"I told my agent, ‘no more swords, no more horses.’ You can get stuck in things. And maybe I can cut my fucking hair."
-Kit Harington in Rolling Stone, May 2014
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Love how the Doctor and Barty are in the same photoset representing two different characters
Maisie Williams for Modds Magazine (April 2014)
Breathlovatus asked Mulan or
Sophie Turner at the Game of Thrones premiere in Milan
Fun fact: In the Harry Potter books, kindness is never mentioned as a Hufflepuff trait. Not once.
Hard work, loyalty, honesty, egalitarianism, a desire for justice, love of fair play, truthfulness, yes. Never kindness.
Also not humility, if my memory of the books serves me. Everyone seems to think I need to be quiet about my love of my house and everything else, because “Hufflepuffs are humble.” They both begin with HU, right, and humble is the same thing as valuing fair play and equality, right?
Wrong. I am the opposite of ashamed of my house. I love my house and I am proud of it. It’s probably the most easily expressed part of myself which I am proud of. I do not assume I am better than other people because I am a Hufflepuff, and I think other people should be just as proud of their houses as I am of mine. That is equality, which is one of my house’s key traits.
Cedric was the house champion and Hufflepuff was proud of him because he was chosen fairly from the goblet, and distrustful of Harry because he seemed to gain it through false means, but then Cedric did not want to automatically accept the win against Gryffindor when they won through other means than their own fair abilities. Humility, while useful when used correctly, is not the same thing as equality.
Give me my unkind, misguided, proud, intelligent, hardened, rough, sturdy, thick, thin, tall, short, vengeful, aggressive, angry, jealous, kind, cold-hearted, emotional, complicated, overreaching, lonely, exhausted, depressed, anxious, introverted, human Hufflepuffs.
I’ve been seeing Hufflepuff’s key trait given as ‘kindness’ for years before Pottermore, and it has just, bugged me. For years. Because of reasons.
I think that a lot of people (and that includes JKR, sometimes!) tend to write and imagine Hufflepuff as “The Nice House,” and by doing that they really, really simplify it. Hufflepuff isn’t the house that takes in “miscellany,” or “the quiet ones,” it’s not the house of people who are “nice,” always super positive and pleasant, and happy to sit back and let the louder, smarter, more sinister people make history.
Hufflepuff is aligned with the element of earth, and earth is a demanding element, anything but a pushover. The soil will give you grain and fruit, but only after you’ve paid it with the sweat of your brow, and proven you’re equally as strong. Hufflepuffs are aligned with virtues that are demanding and active — loyalty, justice, hard work especially. They’re all virtues that I admire deeply, I just don’t embody them that well (ha, ha. haaa.)
But at the same time, they’re all virtues that can be turned to evil ends — the idea of Umbridge as a Hufflepuff has a dear place in my heart for this exact reason. She’s deeply loyal, committed to justice, and works very hard. It just so happens that her loyalty is to a corrupt system, her vision of justice is skewed, and her hard work is towards malicious ends. And that goes for all of the House virtues, any one house has as much potential for evil as any other. But bringing “kindness” into the mix suddenly puts Hufflepuff on a moral high ground, while also making it seems softer and tamer. It’s the equivalent of telling Agnes Nitt that she has “a great personality… and nice hair.”
Yes yes yes!!! I have thought about Umbridge as a Hufflepuff, too. I always shied away, because she is also the embodiment of “tooth-achingly sweet,” albeit in a not so nice way. But she is loyal to her cause, the governing body of her cause, believes that she is creating fairness in education and making these children work for it, and works hard to accomplish all those goals. She’s a perfect example of how the traits of Hufflepuff can be abused when forced down others’ throats, just like every other house.
And definitely, I think the biggest mistake of all is assuming any house is inherently boring, laid-back, or unwilling to do good or bad. Hufflepuff’s (and Ravenclaw’s, for that matter) traits do sound a little harder to make exciting than “daring!” and “bravery!” and “chivalry!,” but we saw variation in Gryffindor, because people make up the house, not pieces of paper with words on them. It stands to reason that other houses have variation and carry with them bravery and intelligence and loyalty and ambition and, yes, even treachery, in varying amounts. And even the traits which they deem most valuable can be exciting if used right.
