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.

Crimes of Grindelwald: Credence Gaunt?

Leslie Barnhart is the author of The Christian’s Guide to Harry Potter and a long time friend of this blog. She sent me her thoughts on last week’s ‘Crimes of Grindelwald: Deleted scenes’ post and that note contained an idea not directly related to ‘Deleted Scenes.’ Credence is not a Dumbledore, she argues, but a Parseltongue speaking Gaunt. I was sufficiently intrigued with that idea, her thoughts about Credence/Aurelius, that I asked her if she would give me her permission to put it up as a stand-alone Guest Post. Permission granted — Enjoy!

I’d like to postulate one piece to help make sense of the seemingly sudden revelation about Credence’s heritage at the end of Crimes of Grindelwald.

Assume for a minute that, while not a Dumbledore, Credence is indeed from an old pureblood line, one of the oldest. Consider the possibility that he is a Gaunt, possibly a third child of Marvolo Guant.  With the father’s known “pure-blood mania,” if Marvolo’s wife thought she had given birth to a squib (even GrindelGraves didn’t sense Credence’s power until later), she may have run away rather than have the child killed. 

In this scenario, Marvolo’s attempts to find and bring his wife back caused him to lose everything he had and ended up in the shack with very little abilities to take care of himself and his remaining family.  The wife died in the ocean, having lost everything she has loved, and gave up her hope and life simultaneously.  Credence can’t develop the magic he has at the anti-Wizard New Salem Orphanage, but the repressed ability becomes the obscurial as an alter ego he can’t control.

The Gaunts, of course, were descendants of Salazar Slytherin and were able to speak with snakes. Years after Credence’s miraculous survival of the sinking ship and his adoptive mother Mary Lou, he arrives in France. There we see in Crimes of Grindelwald that, as a Parselmouth, Credence is the only one who speaks to Nagini.  I watched this the second time and although the circus owner tries to, she looks to Credence to explain what is being asked of her. 

Secondly, Nagini may have already lost her ability to speak – we only hear her speak to Credence, who may not understand that Parseltongue is a different language.  After the displays of power Credence made in New York, a power that he has learned to control in Paris, Grindelwald sees this power as something that could destroy Dumbledore (something he cannot do because of the blood oath). He decides to create the narrative that Credence is related to Dumbledore, a story which if believed by Credence will enable Grindelwald to weaponize him and use that power to his advantage.  The only way to turn Credence against Dumbledore and make them fight though is to pretend Albus has stolen the younger man’s birthright and make Credence bitterly resentful.

I believe this is the fight that will happen in the third movie, and not the legendary fight between Grindelwald and Dumbledore that happens 18 years later (if the chocolate frog card we read in Philosopher’s Stone is to be believed.). In the Beasts3 duel, Credence will probably be accidentally killed by one of the two greats (an echo of Ariana’s end), and Nagini becomes a snake forever in her despair.  In her later life, she finds Tom Riddle, another Gaunt descendant, and aligns herself with anyone against Dumbledore, the man she believes destroyed her only friend.  The battle also destroys the blood oath setting up a future scene or trilogy of forces between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, in which Grindelwald loses the magical eye.  

I’m sure these claims sound outlandish, but with JKR’s known inclination towards misdirection, this would definitely be something she would do.  There are many possibilities for what could be revealed by the next installment, and we will have to savor the clues we find in the scripts to pull out as much as we can in anticipation of the revelations yet to come!



Frankel: Crimes of Grindelwald Names

A Guest Post today from Valerie Frankel with her thoughts about the Dickensian Cryptonyms of characters in J. K. Rowling’s Crimes of Grindelwald. Enjoy!

