At least some content in this article is derived from information featured in: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery & Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells & Harry Potter: Magic Awakened & Hogwarts Legacy.
The Sorting Hat was a sentient magical hat at Hogwarts that determined which of the four school Houses each new student belonged most to. These four Houses were Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. The Sorting Hat originally belonged to Godric Gryffindor, one of the four founders of Hogwarts. It normally stayed in the Headmaster's office until it was needed.
The famous Hogwarts Sorting Hat gave an account of its own genesis in a series of songs. During the opening banquet at the beginning of each school year, the first-year students were lined up and their names read aloud alphabetically. Each then took a seat on a stool and the hat was placed on his or her head.
The hat was battered and old by 1991; it was patched, frayed, and extremely dirty. In order to speak and sing, a tear along the brim opened like a mouth. It spoke to the wearer inside of the hat with a small, quiet voice, using Legilimency to interpret their thoughts and respond to them. After a time of consideration, the hat announced its choice aloud for all to hear, and the student joined the selected house. The moment of consideration varied in time period from less than a second to over five minutes (known as "hatstall").
The Sorting Hat was notorious for refusing to admit it had ever made a mistake in its sorting of a student. On those occasions when Slytherins behaved altruistically or selflessly, when Ravenclaws flunked all their exams, when Hufflepuffs proved lazy yet academically gifted, and when Gryffindors exhibited cowardice, the Hat steadfastly backed its original decision. On balance, however, the Hat had made remarkably few errors of judgement over the many centuries it had been at work.
- "Sings a different [song] every year. It's got to be a pretty boring life, hasn't it, being a hat? I suppose it spends all year making up the next one."
- — Ron Weasley's opinion of the Sorting Hat's existence[src]
Legend had it that the Sorting Hat was sewn roughly one thousand years ago and began as a normal hat belonging to Godric Gryffindor. When Gryffindor, along with Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff, wondered how they would continue to sort the students when the four were dead, Gryffindor pulled his hat from his head and, along with the other founders, enchanted it with their combined intelligence. All four founders wanted to ensure that students would be sorted into their eponymous houses, which would be selected according to each founder's particular preferences in students.
The Sorting Hat, now animated, was able to sort and divide the students into the Hogwarts Houses, and continued to do so for a millennium, passed down to each new Headmaster or Headmistress of the school. When not in use, it is placed on a shelf in the current Headmaster's or Headmistress's office.
The hat continued to carry out its duty each September at the beginning of the start-of-term feast, when it was placed on a three-legged (sometimes four-legged) stool at the front of the Great Hall.
In 1858, Angus Buchanan, an eleven-year old Scottish Squib managed to sneak into the feast with the help of his wizard brother and put the Sorting Hat on his head. The Sorting Hat then kindly said he was a good-hearted chap, but no wizard.
Godric Gryffindor's Sword, one of the founder's only other known relics, could be magically pulled out of the hat by any Gryffindor considered worthy, no matter how secure the sword's location. It was unknown why this was possible, but was linked to loyalty of the highest regard in relation to Hogwarts. There were two known instances of this happening within 1992 to 1997, once when Harry Potter was in the Chamber of Secrets, and once when Neville Longbottom refused to join Lord Voldemort during the Battle of Hogwarts.
The Sorting Hat's songs
Before sorting the students each year, the hat recited a new introductory song. These songs vary in length and content though they generally introduced the hat and its role in sorting new students. Ron Weasley expressed the opinion that the Hat spent the entire school year making up its next song.
They also occasionally warned of danger to come, as in its 1995 song, though it was not known how the Hat was aware of upcoming events. It was suggested that the Hat picks up some of its information from Albus Dumbledore, though it was not known whether it would have done so before such an influential figure in the wider wizarding world was in office.
I've done this job for centuries
On every student's head I've sat
Of thoughts I take inventories
For I'm the famous Sorting Hat.
I've sorted high, I've sorted low,
I've done the job through thick and thin
So put me on and you will know
Which house you should be in...
Are you afraid of what you'll hear?
Afraid I'll speak the name you fear?
Not Slytherin! Not Gryffindor!
Not Hufflepuff! Not Ravenclaw!
Don't worry, child, I know my job,
You'll learn to laugh, if first you sob.
Relationship with students
- Sorting Hat: "Hmm. Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either. There's talent, oh my goodness, yes — and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that's interesting... So where shall I put you?"
- Harry Potter: "Not Slytherin, not Slytherin."
- Sorting Hat: "Not Slytherin, eh? Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it’s all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that — no? Well, if you’re sure — better be GRYFFINDOR!"
