The history behind the founding of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry hasn’t been fully explained by J.K. Rowling. However, there is some basic wizarding history that was given to us by the author of the saga that every pottered should know.
The founding of Hogwarts
Hogwarts saw founded during the tenth century, a time where magic wasn’t hidden from the muggle world. This was a dangerous time for wizards and witches because it was the beginning of hostile muggle persecution on magic that would only get worse with the next centuries to come.
In order to create a safe place for young wizards and witches to learn magic, four friends decided to establish ‘the world’s best magic school’. Their names were Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, and Salazar Slytherin. In order to protect the school, Hogwarts was to be built in the Scottish Highlands. A place secluded and safe from the rising persecution on magic.
The name that was given to the school also came from one of its founders, Rowena Ravenclaw. It is a popular wizarding theory that says that Rowena had a dream of a warty hog that led her to a cliff by a lake. This location in Rowena’s dream is set to be the place where the school was built. The origin of the school’s name is literal: hog after the hog in Rowena’s dream, and warts since the hog was covered in warts. The combination of the two words created the name Hogwarts.
The founders shared a common goal, to create the best wizarding school, however, each one of the founders had a different idea of what that meant. Each founder wanted to teach a certain type of student, and each one had a different idea of what areas of magic they thought were the most important for those students to learn. For that reason, the school would be separated into four different houses, one for each founder: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin.
The Falling Out
For years, Hogwarts, its founders, and all students lived in property and peace, however, it didn’t last forever. One of the founders, Salazar Slytherin, had a very strong belief that Hogwarts should only be a place for pure-blood wizards and witches. The other founders did not share the same ideas, believing that all wizards and witches should have the opportunity to attend Hogwarts despite their heritage.
Slytherin, also believed that students should learn spells and teaching of the Dark Arts. This was also another view that the founders of the Hogwarts houses’ Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff did not share with Slytherin.
The distrust and grudge that Salazar Slytherin had against muggle-born wizards only grew with time, and so did his misunderstanding with the other founders.
At one point, best friends Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin had a falling out, a duel, that resulted in Salazar being cast out of Hogwarts. This is set to be where the rivalry between Gryffindor and Slytherin houses began.
The Sorting Hat
But before the falling out between Gryffindor and Slytherin, the four founders knew that they weren’t going to live forever. They knew that one day they would be gone, but that students would continue to attend Hogwarts. So, without the founders, who would sort the students into each house?
The founders decided to enchant Godric’s hat. Each founder took their turn enchanting the hat with the values and beliefs of each of their houses. This was the way that the founders found to ensure that students would be sorted to their proper houses based on the student’s and the houses’ values.
And so, the sorting hat was born.
The Four Hogwarts Houses
After the founders, Hogwarts continued holding each houses’ values and teaching the newer generation of wizards. Now that the history has been told, let us dive a little into each specific house.
‘You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart.’
– Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
The Gryffindor house is composed of some of the most well known, and loved, characters from the Wizarding World such as Harry Potter, Ron Weasley — the entire Weasley family for that matter –, Hermione Granger, Professor Minerva McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore, Sirius Black and Remos Lupin.
The house founded by Godric Gryffindor values bravery, daring, nerve, and chivalry. To express those characteristics, the lion was chosen as the houses’ symbol, with the vibrant house colors being red and gold.
Every Hogwarts house has it’s own ghost. The ghost that haunts the Gryffindor Tower is Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, or as the students at Hogwarts like to call him Nearly Headless Nick.
Nearly Headless Nick was a wizard part of Henry VII’s royal court, and in love with Lady Grieve. The Gryffindor ghost was sentenced to death after casting a spell to try to fix Lady Grieve’s crooked teeth. The spell backfired and Lady Grieve grew tusks. He was sentenced to be executed with a dull ax, taking several strikes to cut his head off, but the beheading was never completed. Hence the name ‘nearly headless.’
Those students assigned to Gryffindor reside in the Gryffindor Tower, one of the three tallest towers of Hogwarts Castle alongside Ravenclaw Tower and the Astronomy Tower.
The entrance of the tower is behind the painting of the Fat Lady, and to enter, one needs to present the Fat Lady with the correct password that changes often. If a students gets the password wrong, he or she will have to wait until another student comes by with the correct pass code.
