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14 December 2005 @ 04:56 pm
Sorting Hat as Founders' Relic  
By the end of HBP, we've seen four relics of the Founders. Three are brought up as items that would be of interest to Voldemort as Horcrux material: Slytherin's locket, Hufflepuff's cup, and Gryffindor's sword. The fourth, however, is not even recognized as a Founder relic most of the time: the Sorting Hat. If we think about it, the Hat isn't even really all that different from the other three. The cup and the locket in particular are supposed to have all sorts of powerful, if unidentified, abilities, and I doubt that just any sword could have killed a thousand-year-old basilisk. The hat's ability to see all of a person's potential and place them in the proper house certainly puts it up there with the other relics. However, which founder is the Sorting Hat a relic of?

The obvious answer is Gryffindor. After all, to quote the Hat's song in GoF
'Twas Gryffindor who found the way,
He whipped me off his head
The founders put some brains in me,
So I could choose instead!

Clearly, the Sorting hat was originally owned by Godric Gryffindor. However, is that really enough to make it a “relic” of Gryffindor? We’re never given an exact definition in the book, so I’m forced to supply my own: a relic is an item at one time owned by one of the founders, and given notable, unusual powers by that founder. After all, the locket was once owned by Merope Gaunt – but no one would consider calling it a “relic of Merope.”

The hat does not specify which founder or founders “put some brains in” it. I very much doubt, however, that it was Gryffindor alone. For one thing, each of the founders seems to have had certain areas of expertise, skills that might show up in their houses. After all, the expressed purpose of the Sorting Hat is to divide the students into groups based on which founder would have had the most interest in teaching them.

Today, the two specialties that seem to show up the most in Gryffindor house are Transfiguration – both Dumbledore and McGonnagal were transfiguration teachers, and many of the animagi we know of were in Gryffindor – and Defense Against the Dark Arts – Harry, obviously, has a knack for it, and Lupin, a Gryffindor alumnus, was one of the best DADA professors in the books. From what we’ve seen of the hat, transfiguration and DADA have little to do with the actual functioning of sorting process. Of course, there must be some pretty strong stuff on it to prevent other people from messing with how it functions, but I don’t really see Godric Gryffindor doing most of the spellwork on the Hat.

So who did? Well, first we must look at the areas of magical strength that seem to be common in the other houses. Slytherin is consistently linked with the Dark Arts, but I believe that potions can also be considered a Slytherin strength. Just as we have two generations of Gryffindor transfiguration professors, Slughorn and Snape represent two generations of Slytherin potions masters. I doubt there was much in the way of Dark Arts that went into the Hat, although potions might have played a major part in the process. Again – Salazar Slytherin probably put some work into the hat, but he was by no means the primary spell crafter in the creation of the hat.

The other two houses are harder to classify in terms of specialties; as Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw do not figure as prominently in the books, we know less about the typical huffie or ‘claw. Looking at the Heads of houses and the defining virtues, however, gives us something of a clue. Flitwick, the charms teacher, is head of Ravenclaw, and the defining virtue is intelligence. Sprout, the herbology teacher, is head of Hufflepuff, and the defining virtue has been identified as either work ethic or loyalty. It’s not hard to conjecture that Rowena Ravenclaw’s strengths may have been more toward the academic side of things (charms, arithmancy, astrology, etc.) while Helga Hufflepuff might have preferred the more hands-on branches of magic, perhaps focusing on such subjects such as herbology and care of magical creatures.

So, looking at the magical strengths the founders are likely to have had, what can we determine about the creation of the hat? Gryffindor had the idea; that much is stated. Ravenclaw, with her bent for theoretical, academic – and, perhaps, experimental? – magic would probably have done much of the work in defining what the Hat did and how it did such things. Also, (and I may be biased, as I believe myself to be a ‘claw at heart), I don’t think Gryffindor would have worked out the complexities of how best to sort the students. The Hat, after all, does not sort people based on the traits they currently exhibit, but the traits the have the most potential for. Ravenclaw would have been able to work out how to get the Hat to be able to do that. And, while she may have been the one doing much of the work on how the Hat functioned, I do not doubt that Gryffindor and Slytherin pitched in quite often, and Hufflepuff occasionally. I do not think that Hufflepuff played a major role – or at least not as major as Gryffindor or Slytherin – because having a reliable way of singling out the “best” students would not have been as important to her. To quote the Sorting Hat’s song in OoTP,
Said Hufflepuff, “I’ll teach the lot,
And treat them just the same.”

However, (and I have nothing from canon to back this up, merely my own views) it seems to me as if Hufflepuff might have been glad of something to keep down the stress between the other three – if anyone saw the Gryffindor/Slytherin rift coming, it would have been Hufflepuff.