- — The Sorting Hat and Harry discussing the latter's future house[src]
The Sorting Hat appeared to have a difficult time in the sorting of Harry Potter. It suggested that Harry would have great fame and glory by joining Slytherin House, as Harry possessed Slytherin qualities such as cunning and determination. Harry requested specifically to be spared that fate. Instead, based upon this choice, the Hat placed him in Gryffindor, where both his parents had also been Sorted. When Harry spoke to the Hat in his second year, it repeated its earlier declarations - that Harry would have done well in Slytherin. This was possibly due to the fragment of Voldemort's soul which lived inside Harry during his sorting; the hat would have registered its presence, as well, noticing Harry's potential.
- Sorting Hat: "Bee in your bonnet, Harry Potter?"
- Harry Potter: "Er, yes. Er — sorry to bother you — I wanted to ask —"
- Sorting Hat: "You’ve been wondering whether I put you in the right House. Yes... you were particularly difficult to place. But I stand by what I said before — you would have done well in Slytherin —"
- Harry Potter: "You're wrong."
- — Harry Potter speaking to the Sorting Hat in 1992[src]
In the next year at Hogwarts, the Hat also played a critical role in Harry's success against the Basilisk. Fawkes had brought the Sorting Hat to Harry's aid in the Chamber of Secrets. This provided him with Godric Gryffindor's Sword, which Harry used to slay Slytherin's Basilisk. The sword and hat together are the only two known relics of that wizard.
Almost two decades after the Battle of Hogwarts, Albus Severus Potter expressed worry over his own Sorting. He indicated that the Sorting Hat might put him in the Slytherin House, and that its judgement may be faulty after being repaired. However, as the hat is said to be old and patched from its first appearance, it would seem this worry is needless. Harry also reassured him that Albus' middle name was named after Severus Snape, a Slytherin headmaster, and Harry would had no hard feelings towards Albus, Slytherin House or the Hat if he was to be sorted to there.
- Minerva McGonagall: "Granger, Hermione!"
- Sorting Hat: "GRYFFINDOR!"
- — Hermione being sorted[src]
The Sorting Hat also appeared to have had a disagreement in the sorting of Hermione Granger, as her expansive intelligence made her well suited for Ravenclaw, but it decided to place her in Gryffindor. However, it can be argued that Hermione saw a greater challenge in herself in becoming bold and courageous, some of the traits of Gryffindor House. This can be clearly seen when Hermione doubted books and cleverness as the traits of a great witch and instead shows that friendship and bravery are more important. Hermione also stated that she thought Gryffindor House was by far the best of the four.
- "Then it was Ron’s turn. He was pale green by now. Harry crossed his fingers under the table and a second later the hat had shouted, “GRYFFINDOR!” Harry clapped loudly with the rest as Ron collapsed into the chair next to him."
- — Ron being sorted[src]
It was not hard for the Sorting Hat to place Ron Weasley, as all the Weasley family have been placed into Gryffindor House. Ron was afraid that he would be the only Weasley not to make it into Gryffindor. Mere moments after the Hat touched his head it announced his house. A year later his little sister Ginny was also sorted into Gryffindor.
The moment the Sorting Hat was placed on Draco Malfoy, the hat instantaneously declared Draco would join the house of Slytherin. In addition to being selfish and cunning, Malfoy was a pure-blood, like most Slytherins. Almost all of his family was sorted into that house, including his parents Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, and aunt Bellatrix Lestrange, as well as a long line of his ancestors from the House of Black.
According to Albus Dumbledore, the Sorting Hat declared Tom Riddle a Slytherin almost instantly after it touched his head. He had many of the qualities associated with the Slytherin house, and he was the last surviving descendant of Salazar Slytherin.
The Sorting Hat took a long time to decide upon where to put Neville Longbottom. During his sorting Neville argued with the hat, saying he was best in Hufflepuff. The Hat argued otherwise, and declared Neville to do greatly in Gryffindor. Neville was intimidated by Gryffindor's reputation; however, his persistence did not work and the hat successfully sorted him into Gryffindor. Considering the bravery Neville showed in his seventh year, and standing up to Draco, Harry, Ron, and Hermione in his first year, this choice was not regretted.
In addition, during the Battle of Hogwarts, Neville was able to draw Gryffindor's sword from the Hat (if done so, the person was considered a true Gryffindor), despite Voldemort attempting to destroy it, and then used it to behead the snake Nagini.
Minerva McGonagall was what was considered a Hatstall, meaning the Sorting Hat took over five minutes to decide where to put her. Hatstalls were very rare. The Sorting Hat considered sorting Minerva McGonagall into Ravenclaw before choosing Gryffindor. Later, she became a teacher at Hogwarts and head of her old house. It was her job to place the Sorting Hat on the heads of new students.
