Harry Potter: 15 Things You Never Knew About The Sorting Hat

The Sorting Hat is one of the most well-known and important magical objects in the Harry Potter franchise.

Created by the four founders of Hogwarts, this enchanted headwear has been allocating novice witches and wizards to school houses Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin for centuries.

What this essentially means is that – despite being a tatty old cap designed to handle a matter of school administration – the Sorting Hat has (at least partly) decided the destiny of the wizarding world for generations!

Indeed, despite its ragged appearance and seemingly limited (if vital) purpose, the Hat actually boasts a rich history full of surprises.

Some of its secrets – such as its ability to summon the Sword of Gryffindor – have long since become common knowledge to even casual fans of the Harry Potter books and films.

But just as many fascinating tidbits related to the Hat – including those surrounding its origins and abilities – remain a mystery to less ardent Potterheads.

We’ve sifted through all the available information – including books, films, interviews, plays and web content! – about the Hat, in search of the most interesting trivia.

Here, we present the fruits of these labors: a list of 15 Things You Never Knew About The Sorting Hat.

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15 The Sorting Hat Is Roughly 1,000 Years Old

Sorting Hat

The Sorting Hat is old – like, really old. While the exact date it first left the milliner’s workbench isn’t known, we do know that it was roughly a millennia ago!

When Hogwarts was founded late in the 9th Century, its founders – Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, and Salazar Slytherin – began the tradition of dividing the student body into four houses.

The rationale behind this was to ensure that each founder would be able to teach students who possessed the qualities that they themselves valued.

However, as the magical quartet grew older, they found themselves faced with a rather morbid conundrum: who would sort junior witches and wizards into houses when they themselves were dead and gone?

Their (unconventional) solution was to magically imbue an otherwise ordinary hat – just who owned that hat, we’ll get to later – with their combined intelligence, to Sort on their behalf.

14 “Hatstalls” Are A Rare Thing

Harry Potter being sorted by the Sorting Hat

Whilst the Sorting Hat’s deliberations don’t typically take more than few (admittedly tense) moments, there are occasions were reaching a decision takes far longer.

In rare instances like these – when the Hat struggles to determine which house is the best fit for a student – the child wearing it is known as a “Hatstall”.

Fortunately, there’s no real stigma attached to this label – it’s just generally accepted that some people possess qualities that would allow them to qualify for more than one house.

Harry Potter himself was nearly a Hatstall, with the Hat weighing up whether he was better suited to Gryffindor or Slytherin. Likewise, the final call over whether Harry’s brainy classmate Hermione Granger belonged in Gryffindor or Ravenclaw wasn’t made quickly, either.

Noteworthy Hatstalls include Minerva McGonagall and Peter Pettigrew – the latter of whom required five whole minutes to Sort!

13 The Sorting Hat Sings A Brand New Song Every Year

Candles lighting the Hogwarts Great Hall

The Sorting Hat has belted out a new tune to mark the start of every single school year since it was first enchanted.

Considering that this equates to roughly a thousand songs, that’s not a bad effort – although it does lend credence to Ron Weasley’s theory regarding how the Hat spends its copious free time when not in use!

Despite the numerous Sortings that take place over the course of the Harry Potter franchise, Harry (and readers) haven’t been privy to all of the Hat’s ballads. Due to the boy wizard often missing the start of the opening banquet due to extracurricular shenanigans, Harry was only present for three of the songs. Admittedly, those are better figures than he achieves in the film adaptations, which showcase zero apparel-based musical numbers!

While the Sorting Hat’s lyrics typically offer up an overview of Hogwarts’ beginnings and display a wry sense of humor, the magical headgear does occasionally veer into more heavy territory.

In these instances, the Hat usually warns the staff and students of dangers threatening the wizarding world, often combined with a stirring call for unity across all four Hogwarts houses.

12 The Hat’s Sorting Powers Come From Legilimency

Alan Rickman as Severus Snape Using His Wand in the Potions Classroom

In recent years, Harry Potter author JK Rowling has made use of Pottermore to reveal previously undisclosed information about characters and world she created.

Of these factoids, one confirms something that several fans already suspected – the Sorting Hat relies on Legilimency, the same power to penetrate minds practised by the likes of Voldemort, Dumbledore, and Snape.

Whilst Muggles might consider Legilimency akin to mind reading, those skilled in the art tend to frown upon this comparison. Instead, an accomplished Legilimens will claim only to be able access the thoughts of another, with the hopes of correctly interpreting what they uncover.

As such, it shouldn’t be inferred that the Sorting Hat literally reads students’ thoughts in order to Sort them. Rather, the Hat wades through each novices’ conscious and subconscious mind to determine their true character – and given how insanely difficult this would be, it’s not hard to see how Hatstalls happen!

11 The Hat Speaks For The Hogwarts Founders

The Hogwarts founders

Given the Sorting Hat’s “brains” reflect those of the founders themselves, it stands to reason that whenever the Hat speaks, it’s with the collective voice of those four legendary witches and wizards.

