Finding the Fantastic Beasts Text, 5.5 — Lumos and the Barebones Orphanage

5.5: The Original Story was Much More About the Barebones Orphanage

Lumos is a charity founded by J. K. Rowling, who pays all the foundation’s costs so that every donation goes directly to help children in institutional care join or re-join a family.

logo7Lumos (

Founded in 2005, Lumos provides help to institutionalized and disadvantaged children and works towards putting an end to the outdated social care systems, helping to move children from institutions to family-based care.

Its stated goal is to eliminate institutional orphanages by 2050. Rowling has said as recently as the fund raiser she did with Eddy Redmayne at the Fantastic Beasts premiere that the work and accomplishments she is most proud of are her efforts for and the achievements of Lumos.

jkr3Not the Hogwarts Saga or her Strike novels. Not the movies and theme park Golgotha Goliath Money-making Machine. Not her financial and evangelical political contributions or the significant charitable outreach she has made to cure MS and to help single parents. The efforts and achievements of Lumos are what J. K. Rowling is most proud of. This work to take-down institutional child care and serve families is what she hopes is her legacy, how we will remember her.

I think it fair to say that she is sincere in this. I wrote in 2010 and have said often since that Rowling would one day return to to the Wizarding World, despite her insistence that she would never write another Harry Potter novel. I qualified this prediction by saying she would only when her charity efforts required or she felt they would grow exponentially with a significant infusion of money only Harry Potter type projects could make her. It is not prophecy or guess work to think that her 2016 double-barreled return to Potter-dom was to advance the work of Lumos.

logo5She’s made some serious money in 2016, right? First, via Cursed Child promotion sans writing — the published text of the play written by two London wordsmiths was the best selling book of the year, a significant amount of which profits The Presence must have pocketed for having her name positioned predominantly over the actual authors. More, though, via Fantastic Beasts, from which Rowling profits as screenwriter, the fees Warner Brothers pays her, and whatever percentage she receives from book tie-ins, toys, and re-vitalized theme park attendance.

I think this return, prompted as it was by the 800 pound gorilla in Hollywood threatening to make a documentary out of textbook Fantastic Beasts (or so the narrative goes), was to help Lumos reach its Herculean goals. The most obvious pointer to that is how much Rowling did at the Film Premiere to raise money for and awareness of Lumos’ efforts.

fb42The film shows us this, too, albeit in decidedly, curiously muted fashion. There is an orphanage of sorts in the film, one run by the New Salem Philanthropic Society’s leader Mary Lou Barebone. She has three orphans she has adopted and seems to have a Fagin-esque soup kitchen and boarding arrangement for waif children that distribute NSPS literature.

An important premise of the film is that these adopted children are abused; Mary Lou does not beat Credence on screen with his belt, but he hands it to her and they march off-stage to what will clearly be his corporal punishment. It is his imminent beating that leads to the Obscurus attack that kills Mary Lou and Chastity late in the movie.

logo9The NSPS, though, and life in its service at the unfeeling orphanage are given much less screen time than, say, Newt and company chasing Niffler, Erumpent, and Demiguise babysitting Occamy. Rowling’s commitment to Lumos and Voldemort’s birth as a psychopath being in an orphange would make even the casual reader assume we’d get more of this workhouse-in-Oliver theme. Was it perhaps the subject of the “too dark” down-in-the-sewers first script that Rowling said made her wonder what was going on in her life when she wrote it? There are clues and story-holes that suggest it might have been. Read about them — after the jump! [Read more…]

Unlocking ‘Fantastic Beasts,’ Part Five So What? The Found Text & Its Meaning

fb7I have spent the better part of three days writing up the fifth and concluding part of this series of posts on ‘Unlocking Fantastic Beasts: Finding the Text’ and I have to confess to both bewilderment and some satisfaction. I am bewildered because every day, often several times a day, I have learned something new about the Fantastic Beasts screenplay and how it came into the form it has taken at last as the “original screenplay” and film. What satisfaction I am experiencing is consequent only to acknowledging that, short of a tell-all report from The Presence or the filmmaking trio of Yates-Heyman-and-Kloves, we’re never going to know the reality behind the public narrative and, because we will never see that explanation of the sausage making, what we do have is enough to be getting on with.

fb-script-shotThe goal of this investigation has been to arrive at a text that we can use for interpretation of the story, for speculation about where Rowling is headed, and for understanding of the work in relation to the author’s other work. That text is the shooting script, the third or fourth draft Rowling made in collaboration with the filmmakers, the work that existed before the filmmakers made their choices about how to reshape and to cut the story so it became a more conventional film experience. I think after the exercise of the last four posts in this series we have a much better grasp of what the shooting script contained. This fifth post is a summary of those findings and a beginning of the interpretative, speculative, and contextual examination this text will allow.

