Crimes of Grindelwald: The Salamander

Here are three notes about the “salamander eyes” conversation in Crimes of Grindelwald and the literary alchemy of it. Believe it or not, I think Tina and Newt’s back-and-forth in the French Ministry’s Records Room amounts to something like a wedding proposal and her acceptance, an alchemical wedding of fire and water, the aquatic newt and the fiery salamander. First, we’ll review the conversation from the Original Screenplay (sic), then the mystery of Tina’s volunteering “Salamander” to finish Newt’s sentence about the quality of her eyes, and finally, the alchemical glyphs and cryptonyms involved! All after the jump —

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Three Crimes of Grindelwald Reviews

My head is still very much buried in the idea that Newt Scamander may be the long-lost Dumbledore rather than Credence Barebone, but, while I wrestle with that idea, its promise as well as its absurdity, I want to share three critical reviews of Crimes of Grindelwald I have been sent by thoughtful readers. Each represents a point of view that you won’t find at fan sites like MuggleNet or here at HogwartsProfessor and every one of them presents a challenge to lazy reading and acceptance of the film.

Kim Kirby writes in ‘Magic without Wonder: Fantastic Beasts as a Cautionary Tale’ that the Crimes of Grindelwald differs from and is much less satisfying a story than the Harry Potter novels and film adaptations because they lack the originals’ excitement of discovery about the enchanted world in which we live and and of which we were largely unaware.

Kadeen Griffiths explores the tired “tragic mulatto” narrative Rowling employs in the life (and death?) of Leta Strange. Leta Lestrange’s Storyline In ‘The Crimes Of Grindelwald’ Is The Last Straw For Me As A Black ‘Harry Potter’ Fan is worth a read despite its neo-Marxist PC content because it highlights and reminds us of the relative laziness of Rowling in her Cursed Child  bad-dad story and misappropriation of Native American beliefs in ‘History of Magic in North America.’ Will Newt turn out to be as good as he is with animals because his mother was a Native American — and ‘all Indians have a mystic relationship with the natural world’? Egad.

The Rev Ted Giese raises a subject, the proverbial elephant in the reading room, inLosing the Magicthat few have the courage to discuss, namely, the centrality of Dumbledore’s relationship with Grindelwald to the story line and the embedded messages about same sex marriage in the Queenie-Jacob broken engagement. Giese thinks that Rowling and Warner Brothers are trying to satisfy simultaneously the LGBTQ+ members of their audience and the traditional believers on these points (not to mention the Chinese censors…) which deftness requires a subtlety that softens the messaging and blurs the story-telling.

Let me know what you think of these reviews — and please feel free to share in the comment boxes below others that are as challenging and novel!

 

Is Newt Scamander a Dumbledore?

Last night I was re-reading a post that a reader had told me in the comment boxes had two undecipherable sentences. I found a link in that Fantastic Beasts 1 deleted scenes discussion to Rowling’s having said in an interview that the Demiguise was her favorite fantastic beast: “They have the ability to become invisible at will, which is a power that has always appealed to me, so I love the Demiguise.”

I wondered, “Could the Demiguise be Newt’s Patronus?” That would be a nice surprise and appropriate somehow, given Newt’s private nature and that he baby-sits all his magical creatures the way Dougall does the baby Occamy in the first Beasts film. I googled “Newt Scamander patronus” to see if anyone else had thought of this before I shared it here.

No, no one had written it up online at least. But I learned through that search that Rowling had been asked the question on her Twitter feed and she had responded that telling us Newt’s Patronus would be a “Big Spoiler.” I sent this information to my private cadre of Potter Pundits along with my Top Ten list of probable Patroni (Patronuses?) for Newt and the request that they share any beasts I left out that would be “Big Spoilers.”

Beatrice Groves, author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, immediately responded with, “I feel like a phoenix would make the biggest spoiler…!” When pressed for her reasoning, i.e., was she suggesting that Newt was a Dumbledore,  she shared,

I wasn’t meaning anything too wild – just that Newt was also a Dumbledore! (given that Dumbledore’s patronus is a Phoenix – so in this case it can be about who you are, not just who you are in love with). Given the phoenix imagery in Crimes of Grindelwald – and the idea that this bird proves you are a Dumbledore, I’d have thought it was one of the beasts with the most symbolic potential in the series hence the one with biggest spoiler potential *and* we don’t know anything about Newt’s parentage?

I wasn’t working from the ‘who might Newt be?’ end of things, just from the ‘what animal might be the biggest spoiler?’ end of things!

Huh. Newt Scamander a Dumbledore? … That would be a big reveal if Rowling’s telling us Newt’s Patronus suggested that. Join me after the jump for discussion of this “Big Spoiler” theory, ‘Newt Scamander-Dumbledore.’