I secretly very desperately want to write a story which co-exists with Harry Potter in which Harry is present, but we only get to meet him like once or twice, and the main characters are a Hufflepuff and her good Ravenclaw and Slytherin friends who save the day and promote house unity and friendship and the values of working together and the importance of overcoming stereotypes and prejudices in dark times. I would read the hell out of that book. And I would write it, given the right inspiration.
(ETA: also a variety of villains who come from more than one house and appropriate character flaws and such and basically all the Good Stuff I never really got.)
Yay! (*waves at other members of the wanting-Umbridge-the-Hufflepuff and runs into discussion* - I’ve always been in the “sigh given the Inquisitorial Squad’s composition and also the general trend of canon, I would tend to think that she’s Slytherin, but Umbridge is going to be the evil Hufflepuff of my head canon” camp - Umbridge as a Hufflepuff has a special place in my heart because of the fact that I really don’t think we’re ever getting a Dark Hufflepuff villain in canon and because she exemplifies so many of the House’s virtues turned to bad ends - hard work, stubborn dedication. If JKR had chosen to play up her loyalty to Fudge and wanted to show that non-Slytherins could harbor blood-purity views, Umbridge would have made an awesome Puff villain.
(…if you can’t tell, I reallllly love the idea of Umbridge-the-Hufflepuff, just about as much as I love the idea of a what might have been if the Trio + Neville had all been from four different Houses. An AU of Hermione-the-Claw, Harry-the-Slyth, Ron-the-Puff, Neville-the-Gryff (or even flip Neville and Ron, but represent all the Houses with main characters!) I think there was a lot of potential in the House system that really never got explored because of the defaults that were set up when JKR decided that the reader’s default would be Gryffindor - that basically the heroes would be Gryffindor, the villains Slytherin, and that Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff would largely remain in the background. There’s just so much potential set up particularly in OotP with House Unity and “we must unite or we’ll crumble from within” that never reaches its potential.
As for the kindness and humility issues, kindness has been something that’s been around forever without any real basis in-text - but if you look at interviews, JKR has a long history of making quotes about Hufflepuff being morally good, being nice, etc., (“good” is actually in-text, as in “Good Hufflepuff, she took the rest,” but Pottermore really cemented that with “The Good” and some of its other answers, but humility and kindness are not. The closest we get to kindness is when Dumbledore eulogizes Cedric as having many traits that exemplify Puffs and calls him a “good and loyal friend.” And Zacharias Smith, of course, is always used as the counterpoint, the “not all Hufflepuffs are nice!” Humility is never really mentioned - the closest textual hint is Cedric, the Hufflepuff exemplar, being humble (and GoF has a few lines about how Hufflepuff House hasn’t had any glory in centuries, but if JKR intended for this to imply Puff humility, it missed the mark, especially since the quotes are generally coupled with Hufflepuff envy of Gryffindor glory.) But the main justification for Puff humility again comes from Pottermore, the Welcome Letter that talks about how they’ve done just as many great things as other Houses but don’t shoot their mouths off about it.
But Smith notwithstanding, there are a lot of interview quotes about Hufflepuff being basically Dark-wizard-free, Hufflepuff having a cleaner slate regarding the Dark Arts, Hufflepuffs being good, being the sort of background people who aren’t showy but do the right things for the right reasons - and in a way, relegating them to being inherently good AND inherently kind (inherently likable, where unkind isn’t ever stated as an inherently Slytherin trait but we get more than our fair share of unkind characters) does the House a disservice because you won’t get the morally complex, grey characters - either a character who’s fighting for good but an ass, or on the side of evil but compelling and complex, or even someone who slides between the two. (Yes, you can have a complex character who’s wholly good, but it’s arbitrarily limiting and you do miss a lot of potentially interesting characters if you limit a House to being almost wholly Kind and Good. And, yes, Zacharias Smith, but Smith is basically almost created for the sole purpose of going “oh look not all Hufflepuffs are kind” - pretty much a flat token not-likable Puff. Seriously, canonically, what do we know about Smith beyond the fact he’s annoying, plays Quidditch, joined the DA, and tramples first-years in his rush to leave?)
