Hogwarts is a school of contradictions. It is homely, yet mysterious; dangerous, yet protected; mystical, yet structured. Haunted corridors are patrolled by grammarian teachers, cozy dormitories overlook haunted forests, and spells and potions are taught with the regularity of high-school math.
Overall, the tension is intriguing. There’s a reason Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone left a generation of eleven year olds waiting for their letter of acceptance.
Much of this list will deal with boundaries: the boundaries between the magical and practical, the boundaries between life before and after Hogwarts, and the boundaries between the wizarding world and our own.
In a sense, writing a story like Lord of the Rings is easier than writing one like Harry Potter. Tolkien created Middle-Earth as a self-contained system. Rowling had to nestle her new world next to the old, and populate it with people both like, and unlike, ourselves.
Hogwarts is the reader’s point of entry to this en-suite universe; as it teaches Harry what to expect, it teaches the reader. Thus the school is responsible for making Rowling’s story believable, consistent, and understandable; no reader will buy into the Ministry of Magic, Azkaban, or even Hogsmeade without buying into Hogwarts first.
Luckily, Rowling did a fantastic job imagining the school from dungeon to tower – the following points are more thought exercises than criticisms, designed to help readers realize just how hard of a job she had.
Here are the 15 Things About Hogwarts That Make No Sense.
15. There’s a House for Sociopaths
Yes, we know – Snape was a Slytherin, and the bravest man Harry ever knew.
In statistics (not taught at Hogwarts), Snape is known as an outlier. Undoubtedly, there have been many honorable, and perhaps even pleasant Slytherin throughout the years. There must have also been dim Ravenclaws, cowardly Gryffindors, and slimy Hufflepuffs.
That doesn’t change the fact that virtually every dark wizard in history came from Slytherin, and pretty much every auror who fought them were from the other three houses.
Given Hogwarts has a hat that can peer into children’s souls and determine their character (problematic, but hey you already got it), surely the most prudent action would be to plop it on every adolescent, and refuse magical education to all those deemed Slytherin-appropriate.
14. Peter Pettigrew is Apparently Invisible Inside Castle Walls
This is a well covered plot-hole that’s still worth addressing. Why exactly didn’t Fred and George detect Peter Pettigrew – disguised as Scabbers – on the marauder’s map? The twins, by their own account, owned the map for five years, and definitely overlapped with the imposter. However, the fact that a man named Peter was sleeping in Ron’s bed every night raised no red flags.
The common answers to this riddle are a) Fred and George didn’t know who Peter Pettigrew was, so his name would have meant nothing to them, b) the twins used the map to plan mischief, not track their brother’s location, or c) there were hundreds of names on the map at any given time, so honing in on one in a crowded dormitory would be difficult.
The fact remains that Scabbers was basically glued to Ron’s side during his time at Hogwarts, and it seems improbable that the twins never asked “wonder what old Ron’s up to?” After all, they pranked their brothers as much as anyone else.
13. It Doesn’t Teach Reading, Writing, or Arithmetic
The kindest word to describe Hogwarts’ approach to education is “targeted.” The school requires no foundation in reading, writing, or mathematics for first years, provides no instruction for these subjects during enrolment, and apparently doesn’t feed into any higher education system afterwards.
The school’s core classes include Astronomy, Charms, Defence against the Dark Arts, Flying, Herbology, History of Magic, Potions, and Transfiguration. In fairness, the principles of good writing could be embedded into a history class (although we doubt Professor Binns has a copy of The Elements of Style in his book-case), and magic acts as a substitute for most of the hard sciences, medicine, and applied mathematics.
However, what about disciplines like political science, statistics, economics, and psychology? The Ministry of Magic clearly hasn’t learned a single thing from its recent brush with fascism, there appears to be no treatment for psychological disorders, and Hogwarts control of the house-elf population is akin to 19th century Russian serfdom. It’s called soft-science, guys.
