Louise’s Belated Fantastic Beasts Response

fb-pictureI couldn’t hit the opening night of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them because I was attending the Morality, Moral Philosophy and the Humanities in the Age of Neuroscience Conference, so I decided to wait until my daughter was home from college so we could go as a family. As a result, I have been avoiding spoilers for almost a week. Last night, after we got home, I went through a bunch of Hogpro posts, emails and my copy of the screenplay that had been sitting in its cardboard Amazon box since last week. So, after bit of day-before Thanksgiving cooking, and a nice hot cup of cranberry wassail, I’m finally sitting down to write my initial response.

I share the positive response of most other Wizarding World fans: it was a well-written, exciting film that fills in part of the backstory of JKR’s magical world without infringing on (or re-writing) any of Harry’s story. Newt was a lovable if unlikely hero, the Goldstein sisters strong female leads and Jacob Kowalski a delightful Mary-Sue character for all Muggles:  the No-Maj who got to be part of the Wizarding World, albeit for a short time. Add that to the speculation that Queenie and Jacob’s descendent will eventually play Quidditch on the US team, and you have the ultimate wish fulfillment for many fans.

Newt Scamander did turn out to be a very Doctor Dolittle-ish character, devoted to his critters and to teaching others about them, bright-but-bumbling, and almost always mild-mannered and agreeable except when the beasts are threatened or confronted with human cruelty.  Like John Dolittle, he “likes animals better than the best people.” Jacob, for is part, was an adult version of Tommy Stubbins, mostly observing the actions with wild-eyed wonder (and occasionally terror) rather than being an actual participant–  his actual actions are limited to opening the case, guiding Newt to Central Park, kicking in a door, catching a cockroach and punching one goblin.  As Newt acknowledges, he is included in the adventures more because they like him than because they need him.

In the time I have had to ponder the movie, I have been thinking of five major questions, all of which I eventually hope to post about.

  1. obscrurial-fantastic-beasts-41. Was Ariana Dumbledore an Obscurial?  This occurred to me as soon as Newt told us what they were, and it did not surprise me that many fans were already wondering that (See here, here and here for examples). If so, could Newt’s apparent interest in studying these dark creatures/forces, and saving the children who are possessed by them be part of the reason he earned Dumbledore’s support?
  2. screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-114630-ampngHow did “Percival Graves” infiltrate MACUSA?  Grindelwald was terrorizing Europe a few short months before this film began, yet Newt arrives to find Mr. Graves a high-ranking Auror, by every account an American-born wizard, as if he has been part of the MACUSA elite for years. And is it a coincidence he shares a first name with Dumbledore’s disgraced father?
  3. fb-trl3-89638r13. Do Queenie and Jacob have a future?  Will they have to leave the US to pursue a relationship? We already know the next film will be set in France, but will Jacob be willing to give up his bakery to meet up with the friends he may not even remember?
  4. new-salem-philanthropic-societyWhat is the real story behind the Salem Witch Trials?  “Mother” Barebones gives her organization the name Second Salemers as a way of expressing their anti-witchcraft mission, suggesting this event was a dark time in wizarding history.  Yet, Tina twice swears by names of important Salem historical figures:  “Deliverance Dane” and “Mercy Lewis“–  suggesting that these ladies are renown in Americal wizarding history in the same way Merlin and Paracelsus are for the Brits.  This seems strange, especially Mercy Lewis, who accused several people of witchcraft who were subsequently hanged.
  5. What are we to make of Newt’s past with Leta Lestrange? We know they were childhood friends, drawn together by the fact that neither fit in well at Hogwarts. Leta was a “taker” when Newt needed a giver. And importantly, sometime in recent history (presumably in a period overlapping with Grindelwald’s attacks), both “changed” so that their friendship was no longer feasible.  Do they sound a bit like the Snape and Lily of their generation?

In the end, this film leaves us in late 1926. Newt is on his way back to England, but has plans to see Tina again.  Grindelwald will presumably escape the incompetent MACUSA authorities and acquire the Elder Wand. Dumbledore is teaching at Hogwarts, trying to put both his sister’s death and past with Grindelwald behind him.  And a very pregnant Merope Gaunt is either at or heading towards the orphanage where, in less than a month, she will give birth, name her baby and promptly die without leaving so much as a forwarding name and address.  Whatever else Fantastic Beasts did, it put us back in a very interesting time in wizarding history.  I can’t wait to see what else unfolds.


  1. Thank you for agreeing with me! That’s always a comfort. But I’ve been waiting to read that someone else was jolted to note what I did: The African-American “nurse” speaking her two lines…both ungrammatical! If JKR actually wrote that scene (in the death chamber) I’m surprised that she, who is so against prejudice, would imply that an educated Black American would say “don’t” instead of “doesn’t”. Twice in the film, as I recall–I lent my copy to a friend. Am I being hyper-sensitive here?

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