This week’s post focuses on the house most prominently featured in the “Harry Potter” series: Gryffindor. The house of Harry Potter himself, Gryffindor has for its sigil a gold lion on a red field, and attracts students who are brave, adventurous, and have a strong sense of chivalry. Opinions on Gryffindors tend to very: some people admire them for their courage, and believe them to the pride of Hogwarts, others, especially Slytherins and Ravenclaws, often think of them as being reckless braggarts. Regardless, Gryffindor has produced its fair share of talented individuals, such as Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, and Lily and James Potter, who founded the Order of the Phoenix. And of course, there’s Albus Dumbledore, the finest wizard of his generation, if not of all time, who defeated the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in pitched combat, discovered the twelve uses of dragon’s blood, and befriended Nicolas Flamel, the creator of the Philosopher’s Stone. Dumbledore was also said to be the only person Lord Voldemort ever feared.
“White Fang” by Jack London
Considered Jack London’s best novel, “White Fang,” takes place during the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1800s. The eponymous character is a part-dog, part-wolf hybrid, who is born wild, taken in by a native tribesman who trades him for whiskey to a man named Beauty Smith. Beauty Smith raises White Fang by lash and rod, beating him to build his aggression so he can be a cage fighter. White Fang is eventually rescued by the kindly Wheaton Scott, who takes him to his family farm, where he earns the respect of the community by fighting off an escaped criminal. I’ve chosen this for the Gryffindor list because I feel lions will enjoy how London immerses the reader in the danger and adventure of frontier life. In one scene after another, White Fang is confronted with the threats of his environment, and conquers them all with nothing but his guts, and steely animal instincts.
“The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer
This is technically a piece of poetry, but Chaucer’s (unfinished) masterpiece is so filled the kind of epic adventures that Gryffindors love, that I just had to include it on the list. The main cast of characters including The Knight, The Wife of Bath, The Miller, The Summoner, The Pardoner, The Summoner, and many others are meant to represent a cross-section of medieval society. They are on a pilgrimage to the shrine of the martyr Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury. The group begins their journey at an inn, where the host proposes a contest: each pilgrim will tell two stories on the way to Canterbury and two on the way back. Whomever he judges to be the best storyteller will receive a meal at the inn, courtesy of the other pilgrims. Chivalrous lions will especially enjoy The Wife of Bath’s tale, about a knight in the time of King Arthur, who, as punishment for raping a woman, must travel the world to discover what it is women truly want.
“Atonement” by Ian McEwan
Taking place in World War II era Britain, “Atonement” concerns three people, Robbie Turner, Cecilia Talis, and Briony Talis, Cecilia’s sister, and how their lives are affected by a single incident. One summer evening, Cecilia and Briony’s cousin is raped, and Briony reports Robbie as being responsible. Robbie is sent to prison, but manages to be released in exchange for joining the army. Cecilia is in love with Robbie, and so the two of them wind up hating Briony for falsely reporting Robbie to the police. As Gryffindors tend to be ruled by their hearts, I feel they will find it easy to empathize with Robbie and Cecilia’s intense emotional connection, as-well-as enjoy the sweeping scale of the novel.
“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens
While Charles Dickens’s tale about the French revolution contains elements which appeal to all four houses, it is the story arc of Sydney Carton that places “A Tale of Two Cities” on the Gryffindor list. Sydney is in love with Lucie Manette, the daughter of Doctor Manette, who at the beginning of the novel, was freed from the Bastille after being imprisoned for eighteen years. Lucie is the embodiment of warmth and compassion – perfect Hufflepuff material – and uses her kindness to reawaken her father to the world after his torturous incarceration. She is also very beautiful. Unfortunately for Sydney, Lucie is in love with Charles Darnay, a French aristocrat wanted by the revolution, with whom Sydney shares an uncanny resemblance. After returning to France to free his imprisoned friend Gabelle, Charles is himself captured and sentenced to death. Compelled by his love for Lucie, Sydney volunteers to help break Charles out of prison, and take his place on the chopping block.
Sydney is a pathetic drunk at the beginning of the novel, by the end though, he has gained the ability to see beyond himself. Although it would be easy to let Charles be executed so as to have Lucie all to himself, Sydney knows that to truly love someone means being willing to make sacrifices for them … even if that means marching to your own death. It is the epitome of a chivalrous act, and it puts Sydney, and the book, firmly in the house of Godric Gryffindor.