Rune Magic in Fantastic Beasts? I Wish

A long time reader and frequent correspondent sent me a note this morning encouraging me to watch a YouTube video about the likelihood of Runic Magic becoming a major plot element in J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts movie series. It’s called Runes, Nordic mythology and Durmstrang in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts movies The video is a relatively short view at twelve minutes but I think, alas, it was about ten minutes too long in terms of reward-per-viewing-minute.

Color me ‘skeptical,’ even shades of ‘dismissive’ on this speculative leap about runes, which, truth be told, I wish were true and think would be consistent with the base-line idea of Rowling’s Wizarding World and it’s “magical parameters.”

Here’s the thing.

With the exception of the Pentagram Room and background visual-noise created by MinaLima, what evidence is there of any runic magic in Beasts or for the speculations in this video? And the MinaLima artistry, engaging as it is, seems to have been created independently of script mentions or direction. Which is to say, not from any instruction we have in the published ‘Original Screenplay.’ Not that I’m embracing that version of the screenplay as authoritative, original, or final!

I love ‘out there’ speculation, as you know, about where, figuratively speaking, the series writing of J. K. Rowling – Potter, Strike, or Beastie — may be headed. I’d be much more comfortable, however, even enthusiastic with this leap into the abyss about Runes and Durmstrang if it was based on something, anything more textual and Rowling-related than two Icelandic actors and MinaLima magically resonant wallpaper flourishes.

That kind of speculation with respect to runes can be done, frankly; as in:

  • Rowling was clearly influenced by Tolkien, whom she lovingly parodies in her Wizarding World (however touchy she is about it in interviews), and
  • Rowling’s books are largely about the magic of words, writing and reading. It is very hard to overstate the importance of the intentional and meaningful literariness of her work, from the over-the-top alliteration, cryptonyms, and intratextual parallelism and embedded mirroring texts. Runic magic would be so appropriate for her blend of meaning and artistry.

Both these key points make some kind of runic magic in the stories a natural and exciting possibility for the upcoming Fantastic Beasts films.

But I’d bet heavily against it. And not just because the evidence offered in the video is so thin.

If these movies were a series of novels – and remember Rowling is only a novelist on holiday in her screenwriting mode – I could see it. Rowling would be sufficiently invested to invent her own alphabet, Durmstrang regional-based Divination with runes magic, et cetera. Reindeer horns, right? Rudolph as Fantastic Beast – what’s not to love about that?

As she has certainly learned, however, investing her energies into a screenplay is an exasperating, frustrating exercise (her words) because, even if producer, director, and screenwriter agree to a shooting script and it is shot, the odds are the film as cut will only resemble in outline the story as written. Can you say “15 scenes deleted”?

Lethal White Fan Art

I’m guessing that Rowling will deliver great content to the Warner Brothers sets for the coming films but that her continuing big investment as a writer will be with her Cormoran Strike detective novels. The audience for the latter isn’t one hundredth that of the films, I know, but she has total control of it, she spent what seems like five years planning it post Potter (contrast with the one film, then “It’s three films!”, and at last five film jumps with Fantastic Beasts, a sign that this story is being invented on the fly), and novel writing, to repeat myself, is what she does best.

I love Beasts and have written something like a short book about it online. I think this YouTube fan’s speculative energies would be much better spent, that being said, on the Strike novels than on these films, projects over which Rowling has learned she has relatively little control and will not, I suspect, invest herself in writing and creating as she has the Hogwarts Saga and the Strike adventures.

Your comments and corrects are coveted, as always!


  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Going all tangential and Wizarding-historical, without having first tried the video, it’s worth wondering about Anglo-Saxon runes, too. For, Wizarding and Muggle history seem thoroughly intertwined in England, down the ages, and, if Godric Gryffindor can’t be named for St. Godric because he lived before his time, he bears an English name, and Rowena is another (at least according to Geoffrey of Monmouth: perhaps Rowena Ravenclaw provides earlier evidence!), and, for example, Dumbledore’s Wulfric could well be for St. Wulfric, and Bathilda Badshot for St. Bathilda. The poetry of the Old English Exeter Book is not alone in, but is striking for, the use of runes in some of its contents, as well as for its fantastic poems about beasts (though – subject to correction – none of these exhibit such use of runes). So, it would not be surprising if runes were part of the life of Hogwarts for the whole of its history. Pre-Isolt Sayre Viking Wizarding contact with North America and possible runic traces (in the context of such things as the Kensington Runestone) provide further interesting possibilities. As to any evidence of such plausible things… perhaps some will be forthcoming?

  2. Kelly Loomis says

    Mina Lima did say they had met with Rowling more for this film than for any other because of the lack of information they usually got from the books.

    Didn’t Hermione have a class in ancient runes? So it’s not too out there to see a connection between the wizarding world and runes. I haven’t watched this other video yet either.

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    For a delightful summary of the sorts of things J.K. Rowling may know, and which could inform what I call above Pre-Isolt Sayre Viking Wizarding contact with North America, I recommend a BBC programme from 1966, I think the launch of the series, Chronicle, “The Vikings in North America”, which can be found online.

  4. Hi there,

    I’m the author of the video and was delighted to accidentally stumble upon this review when reading your blog (which is, by the way, excellent – if perhaps a bit arrogant at times). Thank you for the feedback!

    I agree with you that it might not be in the film’s interests to go very deep into runes – it would be technically difficult. But I love to throw out ideas and discuss them. We know that runes are part of the Harry Potter universe and feature in, for example, the Tales of Beedle the Bard. However, my main point had to do with the specialities of the wizarding schools across the world, and how they might be related to the old magical habits of the indigenous populations in the areas they are located in – something I feel Rowling has hinted at in her Pottermore content.

    Anyway, thanks for the review and keep up the good work! Delighted to read your analyses.

    Ps. I like the Strike novels, but absolutely love the Potter universe. Do you think it’s a coincidence that both worlds have a Leta/Leda character?

Speak Your Mind