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13th February 2013

Here is the second chapter of the essay, already onece completely rewritten (still missing an excursion to the Roman virtues). I have tried to keep this abstract and general, so there aren't references to particular passages in the books - this will (hopefully) change in the following sections - and I don't mind suggestions.

2. House qualities, their ideal and perverted forms

Usually (for example in Harry Potter Wiki from where these definitions are copied) the house qualities are characterised this way:
  • Gryffindor values bravery, daring, nerve, and chivalry.
  • Hufflepuff values hard work, patience, loyalty, and fair play rather than a particular aptitude in its members.
  • Ravenclaw values intelligence, knowledge, and wit.
  • Slytherin values ambition, cunning and resourcefulness.
We can immediately observe that the listed House characteristics are not, in many respects, commensurable. Some – such as nerve, patience, wit and cunning – are inherent personality or temperament traits that can be can be affected to a very limited extend by an individual oneself or by the environment for example. Some others – for example chivalry and fair play – seem more like observable manifestations of some more fundamental qualities of a person. Further, lists of House attributes include words that are nearly synonyms (daring, nerve) but also some that clearly describe different qualities (patience, loyalty).

It has also been suggested that the Houses most reflect J.K. Rowling’s personal preferences and prejudices, which would makes them difficult to compare on a neutral scale. This would be particularly visible in the prominent characters that she presents in the books – after all, we only see a small selection of all Hogwarts students, and even smaller sub-group whose characters are documented in a level of detail that allows reliable analysis without a lot of speculation.

To overcome the above challenges and constraints, the idea in this essay is to disregard the author's intentions and try to figure a systematic framework that would result in the characteristics we observe. Like an algorithm that JKR has been using without knowing it herself.

I first try to outline personal qualities, in as neutral terms as possible, which would cover the House characteristics exhaustively, yet keeping the number of attributes limited. I suggest two qualities for each house: one denoting an aptitude, another one referring to an inclination. For some Houses this dichotomy works better than for others, and the distinction is not always very clear. Nevertheless, I find it useful for the analysis. Of course, the full ranges of meanings for these two words are overlapping, and for the purposes of this essays the words are used in a narrower sense than what a full dictionary entry would suggest. In addition to neutral aptitudes and inclinations, I also try to define (examples of) their ideal and perverted forms.

House aptitudes
By aptitude, I refer to a quality that is at least partly visceral, i.e. independent of the persons free will. It would be difficult for a person to suppress such quality at will and on the other hand, if one does not possess such facility, it would be almost impossible to excel in it solely based on practice. In psychological terms, these can be (but are not necessarily) characteristics of temperament. The suggested House aptitudes are:

Gryffindor: daring
Hufflepuff: patience
Ravenclaw: wit
Slytherin: determination

Ideally, Gryffindor daring manifests itself as courage, but it can also develop into undesirable recklessness.

The Hufflepuff patience appears a rather positive trait in itself. However, both Hufflepuff qualities could be seen as catalytic; their value is really seen in combination of the traits of other Houses. For example: with intelligence, patience may result in great academic discovery but without it, it can just appear as annoying dreariness. In its most virtuous form, patience could manifest itself as perseverance. An overly patient person, in turn, might not get anything done while 'waiting and seeing.' This perverted form can be called inertia.

An ideal Ravenclaw elevates the wit to intellect and intelligence. However, smart people have a risk of becoming arrogant. When speaking of house qualities in this essay, by arrogance I mean particularly intellectual arrogance for simplicity. However, arrogance can also result from other factors, and this will be discussed later in connection to vices and the dark side of each house.

For the Slytherin House, the distinction between an aptitude and an inclination is the least clear, as both qualities can be regarded as somewhat controllable. However, we can consider ambition as determination, an inherent personality trait, which ideally manifests itself as resourcefulness but can lead to power-hungriness as so often presented in the books.