The Sorting Hat considered Sorting Filius Flitwick into Gryffindor before choosing Ravenclaw. Later, he became a teacher at Hogwarts and head of his house, and joked with Minerva McGonagall about the fact that they had the opposite experiences and if things had gone another way, they could have had each others' jobs.
The Sorting Hat needed more than five minutes to decide whether Peter Pettigrew should be Sorted into Slytherin or Gryffindor. He was, thus, a true Hatstall. It chose Gryffindor. This decision was considered a mistake by many, though the Sorting Hat itself never considered it a mistake afterwards.
Personality and traits
Though it was a hat, the Sorting Hat was sentient and had its own personality. At the beginning of every term, the hat sung a new song, which Ron Weasley speculated it spent the rest of the year thinking up, describing each of the four houses of Hogwarts. Despite its use in the purposes of "sorting," the Hat had been known to urge students to maintain a united front in the face of adversity and danger. Its songs could be used in warning of troubles to come, and ultimately the hat represented the unity of the four houses under the Hogwarts school.
- Godric Gryffindor's Sword
- Helga Hufflepuff's Cup
- Rowena Ravenclaw's Diadem
- Salazar Slytherin's Locket
Behind the scenes
- While the book describes the sorting had speaking through a rip near the brim, the movie's approach was giving the hat folds that would move like a mouth and eyebrows, making it much more expressive, while also having more movement, even to the point of moving Harry's own head in his speech.
- It seems that the Sorting Hat tends to place students based on qualities they value rather than qualities they personify. This is never more apparent than with Peter Pettigrew, who was Sorted into Gryffindor but ultimately turned out to be quite cowardly, self-serving and corruptible. He was probably placed there because at the time, he admired strong, brave individuals like James Potter and Sirius Black. Though it is possible Pettigrew was placed in Gryffindor because he aspired to these qualities.
- The Sorting Hat can detect nascent qualities in a student and place them in the House that will challenge them the most and put their character to the test. Case in point, Neville Longbottom is Sorted into Gryffindor because the Hat sensed that he was capable of demonstrating bravery and leadership during his time at Hogwarts. However, these qualities do not fully surface until he learns to believe in himself. He also places Hermione Granger in the same House, presumably because he realises just how much she will need Harry and Ron in the future.
- The Hat also appeared to take each student's wishes into account. Just because someone is placed in a certain House does not mean that they can not possess characteristics of other Houses. Dumbledore claimed that choices can show just as much, if not more, about who someone is as their abilities. Harry Potter, for instance, embodies many of the traits that are appreciated by Salazar Slytherin. He is clever, resourceful and cunning, yet the Sorting Hat made him a Gryffindor because he didn't feel like he belonged there. However, the hat denied Neville from being in Hufflepuff even though he begged for it.
- Another prime example of this happening is Severus Snape. At one point, Albus Dumbledore said that his loyal, courageous nature was much more befitted to Gryffindor. However, as a child, Snape's ambition, social-climbing behaviour and secret inclination towards sadism made him an obvious Slytherin when he first came to Hogwarts.
- In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the Sorting Hat appears to speak so all the students can hear, whereas in the book the Sorting Hat speaks so only the wearer can hear.
- In the first two and final Harry Potter films, it is voiced by actor Leslie Phillips.
- Songs are only featured in books 1, 4, and 5, and are omitted entirely from the films. This is because the books are exclusively from Harry's point of view. In Book 2, he was preoccupied with the Whomping Willow, in Book 3, with Dementors, in Book 6, with Draco Malfoy's antics, and in Book 7, with Horcruxes.
- Harry was not physically present for the Sorting Hat's songs in books two, three, six and seven. Harry was, however, present for the song and Sorting ceremony in the third film.
- According to Rowling, the hat detected the piece of Voldemort's soul in Harry which strongly tempted it to put Harry in Slytherin.
- In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry saw that "there were only three people left to be sorted," but then Professor McGonagall read off four more names (Dean Thomas, Lisa Turpin, Ron Weasley and Blaise Zabini). Dean Thomas did not appear in the British edition. It is possible, however, that Harry did not see one of the first-years ahead of him.
- The Sorting Hat bears a certain resemblance to The Archchancellor's Hat from Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Sourcery.
- It is possible that the Sorting Hat, or general nature of the sorting, is not generally mentioned in books of wizarding history for some reason. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, when the students are nervous about what sort of test they will face to be sorted, Hermione Granger is said to be whispering very fast about all the spells she'd learned and which one she would need. This is despite having read a number of books about wizarding history prior to entering the school.
