He Left Us Quite Downhearted

by Cheri Mathieu

After reading Order of the Phoenix yet again, my attention came across some lines we have all read multiple times…

This excerpt is from the Sorting Hat’s song:

“And at last there came a morning
When old Slytherin departed
And though the fighting then died out
He left us quite downhearted.
And never since the founders four
Were whittled down to three
Have the houses been united
As they once were meant to be.”

(206, OotP)

I believe when Salazar Slytherin left Hogwarts, the school was literally left “downhearted” but none more so than the House of Slytherin.

I read “downhearted” in the excerpt above and realized that the modern house of Slytherin has virtually no heart – “heart” meaning no happiness or joy. HP sleuths are always fussing over whether Slytherin house is evil or not, but I think few of us have thought about whether these people are happy or not. Slytherins are never sincerely smiling in the books – the only time might be when they think they won the house championship, and even that joy may have come from simply beating the other houses (a pride accomplishment if you will – not true joy in self-accomplishment). These students have no real joy in themselves. Slytherins are always trying to make everyone else in the school miserable and they all have terrible attitudes (as far as we know). Why do the Slytherins do this? Why are they so extremely negative? If you will remember with me about how human emotions work, you will remember that the #1 reason people (especially young people) do unkind things – even malicious things – to others is because they have no happiness or joy within themselves. This is an accepted fact in mental and emotional health studies.

I don’t think it is coincidence that an entire house suffers from a lack of joy; there is a reason why Slytherin House is “downhearted.” When Salazar left Hogwarts in a huff, the school became cursed – either by Salazar’s doing or by the school’s own brand of magic. The entire school became downhearted by the contention between houses and the unhappiness of their fellow house (Slytherin), and the House of Slytherin became cursed with depression, unhappiness, and a lack of true joy.

There is a lot of speculation about how the Hogwarts houses will be unified. The biggest roadblock in unifying Hogwarts is the Slytherin’s negative and “downhearted” approach. I think this curse the school and Slytherin House are under will play a major part in the process of unifying the school’s houses. Once the curse is lifted (I have no idea how), the path to unification will be rather easy because Slytherin students will no longer be so problematic in future negotiations and truces between houses. There will be hope, and the houses will probably start getting “matey” with one another.

We’ll have to wait and see what Jo is planning for our beloved Hogwarts to know for sure… All we can do is think, discuss, and think some more.

If you have any comments or questions for me, please send them to cheri_Mathieu at yahoo dot com.