Fantastic Beatrice – and Where to Find Them

In the run up to the cinematic release of Fantastic Beasts 3: The Secrets of Dumbledore Dr. Beatrice Groves, Research Lecturer and tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, and author of  Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, has written five articles exploring the influences and allusions J. K. Rowling may have woven into the new film. The first two of these were hosted on Hogwarts Professor and the final three in Bathilda’s Notebook hosted by Mugglenet.

In anticipation and celebration of the upcoming release, now is the time brush up on all things Beasts, collected for your reference below:

In the first post, Beatrice takes a look at George Wombwell’s tomb in Highgate cemetery. Drawing parallels with the Circus Arcanus from Crimes of Grindelwald, Dr. Groves looks at Wombwell’s Lion Nero, and askes the question: what is a monster? This post wraps with the introduction of beasts within bestiaries, and the symbolism of the lion within literature and Christianity.

Beatrice Groves – The King of Beasts: Fantastic Beasts and the Beast Within

The second post delves into Rowling’s key source material: Guideways Through Mountains and Seas, a Chinese bestiary and finds reflections within this to the works of Douglas Adams. In turn reflections are found in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them book by Newt Scamander in Adams’s work.

Beatrice discusses that other author-within-the-film-series: Eulalie ‘Lally’ Hicks. Lally brings a host of potential books within the story, apparently using some of them as either portkey or weapon.  After discussing books within the series, she finds a convincing (and quite brilliant) theory for the Wodehousian derivation for the name ‘Eulalie’. Movingly the post finishes with a reflection on Newt’s light and Isaac Newtons work on light within optics all linked to the poetry of Alexander Pope.

Beatrice Groves – Literary Allusion in Secrets of Dumbledore: Fantastic Beasts 3

Dr. Groves’s three Bathilda’s Notebook posts delve into three, very different, bestiaries. The first is T.H. White’s Book of Beasts, a translation of a medieval Latin bestiary. White is owed a huge and acknowledged debt by Rowling and other fantasy authors, and as Beatrice points out, the author of the bestiary seems very Newt-like to White: “the Bestiary is a compassionate book… it has a reverence for the wonders of life“. 

Beatrice traces the oddly represented manticores, dragons and unicorns as symbols of darkness and light, reflected in the battle between Grindelwald and Dumbledore.

“Secrets of Dumbledore” and “The Book of Beasts”: Fantastic Bestiaries and Where to Find Them – Part 1

The second bestiary is one we know. It is both in J. K. Rowling’s possession, and is one she has read: A Chinese bestiary: strange creatures from the guideways through mountains and seas, an ancient Chinese text, the Shan Hai Jing, translated by Richard E. Strassberg. This is the book that describes the zouwu, a beast that appears in Crimes of Grindelwald and Beatrice introduces us to some fabulous beasts that, we can but hope, appear in future films: winged tigers, pearl-turtles, bang-fish (which Aberforth would love as they look like a turtle and sound like a goat), the five coloured shade-bird, and the two headed honghong-rainbow.

Dr. Groves finishes the article with an introduction our our final bestiary The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorges Luis Borges, and its description of the qilin. She has demonstrated this could be a key creature for Secrets of Dumbledore.

An Ancient Chinese Bestiary in “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore”: Fantastic Bestiaries and Where to Find Them – Part 2

The final post concentrates on what Dr. Groves argues are likely to be the two most important creatures in this film. Beatrice begins with the history of the phoenix within Harry Potter canon and the evidence we have for it’s importance within Secrets of Dumbledore. As described in the bestiaries the phoenix is an auspicious portent. In traditional western lore there is only one (being a symbol of Christ), leading to a fascinating possibility that the phoenixes in the film are just one, and that one is Fawkes. Another auspicious creature described by Borges is the qilin, the Chinese version of the western unicorn.

Using detective work on a par with Cormoran Strike, Beatrice has uncovered what looks like a major plot point for the film, with the qilin’s ability to tell guilt from innocence and an affinity with a just ruler.

The Phoenix and the Qilin in “Secrets of Dumbledore”: Fantastic Bestiaries and Where to Find Them – Part 3

I do hope you have enjoyed these posts as much as I have. Please let me know in the comments down below.


Speak Your Mind