12. Its Biggest Sporting Event Sucks for Spectators
Rowling’s narration in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire places the reader smack dab in the middle of the Triwizard Tournament, told from Harry’s point of view. What one might not consider, however, is how things appear from the outside looking in.
How exactly did the crowd amuse themselves while the contestants swam under water or explored a closed-off maze? Did they sit with bated breath, staring at a placid lake or gawping at some shrubbery? Was it ok to go grab some food? Surely, the smart move would be to show up for the end results.
At the very least, the administration could have at least put the dragons last. That was a proper show, which might have kept students invested. However, Harry grabbing the dragon’s egg was the last bit of visible action spectators would experience.
11. The Sorting Hat put Peter Pettigrew in Gryffindor
Peter Pettigrew is perhaps the most pathetic character in Harry Potter. When Wormtail isn’t betraying his friends, he’s groveling, pleading for mercy, or hiding out in Ron’s pocket as a rat.
Why then, did the Sorting Hat place him in Gryffindor: the house defined by courage, chivalry, and loyalty to friends? Perhaps the hat saw some undeveloped potential. Perhaps it took a look at the unfortunate lad, and decided to give him a break. Or perhaps Pettigrew came late, and the hat was just tired.
10. It Uses Birds to Communicate With the Outside World
Owls may be a majestic form of communication, but they’re far from the most effective. Even a fine specimen like Hedwig was proud, moody, and easily offended.
On the other end of the scale, Pigwidgeon was downright unreliable – not to mention loud, disruptive, and immature. Personality is great in a pet, but not what you want in a communication channel.
On the maintenance side, constantly charging an iPhone is hard enough– now imagine feeding it, housing it, and being forced to clean up its excrement and, of course, a huge snowy owl is hardly an inconspicuous messenger, particularly in suburban England.
9. Ghosts are Never Fully Explained
Ghosts. What exactly is a ghost? Is it a full version of a living person or a preserved sliver of personality, like a wizard painting? Why do some people become ghosts and some pass on? Is being a ghost a form of immortality? Do ghosts have anything interesting to say about God or the hereafter?
Take professor Binns, the history professor who died, and continued his teaching career long after shrugging off the old mortal coil. Apart from no longer having a body, he seems more or less unaffected by death. He retains his personality, memories, and ability. He’s able to hold down a job and contribute to society. If everyone became a ghost like Binns, death would be non-existent and people could enjoy their old lives ad infinitum.
8. The Inter-House Quidditch Cup Scoring Doesn’t Make Sense
The Inter-House Quidditch Cup consists of six matches played between the four houses. The final tally, however, isn’t based on wins, but the total number of points scored.
That means, theoretically, if your house won one out of two matches, but scored less overall than another house who had been defeated in two higher-scoring matches, they would come out above you.
This creates a perverse incentive scheme, where teams would logically want to stretch out matches for as long as possible, unless the opposing team was a close competitor. When Harry broke the record for the fastest ever capture of the snitch, he was actually screwing Gryffindor over.
7. It Hasn’t Confronted its Past
When Nazism fell, the new German government made an effort to stamp out their ideology by re-educating its citizens.
Considering Voldemort posed an equally large threat to the wizarding world as Nazis did to our own, it seems insane that Hogwarts kept the Slytherin house intact after the Dark Lord was defeated.
The house’s founder, Salazar Slytherin, demanded a strict blood purity admission policy. The Sorting Hat is also complicit, as it sorts students into Slytherin on the basis of their bloodline. Chamber of Secrets further proves this point, as Slytherin hid a basilisk under the school for the sole purpose of killing muggle-born students.
6. Its Students Aren’t Interested In Muggles
The good news is Hogwarts teaches Muggle Studies, while the bad news is it’s an elective, poorly taught, and considered a joke.
For such an intelligent bunch, the wizarding world’s assessment of muggle society is insane. It’s unclear how they’ve come to view people as inferior. In certain key areas, muggle technology not only outperforms magic, but outperforms it by orders of magnitude.