I sent a few friends a draft of this final post and only one responded. No doubt this was due in part to the Western Christian communities’ celebration of Christmas. I think, though, it was at least as much due to the great length of this concluding chapter. It’s much too long to have in one mammoth posting, so, to encourage comments on its various points, I am dividing it into ten parts and will put them up in batches over the next several days here. Thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts as we go along. I will post a round up as well as a long version of it with all ten parts but that version will be closed to comments from readers.

f38811174This post is #1600 at HogwartsProfessor and marks the tenth anniversary of the site in its current WordPress weblog format. I am grateful for and am obliged to share my thanks to Travis Prinzi for reformatting and maintaining the site for years and years, to my fellow HogwartsProfessors Elizabeth Baird-Hardy, Louise Freeman, and Emily Strand, to our many Guest Posters, and most especially, you, the site’s readers. Without you, your interest and feedback, your kind support, none of this would have happened or been as enjoyable and as rewarding as it has been. Look for a post devoted to the anniversary in the New Year and for special events throughout the year to mark the milestone. Thank you again for showing up at HogwartsProfessor.

After the jump, Part 5A of ‘Unlocking Fantastic Beasts: Finding the Text,’ an introduction and review of what we were told in the film and its published form, the “original screenplay.” [Read more…]

Finding the Fantastic Beasts Text, 5.1 — The Story of the Text We’re Looking For

fb21After reviewing the story we were given in the cineplex and on the printed page, our first step in rescuing the lost elements of the shooting script, Rowling’s last draft, is clarifying why such an effort is necessary, i.e., that a significant difference exists between shooting script and “original screenplay.”

The first two posts in this series (see Round Up at bottom for links to all the posts in this series), one on Rowling as Screenwriter and the second on the Filmmakers Yates and Heyman, suggests an unusual sequence of story development which ended, not with Rowling, but with the Director and Producer editing the film they’d shot from her final text. Other than the production of several drafts, which Rowling has said is her usual creative process, the genesis and method of this screenplay has almost nothing to do with Rowling’s previous writing with respect to control of story.

The story only comes into existence, for one thing, because Warner Brothers is determined to revive and expand their most successful franchise and property, Harry Potter specifically and J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World in general. The author had refused to write a sequel to Harry Potter and kept that promise by “approving” a story that was made into a London stage production, Cursed Child. That effectively shut the door on future film blockbusters about Harry and friends.

fantastic-beastsWarner Brothers, however, bought the option to a Hogwarts School textbook Rowling had written for charity with the intention of making it into a “documentary.” Rowling, as Heyman puts it, “got wind of” this project and clearly was non-plussed at the prospect of what this money-grab from Warner Brothers would look like (and do to her reputation and legacy). She had some back-story notes about Newt Scamander, the author of the textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and elected to put them together as a story, I presume to forestall Warner Brothers’ butchering of her imaginative sub-creation. Warner Brothers was happy to have her take on the role of screenwriter, if this was not their aim all along, indeed if this entire narrative is not a fairy tale covering of intense financial negotiations about what the movie Megalith could and couldn’t do without The Presence’s approval or participation (see Heyman’s stuttering on this point in the first part of our series). 

More on how the text we’re looking for came into existence — and was lost after shooting in the film editing process — after the jump! [Read more…]

Finding the Fantastic Beasts Text, 5.2 — Theseus the Hero and Newt Scamander

Welcome back! Time to restore the text of Fantastic Beasts to the shooting script “book.” First stop, Newt’s entrance on the ship as it docks in New York.

img_5801aAs explained in part 4 of this series (all ‘Unlocking Fantastic Beasts‘ links are at the bottom of each post), MinaLima created a prop letter written by Theseus Scamander to his brother about Gellert Grindelwald’s escape and the efforts to recapture him. The LEGO Dimensions stop-picture animation video of the movie has Theseus reading this letter aloud in voiceover to Newt who is seen reading it on his advent to New York City on an ocean liner. The movie and “original screenplay” elected to cut this out and give us our Gellert Grindelwald introduction and story bracket, the open parenthesis for the movie, just in the bad guy’s escape and in a newspaper montage.

That Gellert escape and montage works as a bracket, certainly, with the big Grindelgraves reveal at the finish in the subway being the close bracket. That choice of start instead of the Theseus letter in the shooting script also points to Interrogation Room Graves in the story center as Grindelwald by the formula requirements of a ring composition’s story turn (the center reflects the opening-close latch).

fb32At least as important, though, is what this beginning omitted by not featuring the letter, the all-important mentioning of the name Theseus at the start. Without that note, the later mention of Newt’s brother Theseus, “the war hero,” in the Magical Congress at Newt’s appearance from the suitcase Tina opens, consequently, is not a marker of the beginning of the story turn as it should have been. More important, we lose Rowling’s reference, consequent to her being a Classical Studies in Mythology student at the University of Exeter, to the mythological hero’s adventure that Newt is about to repeat, more or less.

theseus4Newt’s adventure in Fantastic Beasts, in other words, has a ‘Theseus and the Minotaur’ scaffolding, a story template Rowling signaled with the letter at the start and the mention of “the war hero” brother’s name again at the turn.

