In the previous three installments, we looked at the first idealist House (Ravenclaw, the character that tries to live up to an external ideal above their feelings), and the loyalist Houses (Hufflepuff, who treats and sees everyone as equal of their protection; and Slytherin, who prioritizes their loved ones and focuses on family first). Now let’s look at the other idealist House, Gryffindor.
Gryffindors have a steadfast intuitive sense of their own morality. They feel the most at peace with themselves when acting in accordance to their gut instincts and morality. They are willing to sacrifice their own safety, social harmony, and logic to do what they feel is right. They are willing to make and commit to difficult decisions, even at the expense of things others would not be willing to sacrifice. They believe even if you cannot do it, you should at least try.
Not all Gryffindors show a reckless courage; Neville Longbottom is a perfect example of the Gryffindor spirit. Even though his wand doesn’t work, he still tries hard. Though he isn’t good at spells, he joins Dumbledore’s Army to try. When the other students are reluctant to fight for Hogwarts, Neville exclaims, “Isn’t that what we learned this stuff for?” Though terrified of Professor Snape, he continues to show up for his lessons. He also confronts Harry, Hermione, and Ron when he catches them breaking the rules, for which Dumbledore awards him House Points, because “it takes courage to stand up to your friends.” Though Neville is fearful, he tries his best—and that’s all that’s required to be a Gryffindor: You have an intuitive sense of what is right, and you try to do it.
This ‘intuitive’ gut morality drives Steve Rogers / Captain America. Even when he’s a runt, he is still getting into fights in back alleys over patriotism. He still tries to get into the army by showing up and getting weighed at every station he can find. He’s angry at not being allowed to go out there and make a difference! He isn’t happy just wearing a Captain America suit. His rigid inability to compromise causes him to fight off and on, especially about his friend Bucky, with Iron Man. Tony has a Slytherin desire to ‘get him’ for having killed his parents. Cap won’t allow it. That’s wrong. And he will rip their group apart in his refusal to stand down, causing a Civil War among the Avengers, because he will not back down on his Morals.
That’s the heart of a Gryffindor: stand tall, stand firm, and never back down from your convictions, even if you are a 90 pound “runt.” Or a boy with a borrowed wand who feels terrified of his black-clad, bullying Potions Master. You still show up and try. You must. It feels wrong to do anything less. Even if it causes “conflict” with others.
Star Wars has an excellent depiction of a Gryffindor in Leia, Padme, and Poe. Leia watches her entire planet destroyed, because she’s willing to make that sacrifice for the greater good and hide the plans from Darth Vader. When she meets the free-wheeling Slytherin Han Solo, who at that point is “only looking after myself,” she finds him contemptible and calls him spineless. Her Gryffindor sneers at his lack of a Cause to champion and thinks him a coward because of it. Her fierce willingness to live or die for the Cause drags him into it, because his Slytherin attaches to her (making her ‘his’ to look after / protect), and from there both of them tackle the opposition with gusto. Her ‘take no prisoners’ attitude doesn’t soften as she gets older, either. When Poe becomes a problem, she has him temporarily neutralized for their own good.
She doesn’t want to redeem her son out of a sense of Slytherin “Family first” possessiveness, but because she feels, deep in her gut (and trusts it) that there is still a chance to redeem him and bring him back from the Dark Side. She can’t turn her back on him because it’s wrong. She blames herself for allowing him to go to the Dark Side, and wants to make amends. She kills herself to reach out through the Force, send him a vision of his father’s Force Ghost, and pull him back to the Light, because it is the right thing to do. And the Cause needs him to fight with Rey and defeat the Emperor.
Padme is also an idealist, but it’s all based around her morality, her sense of right and wrong—she champions Causes, fights for Right, she challenges, questions, and pushes at Qui-Gon when she feels he is making stupid, reckless decisions. When Anakin tries to lure her into a relationship, her main argument against it is she does not want to “live a lie.” That would feel wrong. Gryffindors must be true to themselves. She trusts her own instincts about Anakin so much, finding out what he has done, the lengths he has gone to to save her, totally destroy her. She is ‘undone’ and falls apart, because it forces her into a crisis of unbelief. She cannot believe she was so wrong about him, that her gut could mislead her to such a huge degree. And she never has the chance to recover, since she dies in childbirth.
Poe is an aggressive, antagonistic man, fully confident, even arrogant in his gut-instincts of right and wrong—whose recklessness sometimes gets him and others into trouble, but who never doubts he has the moral right or the courage to do whatever he deems necessary, even if that means committing mutiny and taking over a ship. He’s the traditional gung-ho Gryffindor we often see in the Harry Potter novels, but nonetheless trusts his gut. It tells him he can trust Finn. He has an unabashed respect, admiration for, and love for Leia, whose far more prudent, deliberate, and careful decision-making is beyond his more “live and let live” approach. Yet, Leia, because she also trusts her gut, senses his Gryffindor ability to do whatever is necessary for the Cause, and entrusts him with everything. She sees the same fierce determination for Right she has, and forgives his mistakes.
The Gryffindor of Narnia is Lucy. She doesn’t have to ask anyone if saving Mr. Tumnus is the right thing to do—she just knows. She is the first one to speak up and say they can’t let him die or get into trouble because of her. He deceived her, yes, but he repented and then helped her. To do anything less than save him is wrong. She knows to follow Aslan and does it, without question. She knows she ought to follow him in the woods, even without the others, does not, and feels tremendous shame at not having followed her gut, her instincts (Aslan reminds her she doesn’t need others to come with her; she should do what she knows to be right and follow him with or without them). She stubbornly believes in Narnia, because she feels it is real, even when “evidence” proves her wrong.
I think Peter, in the Bible, was a Gryffindor. There’s a reason Jesus said, “You are my rock, and upon you, I will build my church.” Peter hated himself when he ran away and betrayed Jesus three times – because it showed his “cowardice.” It was less than his ideal. It tore him apart. Prior to, and after that, he showed nothing but courage, and was often militant and aggressive in doing so – he cut off a Roman’s ear when they came to arrest Jesus. He was always eager to be beside the Lord and defend him. He could be temperamental and foolish, but also idealistic, and brave.
The world needs Gryffindors to lead the way. Are you one?