Who Is Helga? A Brief History of House Hufflepuff


We look at some of the legends of the wizarding world and how they shaped history. In this installment, we focus on Helga Hufflepuff.

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In the first century of the common era, magic was openly practiced across the world. Wizards and witches mingled with Muggles regularly, and Muggles were willing—sometimes eager—to ask witches and wizards for help with their problems, from illnesses to domestic trials.

But though the magical and non-magicked communities lived together, this should not be mistaken for a time of peace. Indeed, the era known as the “Dark Ages” was dark indeed, and involved famine, pestilence and the struggle to form working countries after the fall of the Roman empire. Then there was the rise of Christianity, and those who preached against people who could perform magic. By the 900s, a major divide between magical and non-magical peoples had sprung up.

During this era, the four greatest wizards and witches of the era got together and founded what would go on to be one of the most widely recognized International Wizarding Academies in the world. In our last installment, we discussed Godric Gryffindor, who might rightly be considered the Dumbledore of his day. This week we look at one of the most remarkable witches of the time period, Helga Hufflepuff, who along with Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin, and Rowena Ravenclaw helped found Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Helga Hufflepuff hailed from Wales, on the far West coast of the UK. During this era, Wales was its own country, and despite the Normans’ attempt to conquer it in the following years, it would not surrender until the end of the 13th century. Helga embodied this stubborn independent streak, both during her rise to fame in the 900s and after the foundation of Hogwarts.

Helga Hufflepuff became an early champion of equality across all peoples.

In an era before “modern medicine,” wizards and witches often functioned as doctors, surgeons and healers, with many non-magical people interacting with them chiefly to obtain herbal remedies, potions, and the like. This was also a time when magical creatures still roamed around freely, as humans were not yet so populous as to be threatened. Many wizards and witches would be called upon to deal with creature infestations, from bogarts in the cupboard to teenage dragons nesting in a barn. Helga’s strengths lay in both of these realms, which is why House Hufflepuff today is still known for its students’ affinity for animals and their ability with plant life.

These talents may have been what brought Helga fame in her day, but because they were valuable to Muggles as well as wizards, it meant that she came into regular contact with Muggles from all walks of life, as well as all different classes of her own people. She didn’t only treat Muggles, either, but also those who the wizarding world today classifies as “magical creatures”: merpeople, centaurs, goblins, elves. Because of her experiences, Helga Hufflepuff became an early champion of equality for all peoples. As someone who healed all creatures, she understood that a magical human life was no more or less valuable than the life of a elf or a dragon or a Muggle.

“I’ll teach the lot and treat them just the same.”

When she was asked to help found a great UK wizarding school, Hufflepuff brought this belief with her—as she saw all creatures as equal, so did she see all students. If she had been able to, she would have accepted elves and merpeople as students. As it was, Hufflepuff would not hear of founding a school and then limiting the student body to only those born to pureblooded magic families. She believed that anyone born with magical abilities should be a student and that anyone who wished to follow her teaching should be a part of House Hufflepuff.

To her, the only traits that mattered were that her students be loyal, fair, and unafraid of hard work, all of which is embodied in her saying “I’ll teach the lot and treat them just the same.” Indeed, her belief was such that when Neville Longbottom asked to be placed in Hufflepuff, he should have been sorted into it right then and there, as to ask is to be accepted into Hufflepuff. (Helga probably would have been very put out over the Sorting Hat insisting it knew what was better for the boy. Typical for a man’s transfigured hat!)

Helga Hufflepuff was also known for her food-related charms and recipes. It is sometimes thought that if she had not founded Hogwarts, she probably would be famous today for her line of cookery books.

Though Hufflepuff has a reputation as the “soft” house full of “duffers,” as Hagrid once put it, this is a reputation that was gained unfairly. As Hermione would tell you, just because one believes in fairness and equality for all beings does not make one soft (see her SPEW campaign.) And although many famous Hufflepuffs are known for their work with plants (like Pomona Sprout) and animals (like Newt Scamander), it is also the home to many famous (and tough) wizards and witches. Hengist of Woodcroft, for example, the founder of Hogsmede, one of the very first all-wizard villages, was an early Hufflepuff student. Minster of Magic Grogan Stump was not only responsible for the creation of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures (which is why most Muggles have never seen a unicorn or a dragon in their lifetimes), but created the entire division of magical lifeforms that we see in use today, in which everyone is classified as a Being, Beast, or Spirits. He attempted to have Merpeople and Cenataurs classified as Beings instead of Beasts, which would have given them access to wands and education, as Helga wished. But they all turned it down, not wanting to be classified in the same categories as hags and vampires.

Artemisia Lufkin was not only a Hufflepuff student, but the first female minister of magic, and one of the most powerful forces in the witch equality movement of the 1700s. She was also instrumental in creating the Department of International Cooperation, and established diplomatic ties with magical governments in Europe and Asia, not to mention the fact that she was the first Minister to bring the Quidditch World Cup to the UK. And Bridget Wenlock, the woman who discovered the magical properties of the number 7, was also a Hufflepuff, proving that numbers and maths are not strictly a Ravenclaw domain.

In more modern times, Hufflepuff has been home to the famous late auror Tonks, as well as the late Tri-Wizard Champion Cedric Diggory, who is also famous as Voldemort’s first victim upon his return at the beginning of the Second Wizarding War.

Next: Ranking the Hogwarts Houses in Harry Potter

Have you been sorted into Hufflepuff? Have strong feelings about it as a house? Is Helga Huffepuff lauded as she should be, or does history tend to undervalue her contributions to wizarding society? Sound off in the comments!