Guest Post: Wizarding World Names! Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them 

fb3A Guest Post from Wayne Stauffer — ‘The Names We Need to Understand in Fantastic Beasts.’

In the Harry Potter series a major theme Rowling explored was the tension between alienation and inclusion–characters who are excluded from a group and who work to be included or start their own group for including others.

In working my way through A Year with CS Lewis, the December 14 excerpt is from Lewis’s “The Inner Ring,” delivered at King’s College, University of London, on December 14, 1944. He makes this point, “… in all men’s lives at certain periods,… one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside….Victorian literature is full of characters who are hagridden by the desire to get inside that particular Ring which is, or was, called Society….” (italics mine). And he continues to develop this idea of yearning for one’s place amid one group or another. 

rh1It was the word “hagridden” that caught my eye because of the similarity to our Harry Potter friend, Rubeus Hagrid. (Many of you are already with me on where this is going.) Lewis’s context clues about its meaning give a broad understanding, so I went to the dictionary to find its adjective form. “Worried” and “tormented” are meanings for this word that dates to the late 1600s. Well now, Hagrid most certainly has that yearning for acceptance into the wizarding community, that Ring of his choosing, and suffers his share of torment for his halfblood status as wizard/giant and the semi-ostracism that accompanies it. As with her other choices of words, Rowling isn’t simply tossing it out there simply for the sound or exotic attraction.

fb8Now, in the Fantastic Beasts series, this theme of alienation and acceptance/inclusion continues. And names continue to play a part. During questioning by Percival Graves, viewers find out that Newt Scamander was expelled from Hogwarts for endangering wizarding lives with some allegedly dangerous beast or another. Outside the film, however, we are told that Dumbledore intervened to have the expulsion dropped.

Let’s look at the names in Fantastic Beasts to begin our exegesis of their literal meanings and how that fits into the named character’s role in the story. [Read more…]

Fantastic, Forceful Films: Common elements in Fantastic Beasts and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

rogue-one-jyn-ersa-geared-up(Some Rogue One spoilers below – clearly marked in ALL CAPS. Fantastic Beasts spoilers too, but seriously, people, you’ve had weeks …)

Ever since I learned to speak Star Wars at the Mythgard Institute a year ago, I’ve been eyeing the places where the Harry Potter and Star Wars franchises seem to intersect, and these places are many. So the fact that Warner Brothers and Disney Studios have, within a month, released film tie-ins to their beloved epics is no great shock. Neither is the fact that the films employ common elements and themes in seeking to delight long-time fans while enticing new ones. Let’s talk about four elements Fantastic Beasts and Rogue One share.

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Not all Fantastic Beasts are Fictional

hpspiderIt seems appropriate that this paper should be released at this season of renewed interest in JK Rowling’s magical creatures. A pair of Potter-loving scientists from India recently discovered a new species of spider, and, upon noticing its resemblance to the Sorting Hat, named it Eriovixia gryffindori. Even better, they provided a explanation of the name in the scientific paper that described the beastie.

harry_potter_sorting_hat_by_boywizard94-d5ma8izThis uniquely shaped spider derives its name from the fabulous, sentient magical artifact, the sorting hat, owned by the (fictitious) medieval wizard Godric Gryffindor, one of the four founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and stemming from the powerful imagination of Ms. J.K. Rowling, wordsmith extraordinaire, as presented in her beloved series of books, featuring everyone’s favorite boy-wizard, Harry Potter. An ode from the authors, for magic lost, and found, in an effort to draw attention to the fascinating, but oft overlooked world of invertebrates, and their secret lives.

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MuggleNet Academia: American Eugenics, German Genocide, and Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

fb60Ezra Miller, the actor who plays Credence Barebones in Fantastic Beasts, and David Yates have both said in interviews that Rowling’s New Salem Philanthropic Society is largely an allegorical depiction of the Progressive Era eugenics movement in the United States. This chapter of American history — how social engineering know-betters on the political left and right campaigned successfully for sterilization and extermination laws to rid the American gene pool of ‘moron women, sexual deviants, and racial inferiors’ in 31 states — has largely been scrubbed from the history textbooks. It’s more than a little embarrassing for us to learn, after all, that Adolf Hitler modeled his Final Solution, the Holocaust of European Jewry, on tracts, scientific publications, and laws written by Americans with the sponsorship of the Rockefeller Foundation (among others). Not only can it happen here, it started here.

gavaler-originTo discuss American eugenics and how Rowling chooses to give that history lesson as an embedded story within her screenplay, not to mention how some of her historical connections are bizarre and off-base, Keith Hawk and I asked Washington & Lee professor Christopher Gavaler to join us on MuggleNet Academia. Gavaler is the author of On the Origin of Superheroes which largely turns on the subject of eugenics as it was told in the Superman/Ubermensch dramas of the late 19th and early 20th Century UK and US and then in the first superhero comic books. He explained to us how Rowling’s Hogwarts Saga’s Pureblood/Mudblood purity theme is straight up anti-eugenics story-telling — and that in Fantastic Beasts she is picking up where she left off.

Another mind-blowing conversation on MuggleNet Academia! Here is a link to Professor Gavaler’s article ‘The Well Born’ Superhero’ that we discuss on the show. Enjoy that challenging read before or after you listen to our conversation — and please share your thoughts about the podcast in the comments boxes below!

Link to MNet Academia podcast on Fantastic Beasts and Eugenics with Chris Gavaler!

Fantastic Beasts Question: Is an Obscurus the Opposite of a Patronus?

obscurial-fantastic-beasts-3The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie introduced wizarding fans to the Obscurus (and its host, the Obscurial). The Obscurus is described as a “dark, parasitic” force that develops in children forced to repress their magic. While Potter fans had not seen this entity before, they had seen something that seems to be the polar opposite of the Obscurus: the light, protective force known as the Patronus. Many viewers have questions about Obscurus manifestation: most notably: was Ariana Dumbledore an Obscurial?  And why did Harry not become one, during those years the Dursleys tried to “squash all that nonsense out of him?” I’m going to look more closely at the Patronus-Obscurus parallels to see if we can discern any answers.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-deleted-scene-description-answers-what-really-happened-to-credenceYoung witches and wizards develop an Obscurus when they are forced to suppress their magic.  Newt tells us that Obscurials  were more common when magic people were persecuted by Muggles, suggesting fear, isolation and abuse contribute to their formation.  Young Credence Barebones would seem to be a good example of this. In fact, his Obscurus seems to be most powerful and least controllable when he is most alone and frightened; he transforms into the Obscurus when Grindelgraves rejects him as a Squib, and returns to human form when Newt and Tina try connect with and calm him.

patronus_pm_silverstagpatronus_momentillustA Patronus, in contrast, is conjured with happy memories, and particularly depends on positive social connections.  Harry sometimes uses thoughts of escaping the abuse of the Durseleys and Umbridge to summon his Patronus; more often, he thinks of his friendship with Ron and Hermione. Patronuses often take the appearance of an animal of significance to a loved one (Tonk’s wolf, Snape’s doe). George loses his ability to cast his patronus after Fred’s death. [Read more…]