The Harry Potter Universe Expands
The Harry Potter Universe Expands
By: Brianna Noll
Recently, I discovered the term cryptozoology, which refers to the search for (more so than the study of) animals from legend and folklore. Think Finding Bigfoot, or people who try to photograph the Loch Ness monster. I mean, I’ve known that there are people who do this, I just didn’t know it had a name. And what a name! Cryptozoology comes from the Greek kryptos (“hidden”) + zōon (“animal”) + logos (“knowledge,” “study”): literally, “the study of hidden animals.”
The world created by J.K. Rowling for the Harry Potter series has its own version of cryptozoology, but whereas cryptozoology is a pseudoscience, magizoology is a “legitimate” field. We first learn about magizoology in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a textbook for first-year students at Hogwarts that was made into a book we mere muggles could buy and read in 2001. The book is penned by Rowling’s character, Newt Scamander, perhaps the most famous magizoologist (next to fan favorite Luna Lovegood), and the protagonist of the new film series to be set in the Harry Potter universe. Rowling herself will be writing the screenplay for this series because, of course, she knows this world best. She’s reported as saying, “Having lived for so long in my fictional universe, I feel very protective of it.” For me, this means the film series will be an extension of the Harry Potter canon, rather than an adaptation of it, and that makes it all the more appealing. (I’m really stifling the urge to leap with excitement). So here’s what we know about the source for this new project, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. First, the book lists 75 species of magical creatures, including dark creatures, plus ten sub-species of dragon. It discusses beasts familiar to fans of Harry Potter, like centaurs, hippogriffs, and werewolves, as well as creatures we’ve yet to encounter, like graphorns, pogrebins, and chizpurlfes. Plus, of course, the Yeti. When muggles look for Yeti, they’re cryptozoologists, dismissed for seeking out fictions; when wizards look for Yeti, not only do they find them, but no one teases their work.
Next, Newt Scamander himself. His mother bred hippogriffs, so he was exposed to the care of magical creatures from a young age. And, in typical Rowling style, his name says a lot about him. His full name is Newton Artemis Fido Scamander. His first and last names recall newts and salamanders, and Fido is clearly a common dog’s name. And Artemis, if we recall our Greek mythology, is the Greek goddess of the hunt. The character’s life work, a search for animals, is embedded in his name.
We know that Newt Scamander travels all over the world to find these magical creatures. He observes them, often tames or befriends them, and sometimes has to fight them off. This seems like pretty good fodder for a film series, particularly as it’s set in a world familiar to a lot of moviegoers, and it’s able to present its own new storylines. There’s also the potential for a lot of action and danger. We learn from FBaWtFT that the Ministry of Magic ranks magical creatures with a series of X’s, ranging from XXXXX, creatures that are deadly to humans and impossible to domesticate, to X, the label for “boring.” I expect we’ll see a lot of XXXXX’s, and not a lot of X’s.
Rowling’s suggested that the setting for this project will begin in 1920s New York, which allows for a particularly American take on witchcraft and wizardry. Because so much of what we know about wizardry is British in nature, it will be nice to see magic in America. So far, we’ve only gotten a brief reference to the Salem Witches’ Institute in Goblet of Fire. But I imagine that we won’t be limited to just the U.S.—I expect that, if this is truly to be a series of films and not a single picture, we’ll get to see magic, and particularly magical creatures, across the globe.
This will appeal to the inner cryptozoologist in all of us.
About the Author: Brianna Noll is a PhD candidate in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is also the the Poetry Editor of The Account (facebook here, website coming soon). Recent poetry and prose can be found here and here. Her interests include poetry (of course), magical realism, the fantastic, Japanese language and art, anime, Harry Potter, and puppies. Brianna is a recurring guest contributor to Have You Nerd and has been featured as HYN’s ‘Nerd of the Week.’