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I’m a big Harry Potter fan. I started out watching the movies, then recently finally got around to reading the books. I love everything about the series: the world-building, the character development, the history and lore, the various magical creatures. But the aspect I find most interesting is the sorting of Hogwarts students. For those who do not know, when young wizards enter Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, they participate in a ceremony in which the Sorting Hat, an anthropomorphic hat is placed on their heads and magically reads their minds so as to place them in one of the school’s four fraternal houses (Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin) based upon their strongest personality traits. As someone with underdeveloped social skills, the idea of being placed in an environment where one is automatically afforded a sense of comradery with one’s peers is naturally appealing to me. Further, as someone with an interest in psychology, I’ve always been fascinated with how experiences had in transformative periods – like school – can shape, and, in turn, be shaped by our personalities. I’ve combined these things with my love of literature to create four lists – one for each house – of novels I feel exemplary members of those houses would enjoy, and based my choices on how consistent their plots, themes, and characters are with that houses values.
I’ll start with my least favorite House, Hufflepuff. Hufflepuff’s sigil is a black badger on a yellow field and tends to attract students who are loyal, hard-working, fair-minded, and humble. The tendency of Hufflepuffs to be overly friendly makes it easy for people to dismiss them as pushovers, a reputation which is not entirely unearned. That said, Hufflepuff has produced a number of respected witches and wizards, such as Newt Scamander, famous Magizoologist, and author of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Cedric Diggory, who competed honorably in the Triwizard Tournament before being killed by Peter Pettigrew, and Nymphadora (Tonks) Lupin, an accomplished Auror, who fought bravely against Voldemort in the Battle of Hogwarts before also meeting an untimely death.
“The Lord of the Rings”, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Gryffindors may enjoy the action and adventure, and the wordplay and references to classical mythology will appeal to Ravenclaws, but it is the intense bonds of friendship and loyalty between the main characters at the center of the book that make Tolkien’s magnum opus prime reading material for Hufflepuffs. Though Frodo Baggins is the hero, with destroying the One Ring his sole responsibility, he is far from alone, his friends Samwise, Merry, and Pippin gladly join him as he sets out from the Shire, even though they have as little knowledge of what they are doing as he does. Frodo and his friends face one perilous challenge after another, including the loss of their guide Gandalf in the mines of Moria, and the separation of the Fellowship after the skirmish with Uruk-hai, during-which Merry and Pippin are captured. The loyalties of the Fellowship’s members do not give way to the pressure of their various trials, if anything they strengthen, such as in the Battle of Helm’s Deep, where Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli display an unwavering commitment to one another, in spite of the constant torrent of chaos and death around them. Hufflepuffs will be particularly impressed by Sam’s protectiveness towards Frodo on their journey to Mordor, including his constant fretting that Frodo is not eating enough, and his brave attempt to rescue his friend from the tower of Cirith Ungol after being captured by the monstrous spider Shelob.
“Never Let Me Go,” by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro’s science fiction masterpiece takes place in an alternate version of Great Britain, where the government creates clones of people and raises them in secluded boarding schools in the countryside until they are old enough to learn the truth about who they are: they exist only to be organ donors for Britain’s non-clone citizens. The story centers on the relationship between Kathy (the narrator), Ruth, and Tommy, and explores how the circumstances of their existence strain their friendship, eventually tearing them apart, only to bring them back together later in life. Due to its intense emotional themes, “Never Let Me Go” is not an easy read, but I’ve included it on my Hufflepuff list because it is a novel about human connection and the transformative effect it has on us. Badgers prize friendship over all else, and will identify with Kathy’s emotional turmoil at her severed connections with Ruth and Tommy.
“Jane Eyre,” by Charlotte Bronte
The aesthetics of the Gothic novel may be more to the tastes of Slytherins – have you seen their common room? – But the title character of Charlotte Bronte’s classic is pure Hufflepuff. Although Jane is not exceptionally beautiful, or exceptionally intelligent, she is exceptionally kind, and that kindness is her greatest weapon against the dark and foreboding circumstances she frequently finds herself facing. At the beginning of the novel, Jane is forced to live with her emotionally distant aunt, Mrs. Reed, and torturous cousins, Eliza, Georgiana, and John. Her time with her relatives gives Jane a disagreeable temperament that gets her sent away to Lowood, a charity school for orphans. There she meets and befriends Helen, a fellow student, and Miss Temple, the school’s kindly superintendent. The friendship shown to Jane at Lowood allows her to adopt the warmth that will carry her through the rest of her story.
“Well has Solomon said – ‘Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.’
I would not now have exchanged Lowood with all its privations for Gateshead and its daily luxuries.”
“Looking For Alaska,” by John Green
Lately John Green has been getting more attention for “The Fault in Our Stars” – which I haven’t read – but his debut novel “Looking for Alaska,” is still a YA gem that will tug at the heartstrings of Hufflepuffs of all ages. Miles Halter, a socially inept high school student, is the narrator. He leaves his lackluster life in Florida behind to attend Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama, seeking what the poet Francois Rabelis called “The Great Perhaps.” Though Miles never defines exactly what The Great Perhaps is, it is implied to be some way of living that is richer, and more dangerous than the humdrum existence he has lead before coming to Culver Creek. Miles finds this in the group of friends he quickly accumulates Chip “The Colonel” Martin, the unofficial leader of the gang, Takumi “The Fox” Hikohito, a Japanese-American who has a talent for rapping, Lara Buterskaya, with whom Miles has a brief relationship, and beautiful, clever, self-destructive Alaska Young. Through sexual exploration, daring pranks, and drinking games in which they share their darkest secrets, the group forge intense bonds of friendship with one another … bonds which are stretched to their limits by tragedy.
Though I think all four houses are well-represented in “Looking For Alaska,” I’ve chosen to round out my Hufflepuff list with it because of the trials and tribulations we see the characters go through are examples of what an important role friendship and loyalty play when times are their toughest. Our relationships with those around us are what give weight and value to the high and low points of our lives, and if anyone understands that it’s Hufflepuffs.