In Defense of Ravenclaw

by Nolan

Lately, I have had to endure multiple verbal attacks on the honor of my house.  To provide myself with support to combat these detractors, I visited sites on the internet to ally myself with ideas from other Ravenclaws.  What I found, however, did not buttress my arguments, but rather fulfilled the insults I had to endure.  It was clear that members of my own house did not understand our motto and purpose, and continued to perpetuate the stereotypes that non-members began.  So I would like to describe what a true Ravenclaw should be, and how the Ravenclaw mentality affects the entire wizarding and muggle community.

First of all, I must give a run-down of the basic trait of each house.  Gryffindor house is known for their bravery, Hufflepuffs are loyal, Ravenclaws are smart, and Slytherins crave power.  Each house carries its own stigma or exaggeration.  Hufflepuffs are useless (because that house takes in anyone who does not fit in anywhere), Gryffindors are reckless, Slytherins are evil, and Ravenclaws are arrogant, socially awkward, and just plain boring.  While I could defend each house, for they all need it, I will stick to my own house for this essay.

J.K. Rowling, herself, does not buy into these beliefs.  She describes the Ravenclaws on Pottermore as “clever,” “loving to learn,” and “the most individual.”  These three points broaden the idea of the Ravenclaw and allow for a more fluid definition of the species.

The first and most obvious trait of a Ravenclaw is intelligence.  This belief is corroborated by nearly everyone who knows what Ravenclaw is.  Hermione reveals that the Sorting Hat (the device used to decide the house of the person) almost put her into Ravenclaw on account of her cleverness.  But while this is a starting point for the definition of a Ravenclaw, it does not fulfill it.  Often, people mistake other qualities as intelligence.

Some might believe that the entrance to Ravenclaw tower is evidence of their superior intelligence.  To enter the tower, a person must answer a question posed by the eagle door knocker.  Such questions that were given in the book series are: “What came first, the phoenix or the flame?” and “Where do vanished objects go?”  This does not reveal a Ravenclaw’s intelligence, but rather a love of learning.  Students may be forced to sit outside for hours, figuring out the meaning of a question, before they are let inside.  They think to themselves and out loud, growing in their internal ability to think critically, as well as growing in their ability to learn from one another.  Eventually, the questions become a game, as the students enjoy contemplating answers to complicated questions.  Ravenclaws do not just learn facts or how to do things, but learn why things are the way they are.  And they enjoy it, striving to find answers.

J.K. Rowling also branded Ravenclaws as “the most individual” (take that other houses!).  Along with this, Ravenclaws are eccentric and creative.  Perhaps the most recognizable Ravenclaw in the Harry Potter series, Luna Lovegood is certainly eccentric.  She is not a boring book worm, obsessed with studying, but an insightful, inquisitive girl with a unique way of looking at things.  In the books, Harry describes Luna as forcing uncomfortable silences by revealing odd truths.  Her bizarre manner of speaking often forces characters to consider unorthodox ideas.  She opens Harry’s mind.  This is a definite trait of Ravenclaw because with learning comes creativity, a flexible mind that enjoys contemplating the unthinkable.

Yes, Ravenclaws like to think.  They are defined by their intelligence, love of learning and creativity.  While these characteristics are not reserved for Ravenclaws, alone, after all, Hermione was a Gryffindor, they are the rules that they follow in life.   They adore learning not for the prospects of a job or power, but for the sake of their own mind and interests.  Most Ravenclaws would not shut themselves away, studying their life away.  They understand that they must live to the fullest potential, which means participating in relationships and new experiences.

Some examples of historical figures that would most likely be in Ravenclaw are: Socrates, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Vincent van Gogh, Vladamir Lenin, and John Lennon.  A philosopher, poet, artist, politician, and musician; all understand that there is more than this.  John Lennon might have done poorly in school, but he was amazingly perceptive.  When given a prompt in school about what he wanted to be when he grew up, he wrote “happy.”  The teacher said he didn’t understand the assignment and Lennon said she didn’t understand life.  Ravenclaws search for that age old question, “what is life?”  They would agree with Socrates’ assertion that “the unexamined life is not worth living”, because learning is the key to life.  The answer to the question, “What came first, the phoenix or the flame?” is not found in a book, but in the creativity of one’s own mind.  Ravenlcaws celebrate the human inspiration found in each person, which creates meaning in life.

So people should stop abusing the virtues of Ravenclaws.  Sure, we can be obnoxious sometimes, maybe even pompous (Ernie MacMillan was a Hufflepuff, and he’s the pompous one).  But the fault is not with the tenants of the house.  The beliefs of Ravenclaw are vitally important to the entire community, as all people rely on their own inspiration and creation to find meaning.  As any true Ravenclaw would tell you, it’s impossible to come up with a complete definition of our house; we can only try to describe it.  And so, I leave you with the incomplete, yet official motto of Ravenclaw: “Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.”  -Rowena Ravenclaw (J.K. Rowling).

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  • ravengirl

    yes i am in ravenclaw too…and wholeheartedly support nolan…….

  • Iain Walker

    Hmm. I always find it curious that Luna is so often held up as an ideal Ravenclaw when in the books it’s very clear that her fellow Ravenclaws don’t agree – for her first three years at Hogwarts she seems to have been completely friendless and indeed is the target of teasing and bullying from her housemates, who seem to think it’s a laugh to nick her things and hide them.

    One part of the explanation may well be that she isn’t an ideal Ravenclaw at all – she’s certainly an insightful and intuitive thinker, in many respects wise beyond her years, but she is not an analytical thinker by any stretch of the imagination. She is, in fact, quite credulous, a flaw which according to Rowling she manages to partially overcome as an adult. One can imagine her dorm-mates repeatedly demanding “What’s your evidence for that?” and getting increasingly frustrated by her non sequitur answers.

    So sorry, but if you want to argue that creativity is an important Ravenclaw virtue (and I’m certainly not saying it isn’t), you’re better off not citing Luna as your example, because in the books, Luna’s particular brand of creativity seems to get no respect from her fellow Ravenclaws. At all.

    • harry_hermione2

      To be honest, isn’t it a contradiction when you say “creativity is an important Ravenclaw virtue”, “Luna is an insightful and intuitive (which can mean creative) thinker and has got her own particular brand of creativity”, but argue that citing the creative Luna as an example of a creative Ravenclaw is not right? If we do not cite an unique, original and creative person as the symbol of creativity, should we instead cite a bookish Ravenclaw?
      In my opinion, possessing a typical House trait does not guarantee respect from Housemates. On one hand, there can be different aspects of House traits, like some are very hot-headed like Ron and some are just obsessed with defending the honour of justice like Hermione. They both possess typical House traits but can be different kinds of people who are difficult to get along before they know more about each other. Just like the old metaphor of two hedgehogs not being able to hug each other without getting hurt.
      On the other hand, even people with same character can be difficult to get along with each other, especially people who are “individual”. Think of all the philosophers. They are typical Ravenclaws who fit exactly the description mentioned in the passage, yet most of them are loners. Some people are born with logical thinking. They will start from books, logics, evidence and critical thinking. Others are born empathetically and creatively like Luna whose thoughts are farther than anyone can fathom. They start from different base, as long as they all love to think, learn and improve themselves, they will learn the importance of opposite side and reach the middle ground they conceive as life.