House inclinations
Inclination is a bit more difficult to characterise precisely than aptitude (which isn’t by any means straightforward to characterise either). A person would typically be able to exercise at least some level of control over his/her inclinations. Many of the inclinations may also be affected by the environment, or result of upbringing or training. The suggested House inclinations are:

Gryffindor: selflessness
Hufflepuff: compliance
Ravenclaw: curiosity
Slytherin: conviction

Selflessness, here associated with Gryffindor, is of course normally seen as a positive quality as such. It can present itself in several ways that are generally desirable. Here I call its most virtuous form altruism. Despite its inherent positive connotations, there is a risk that the selfless quest for greater good clouds one’s judgement, leading to 'ends justifies the means' kind of thinking, ignorance about the actual will of the ‘object’ of the action, and self-righteousness.

For several qualities associated with Hufflepuff – like loyalty and fair play – there is a common denominator: compliance. Loyalty comes from compliance with social norms of one's reference group while fair play is a result of following the (commonly agreed) rules in general. In its ideal form, compliance shows as sense of duty whereas under other circumstances it may result in harmful groupthink.

With the Ravenclaw quality curiosity I refer to an inquiring mind, the corresponding House ideal of which would be thirst for knowledge. It is difficult to think of a truly nasty counterpart for this quality, but without discretion, it can eventually lead to annoying nosiness and prying. Possession of knowledge can also be misused, but this is not a straight counterpart to curiosity; it will be discussed further in the following sections.

The Slytherin inclination, conviction, is somewhat obscured in the books as we mainly see it as various levels of subscribing to the pureblood ideology. In essence, conviction means that one has a sound and coherent basis, at least one consistent point of reference whether that is in the past (tradition) or in the future (idealism) or preferably both for their actions. In other words, knowing where we are coming from and/or going to. Idealism may be regarded as a positive, or ideal (sic!) form of conviction. The dangers of strong conviction are well illustrated in the books: it can lead into failure to change one’s mind even if all the evidence points elsewhere, to stubborn dogmatism and even blind creedalism.

Arch-characteristics – product of aptitude and inclination

Observed archetypical, representative characters in each House emerge from the combination of the aptitude and inclination. Aptitude is like a seed that will only grow if planted in fertile soil, i.e. inclination. It is also possible – and indeed we have examples – that a person’s house characteristics are ambiguous. This would be a result of either having several almost equally strong qualities, or applying an aptitude associated with one house with an inclination of another house. This will be discussed further in the next section of the essay (on secondary house choices). Let us first look at the archetypical house characteristics.

The Gryffindor archetype is produced by selfless application of daring, i.e. showing courage that is motivated by common good or by well-being of a friend or – even better – an enemy. [I intend to leave the references to the books to later sections, but as a note to self: Harry saving Draco in the Room of Requirement would be a fine example.] Let us call this chivalry.

I think the best word to describe the epitomic, hard-working, persistent and dutiful Hufflepuff is dependability. Hufflepuffs tend to get overshadowed by other Houses most of the time, and even the description of their virtues suggests that they have no aptitude in particular, just loyalty and willingness to work. However, this does make them particularly trustworthy, which is a virtue in itself.

Out of the four houses, Ravenclaw qualities are perhaps the most obvious and straightforward, at least on surface. When the wide body of knowledge is used with great analytical skill and intelligence, we get wisdom. However, Arch-Ravenclaw differs from other House archetypes in that wisdom requires an additional component in order to grow, namely experience. The thirst for knowledge has to materialise in an actual body of knowledge. And as experience can be gathered in alternative ways, truly wise persons do not necessarily only emerge from the Ravenclaw house.

An archetypical Slytherin has a sense of direction built on a sound and coherent basis, the consistent point of reference provided by the conviction, which in turn is pursued with determination. Thus, a typical Slytherin ambition is focused on a clear target, and all available means are used to achieve it.

An excursion: Roman Virtues [to be added]

Table 1: Compilation of House Qualities [Image: attachment.php?aid=5]
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I have stared an essay project at the HPN and thought I could mirror it here for a backup copy (and to end the LJ silence for a change). Those (very few) who aren't registered at the HPN (or who prefer LJ for some reason) are of course most welcome to comment here.

This post contains a draft outline and introduction, both already partly outdated and to be rewritten in the end of the project.