Rowling indicated this to be the case in an interview several years ago – and incidentally, this is also where she first hinted at the Hat’s abilities being fuelled by Legilimency.

That said, the Sorting Hat clearly possesses its own distinct identity separate to that of Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff and Salazar Slytherin.

It also doesn’t share the same views as all four founders – it’s hard to imagine ol’ Salazar agreeing with the Hat when it comes to unity in the face of pureblood-fuelled oppression!

This shouldn’t come as too much of a shock; after all, the Hat’s intellect and persona is three-quarters Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff – none of whom held anti-Muggle beliefs.

10 The Hat Originally Belonged To Godric Gryffindor

Harry Potter Retrieving Godric Gryffindors Sword From Pond

As we’ve already covered, the Sorting Hat was created by the Hogwarts founders when they realized they needed a means of Sorting students postmortem.

However, while the entire quartet was in agreement over what needed to be done, it was Godric Gryffindor who came up with the actual idea of the Sorting Hat – even providing the headwear itself!

This might also explain the connection between the Hat and Gryffindor’s famous goblin-made sword. As both Harry and Neville can attest, any true member of Gryffindor house can summon the Sword of Gryffindor by thrusting their hand inside the Sorting Hat’s brim.

The exact reason this is possible hasn’t yet been revealed by Rowling, but it seems highly likely that it’s due to a spell laid on the Hat by its original owner.

9 It’s Made Few (If Any) Wrong Choices

Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The Sorting Hat is notorious for never having admitted to making a mistake when Sorting students – a controversial stance, but one backed by Rowling herself.

In the same interview mentioned earlier, the author verified the Hat’s claim of a 100% hit rate, although she has subsequently revised this on Pottermore, suggesting that the Hat has “rarely” been wrong.

On the one hand, you could argue that several of the Sorting decisions display a greater depth of insight – not to mention foresight! – than the Hat is given credit for.

Take Neville Longbottom, for example. Ostensibly a talentless and spineless person, Neville was placed in Gryffindor, and later went on to display immense bravery and hidden skills, proving the Hat right.

On the other hand, there’s Peter Pettigrew, who was also ushered into the Gryffindor fold, only to prove himself an inveterate coward – suggesting the Hat is more fallible than it will admit.

8 Rowling Tried Several Sorting Ideas Before The Hat

Fantastic Beasts American wizarding school - Ilvermorny

Coming up with the fantastic characters, creatures, and concepts in the Harry Potter franchise involved a hefty amount of trial and error, and the Sorting Hat is no exception.

Before landing on the idea of a talking hat, Rowling devised at least two other methods of splitting up the Hogwarts students.

First, there was a wacky contraption that performed a series of magical feats before making its final call. Rowling quickly dismissed this idea as being paradoxically too complex and simplistic.

Then there was the notion that statues of the founders would adorn the Entrance Hall, springing to life and Sorting young witches and wizards as they entered the school. While Rowling was fond of this concept, she still felt she could do better (although she would recycle it as the means of Sorting at Hogwarts’ US-based equivalent, Ilvermorny).

Finally, she jotted down a list of every possible way that the students could be picked for houses, which featured everything from being chosen by team captains through to eeny-meeny-miny-mo!

Of the methods listed, she latched onto the simple action of drawing names from a hat, and – after adding a magical touch to the proceedings, the Sorting Hat was born!

7 Voiced By An Actor From The Raunchy Carry On Films

Leslie Phillips in Carry On

The Harry Potter film series is renowned for its cast of veteran British stage and screen actors. But interestingly, the Sorting Hat’s voice actor boasts a slightly more cheeky resume than his peers.

Sure, Leslie Phillips has been honored with a CBE by the Queen, and starred in critically acclaimed films like The Longest Day and Empire Of The Sun – making him a fairly respectable figure. Nonetheless, Phillips also appeared in three of the Carry On comedy films, which was a series known for its racy, innuendo-based gags.

Now, don’t get us wrong – there’s absolutely nothing wrong at all with an actor famous for his work in bawdy adult comedies lending his pipes to the family-friendly Harry Potter movies.

It’s just an amusing bit of trivia that the voice of a wholesome object like the Sorting Hat comes from a guy best known for his work in films that skew towards the naughty end of the spectrum.

6 The Hat Doesn’t Always Listen To Students Wishes

Neville Longbottom and his remembrall

In the Harry Potter books and films, a big deal is made of the fact that Harry chose to be Sorted into Gryffindor, rejecting the Sorting Hat’s assertions that he could succeed in Slytherin.

This is an undoubtedly powerful moment for the Boy Who Lived as a character, and reinforces one of the central themes of the series: that it is our choices that ultimately define us as people.

That said, just because the Hat took Harry’s choice into account, that doesn’t mean everyone else is so lucky! Just ask Neville Longbottom, who pleaded unsuccessfully with the Hat to Sort him into Hufflepuff – begging so desperately that he made himself a Hatstall.

Then there’s Harry’s own son, Albus Potter, who longed to be in Gryffindor in order to live up to his father’s legacy, only for his nightmares to made real when he ends up in Slytherin!