Wizards have dragons; muggles have fighter-jets capable of flying at 1,200 mph. Wizards have images that move around a bit; muggles have high-definition recording hardware. Wizards have wands that refuse to work because of mystical connections with their targets; muggles have guns. You get the point.
Thousands of muggle children read the Harry Potter books because of the mystery of a world that is close to but wildly different from their own. Apparently the reverse does not hold. Magical students are simply uninterested in thousands of years of human history.
5. It’s Far Too Dangerous for Children
Students are not the only beings who call Hogwarts home. At one time or another, the grounds have housed a vicious three-headed dog, a giant snake, giant killer spiders, a rage-prone tree, grindylows, and dementors.
Admittedly, some of these creatures come with the territory. However, others were brought in by the teachers themselves: particularly the various monstrosities enlisted to guard the Philosopher’s Stone.
While the stone’s importance may have justified its extreme defences, the question remains why the staff chose to put it in a school full of under-18s in the first place. Clearly, safety is not part of the administration’s mission statement.
In addition to this, between 2003-2012 there were 30 deaths associated with treadmills in muggle society. How long do you think it would take before an 11 year old took a tumble off one of the many moving staircases?
4. The School Feels Smaller Than It Is
Rowling originally intended Hogwarts to house 1,000 students, but only wrote 40 distinct characters for Harry’s year. The effect is an odd disconnect between Hogwart’s size and the number of recognizable faces it contains.
First off, every major event at Hogwarts somehow involves Harry. Surely Harry, Hermione, and Ron – three students out of 1,000 – would occasionally hear news that didn’t directly concern them.
The common room, which presumably serves all 250 Gryffindors, only ever seems to contain a handful of Harry’s close friends or acquaintances. The same can be said of Slytherin’s dungeon, which is populated solely by Malfoy and his lackeys.
3. It Provides No Existential Guidance
Separation of church and state is not an issue for the wizarding world, simply because there is no church – or unified religion of any kind.
While it’s for the best that Hogwarts doesn’t indoctrinate its students with any particular creed, we have to wonder how exactly students begin to make sense of the universe and their place in it.
Wizards are plenty curious on the hows – how to cast spells, create potions, etc. – but never seem to ask why. There are plenty of magical scholars, but no magical philosophers.
This total lack of existential angst, while never glaring, does detract a bit from the student-body’s realism. What sort of teenager has never read Nietzsche, worn an old army jacket, and listened to the Smiths?
2. It Never Exonerated Hagrid
In 1943, Hogwarts expelled Rubeus Hagrid for a crime he didn’t commit. He was blamed for opening the Chamber of Secrets, despite the fact that he would himself have been a target for the basilisk, as he is half giant. This detail was apparently overlooked by the school’s disciplinary board.
One could argue that the authorities were justified given the evidence at the time, but neither the Ministry nor Hogwarts did anything to correct the situation once it was proven that the culprit was Tom Riddle.
Hogwarts owes Hagrid an education at the very least, if not a complimentary wand. Obviously, Dumbledore couldn’t place him in the house system with a bunch of 11 year olds, but he could at least provide him the wizarding equivalent of a GED.
1. It Gives Students The Power To Potentially Destroy The World
A person who can turn back time has control over death, fate, and their fellow human beings. In fact, time travel moves beyond magic into the realm of God-like power. So, what situation could possibly justify distorting the universe itself? According to Hogwarts, being a bit busy with school.
Hermione receives her time-turner from Professor McGonagall after promising to “never tell anyone” and never use it for anything “except her studies.”
That’s right, a Hogwarts professor delivered what is surely the world’s most powerful object into the hands of a 13-year-old girl because she promised not to tell.
Leaving aside the criminal irresponsibility of the act, it’s also teaching Hermione a bad life lesson. Ms. Granger doesn’t need to bend time, she needs to learn how to manage it.
A sensible adult would have explained to Hermione the importance of prioritization and work-life balance, not allow her to bend the laws of space and time to accommodate her schedule.
Can you think of any other things in Harry Potter about Hogwarts that don’t make sense? Let us know in the comments!
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