Gryffindor’s common room is located at the base of Gryffindor Tower at Hogwarts, with the dormitories on the top floor. In the books and movies, the common room is shown to be full of big velvet-looking chairs, with a big fireplace, wooden floor, and lots of rugs giving it a homey and cozy feeling. The decoration is also inspired by the house colors, full of shades of red and gold.
The girls’ and boys’ dormitories are located on opposite sides of the Gryffindor Tower, with seven rooms on each side (one for the year Hogwarts year). A fun fact about the stairs that lead to the girl’s dormitories in Gryffindor towers is that they are enchanted.
If a boy tries to go up the stairs that lead to the girls’ dormitories, the staircase will turn into a stone slide sending the boy down to the base of the staircase. According to the book Hogwarts: A History, it is said that the founders believed the girls were more trustworthy than the boys. So, the girl’s staircase was enchanted preventing boys to get up to the dormitories, but that was not true for the boy’s staircase. For that reason, in the books, and in the films you see Hermione several times in the boys’ room, and why possessed Ginny Weasley was able to retrieve Tom Riddle’s diary in the second book Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
However, the enchanted staircase is only true for the Harry Potter books, because in the movies, both boys and girls use the same staircase to access the dormitories: boys on the left and girls on the right.
‘Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw
If you’ve a ready mind
Where those of wit and learning
Will always find their kind.’
– Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Its founder, Rowena Ravenclaw valued intelligence, knowledge, curiosity, creativity, and wit in her students. The house symbol is an Eagle, despite the misconception that it is a raven. The name Ravenclaw means ‘black claw’ which is the color of an Eagle’s claws. The eagle also represents boldness and wisdom reflecting the houses’ values.
The house colors are blue and copper, but in the Harry Potter movies, Ravenclaw is portrayed with blue and silver colors.
Some of the most well-known wizards and witches that were members of the Ravenclaw House while attending Hogwarts were Luna Lovegood, Gilderoy Lockhart, Professor Filius Flitwick, and Garrick Ollivander (yes, the owner of the wand shop Ollivanders in Diagon Alley).
The ghost that haunts Ravenclaw House is no other than its founder’s daughter Helena Ravenclaw, or The Grey Lady.
Helena Ravenclaw met her end at the hands of ‘The Baron’ (who later would become Slytherin’s ghost) when she stole her mother’s diadem and ran away. The Baron was sent by Rowena to retrieve, not only the diadem but her daughter. When The Baron found Helena in a forest in Albania (the same forest Lord Voldemort kept himself hidden for several years), he was jealous of her freedom and he ended up stabbing her when she refused to go back with him. But before she died, Helena hid her mother’s tiara, to be found hundreds of years later by Voldemort.
Like Gryffindor, Ravenclaw’s common room and the dormitory are set in Ravenclaw Tower, one of the three tallest towers ate Hogwarts with Gryffindor Tower and the Astronomy Tower.
To get into the tower, you need to answer a riddle asked by the bronze knocker in the shape of an eagle at the door. The riddle is different each time you enter the tower, and if one gets the wrong answer, they will have to wait until someone else gets it right.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows book, the knocker asks the following riddle to Luna and Harry when they are trying to enter Ravenclaw Tower:
“Which came first, the phoenix or the flame?’
‘Hmm . . . What do you think, Harry?’ said Luna, looking thoughtful.
‘What? Isn’t there just a password?’
‘Oh no, you’ve got to answer a question,’ said Luna.
‘What if you get it wrong?’
‘Well, you have to wait for somebody who gets it right,’ said Luna. ‘That way you learn, you see?’
‘Yeah . . . Trouble is, we can’t really afford to wait for anyone else, Luna.’
‘No, I see what you mean,’ said Luna seriously. ‘Well then, I think the answer is that a circle has no beginning.’
‘Well reasoned,’ said the voice, and the door swung open.”
A wide, circular room with arched windows where blue and bronze silks hung, with a large midnight blue carpet covered in stars that are reflected onto the domed ceiling, Ravenclaw’s common room is one of the airiest of the four house common rooms. The room is also furnished with tables, chairs, and bookcases. By the door leading to the dormitories, there is a tall statue of Rowena Ravenclaw made of white marble.
‘You might belong in Hufflepuff
Where they are just and loyal
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil.’
– Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
The Hufflepuff house founded by Helga Hufflepuff is the house for those wizards and witches that value hard work, dedication, patience, loyalty, and fair play.