In both cases, it’s fair to say that the Hat was giving both boys what was best for them, rather than what they wanted – but even so, tough love is pretty hard to swallow coming from tattered old lid.

5 It Sorted Voldemort Instantly

For all this talk of Hatstalls, it’s important to remember that most students are Sorted relatively quickly.

In fact, there was one former pupil who was placed in their house almost immediately – Tom Riddle, otherwise known as Lord Voldemort.

This isn’t exactly something likely to catch fans off guard. After all, except for his half-blood parentage, Riddle was practically everything Salazar Slytherin wanted in a student.

He was highly intelligent, supremely talented, ruthlessly ambitious and harbored a pathological hatred for anyone who wasn’t a pureblood witch or wizard.

Even his one “blemish” – being the offspring of Wizard-Muggle union – is effectively neutralized by his ancestry, which can be traced back to Salazar himself.

So yeah, there was never really any doubt that the Hat would roar “Slytherin!” the moment it was slotted over young Tom’s noggin.

4 A Squib Once Tried (And Failed) To Be Sorted

Argus Filch holding a lantern at Hogwarts

In the Harry Potter universe, a squib is someone who comes from a magical family, but who is nevertheless born without any supernatural gifts.

As you’d expect, these poor individuals are not accepted at Hogwarts – they’d have no real way of participating in classes, for one thing – and so are therefore never part of the Sorting ceremony. Except for once!

According to Pottermore, way back in 1858, a Scottish squib named Angus Buchanan managed to sneak into Hogwarts with the aid of his siblings, who were already enrolled there.

Once inside, young Angus forced himself to the front of the queue, grabbed hold of the Hat, and rammed it onto his head!

What followed was as heartbreaking as it was expected. The Sorting Hat, whilst acknowledging that the boy had a good heart, gently refused to Sort Angus, due to his obvious lack of magical ability.

3 It Nearly Sorted McConagall And Flitwick Into Each Other's Houses

McGonagall and Flitwick

The teacher who heads each Hogwarts house is always themselves an alumnus of that same house – and as such, they tend to embody the house's values.

It’s therefore virtually impossible to imagine a courageous, feisty figure like Professor McGonagall being Sorted anywhere other than Gryffindor. Similarly, it’s hard to picture a more perfect home for an academic of Professor Flitwick’s caliber than Ravenclaw. And yet, when McGonagall and Flitwick underwent the Sorting process, they were both nearly placed in each other’s houses, instead!

You can actually see where the Hat was coming from as it weighed up where to sort the pair, as both possess a mixture of traits favored by Godric Gryffindor and Rowena Ravenclaw.

Aside from being brave, Minerva is also a smart cookie – she was even able to adequately answer a riddle posed by the gatekeeper of Ravenclaw Tower, no less. By the same token, although Filius comes across as a bookish type, he’s also a former duelling champion, and never shrinks from the prospect of fight.

When all is said and done, however, it definitely feels like the Sorting Hat made the right call with regards to both professors.

2 The Sorting Hat Only Thinks Aloud In The Moves

Harry and McGonagall with sorting hat in Harry Potter

We’ve already talked about the man behind the Sorting Hat’s voice in the Harry Potter films, but did you know that the Hat is a lot more outspoken in the movies than in the books?

Although it’s still uncommonly chatty – and not just in comparison to other hats – the Sorting Hat as depicted in the books is markedly more discreet than its big screen counterpart.

Consider that in Rowling’s novels, when the Hat is mulling over which house to Sort a student into, it speaks in a low voice audible only to the student themselves – until the final verdict is rendered, at least. Contrast this with the Sorting Ceremony as brought to life by the filmmakers. Here, the Hat loudly elaborates on its thought-processes, effectively laying bare its assessment of each pupil’s character!

Of course, the behind-the-scenes reason for this discrepancy is that it works better cinematically to more fully dramatize the Sorting procedure. But even so – we know which version we’d prefer to take part in!

1 The Patil Twins Were Sorted Differently In The Books

Harry Potter and Parvati Patil At The Yule Ball

Another books versus films comparison to bring this list to a close, this time highlighting an instance where one student was Sorted differently across the different media!

In the books, twins Parvati and Padma Patil were placed in different houses – Parvati in Gryffindor and Padma in Ravenclaw. However, in the Harry Potter movies, the twins were both Sorted in Gryffindor.

Now, in the books, Parvati and Padma being sorted into separate houses served a purpose. Essentially, it was another way for Rowling to further underscore one of the series’ themes: that superficial similarities mean less than underlying character.

Likewise, Sorting both girls into Gryffindor was an understandable change on the part of the filmmakers. By doing so, they were able to streamline the narrative of Goblet of Fire, introducing the twins together in one scene and swiftly setting them up as Harry and Ron’s Yule Ball dates.

So as you can see, either Sorting outcome works just fine – it’s just interesting to see that the book and film Sorting Hats don’t see eye to eye on at least one decision!

Did we miss out any amazing facts about the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter? Let us know in the comments!

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