Guest Post: The Meaning of ‘Scamander’

From long-time friend of this blog, Lancelot Schaubert, a big find! Newt’s last name is taken from classical Greek mythology and may point to the number of his coming confrontations with Grindelwald and how the magizoologist may eventually help Dumbledore defeat him. Enjoy!

Newt Scamander, Xanthos, and Achilles

My bride and I started a new book club with our neighbors in Brooklyn called Western Canonball (iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher) where we read through classic literature that’s either new to us or that we read so long ago we’ve forgotten most of it. This brought me across Hesiod’s Theogony for the first time and a new encounter with The Illiad where the name Scamander – as in Newt Scamander – emerged.

Scamander in Greek mythology went by the name Xanthos: a river God. The gods called him Xanthos and men called him Scamander and in the triadic system, that seems to indicate that Xanthos is the consciousness, the god, behind the river and that Scamander is the manifestation, both the man in the Trojan war and the river that flows from Mount Ida straight over the plain that lies before Troy and then it merges as a tributary of the Hellespont. We’ll come back to the river in a minute, but let’s focus on Scamander the man:

The latter part of Scamander’s name comes from the greek word andros like St. Andrew which means “of a man” or “manly” or the thing that comes from manfulness, “courage.” But the first part “scam” doesn’t come from some word for a con man, but rather from either skadzo which means “to limp or stumble” or from the Greek skaios meaning “left-handed” or “awkward.” A limping man or an awkward man is precisely what Newt Scamander is. [Read more…]

Crimes of Grindelwald Trailer Released

Let me know what you think. Why can’t Dumbledore stand against Gellert Grindelwald?

The Elder Wand and ‘Fantastic Beasts’: Who is the Death Stick’s Master?

J. K. Rowling tweeted in response to a question about the Elder Wand from a reader that, with respect to mastery of the Death Stick, “Physical possession is irrelevant.”

J.K. RowlingVerified account @jk_rowling Feb 19

I sent this and another tweet about Lethal White out to my list of Potter Pundit friends (just ask if you wanted to be added to said list) and received responses varying from “Not News” to “So What?” My answer to both those reactions is “Fantastic Beasts.”

 We know the end of the five part series of films, i.e., that Dumbledore will best Grindelwald in a duel for the ages despite the black hat being in possession of the unbeatable Elder Wand. Rowling, consequently, has to set up from the start this epic confrontation and mysterious victory with a host of clues about who is really the master of the Wand of Destiny.

 Hence the importance of “Physical possession is irrelevant” which we already knew from the climax of Deathly Hallows, because Harry’s victory over the Dark Lord was consequent to his “mastering” Draco Malfoy who had never touched the Elder Wand. The disarming of Grindelwald posing as Graves at the end of Fantastic Beasts, then, whether he was holding the Elder Wand in the subway or not, means that whoever disarmed him is now its master.

 So, who disarmed Gellert Grindelwald at the end of the first movie?

[Read more…]

Fantastic Beasts Ring Composition: Reading, Writing, Rowling Podcast

“Reading, Writing, Rowling” Episode 7: “The Beast Within: Chiasmus and Ring Composition in ‘Fantastic Beasts’”

Host Katy McDaniel directs the discussion of structure in Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts screenplay, a discussion featuring Brett Kendall, the Potter Pundit who broke the chiastic code of the Harry Potter series in 2003, and myself, in the Ring Composition corner (if those actually circular rings had corners). The patterns of Rowling’s work when coupled to the baseline mythological story she is re-telling are our best bets for guessing where we’re headed.

Join Katy, Brett, and me on a fun trip into the world of speculative possibilities and most likely story finishes in ‘Reading, Writing Rowling’s Episode 7,The Beast Within: Chiasmus and Ring Composition in FantasticBeasts“!

Beatrice Groves: ‘Nagini Maledictus’ Literary Allusion in Fantastic Beasts

A Guest Post from Beatrice Groves, Research Fellow at Trinity College, Oxford University, and author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter — Enjoy!

John has recently posted on the current fan theory that Claudia Kim’s character in Crimes of Grindelwald – ‘a Maledictus, the carrier of a blood curse that destines her ultimately to transform into a beast’ – will turn into Nagini. 

John notes that ‘the Nagini theory has legs,’ which is a rather satisfying pun. It is pun I particularly like because the serpent in Eden is ‘cursed’ (maledictus) to go without legs:

‘So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.’ (Genesis 3.14)

Or, in the Vulgate (Latin):

‘Et ait Dominus Deus ad serpentem : Quia fecisti hoc, maledictus es inter omnia animantia, et bestias terræ : super pectus tuum gradieris, et terram comedes cunctis diebus vitæ tuæ.’ 

If the Maledictus becomes Nagini it will continue the link between Voldemort and the Satanic snake of Genesis which Rowling began in Harry Potter [John says: see chapter 4 in Prof Groves’ Literary Allusion in Harry Potter]. In Christian visual heritage the Satan-inhabited-snake in Eden is – rather surprisingly – often depicted as half-woman. This rich medieval visual tradition flourished despite the fact that Satan is described by a male pronoun in the biblical text. It culminates in the famous image of Michelanglo’s Satan-as-snake-woman on the roof of the Sistine Chapel. 

Within Harry Potter there are many hints of Nagini as a snake-woman rather than simply a snake. Not only does she take the form of a woman in Deathly Hallows, she also has a disturbingly humanoid relationship with Voldemort from the moment we meet her in Goblet. She tells Voldemort that Frank is listening at the door of the Riddle House and while his not-to-be-named form resembles a baby – ‘the thing… looked like a baby’ (Goblet, Chap. 32) – Nagini keeps him alive with her ‘milk’ fed to him from a ‘bottle’ (Goblet, Chap. 1). Nagini takes the place of the mother to this parody of a child.

Then there is her name. Nagini is a name for Ma Manasa Devi, the Hindu snake goddess: [Read more…]