I’m generally not a fan of putting the Houses on a sliding scale of morality, because personality traits and general things like “I want love/power/fame/wisdom” should be neutral - it’s not what you want, it’s what you do, and the traits you value and demonstrate shouldn’t matter so much as how you use them. But adding kindness skews Hufflepuff towards the far end of innate goodness (and adding fair play and egalitarianism tips that balance - you could counter the egalitarianism in a number of ways*, but a House that inclines to fair play and inclusion is naturally going to skew as the morally best House.) In fact, you could argue that this should come out even more except that JKR values courage so much that Gryffindor tends to get focused on as the Good House.** We talk a lot about how Slytherin gets shafted because it’s skewed towards being portrayed as the evil House, but in some ways, Hufflepuff is hurt nearly as badly by skewing to innate goodness - and some of it, at least, stems from the same root, in terms of which traits cause the skewing.
In the same way that “fair play” tends to tip Hufflepuff to morally good, “use any means to achieve their ends” tends to tip Slytherin towards the evil end of the spectrum - “any means” is generally interpreted as “no-holds-barred” and is probably the single trait that lands a lot of villains in Slytherin when people Sort other fandoms - fair play vs. any means necessary is a huge contrast between Slytherin and Hufflepuff. (“Power-hungry Slytherin” tips negatively because of JKR’s views on power and the portrayal of power in-series - this wouldn’t necessarily have had to be a bad thing but definitely adds to the negative portrayal of those House traits - although the blood purity issue is the #1 problem of Slytherin in-series in terms of placing the Houses on a sliding scale of morality.)
Of course, that’s the other major area where Hufflepuff and Slytherin are placed in diametric opposition, Hufflepuff inclusiveness vs. Slytherin elitism, since Hufflepuff’s willingness to teach anyone is most easily juxtaposed against Slytherin’s exclusionary principles. (Yes, the other three Founders all wanted to take and teach students who exemplified their beliefs - but Slytherin’s the only one who wanted to outright ban anyone from receiving an education, and by basing that exclusion on blood purity, Slytherin’s the only one including in his House qualities a trait that can’t be developed, encouraged, taught, or grown. In that way, Hufflepuff’s egalitarianism is contrasted most strongly against Slytherin’s exclusionary principles - and something like Slughorn’s elitist Slug Club bolsters that impression, Slytherin as elitist and Hufflepuff as all-inclusive.) But basically, those two principles are what tend to point one House good and the other evil in the text. (Gryffindor, meanwhile, is tipped towards good because of its determination to do what is right, its saving people thing - and its saving people thing is countered against Slytherin self-preservation.)