If your Greek mythology is a little rusty, here is a thumbnail sketch of Theseus’ most well known adventure.

The Minoans on Crete have commanded their vassal state in Athens to send them seven warriors and seven virgins every nine years as a sacrificial demonstration of their fealty. These flowers of Athenian youth are fed to a Minotaur, half man, half beast, who lives at the center of an inescapable maze. Theseus, the son of the Athenian king, volunteers to go to Crete as an offering to kill the Minotaur and free Athens from this curse.

theseus3He arrives and, to his great good fortune, Ariadne, daughter of the Minoan king, falls in love with him. She gives him the string he needs to escape the maze and a sword with which to kill the monster in the middle. Theseus kills the Minotaur and escapes with Ariadne, but leaves her on an island off of Crete in obedience to a divine command. His first marriage after his return to Athens is to an Amazon queen named Hippolyta.

Newt is Theseus in that his adventure is a mission he makes to a foreign country to which he travels by boat. It is a secret mission that he cannot openly discuss even with those who assist him. The mission involves mastering magical creatures and surviving a trip into a death trap that is essentially undeserved state execution. A woman highly placed helps him in this effort, but, mission accomplished, though she clearly loves him, he leaves her on the shore as he departs on a boat. His true but complicated love? A woman named ‘Leta.’

fb2What we lose without the Theseus connection is that he is on a mission greater than releasing Frank in Arizona, i.e., he is there, as the letter from his brother describes, as part of the efforts, probably directed by Dumbeldore, to find Gellert Grindelwald. That the story center has Newt and Ariadne, I mean Tina, miles beneath MACUSA staring into the Death Pool after a meeting with the Half-Man, Half Beast Grindelgraves, confirms the Minotaur correspondence. Newt’s improbable, liberating victory over the monster completes the parallel.

We also miss the sadness of the Theseus departure on boat. In the original, Theseus is so broken up about leaving Ariadne that he forgets to change the color of the ship’s sails from black to white, the agreed to signal so his father would know from afar off that he had survived. The King sees the black sails at a distance and commits suicide in grief. Theseus’ relationship with his Amazon ‘Lyta doesn’t end well, either.

img_5801bThe deletion of the Theseus letter from the “original screenplay” (and leaving it in a MinaLima prop exhibit) obscures (ahem) Newt’s classical hero’s story template. Restoring it to the start and recalling it in reflection on the story’s meaning adds a great deal to our understanding of Rowling’s original story. Part 1 of our restoration of the shooting script text, then, is reinserting the Theseus voiceover, reading the letter he wrote to his young brother, as Newt arrives in New York.

On to our next task: restoring the scene of Mildred returning Jacob Kowalski’s engagement ring because he did not get the bank loan.

Unlocking Fantastic Beasts: Finding the Text Round Up

Part 5A: So What? The Found Text and Its Meaning

Part 5B: The Shooting Script — A Corrected Text for Serious Readers

Part 5C: Conclusions and Predictions


Unlocking ‘Fantastic Beasts,’ Part 4 – Five Merchandise Tie-Ins Revelations & Newsbreaks at Rowling’s Site & Twitter

fantastic-beastsAs we learned yesterday in Part 3 of this five part series on ‘Interpreting Fantastic Beasts: Finding the Text,’ the film and the published “original screenplay” was not the movie as written by J. K. Rowling or as shot by director David Yates and producer David Heyman. It had six significant cuts taken from it, cuts made for reasons of film dynamic and progression and which disregarded Rowling’s structural artistry and narrative release.

We learned about those six scenes in the myriad interviews given by producer, director, and actors in the run-up to the movie’s premiere and since its release. In the struggle to find Rowling’s actual “original screenplay” and Newt Scamander adventure with all its details and clues, it has been necessary to study what the players tell us about the shooting script that Katherine Waterston said was “like a book” in all that it told them about the story.

fb21Serious readers and Diagon Alley Irregulars learned a lot from these interviews but the search cannot stop there. Unlike Rowling’s Hogwarts Saga, in which the published novel was canon for Harry’s annual adventure and everything else, to include the author’s asides in interviews and articles, was ancillary and incidental, the film version of Newt’s story on screen and its mirrored published text has been supplemented by tie-in texts, film prop exhibits, and the author’s twitter feed and revived web site.

Today, in our efforts to come to grips with the story as conceived by Rowling, we will review the information we have from these deuterocanonical sources with short glosses about the relative importance of these details. In Part 5 of ‘Interpreting Fantastic Beasts,’ I will bring together what we have learned from published script, film, interviews, and the extras to offer some speculation about the series to come from our ad hoc assembled text.

After the jump, the five tie-in and exhibit revelations and the several Rowling answers to fan questions!

[Read more…]