- A LEGO version of the Sorting Hat was released, entitled 4701 Sorting Hat. It featured a dial with the four house symbols on it that could be spun to land on one and sort the figures.
- One of the possible choices on the W.O.M.B.A.T. aptitude test was that the hat was stolen and substituted by delinquent students in 1325, and the whereabouts of the real hat remain unknown.
- One can purchase a copy of the Sorting Hat at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
- Prior to creating the Sorting Hat, Rowling considered using a Magical Gateway, founder statues, a Ghost Court, or a Selection Committee.
- However, the idea of the founder statues was recycled into the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry sorting.
- Just before the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Sorting Hat makes an appearance and delivers a final safety spiel, in the manner of one of his Sorting songs:
- "Your journey is about to start, but safely you must go,
- And so the Hogwarts Sorting Hat tells all you need to know.
- These benches are not safe for you if you are still too small.
- You must be more than goblin-sized, 48 inches tall.
- Now rid yourself of objects that might poke or scratch or fall.
- Take jewellery, cell phones, all loose change and stow them, one and all.
- To keep your treasures safe and sound, Smart Lockers are supplied.
- Gringotts-made and wizard-proofed, for all you need to hide.
- And now, a warning; do not ride if flying makes you queasy.
- If pregnant or else sore in back or neck, then leave, it's easy!
- You've travelled far, you’re very near, the waiting’s been long,
- But smoking, drinking, eating, one and all, are very wrong.
- Now thank you for listening. My safety lesson's done.
- We hope you live to tell the tale, and most of all, have fun!"
- In an interview, when asked about the Sorting Hat, J. K. Rowling stated that it had never been wrong and asked for theories, though no specific character was mentioned. In exclusive content released for Pottermore, however, she was a bit more shrewd, stating that it "has made remarkably few errors of judgement over the many centuries it has been at work." She also stated that in those cases where students did not exhibit the qualities traditionally associated with their house, or were noted for those associated with others, "the Hat steadfastly backs its original decision."
- According to Rowling, the Sorting Hat wasn't her first idea of how new Hogwarts student shall be sorted into Houses. She wrote:
- "The Sorting Hat does not appear in my earliest plans for Hogwarts. I debated several different methods for sorting students (because I knew on early from that there would be four houses, all with very different qualities). The first was an elaborate Heath Robinson-ish machine that did all kind of magical things before reaching a decision, but I did not like it: it felt at once too complicated, and too easy. Next I placed four statues of the four founders in the Entrance Hall, which came alive and selected students from the throng in front of them while the school watched. This was better, but still not quite right. Finally, I wrote a list of the ways in which people can be chosen: eeny-meeny-miny-mo, short straws, chosen by team captains, names out of a hat - names out of a talking hat - putting on a hat - the Sorting Hat!"
- — J. K. Rowling's thought[src]
The Sorting Hat on Pottermore
The Sorting Hat on Pottermore uses a set of question to determine the house of a user. The questions vary in style and do not necessarily have four answers (one for each house). There are 27 questions in all, and each user can be asked a maximum of 7, or 8 if the hat can not decide between houses and asks your opinion. Generally, a set of a few questions can be given to a user for each question, there are, of course, occasional exceptions to the order.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game) (Voice only)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (play)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Building the Magical World
- LEGO Harry Potter: Characters of the Magical World
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- Harry Potter: Spells
- LEGO Harry Potter
- Harry Potter Trading Card Game
- Wizarding World
- Harry Potter for Kinect
- Harry Potter: The Character Vault
- Harry Potter: The Creature Vault (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery
- Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
- Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells
- Harry Potter: Magic Awakened
- Hogwarts Legacy
Notes and references
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 12 (The Polyjuice Potion)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 7 (The Sorting Hat)
- Writing by J. K. Rowling: "The Sorting Hat" at Wizarding World
- Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Hatstall" at Wizarding World
- Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Scottish Rugby" at Wizarding World
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 17 (The Heir of Slytherin)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36 (The Flaw in the Plan)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 12 (The Triwizard Tournament)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 11 (The Sorting Hat's New Song)
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Act One, Scene Four
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Epilogue (Nineteen Years Later)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 19 (The Lion and the Serpent)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 5 (The Whomping Willow)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 17 (A Sluggish Memory)
- PotterCast #122
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 13 (Nicolas Flamel)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 16 (Through the Trapdoor)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 17 (The Man with Two Faces)
- Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Gilderoy Lockhart" at Wizarding World
- The Leaky Cauldron - JK Rowling interview
- The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling: Part Two - The Leaky Cauldron, 16 July 2005