Hogwarts Houses: The Veiled Virtues and Vices

Work in progress

(Draft) Outline

1. Introduction
2. House qualities, their ideal and perverted forms
3. Significance of secondary (and tertiary) house choices
4. Leadership qualities of different houses
5. Slipping to the Dark Side?
6. Personalities and temperaments - do they have anything to do with the Houses?

1. Introduction

There is an aspect in Rowling's world that is, in my opinion, not as elaborately developed as it could be. Others have also noted, in various discussions, certain stereotypical treatments of the Hogwarts Houses and virtues associated with them. I recall many were disappointed with the Slytherin role in the final battle, for example.

Gryffindor courage is presented as something inherently positive, whereas Slytherin ambition would be something to frown upon and very likely to result in peril. Ravenclaw wit and Hufflepuff loyalty remain rather superficial curiosities most of the time. In this essay, I
attempt to explore the qualities associated with each house a bit further, theorising what they could entail and imply beyond the 'canonical' evidence.

I start by (re)defining the 'virtues' or 'qualities' associated with each House, and by presenting the ideal as well as perverted forms of each. I then discuss the significance of students' 'secondary' houses in defining their individual characters: it is heavily implied that each individual embodies characteristics from several houses to an extent that sometimes the choice is not straightforward at all. This concludes the general part (or an excessively long preamble) of the essay.

The second part of the essay deals with the implications of the combination of different House qualities associated with an individual character: for example, what kind of leaders can emerge from each house, where a student from a particular house could possibly excel in (apart from the obvious) or what can possibly lead a character to the perverted side instead of the ideal.

The third part, if I ever get that far, can deal with miscellaneous topics that are related to the House qualities - such as personality types and different temperaments.
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28th April 2012

The HPN, our island home for several years, has been hit by ... something. See more details in rattlesnakeroot's post here.

What to do? Wait and hope for the best? I don't know. I am sure that Nicc is doing everything in his powers to get things back up and running, but meanwhile we can only wait and hope for the best.

As a precaution, I have created a community, thehpn_asylum that any homeless islander is free to join. Not really sure what this could be for exactly, but at least one entry point to keep things together.


6th August 2011

Like many others in the HPN Read-A-Thon thread, I was delighted by the humorous tone, witty language and Harry's snark. Many little details, such as the Railview Hotel, had gone unnoticed in the previous reads.

It is indeed striking how gruesome Dursleys appear towards Harry. However,more of a revelation to me was that they actually had a motivation to all this... As misguided and unpleasant they appear towards Harry, they intentions were not profoundly and purposely malicious. Vernon says: 'Didn't we swear when we took him in we'd stamp out that dangerous nonsense?'. This seems to me be an indication that they actually did care about Harry at some level. A bit like how, not that long time ago, it was commonly believed best for left-handed people to force them to only use their right hand instead.

As for Petunia and her knowledge of the magical world... for example, she must have known from the times Lily went to school that children weren't allowed to use magic at home - yet, there is no indication she is aware of this (though it only becomes obvious in the beginning of the CoS.

The character of Professor McGonagall as teacher seems to parallel that of Snape: strict, no nonsense and radiant with unquestioned authority. However, unlike Snape whose actions always seem cool and pondered (giving the impression, through Harry’s eyes, of cold and calculated), McGonagall is more than once seen acting rather impulsively, showing some temper. Not unlike many otherwise perfectly sensible real life people, she goes completely crazy when her favourite sport is involved.

Her awarding and deducting points also seems inconsistent (this has also been noted by other rereaders). In particular, the punishment for wondering out in the corridors during the curfew does not seem to fit the seriousness (or lack thereof) of the crime but rather reflect her own disappointment and hurt feelings – 50 points from each first year of her own house, perhaps for betrayed trust rather than braking the rules as such. Note that Malfoy only loses 20 points for the exactly same offence – only maybe he is not offending McGonagall personally as he’s not in her House.

Maybe this is supposed to illustrate the Gryffindor/Slytherin difference. 'Showing courage' may be a result of acting upon instinct and impulse, whereas a fulfilling an 'Ambition' requires careful planning and seems to almost equate to what business consultants would call "results oriented'... Whether these really are true signs of courage or ambition is another question but these seems to be how many people see them. We do have the example of Neville (worth only 10 points, though) showing other kind of courage, i.e. standing up for something one considers right.

