Sure, the Harry Potter series may have ended years ago. But fan theories — particularly this one — are awesome. And with movies as complex as the Harry Potter series, there's always something new to discover. This latest theory about the Sorting Hat rings true, if you ask us.
In case you need a refresher, the Sorting Hat puts first-year students into their respective Hogwarts houses each year. During the opening banquet, first-year students' names are read, then they take a seat and the hat is placed on their head. The Sorting Hat mulls over the appropriate choice before announcing the student's house.
Reddit user Straw_Boats posted a different theory about the Sorting Hat, and it makes a lot of sense. "The world of Harry Potter holds that the Sorting Hat sorts a child based on what traits they posses," Straw_Boats wrote. "The brave go to Gryffindor, the intellectual to Ravenclaw, the cunning to Slytherin and the hardworking to Hufflepuff (or, if you believe the Sorting Hat in The Prisoner of Azkaban, Hufflepuff just gets the leftovers)."
But there are some inconsistencies with the theory that the Sorting Hat bases its decisions on the traits that the students possess. "First of all, many of the kids sorted don’t actually have the traits espoused by their heads. 11-year-old Neville isn’t brave at all; he’s even scared of his own shadow. 11-year-old Draco isn’t anywhere near cunning (basically alienating Harry Potter, the wizarding world’s biggest celebrity)."
"Now Neville definitely becomes brave, and you could argue that Draco develops cunning down the line. But the point is, they didn’t have those traits the moment they were sorted. So perhaps the Sorting Hat can somehow predict their future? Or read into their minds to see which traits they’ll develop if nurtured. That’s certainly possible, but how can you possibly tell which traits an 11-year-old will have? They’re basically the age of a 5th grader."
"And let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that in the wizarding world personalities are somehow fixed at the age of 11 (unlike in the real world). Then shouldn’t the data the Sorting Hat collects be extraordinarily valuable to help ensure your students grow up to be healthy individuals? You wouldn’t use it to assign a student their dormitory and then never touch that info again."
In fact, there are countless instances that seem to go against the reasoning that the Sorting Hat sorts based on traits that a student possesses, or will develop. "Peter Pettigrew was sorted into Gryffindor and he never became brave. In fact his character is literately defined by its cowardice. Similarly, Marcus Flint gets held back a year. What’s cunning about that?"
But there's another important fact which makes this theory flawed. It's that the Sorting Hat takes students' choices into account. Harry is able to choose Gryffindor over Slytherin, and Hermione is able to choose Gryffindor over Ravenclaw. If the hat truly sorted based on a student's traits, there would be no room for changes.
"But then, if it doesn’t sort based on inner traits, how does it decide who goes where?" wrote Straw_Boats. "I’d argue is [sic] sorts a child based on their values. Specifically, a child who believes Bravery and Courage are the most important traits would go to Gryffindor, where as a child who values Intellectualism and Love of Learning above all else would go to Ravenclaw. The key difference is that a child need not possess that trait, but merely value it."
This theory, that the hat sorts according to a student's values, makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider how students are able to influence the hat's decisions. Draco, who wasn't cunning himself but who grew up in a family where it was valued, was able to be sorted into Slytherin because of his own values. And Hermione, who's definitely an intellectual, chose to become a Gryffindor because of how she valued her heroes.
This theory also highlights the power each house has in shaping the students. "If you take all the kids that value bravery and stick them into one house (an environment where everyone else also values bravery above all else), you’ll start to see them all become brave (and, in some cases, to the exclusion of the other traits). If this theory is true, it also shows how badly the house system needs to be revamped (to stress inter-house friendships and development of all 4 major traits). But that’s a whole ‘nother discussion."
Does the Sorting Hat truly sort students based on their values? It makes perfect sense. Rather than judging students on the traits they possess, the hat seems to understand what traits they value, and how those values shape the students into the adults that they will eventually become.