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Crimes of Grindelwald: Homunculus

Susan Sipal posts fun YouTube videos about the Fantastic Beasts film franchise in which she breathlessly offers up theories about what is really happening in the movies. I recently recommended her as one of three Crimes of Grindelwald critics to read if you’re looking for challenging commentary beyond our analysis at HogwartsProfessor.com.

I wrote then that Sipal was something of a moving target because she changes her positions with each video, and, sure enough, she has dumped the ideas she offered in the discussion I recommended for an alchemical theory of who Credence/Aurelius really is. ‘Aurelius’ or ‘the Golden One,’ she now believes is the product of an alchemical experiment gone wrong or left unfinished at the time of Gellert and Albus’ break-up and Ariana’s death. Credence/Aurelius according to this view is an alchemical homunculus. The video is posted here and a transcript  can be read here.

Sipal offers three citations from the text to support this idea:

(1) “A baby Chupacabra — part lizard, part homunculus, a blood-sucking creature of the Americas — is chained to GRINDELWALD’s chair.” (Scene 2, p 2)

(2) “We see TEENAGE DUMBLEDORE and TEENAGE GRINDELWALD facing each other in a barn. Both score their palms with their wands. Now bleeding they interlace their hands…” (Scene 73, p. 163)

(3) GRINDELWALD “The path has been laid, and he is following it. The trail that will lead him to me, and the strange and glorious truth of who he is….” “Credence is the only entity alive… who can kill him [Albus Dumbledore].” (Scene 46, pp 96-97)

The argument of the theory, drawn out from these text citations, combined with interpretation of an image of a homunculus found via Google images at this web site, and Grindelwald’s referring to Credence more than once in Crimes as “my boy,” is that Credence is the love-child consequent to the Alchemical Wedding of young Gellert and Albus. The reference to a barn as the site of the Blood Pact is important, Sipal suggests, because Paracelsus says the creation of a homunculus involves a horse (see the Wikipedia entry for Homunculus for that reference). From the transcript of Sipal’s video:

The nature of Credence as a human created by these two young gods would open up so many themes and questions to be explored, some already touched on in the series: experimental breeding, or eugenics, manipulation of matter via physics, cloning, and perhaps free will, but also the rights of same sex couples to marry and have children. In fact, as Bestiary points out, it’s possible that the blood pact is in fact a marriage between Albus and Gellert.

I will be writing about the alchemical imagery in Crimes of Grindelwald in the coming weeks, work that Elizabeth Baird-Hardy began with her post on Midsummer Night’s Dream last week. The homunculus is on my list of things to discuss, especially in light of what Lyndsey Abraham writes in The Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery and its use in Goethe’s Faust and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I’ll weigh the possibility of whether Credence was an alchemical homunculus at greater length then, but, for now, I think Sipal’s theory, Credence Homunculus’ has to be included among the more interesting theories of Credence/Aurelius’ origin, along with the ‘Credence Ariana Theory‘ of Bob Rectenwald and the ‘Credence Gaunt Theory‘ of Leslie Barnhart.

I say this despite it being a departure both from metallurgical alchemy’s symbolic descriptions of the homunculus — which birthing involves the death of the Red King and White Queen — and from Rowling’s previous literary alchemical work, in which there is a ‘Philosophical Orphan’ naturally born that becomes the Philosopher’s Stone. It is, after all, the bicentennial of the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein which may have been on Rowling’s mind as she planned the five films. Let the conversation begin!

Update: Did I say “moving target”? Here is Sipal’s latest on her Credence Homunculus Theory.’ I’m told she discusses Faust. Cheers!

Cursed Child: Rowling Video Testimony

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on 25 November broke the Broadway record for biggest gross earnings in a week with $2.4 million taken in. The record the play broke was also held by Cursed Child in June of this year ($2.3 million). The interview highlights below, though filmed while Rowling was in New York to highlight the last Crimes of Grindelwald trailer’s release, was only published yesterday. It is, for the most part, pablum. You can read the transcript of the interview highlights here.

Rowling was much more forthcoming in an interview she did with her Cursed Child collaborators last year. You can read the transcript of her September 2017 interview here.

Having only read the play, I’m not a fan of Cursed Child — it’s hard to accept, frankly, that it is a Potter story over which Rowling exercised more than veto power — except for the fact that it is bringing non-theater goers into Broadway and London theater seats. Potter Pundits I admire who have seen the play, though, have important things to say about it, much of it in admiration; four of them chatted with Katy McDaniel and me about the experience of Cursed Child on this ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ podcast.