Snape’s classes
Despite years of discussions over Harry Filter, it still amazed me how little negative was objectively shown about Professor Snape's classes. Apart from the first class (Chapter Potion's Master, which is one of my favourites in the whole series) where Snape does commit a mistake of making assumptions about Harry that aren't true (spoiled, arrogant etc.) and acting accordingly, there isn't really much else proof of his alleged horribleness. Instead, a general impression is created skilfully by the author: in the beginning of the Chapter 12 (Mirror of Erised) we read that 'Worst of all were Professor Snape's classes down in the dungeons...' yet, careful reading shows that there is absolutely nothing suggesting this was because of the Professor. It was because it was cold in the dungeons: '... where their breath rose in a mist before them and they kept as close as possible to their hot cauldrons.

A few unanswered mysteries
There is the obvious question of the missing 24 hours , but related to that, also the blow-up of Godric's Hollow. This may give more reason for Petunia's fear '... And come back and find the house in ruins?'... My question, which has (like almost everyting in the books) been discussed earlier, is what really caused Godric's Hollow to go in ruins? Could it, indeed, have been distressed baby Harry's accidental magic? The Avada Kedavra course does not usually do much damage to inanimate objects. The spell did hit the statue in the Ministry in OotP, but even then the harm was nothing close to complete destruction.

A rather less significant question is the funny smell from Quirrell's turban. Did we ever get a definite explanation to it? There was only a speculation by Fred and George that he had stuffed some garlic in there ... but that seems unlikely (unless Voldemort, a great garlic lover, had insisted upon it...)

1st August 2011

It is time to attempt a complete reread of the series. Once before have I tried such a project, namely theriously with pan_alchemist, supposed to cover everything from the The Boy Who Lived to The White Tomb before the Deathly Hallows would come out. Well, after a promising start, the project never got really far...

This time, who knows, it may or may not work better. Or, actually, I'm already half way through the Chamber of Secrets so it is safe to say I'll get a little bit further :D This should be a rather suitable time for rereading for several reasons: The associated film series has been completed, thus there is not much new to be expected on the Harry Potter front in the foreseeable future (I am deliberately disregarding Pottermore, since I currently seem to lack the patience to figure out what it is all about). There is going to be a rather important change in my life in coming October, which, ultimately, is initiated by the Harry Potter (or, shall we say, Severus Snape); without the books - and The HPN forum - I should probably never have met my wife, morgan_emerald, and there wouldn't be a baby boy on its way now...

As a matter of fact, we are currently in Greece for a Classical but slow holiday, and took the HPs as travel reading. I'm just so incredibly slow... my wife is already reaching the end of the Goblet of Fire, while I'm still in the CoS, as I already noted earlier.

Nevertheless, I intend to post some comments about every book (or possibly occasionally about some particular chapters). There is also a readathon at the HPN that has been going on for a while so I may post some of the comments there, too, when it fits the schedule.

It is now almost dinner time, so the commentary on the Philosopher's Stone may have to wait until later tonight or tomorrow.
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26th March 2008

The HPN Disapparated

Aberforth Avatar
Aargh, the HPN site seems to have vanished! I hope it's neither serious nor permanent... For fellow islanders here: I've sent an email to the password retrieval address Nicc set up some time, but if someone has better contacts at hand, by all means please use them.

15th February 2008

Looks like I haven't posted for a while. Let me see, what's new since the last entry...

1) After 9 months of insanely frequent flying between Finland and Netherlands, my fiancée (aka morgan_emerald) moved to Finland in December, the Christmas Eve, to be exact. We remain insanely happy.

2) I'm now on leave of absence from my civil servant post until mid-March, supposed to be working on my PhD; instead, as usual, I've been rather studying other things (such as an essay writing in Latin course).

9th October 2007

RL news

Aberforth Avatar
Here's a short Real-Life Update:

Right... it happened last Saturday: a spontaneous but not unconsidered engagement. We were having a nice lunch and discussing various life-related things more like 'hypothetically' (though now that I think about it... were there subtle hints? ... ). Anyway, it was just bound to happen sooner or later, as it was perfectly clear we'll stay the rest of our lives together, married or not, so I thought, why not ask right now.