What does this tell us about which founder the Hat is a relic of? Now, the first glance might say Ravenclaw. She is, after all, likely to have done much of the work on the Hat, and she is the only founder without a relic that is openly declared in canon. However, it wasn’t only her project. It was for the benefit for all of the founders, and all of them probably put at least a little work into it. Even Hufflepuff would have put some work in, recognizing it as being in the best interests of the school as a whole. The Hat, is, therefore a relic of all four founders. As such, and as a sentient being that can remember the founders themselves, who can say what use it might be to Harry in book 7?
rogueravenclawrogueravenclaw on December 15th, 2005 01:24 am (UTC)
Interesting theory, though I don't think it very likely that Voldemort made the sorting hat into a horcrux. When has he been around it long enough to do such a thing? And I do think it is a long process (am currently working on a theory on how to make a horcrux. More on that in January, when I post it ;P).

I do think it is possible that the sorting hat is a horcrux. The Dark Arts weren't always looked down upon as much as they are presently; is it possible the hat is able to function as it is because one of the founders (or all of them?) put a piece of their soul in the hat? One cannot help but notice the similarities between the way the hat works and the way Tom Riddle's diary worked. Just a thought. You've certainly given me something to think about, ;P

'Claws at heart unite! *high five*
Billpstscrpt on December 15th, 2005 03:22 am (UTC)
Someone else posted the same basic theory here a few weeks ago, but added the twist that having the sorting hat under Voldemorte's control could explain how all the evil kids kept ending up in the same house.
rogueravenclawrogueravenclaw on December 15th, 2005 07:53 pm (UTC)
I like that theory very much! It certainly would explain a lot since certain people (or even the majority of them) don't seem to be Slytherin-ish. Could also explain many of the stereotypes that have begun to develop around the houses. The founders didn't stick them there, Voldie did!

Does throw into question, however, why the Sorting Hat would tell the houses to unite. Horcrux!Voldie!Sorting Hat would realize that Slytherins really only have each other, and everyone banding together would certainly not do anything good for him. *shrugs* I suppose the sorting hat would still have some sort of free will...
Lunar Musiclunar_music on December 15th, 2005 09:24 pm (UTC)
Oops. I'm not sure I ment to imply that it was a Voldie'crux.

As to the Founder'crux idea, it's possible. Hadn't even thought of it... I may have to find a way to slip that into a future essay, if that's alright with you.
rogueravenclawrogueravenclaw on December 15th, 2005 11:22 pm (UTC)
I might have been assuming too much. Most of the time, when people talk about Horcruxes, they're talking about a Voldie'crux. Then you threw in the term 'founder's relic'... I would go back and reread to see if that was so, but I'm in the middle of studying for exams, so, yeah. I hate exams.

And feel to slip that into as many essays as you want! lol.
Chantelleshanghai_rose on December 15th, 2005 07:56 am (UTC)
V. interesting theory - it would certainly explain some of the favouritism Gryffindors seem to have other the other three houses now, wouldn't it?
ex_twiggie on December 15th, 2005 11:42 pm (UTC)
I think a lot of the animagi we saw were Gryffindors, because if you got by definition, Gryffindors wouldn't be afraid to take the risk and try to pursue it. Although, we haven't seen many. We saw the marauder, McGonagall, and maybe Dumbledore. We don't know what house Rita Skeeter was in. Other than that (unless i'm forgetting), there were no other animagus. I think it could just be coincidence.

Slytherins would probably prefer the Dark Arts, because they are ambitious and the Dark Arts would allow them to get ahead. But not all Slytherins are like that, as not all Gryffindors are the stereotype. But I think most Slytherins are probably more attracted to underground cultures.

I don't particularly agree that the hat is a horcrux, because I think Dumbledore would have noticed it was tampered with. Also, Slytherin was like that long before Riddle came into the picture. He wasn't the first dark wizard. And won't be the last either.

But it's a good theory, I just don't happen to agree with it.
Seriophiomancer on December 18th, 2005 10:56 pm (UTC)
Unrelated to the current topic, really, but I wanted to comment.

Slytherins would probably prefer the Dark Arts, because they are ambitious and the Dark Arts would allow them to get ahead...But I think most Slytherins are probably more attracted to underground cultures.

I don't completely agree with that. I actually see the Ravenclaws persuing such things more strongly than the Slytherins would, if only because taboo subjects have always had a strong drawing power to those who seek knowledge in the way Ravenclaws would. I imagine the less anyone knows about it, the more these types would want to know about it, to see what the fuss is about.

That, and I don't buy the "Slytherins love the Dark Arts" and "knowing the Dark Arts gives you a leg up" ideas that most everyone seem to have. Really, since when was knowing how to disembowl someone with the flick of your wand a helpful thing in the context of being ambitious and successful? Getting ahead in life in the way that so many ambitious people strive for means playing by the rules and wrapping yourself around them firmly enough to bend them to your purposes when needed. There are not many ambitious people in the practical world who have achieved success by harming and maiming their way to the top. I would really like to see someone explain why they think learning and using the Dark Arts would help anyone get ahead in the world, because really, even knowing of such things is dangerous and would more than likely land you a nice little room in Azkaban if you ever actually used them.