So, I am in the middle of rewatching Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Sorting Hat scene just occurred... And I have questions!
We’ll set aside issues that are strictly problems of the film, such as why the sorting of students seems to be in a rough order of plot relevant characters first (with a quick cameo of the director’s daughter as Susan Bones just to make it not too obvious), or the Hat’s seeming to talk out loud when saying Harry would do well in Slytherin. Obviously, these were things necesitated by the medium of film. (You don’t want to take screen time up with dozens of alphabetical but non-plot relevant sortings, and internal dialogue is rather difficult to portray on film.)
Rather, my questions have to do with the process of sorting.
We have four houses at Hogwarts, and (as seen in the image above) they are typically portrayed as having roughly equal populations. So does this mean that the school aged wizarding population of the United Kingdom honestly has an even distribution of the personality traits sought by each house?
What happens if, hypothetically, there is a year when the majority of students happen to all have, say, a strongly studious outlook? Do they all get sorted into Ravenclaw, and the other houses get shafted? Or does the Hat then look for other (slightly less) strong personality traits in an effort to equalize the houses? In interviews, Rowling has insisted that the Hat is never wrong, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some students (as evidenced by the Hat’s discussion with Harry during his sorting) who might do equally well in multiple houses.
If Hermione had a surname later in the alphabet, and if more Gryffindors had been sorted before her turn came up, could she have ended up in Ravenclaw? If Harry’s last name had been, say, Zimmer rather than Potter, might the Hat have been more reluctant to take Harry’s wishes into account and gone along with its original assertion that Slytherin could help him on his way to greatness?
Or should I just tell myself, “It’s a children’s book/movie, just shut up and enjoy the story!”