Why Is Zacharias Smith a Hufflepuff?

Why Is Zacharias Smith a Hufflepuff?

As a proud Hufflepuff, I believe that one of the greatest mysteries that has yet to be answered in the Harry Potter series is why the spiteful and obnoxious Zacharias Smith was sorted into the house known for its kindness and loyalty. After much thought, I have narrowed all of the possibilities into three theories.

1. Zacharias Smith is a relative of Hepzibah Smith, who is a direct descendant of Helga Hufflepuff.

Even though Smith is one of the most common surnames in Britain, one could argue that there is no such thing as coincidence in Rowling’s books. However, if this Smith family is the same as that of Hepzibah Smith, it still raises the question of how much the Sorting Hat values ancestry when sorting students. This is debatable in and of itself because we have examples of entire families being sorted into one house (the Weasleys), families being divided (the Patils), and even some cases like the Black family where all but one are in a particular house.

But if Zacharias is a descendant of Helga Hufflepuff then this might not matter – being related to the founder could have made him a shoe-in to Hufflepuff. While we can’t be sure of his ancestry, if we were to assume that the Smith family had a long line of Hufflepuffs in their family history (even if we are uncertain that Helga herself was a part of the family tree), Zacharias could have just asked the Sorting Hat to be put in Hufflepuff like the rest of his family. We know that asking the Sorting Hat doesn’t always guarantee you a spot in that particular house (since Neville asked to be in Hufflepuff), but Harry was successful in choosing to be in Gryffindor. Maybe Zacharias was successful in choosing to be in Hufflepuff, with his motivation possibly being that he is part of a family of Hufflepuffs or even related to its founder.

Plausible Theory? YES

2. Zacharias Smith has Hufflepuff traits after all

As much as I wanted to try and redeem Zacharias and prove that he might be suited for Hufflepuff, I noticed that almost the opposite was true. Though possessing characteristics of a certain house is the way that most students are sorted, this is not true for Zacharias Smith because he is almost the opposite of an ideal Hufflepuff. Thinking back to all of Zacharias’s “shining” moments, I decided that it was nearly impossible to prove that he belongs in Hufflepuff because of his character and that it would be better to disprove this theory altogether.

“You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil;”

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

As shown in the quote above, Hufflepuff house values much that Zacharias seems to lack. In Order of the Phoenix, Zacharias is very rude and insensitive to Harry when asking for details on the death of Cedric Diggory and in questioning Harry’s choice of teaching the disarming spell to the DA (341, 392). He even got into an argument with Ron at the Hog’s Head when he criticized Harry and insulted Ron, leading Ron to later call him a “wart” (347). His actions are contrary to Hufflepuff house’s trademark kindness. In addition, Zacharias’s disloyalty is revealed when he chooses to Hogwarts early at the end of Half-Blood Prince, didn’t bother to attend Dumbledore’s funeral, and all of this to put himself out of risk of any further danger (633). Here he is behaving as far from a true Hufflepuff as you can get. Finally, in Deathly Hallows, everything that Zacharias was taught (but apparently did not retain) in Dumbledore’s Army training sessions is overshadowed by his selfishness and cowardice. Not only does he run from Hogwarts before the battle, leaving his friends and teachers behind to fight, but he also pushes the younger students out of the way so that he can run to safety. Zacharias Smith is almost an anti-Hufflepuff, so this possibility is out.

Plausible Theory? NO

3. Hufflepuff Takes “The Lot”

“Said Slytherin, ‘We’ll teach just those
Whose ancestry is purest.’
Said Ravenclaw, ‘We’ll teach those whose
Intelligence is surest.’
Said Gryffindor, ‘We’ll teach all those
With brave deeds to their name,’
Said Hufflepuff, ‘I’ll teach the lot
And treat them just the same.’”

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

There’s always the fact that Hufflepuff house is supposed to take “the lot” if no other house seems to be a good fit for a student. This seems plausible for our friend Zacharias because he doesn’t appear to match the ideal characteristics of a Ravenclaw, a Slytherin, or even a Gryffindor.

While he could internally possess the traits of a Ravenclaw, Zacharias has not outwardly expressed any interest in knowledge, logic, self-expression, or anything that represents Ravenclaw house. He was almost being illogical by believing that Harry was an inadequate teacher when he knew that Harry had escaped Voldemort multiple times by then (Order of the Phoenix). Because we don’t have any evidence that implies Zacharias would be a good fit for Ravenclaw (and we almost have some evidence against it), he would not be well-suited in this particular house. As for Slytherin, cowardice is not an actual trait of Slytherin house, though many of its students that we see within the books possess that trait. We can’t sort him into Slytherin if the only thing that we know for sure that he identifies with within the house is merely a stereotype. Gryffindor can be eliminated very quickly because even though he is proud, he lacks the fundamental quality of every Gryffindor – bravery. Perhaps the Sorting Hat was honoring Helga Hufflepuff’s philosophy that she would take the students who did not fit in anywhere else because from what we know about Zacharias, he’s as much of a misfit in the other houses as he is in Hufflepuff.

Plausible Theory? YES

Conclusion

Since there is no chance that Zacharias Smith is in Hufflepuff house by his personality, there is the possibility that he was sorted there because he had Hufflepuff ancestry, asked the Sorting Hat, or maybe was so unfit for the other houses that Helga Hufflepuff’s tradition of acceptance was the Sorting Hat’s reason for his placement. What do you think is more likely? Does the Sorting Hat give more weight to what house your family was in? If you’re related to a Hogwarts founder, are you immediately sorted into their house? Which theory do you think is most likely? Let me know in the comments below!

