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Chapter Seven The Sorting Hat
(Harry, Ron, and Hermione are sorted into the Gryffindor house at the start-of-term banquet.)
McGonagall receives the first years from Hagrid at the front door and they are led to the start-of-term banquet. But first, the Sorting ceremony takes place, featuring a magical Sorting Hat that sings and places students in one of the four houses (Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, or Ravenclaw) based on the student’s disposition. Hermione and Ron are put into Gryffindor and so is Harry, although the hat did originally consider putting Harry in Slytherin.
At the Gryffindor table, Harry and Ron meet Nearly Headless Nick, Seamus, and Neville. But Harry is disturbed when his scar hurts upon his looking towards Quirrell and the other teachers at the High Table. Headmaster Dumbledore closes the feast by warning students to stay away from the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side. Percy leads the new first years back to the Gryffindor dormitories, and on the way they run into Peeves the Poltergeist. The chapter ends with Harry having a nightmare about Quirrell’s turban, Snape, and Malfoy.
In book four, the Sorting Hat tells of his origins at the hands of the founders of Hogwarts (Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin): “While still alive they did divide / Their favorites from the throng, / Yet how to pick the worthy ones / When they were dead and gone? / 'Twas Gryffindor who found the way, / He whipped me off his head / The founders put some brains in me / So I could choose instead!”
Similar to the Sorting Hat’s origin is a story from Norse mythology. The myth says that when the gods made peace after fighting among themselves, “they all spat into a great jar to seal the treaty. From the divine spittle they shaped a man, called Kvasir. He inherited the gods’ wisdom and his advice was highly valued.” (Evans and Matthews, Norse Myths and Legends, p. 33)
Rowling said of the Sorting Hat: "The character you might be most surprised to see evolve is none other than the Sorting Hat... There is more to the Sorting Hat than what you have read about in the first three books... Readers will find out what the Sorting Hat becomes as they get into future books." (http://www.infoplease.com/spot/harrypotter1.html)
Gryffindor means “Griffin of Gold” in French. The French d’or, “of gold,” is also found in Dumbledore’s name. A Griffin is a half-lion and half-eagle creature that makes a nest of gold. Gold is one of the Gryffindors’ house colors. Gryffindor’s house animal is a lion. Gryffindor’s first name was Godric, and Harry lived in Godric’s Hollow when his parents were killed. Perhaps Harry is a descendant of Godric Gryffindor.
Rowling goes into detail about the food served at the Opening Feast. Rowling recounts that her habit of doing this stems from her childhood book, The Little White Horse. “The author always included details of what her characters were eating and I remember liking that. You may have noticed that I always list the food being eaten at Hogwarts.” (Conversations, 25)
Dumbledore’s warning about the third-floor corridor on the right hand side is an example of “Chekhov's gun.” The Russian playwright Chekhov wrote “If you put a gun onstage in Act I, you must use it by Act III.” A Chekhov's gun is a fictional element (threat, character, mystery, prize, challenge) introduced early and with fanfare and in which the author expects the reader to invest. That investment must pay off with deployment later in the story even if the Chekhov's gun then disappears offstage for a long interval. The out-of- bounds portion of the third floor is a “gun” in that the reader knows that it will come up again.
Caput Draconis is the first password to the Gryffindor common room. Caput is Latin for head and Draconis is Latin for Dragon, so one could interpret the password as “dragon’s head” or perhaps “Draco’s head,” as in Draco Malfoy.
Harry’s nightmare about Quirrell is prophetic. See Dreams, under the Themes section.