*You could definitely develop Hufflepuff as a balanced/flawed/neutral House without changing it too much - loyalty, a strong work ethic, and even the “I’ll take the lot” quote could be worked into a House that’s inherently morally neutral rather than good. In terms of the last, you could push it towards a House where everyone gets equal treatment but that is overly strict about that meaning that everyone is treated the same - a House that fails to accommodate when special treatment is required and that can’t deal with loners or eccentrics. We focus a lot on “I’ll teach the lot…” as an unmitigated positive, but if you put equal emphasis on “…and treat them just the same,” you could easily balance that out/turn that into something that’s not 100% positive. In the same way, Slytherin’s “use any means” could be shifted from “cutthroat” to “willing to disregard rules when the law is overly limiting or just plain wrong” - something that is touched upon in CoS as a commonality of Gryffindor and Slytherin, but I think that the text as it stands tends to carry the implication that Slytherins disregard the rules for personal benefit while Gryffindors do so in order to be heroic, and again that’s not an implication that I think has to or necessarily should be there. (Meanwhile, a better portrayal of Ravenclaw involves translating the Welcome Letter to the page much better - in creating Luna and making her an oddity among Claws JKR did the House a huge disfavor overall, since Luna feels like the exception in her House as much as Zacharias does in his - Luna should have been accepted among Ravenclaws and Ravenclaw should have been portrayed/mentioned as more than “intelligence school tests intelligence grades with maybe a side of wit but that’s more of a saying than anything individual characters showed.” Ravenclaw basically needed elaboration and more representation - more living up to the ideals articulated in its Welcome Letter. It has enough negatives, although again it’s interesting that evil Ravenclaws tend not to be knowledge- or wisdom-focused.***
Similarly, Pottermore’s quiz tends to portray Hufflepuff as a more traditional/conventional/past-focused House - that could turn into a sort of tendency towards hidebound conformity or a more staid level-headedness, pitting a more practical Hufflepuff against flight-of-fancy Ravenclaw. Again, if fire-and-water Gryffindor-and-Slytherin are opposites, then this would go a long way towards making air-and-earth Ravenclaw-and-Hufflepuff as contrasting opposites without setting up that hero/villain dichotomy. There are definitely ways to set up each House as morally neutral but opposite/contrasting other Houses, but the series itself doesn’t do this - it really does go for “Hufflepuff = morally good but tends to be background,” “Slytherin = evil,” “Gryffindor = Good Heroic,” “Ravenclaw = neutral with a tendency to slide evil when focusing away from knowledge” (Quirrell slides to power, Lockhart to fame.)
**Note that Peter Pettigrew, our token Gryffindor villain, is definitely meant to be seen as a coward - while making an argument/listing acts of courage he’s done is possible (I’ve done it while arguing for a Pettigrew/Gryffindor Sorting based on things other than pure values), it requires running against the bulk of the text and clear authorial intent. That says something, that the villain Sorted into the House of courage is not an exemplar of that House’s virtue - where Slytherin villains are power-hungry, our Gryffindor villain is not courageous (and our Ravenclaw villains generally don’t value knowledge or wisdom - it’s notable that only Slytherin villains tend to distinctly embody and value the traits of their House.)
***Complete tangent here, but I kind of like my general idea that members of a House go evil EITHER when they focus too much on their House’s goal to the exclusion of all else (willing to sacrifice everything to attain power/knowledge/glory/love) OR when they pull too far away from the opposing House’s virtues (so an evil Hufflepuff would lose Ravenclaw’s hatred of ignorance/tolerance of the weird; an evil Ravenclaw would lose Hufflepuff’s work ethic or loyalty; an evil Gryffindor would lose ambition or a sense of self-preservation; an evil Slytherin would lose courage or that “saving-people-thing” that Hermione defines as inherently Harry, and does seem to be inherently Gryffindor. This works for Lockhart, would theoretically work for evil!Puff!Umbridge in an AU (she’s all about encouraging ignorance), would work for DEs like Voldemort who have no desire to help save others, but would not work for Pettigrew, though Pettigrew…again, it feels like we’re not meant to believe Pettigrew ever possessed Gryffindor traits, even though an argument can definitely be made to the contrary.) There’s also the whole fact that people-oriented Gryff/Puff are naturally made out to be the morally better Houses - that canonically, Slytherin and Ravenclaw tend to fall into evil more easily than the Houses that are people-focused rather than idea-focused.
Basically, I want a universe where all the Houses are morally equivalent and neutral (and that’s something that really nobody who’s dealt with a faction-trait system in YA has done yet that I’ve seen? We always start with bravery and heroism as the Good - and even when later books try to increase complexity it never quite works out, at least not in the series I’ve read. Of course, in HP the House system is hardly the centerpiece or the point of the books, but it is a major part of both worldbuilding and fandom, and I do think that you can see that the intent to make them equally valuable/equally desirable/equally heroic was never there.)