  • Carole Stewart

    Um, well, we only see him through Harry’s eyes, so there’s bias involved. Wanting to know how Cedric died is natural because they were in the same house and very possibly on the same Quidditch team. Zach Smith is Quidditch captain in book 6, you don;t get to be in that position without some strong work ethic. I think you’re a bit unfair on him. (I’m a Hufflepuff, too.)

    • KRae

      I think you’re a very true Hufflepuff to come to his defense :) I like that. We do see him through biased opinions, but the tone in which the character is carried out is never very savory. Quidditch does take hard work, but what about kindness? You’re obvioulsy kind, and all other Hufflepuffs we meet int he books have that sense of kindness in them (even Ernie McMillian, who wasn’t super nice to Harry in Book 2 but apologized later).
      Zacharias never shows that side – the Hufflepuff kindness. He doesn’t stick up for anyone, and in the end he runs away.
      Logically, he fits more to the idea of family history or not fitting in the other three houses as opposed to being true, loyal, and kind. (I’m a Ravenclaw)

      • LuxyActually

        Nowhere do they ever state that being a Hufflepuff involves being kind. The strongest Hufflepuff traits are hardworking and loyal. As we only see Zach through Harry’s eyes, we know nothing about his work ethic or his loyalty. I think people assume that he has to be loyal to Hufflepuff or to Harry Potter, but that’s not what the houses are about, he may not be an ideal Hufflepuff, but he’s probably hardworking, and loyal to something (maybe his family?). The ideal model of a Hufflepuff is Cedric, but just like not every Gryffindor is Harry Potter, not every Hufflepuff can be Cedric Diggory.

        Also side note. Hufflepuff’s are not at all kind, they all wore support Diggory/Potter stinks badges. Which is the opposite of kind.

    • Shay

      I think it’s nice to take into account that we did see all of this through Harry’s perspective. I’m a Slytherdor (I’ve taken the test 3 times- first was Gryffindor, the other two Slytherin- which I’ve always perceived as having a very fine line between the two), and I think it’s fair to say we don’t know his whole story. There’s more to people than what we see and what we gain from the short moments we did know him. Not everyone fits into the boxes we think of as that particular house. I’m an example of this- I’m a cross between Slytherin and Gryffindor, and I think it’s a safe bet to say a lot of people are the same way. Who are we to question whether Zach wasn’t in the same boat? We don’t know his whole story, and I argue that the Sorting Hat probably saw more in Zach than he did of himself. He’s loyal to himself. He’s just in wanting answers on how a friend died- he’s also unafraid of the toil when he questioned Harry. Just because he ran from the fight doesn’t mean that he can’t possess good qualities that maybe he doesn’t even know he has.

      • Shay

        He could have just not liked Harry, possibly he thought Harry didn’t earn what fame and attention he was getting. Which is very Hufflepuff- they value hard work and dedication. It’s very very likely that he thought Harry lucked into things and acted as if it was his plan all along. Which happened and I wouldn’t hold it against Zacharias in the slightest.

  • LD

    Perhaps we are confusing kind with just/patience? Regardless..

    I think Zacharias must have had some work ethic, even if we didn’t see it, if he was able to make it to quidditch captain and be part of the D.A. despite the risk and despite his dislike of Harry, Ron, etc.

    I also think the story that we don’t know is very relevant. What we do know is that his haughty father picked him up from school in HBP, therefore he did not attend Dumbledore’s funeral. It is quite possible his family members were not loyal to Dumbledore, or to Harry, and therefore Zacharias’ skepticism and disloyalty to the trio is a form of loyalty elsewhere. He also showed loyalty to Cedric.

    However, Zacharias does show definite cowardice and disloyalty to the school (which he may not be loyal to) and his friends (which he should be loyal to) by fleeing the battle. He also displays a lack of patience in running over the first years and in badgering (hah) Ginny about the ministry. He doesn’t have all the Hufflepuff traits, but I don’t think anyone shows all the traits of their house, or at least display traits of others. Hermione’s intelligence, Collin’s loyalty, Luna’s bravery, etc. I think it was a thoughtful choice to have such a dislikable, impatient, annoying character in Hufflepuff. It shows the diversity in all house, and further exemplifies that we shouldn’t write off all Slytherins, there is good and bad in every house and every one.

  • Hufflepride

    Possibly, he highly values the traits of hufflepuffs. As Hermione says in book 1, “books and cleverness, there are more important things: friendship, bravery.” Hermione subscribes to gryffindor values over her ravenclaw attributes. Potentially, the same is for Zachariah.

  • Nicole L Rivera

    Wow! Well done on the analysis of Smith. Based on your reasoning I would have to go with option 3. I don’t see the Sorting Hat putting anyone in a house just because of their ancestry. Rather, I believe that certain traits run strongly in family line. Then there is also what Dumbledore said about the Sorting Hat sorting too soon. Perhaps Zacharias did have the qualities of a Hufflepuff upon entering Hogwarts and then became jaded along the way? Either way I believe Hufflepuff would be the only house kind enough to receive him. Please keep him out of Ravenclaw–granted he might keep himself out by not being able to answer the password, and we Ravenclaws likely wouldn’t tell him either ;)

    Very interesting post!

  • Huffie_Girl

    He got into Hufflepuff by pure default!