The house mascot is a badger, and its colors are yellow and black. Some of the most famous characters in the Harry Potter series that was part of the Hufflepuff house were Newt Scamander (from Fantastic Beasts series), Cedric Diggory, Nymphadora Tonks, and Hogwarts’ herbology professor, Pomona Sprout.
Like the other houses, Hufflepuff is haunted by the ghost of The Fat Friar. According to the wizarding world website, and originally published on Pottermore, the Friar was a jolly fellow that like to help muggles, especially by curing pox. His use of magic to cure the pox aroused suspicions from the senior churchmen, which lead to his death.
The entrance to the Hufflepuff common room resides hidden in the same corridor as the Hogwarts kitchens in the dudgeons.
“Proceeding past the large still life that forms the entrance to the latter, a pile of large barrels is to be found stacked in a shadowy stone recess on the right-hand side of the corridor. The barrel two from the bottom, middle of the second row, will open if tapped in the rhythm of ‘Helga Hufflepuff’.” – J.K. Rowling original writing
If you get the rhythm wrong, or if you are not a Hufflepuff, the lid of a barrel with fly off and you will be drench in vinegar. If you get the password correct, an earthy passage inside one of the barrels will open up and you will be led upwards until you reach the common room.
The Hufflepuff common room is described by J.K. Rowling as ‘reminiscent of a badger’s sett’.The cozy, round, low-ceilinged room has a very cheerful decoration with shades of yellow and black and lots of plants. Over the wooden mantelpiece, there is a portrait of Helga Hufflepuff toasting her students with a small two-handled golden cup. The common room windows are just level with the ground of the castle, giving the sensation of barely being underground.
‘Or perhaps in Slytherin
You’ll make your real friends
Those cunning folk use any means
To achieve their ends.’
– Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
The Slytherin house is the Hogwarts house that has sprung the darkest wizards. However, that does not mean that all Slytherins are dark wizards or evil, which will vary on a person-to-person basis.
Slytherin’s house personality traits are ambition, leadership, self-preservation, cunning, and resourcefulness. Its founder, Salazar Slytherin, had a special hereditary trait, he was a Parselmouth. Parseltongue is the language of the serpents, and a wizard or witch that is a parselmouth is able to communicate with magical — yes, a basilisk — and no magical serpents.
Salazar’s connection to snakes was probably what influenced the Slytherin House symbol to be a serpent.
Some of the most notable members include Severus Snape, Bellatrix Lestrange (the most loyal death eater), Draco Malfoy, Tom Riddle (aka. Lord Voldemort), and one of the most well-known wizards in the Harry Potter universe and outside of it, Merlin.
As mentioned in Helena Ravenclaw’s (aka. The Grey Lady) story above, The Baron was the one responsible for her death. Yet, what has not mentioned in the Ravenclaw portion of this article is that The Baron was a hot-tempered sort man madly in love with Helena Ravenclaw. After being asked by Rowena to go find her daughter and bring her back to Hogwarts, The Baron found Helena, but she refused to return to Hogwarts. In an episode of rage that ended up killing his loved one, and filled with remorse The Baron used the same weapon to take his own life. After his death, the Slytherin ghost was title The Bloody Baron since they were soaked in blood (his own blood, and Helena Ravenclaw’s).
The Slytherin Dungeon, also known as the Slytherin Common Room, is located under Hogwarts in the castle’s dungeons. The entrance is hidden behind the bare stretch of stone wall, and similar to the Gryffindor common room entrance, you need a password to reveal the entrance.
The common room lit by greenish lamps. The common room also stretches under the lake, enhancing the green tinge in the room. The decoration is very sophisticated and dark, filled with low black and dark green leather sofas, dark wood cupboards, and skulls.
If you are a Harry Potter fan but have not yet been sorted into your Hogwarts house, you can do so by clicking here to take the Pottermore quiz.
Hogwarts is one of the eleven, confirmed, wizarding schools worldwide. J.K. Rowling has revealed little about the other wizarding schools in the universe she created, but it is known that only one other school has houses like Hogwarts, the North American wizarding school located in the United States, Ilvermorny. The Ilvermorny houses are named after magical creatures: Horned Serpent, Wampus, Thunderbird, and Pukwudgie.
Which Harry Potter Hogwarts house do you belong to? Did you know all of these facts about Hogwarts, the founders, and each house? Which Harry Potter character from your Harry Potter house is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.