Name Meanings in Crimes of Grindelwald

Leta Lestrange’s refusal to join the forces of darkness must have surprised many, given her shadowed past and Death Eater descendants. Further, her insistence that she is the last of the family line, followed by her death, suggests more will have to follow on this, since two generations after, Rodolphus Lestrange will marry Bellatrix and serve Voldemort. Leta’s name is suggestive, a derivation of the Greek Leda. Originally, Leda was a mother goddess in her own right, who chased down and devoured the sacrificed god-king as a true all-encompassing night goddess (Tymieniecka 213). However, she was co-opted into Greek mythology as a lovely queen raped by Zeus, who was forced to give birth to a generation of heroes including Helen of Troy. While she could have been a mighty goddess, she was quickly reimagined as a pawn by a patriarchal culture. Leta Lestrange’s story appears over (a pity, as she had a complex backstory and much of her engagement and possible penance for her crime was never fully explored) but Greek Leda and her daughter’s status as pawns battled over by heroes (including Theseus!) continues to echo.  

Her fiancé Theseus Scamander is also named from Greek mythology. He is the valiant warrior-hero with whom humble Newt always compares himself. In myth, he famously carries off Helen of Troy, alluded to in the modern Theseus’s sweeping Leta away from his brother.  Also in contrast with his brother, Theseus is most famous for killing a legendary beast, the minotaur. If Newt is savior of the helpless, his brother is its somewhat brutish destroyer. In a scenario that inspired The Hunger Games, in which a dozen Athenian youths were selected to die in a seven-year tribute, mythological Theseus trained them all in warfare and united them against their stronger foe, much as his namesake is doing in this film. At the same time, the Athenian could be insensitive and disapproving of family. He forgot to raise a white sail on returning and his father, on thinking he was dead, leapt into the sea. He abandoned the lover Ariadne who guided him through the labyrinth and later wed her sister Phedre, then murdered his own son when Phedre jealously framed him. The wizard Theseus’s authoritative, wrongheaded cruel approach to family starts off in his failure to connect with Leta and bossy interactions with Newt and may continue in the next films.

French-African wizard Yusuf Kama establishes that there can indeed be pure-blood families from lands like Senegal. His name comes from Joseph (the Bible and Koran contain the same characters and stories). Joseph’s famous story is of being trapped in a foreign land, plagued by prophecies he must interpret. Biblical Joseph succeeds and is promoted to second in the land. Yusuf quotes the prophecy of Tycho Dodonus: “A son cruelly banished, despair of the daughter, return great avenger with wings from the water.” However, he has enough of his beliefs wrong that he is set on murdering an innocent (and the wrong one!) showing he’s as misguided as his enemies.

[Jacob, Tina, Newt, Aurelius, and more after the jump!]

[Read more…]

Crimes of Grindelwald: The Elder Wand

J. K. Rowling has said that her Fantastic Beasts films are about “how Dumbledore became Dumbledore.” Whatever you make of that, I think the obvious point too easily neglected is that this film franchise will lead, not just to the 1945 battle between Gellert Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore, but, more importantly, to a bridge connecting this series with the Hogwarts Saga. A key piece of that bridge building is going to be the three Deathly Hallows and, specifically, the Elder Wand.

I want to briefly discuss here why we know this is the case and what happened in Crimes of Grindelwald to build the Scamander-Potter Bridge and reveal mastery of the Elder Wand. [Read more…]

Crimes of Grindelwald: Shakespeare!

Image result for crimes of grindelwaldBack in the summer, as we were speculating on the then-forthcoming new Fantastic Beasts film, I pondered the possibilities that loomed for our next installment in the magizooilogical adventures of Newt Scamander and his associates, especially as those possibilities connected to Shakespeare’s textbook comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Now, after seeing the film and taking a week to process my thoughts, I’m delighted to kick around some of the ways in which the film fulfilled and challenged the Shakespearean conventions I hoped to see taking center stage in this segment of the five-film series: Alchemy, Character Pair-ups, and the use of Humors and Elements. All of these are central to many of Shakespeare’s plays, including the romp through the fairy-haunted forests of Athens, and are crucial to the latest adventures from the Wizarding World. Join me after the jump as we take a look at each of these factors, in reverse order this time, to see how the link between these two performance-focused texts helps us understand where our story is heading. [Read more…]