known, and while each of them are positive, the house is still subject to negative stereotypes, which really goes to show that maybe, just maybe, this house has more in common with Slytherin than they’d care to admit.
Perhaps we should start with the founder of Gryffindor and exactly how his reputation has affected those who enter his house this year. Godric Gryffindor was one of the four founders of Hogwarts, known as one of the most brilliant witches and wizards of their time. Despite his house’s constant rivalry with Slytherin, Godric was actually great friends with Salazar Slytherin until their falling out when Salazar felt they should not accept Muggle-born students at Hogwarts. (Editor’s Note: Please see Breaking the Stereotypes- Slytherin for a theory as to why this was.)
Godric was said to have praised courage, determination, and strength of heart above any other traits, going so far as to choose students for his house based on their daring and brave natures. He was tolerant and accepting of Muggle-borns and forward thinking, as demonstrated by his creating the Sorting Hat to continue to sort students after the founders died. Cleverness and creativity weren’t his only traits, however. Godric was rumoured to be quite versatile, as he wielded both a sword and his wand, allowing him to defer to the dueling style of his opponent and also showing him as respectful and fair towards muggle or less talented magical combatants. This may also show a need to challenge himself and prove his own worth and courage. The last thing to be noted about Godric is that despite his noble heart and good intentions, Godric was perfectly capable of taking the lives of sentient beings such as Goblins, as shown by his threat to unsheathe and use his blade against Ragnuk the First, the famous maker of that very blade.
Despite having traits quite common of knights attributed to it, the house of Gryffindor does not generally maintain a noble reputation. No, in fact, quite the opposite is assumed, Gryffindors being labeled with negative stereotypes and reputations as being reckless, loud jocks who are quite dumb, danger prone, and known troublemakers. As opposed to being considered noble or chivalrous, they are accused of being obnoxious, brash glory-seekers. They are called arrogant and self-serving, much like Slytherins in this regard, I would say. And sure, there are Gryffindors who fall into this stereotype. Some might cite Harry Potter, one of the most famous of Gryffindors as an example.
But Gryffindor is more than that. Gryffindor is the house of the brave, the courageous, and the bold. It is the house for the chivalrous, the loyal, and those compassionate towards the bullied. Gryffindors will do anything if they feel it is right as they are passionate about the principles they believe it. There is no middle ground for them, as it is all or nothing when it comes to standing up for their family, friends, and those oppressed. They are often natural leaders and willing to face their own fears.
To be a Gryffindor is to be brave or desire to be brave, to face those parts of yourself you may not want to face. It is more than just being some stereotype, it is having the courage to do what needs to be done and doing it. It is having a potential for bravery, even if you aren’t quite brave yet, when the Sorting Hat sits atop your head. It is a sense of justice and a willingness to sacrifice yourself for the good of others.
Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Hermione Granger, all of these are examples of just what it means to be a Gryffindor. McGonagall, a Deputy Headmistress, and later Headmistress, held in great respect by almost all of her coworkers and students. A stern and magnanimous witch who tolerated neither audacity nor silliness. She was brave, loyal, and fair-minded, unafraid to speak her mind, and being well in control of her emotions most of the time. This was not a reckless woman, not a jock or a glory-seeker, but a woman many Gryffindors could look up to. Neville Longbottom is rumoured to have been clumsy, forgetful, shy, and timid in his days at Hogwarts, but the Sorting Hat saw the bravery beneath that insecurity, proving once more that the Sorting Hat is never wrong. This is a Gryffindor who was far from a danger prone, troublemaker or a brash and obnoxious moron. No, Longbottom is said to be well mannered, quiet, and dedicated to his studies in Herbology. As an adult, he became a stalwart soldier with an ironclad will, a noble spirit, and courageous, lordly, lion. And Granger, was always said to be extremely intelligent and hard-working. She was studious, hard working, tenacious, and compassionate. This is a lion to which Gryffindors could look up to. One which breaks the stereotypes and turns them on their head. She was muggleborn, logical, and brave, moving to serve as a hard worker in the Ministry of Magic, a position ill fitted for reckless gloryseekers.
That isn’t to say that all Gryffindors are to be looked up to, however. As we all know the story of the man who faked his death alongside his best friends, framing another friend for it, all the while serving He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. No, there are Dark Gryffindors, just as there are of any other house and Peter Pettigrew is a fine example of such.
Gryffindors may act on impulse, but this is only due to the fact that they have so much passion that it ignites a wildly blazing fire that is difficult or impossible to tame. There are studious Gryffindors who stay up night after night, helping others study. Who obsess over one subject and know every detail, who keep stacks of books next to their bed. There are quiet lions who don’t break rules and who are brave but not fool-hardy. There are lions who don’t throw themselves into literal battles to prove their bravery, but are brave by admitting they’re wrong.
Being sorted into Gryffindor, doesn’t mean you must be a jock or brash or loud. It doesn’t dictate who you must be or how you must act. Being sorted into Gryffindor means you value bravery, strength of character, courage, and chivalry. You don’t have to be unmanageable, there is a difference between standing up when necessary and being a public nuisance. You don’t have to enjoy Quidditch or running or sports in general. You can enjoy reading or music or art. You’re not obligated to hate all Slytherins, even Godric and Salazar were close friends. It doesn’t mean being brave all the time, it’s only human to be afraid. It means knowing that even if you’re afraid, you may need to act courageously in that moment.
Being Gryffindor means so much more than any list of attributes could ever reveal and this house is so much more diverse than you could possibly imagine. Like all houses, they are misunderstood and stereotyped.
Gryffindors, this is your year to break the stereotypes.
Editor’s Note: Check out the rest of the series here.