Then we ordered some champagne, and after finishing it, went wandering about town aimlessly for about half an hour and noted that we should buy rings ... We got to a jewellery shop, which then turned out to be closing in 15 minutes, but they were very kind to even make them fitting and engrave them immediately.

A less important piece of news: I started a new job a week ago, at an economics research iinstitute. This is a three-year project, and despite the disturbing fact that I now have to get up early on mornings to make it at the office by 9 o’clock, I’m still quite happy with the situation. The project seems interesting, and I’ve agreed an arrangement to have some time off for continuing my PhD studies. And of course as my fiancée moves in in a couple of months, anything will be tolerable...

5th August 2007

I managed to find a cached copy of the purged Personality Types & Favourite Characters analysis and discussion thread! I've deposited it for time being here:


I'm sorry about the ad-banners at that site. I'm planning to extract some of the contents of that thread, and post here by different themes (eg by character analysed for MBTI). But that must wait, as I now have to read Tacitus's Germania for an exam that's on Wednesday...

3rd August 2007


Here is another study with the MBTI / favourite HP character data, using an alternative method. I now study the relationships between character-liking and each separate dimension of the personality types. I think that some interesting observations can be made in addition to those already presented.

Some basic info about method:

I put into a table the %weights of each personality dimension and favourite characters, obviously using only those entries where the respondent had reported the strengths of preferences. Variables E, N, F, J got the positive % weight values if the respondent's personality was in that side of the dimension. Otherwise a minus-sign was put before weight. For example: My personality type is INTP with weights 5, 39, 43, 59. The variables then got values E=-0.05, N=0.39, F=-0.43, J=-0.59. If the respondent did not give the weights, the response was not included in the calculations.

After this, there were total of 439 valid responses. I made simple correlations between each of the four MBTI dimension and the 12 favourite characters in the sample. The correlation coefficients are shown in the table below. Note that I use only positive values for coefficients; when the regression/correlation resulted in negative value, I replaced the variable with its counterpart (i.e. E->I, N->S, F->T, J->P) in presentation. The coefficients that are significantly different from zero (with 95% probability) are highlighted. The significant values here imply that, indeed, a particular personality dimension has an impact on the favourite character choice.

Correlation Matrix (R) 































































































































In other words: A person with a Myers-Briggs Personality Type...

... I_F_ is more likely than average to have Lupin as one of the two favourite characters.

... oops, no, whether person likes Harry or not does not depend on any particular personality type dimension.

... _NF_ is more likely than average to have Dumbledore as one of the two favourite characters.

... oops, no, whether person likes Hermione or not does not depend on any particular personality type dimension.

... INT_ is more likely than average to have Snape as one of the two favourite characters.

... E___ is more likely than average to have Sirius as one of the two favourite characters.

... E___ is more likely than average to have Ron as one of the two favourite characters.

... __F_ is more likely than average to have Luna as one of the two favourite characters.

... E__P is more likely than average to have Weasley twins as one of the two favourite characters.

... __TP is more likely than average to have Draco as one of the two favourite characters.

... oops, no, whether person likes Ginny or not does not depend on any particular personality type dimension.

... __TJ is more likely than average to have McGonagall as one of the two favourite characters.

... __T_ is more likely than average to have another character than one of the top-12 as one of the two favourite characters.

If we compare these results to the contingency analysis by each four-letter type indicator, which was made earlier, we can note quite a lot similarity, as expected. We did see Snape favoured by INTJs and INTPs, which is exactly the same result as above. We saw INFJs being in favour of Dumbledore and Lupin; the correlations seem to suggest that they both are liked by Feeling personalities, whilst it is the Introversion of those feeling persons that drives towards Lupin, and Intuition towards Dumbledore.

It is somewhat interesting to note that we now have a quite robust result that says Extroverted personalities are more likely to like Sirius, Ron and Fred & George (you may recall that the we didn't have quite enough observations to make any conclusion for any of the 16 types).

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