August is half over and summer is winding down, which means that we are almost over with our Pottermore Features of the Week. We have only two more after this, but we will be featuring the content from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets once it is fully released (stay tuned for information once this happens). But, the summer isn’t over yet! This week, we are featuring J.K. Rowling’s entry on the Hufflepuff Common Room.
The Hufflepuff common room is entered from the same corridor as the Hogwarts kitchens. 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’.* As a security device to repel non-Hufflepuffs, tapping on the wrong barrel, or tapping the incorrect number of times, results in one of the other lids bursting off and drenching the interloper in vinegar.
A sloping, earthy passage inside the barrel travels upwards a little way until a cosy, round, low-ceilinged room is revealed, reminiscent of a badger’s set. The room is decorated in the cheerful, bee-like colours of yellow and black, emphasised by the use of highly polished, honey-coloured wood for the tables and the round doors which lead to the boys’ and girls’ dormitories (furnished with comfortable wooden bedsteads, all covered in patchwork quilts).
A colourful profusion of plants and flowers seem to relish the atmosphere of the Hufflepuff common room: various cactii stand on wooden circular shelves (curved to fit the walls), many of them waving and dancing at passers-by, while copper-bottomed plant holders dangling amid the ceiling cause tendrils of ferns and ivies to brush your hair as you pass under them.
A portrait over the wooden mantelpiece (carved all over with decorative dancing badgers) shows Helga Hufflepuff, one of the four founders of Hogwarts School, toasting her students with a tiny, two-handled golden cup. Small, round windows just level with the ground at the foot of the castle show a pleasant view of rippling grass and dandelions, and, occasionally, passing feet. These low windows notwithstanding, the room feels perennially sunny.
* The complexity or otherwise of the entrance to the common rooms might be said to give a very rough idea of the intellectual reputation of each house: Hufflepuff has an unchanging portal and requires rhythmic tapping; Slytherin and Gryffindor have doorways that challenge the would-be entrant about equally, the former having an almost imperceptible hidden entrance and a varying password, the latter having a capricious guardian and frequently changing passwords. In keeping with its reputation as the house of the most agile minds at Hogwarts, the door to the Ravenclaw common room presents a fresh intellectual or philosophical challenge every time a person knocks on it.
Nevertheless, it ought not to be concluded from the above that Hufflepuffs are dimwits or duffers, though they have been cruelly caricatured that way on occasion. Several outstanding brains have emerged from Hufflepuff house over the centuries; these fine minds simply happened to be allied to outstanding qualities of patience, a strong work ethic and constancy, all traditional hallmarks of Hufflepuff House.
J.K. Rowling’s Thoughts
When I first planned the series, I expected Harry to visit all four house common rooms during his time at Hogwarts. There came a point when I realised that there was never going to be a valid reason to enter the Hufflepuff room. Nevertheless, it is quite as real to me as the other three, and I always knew exactly where those Hufflepuffs were going when they headed off towards the kitchens after lessons.
There is a lot to digest here and the main focus for us in our discussion is symbolism. Here’s a few things symbolizing that Hufflepuff is indeed the dimwitted house:
- The location of the common room – the kitchens: For centuries, the kitchens have been the second-homes of maids, servants, slaves, and other lower-class people. Even at Hogwarts, the house-elves reside in the kitchens, and as we all know, house-elves are least thought-of creatures in the Wizarding world for most families. They are basically slaves. Could this be an example of symbolism that the dimwitted and dull students are meant to live in the kitchens along with the filthy house-elves?
- The location of the common room #2: Another symbol regarding the location of the common room could be that the ditzy Hufflepuff students may get lost and forget how to get back to the common room if it was somewhere far up in the castle. They might get confused and not remember which annex of the castle to go. By having the common room in the kitchens, they’re less likely to be confused. It’s easy access from the Great Hall, where they begin and end every day.
- Method of access to the common room – rhythmic tapping: The method of access to the common room says it all. Whilst the other House’s Common Rooms are entered by way of intelligent challenges – difficult questions and riddles – Hufflepuffs are given an unchanging portal which requires “rhythmic tapping”. We all know Hufflepuffs aren’t the most intellectual of Hogwarts students. But are they too dull to correctly answer even the easiest riddle? We’d like to think not!
- The common room never made it in the books: J.K. Rowling says that there was never a time or place that the Hufflepuff Common Room could appear in the books, but we can think of a few ways that it wouldn’t have been too out of touch. What if Harry snuck in to find out information about the Triwizard Tournament from Cedric? In Deathly Hallows, the Trio could’ve encountered the Carrows in the Hufflepuff Common Room instead of Ravenclaw Common Room, right?
Whether you agree or not, there is no denying that there is some unnecessary hate on Hufflepuff.
Do you think Hufflepuff is mis-represented in the books? Do you think the symbolism we described is legitimate? Write your responses to our analysis in the comments below.