The Back Story We’re Not Told (Yet): Second Thoughts about J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

fb21Is Newt Scamander working as Dumbledore’s secret agent in Fantastic Beasts? I think so.

Last Sunday I posted my first thoughts about J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts screenplay-as-filmed and the response to that  post has been rewarding and exciting. If you haven’t read that long-playing post, please do. The short version is that Rowling, whose Harry Potter series and individual novels were written on the traditional story-telling turtle-back template of hyper-parallelism (tagged ‘Ring Composition’ by anthropologist Mary Douglas), has not departed from form but has written her first screenplay on the same model. The blowback in my inbox this week, from Potter Pundits who have seen the film but not read the screenplay text, and from two traditionalists who have read the screenplay but not seen the movie, has been uniformly positive.

In the week since I wrote that post, Fantastic Beasts has been blowing its competition out of the water in box office sales. Reviews have been positive for the most part but, really, do Potter-philes read reviews to make the go/no-go decision? We’re all but obliged to see the film and read the screenplay, if only to keep up in conversation with other Harry-heads about Newt’s adventures (and complain about while secretly looking forward to seven years of Harry Potter on teevee beginning in 2018).

fb30Today, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, I want to take the next big step in understanding Fantastic Beasts to fuel those conversations. In this marathon discusssion, I’ll be pointing out the probable parallels we should expect, not between scenes in this movie, but between Rowling’s series artistry here, just begun, and that of her Hogwarts Saga, complete, and her Cormoran Strike mysteries, of which unfolding work we have the first three books. I think there are significant pointers in the first Beasts installment about what the five film franchise will divulge just as there were in Harry’s Philosopher’s Stone and Cormoran’s Cuckoo’s Calling. Hint: it’s the back-story to-be-uncovered in each chapter.

The big reveal is that Scamander and Grindelwald are already well known to each other — and that Newt’s mission impossible from a certain Transfiguration professor is to find and subdue his nemesis.

If you haven’t seen the movie or read the published screenplay, you might want to stop here. If you’ve already enjoyed the story once or twice (or more) in the week since it opened, join me after the jump for a first sally in what very well may be an almost decade long adventure in story interpretation and speculation.

ravenclawreader-kindleI have argued for close to fifteen years now that the popularity of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter adventures is a function of the remarkable synthesis of the author’s artistry and the meaning conveyed in her stories. Reflection on her work has made me conclude that there are seven keys to this artistry and meaning: the genre, the voice, the narrative slow release, the postmodern memes, the traditional symbolism, the ring composition, and the literary alchemy.

Rowling has had significant success — read “greater than that known by any other novelist, living or dead” — in unlocking the hearts and minds of readers around the world, across generations, and over divides of nationality, creed, and culture. This being so, we should assume that she will continue to use these keys, even if screenwriting delivers a different category of experience than we have from novels. This was the assumption that prompted me to check for the qualities of ring composition in Fantastic Beasts at my first viewing last week.

Today, rather than do the slow mining to look for Christian content and literary alchemy, I want to talk about the key to Rowling’s work that only became obvious to me when reading the first Cormoran Strike novel, namely, ‘narrative slow release.’

the-silkworm-cuckoos-calling2In Cuckoo’s Calling we enjoy a brilliantly told murder mystery with only one or two annoying Flints or errors. Along the way, however, to Cormoran’s discovery in Calling of whodunnit, we are introduced to other mysteries in his life and in Robin’s, his girl Friday. How did Strike’s mother die? Did his rock-star daddy have something to do with it? Why did Robin drop out of University?And what is the story behind Cormoran’s miraculous survival of an IED explosion in Afghanistan, the mishap that cost him half of one leg?

In the next two Strike novels, we get even better stand-alone murder mysteries and pieces of the larger-story puzzles we learned about in Cuckoo. This highlighted a facet of Rowling’s peculiar genius hiding in plain sight in her Harry Potter septology; she has the ability to tell an engrossing and engaging complete story between two covers that simultaneously serves as a chapter in a larger work.

This slow narrative release, her intentionally palimpsest or layered writing, is no small thing, both in the sense of it being a skill almost unique to Rowling and in the effect this two-fold, entwined story telling has in heightening reader curiosity and interest about the unfolding work. Anyone old enough to remember the fever of speculation and conversation about the next book in the years between publications of the Hogwarts Saga’s seven installments recognizes that it was just this quality to Rowling’s writing that made us read and re-read the books we had for clues about the books to come.

stone-aWhat does this have to do with Fantastic Beasts and the adventures of Newt Scamander, magizoologist? If Rowling has decided to forsake her signature story-telling skill, perhaps it means nothing at all. I think it much more likely, as likely, say, as a right handed Cy Young award-winning pitcher continuing to pitch with his right rather than his left when called into a World Series game, that this first movie, as did Philosopher’s Stone and Cuckoo’s Calling in their respective series, has laid out the outlines with key details of the overarching story to be told in the four remaining films.

You might object that there are five rather than seven stories in the Scamander Saga proposed and want to ask if that will make a difference in how the over-arching story is told. Good point.

I’m going to give that question a bold “Yes” and “No.”

It’s become something of a ‘given’ or assumption here at HogwartsProfessor and over the river and through the woods to MuggleNet Academia that the Cormoran Strike novels are being written in parallel with their numbers in the Harry Potter series. Cuckoo’s Calling, the first Strike mystery, from this perspective is in important ways an echo of and commentary on Philosopher’s Stone, the book in which we first meet The Boy Who Lived, and likewise with Silkworm/Chamber of Secrets and Career of Evil/Prisoner of Azkaban. If there are only five Beasts films being planned, that writing-in-parallel will not, cannot be true of the Scamander stories. So, yes, the story telling must be different.

fantastic-beastsBut could there be seven Scamander stories? Is there a beginning and end bracket already set around Newt’s adventures? I think there is. Bear with me.

When we first open Philosopher’s Stone, we don’t know anything about Harry Potter or the Wizarding World. We get a great story, don’t get me wrong, especially with the Obstacle Course Gauntlet at the finish and Harry’s one-on-one with Quirreldemort before the Mirror of Erised. I think it’s safe to say, though, that the story is most memorable for introductions it gives us to the great majority of the major players, to Hogwarts and Privet Drive, and to the overarching mystery of the Dark Lord.

Fantastic Beasts has none of that introductory material. We already know a lot about the Wizarding World even if Beasts is set on a different continent and six decades earlier, so a second roll-out of the story premises is not necessary. Here’s the thing: in addition to already having the magical stock pieces set in our heads, we already know quite a bit of Scamander’s specific story before this movie opens with Newt sailing into New York City’s harbor.

What we do know of the back-story, the opening parenthesis of the Newt series, we learned from Aberforth and Albus Dumbledore’s explanations in Deathly Hallows of the life and death of their younger sister, Ariana. I think we can call the first bracket in Newt’s narrative Ariana’s Story.

f38696486We do not know many of the details of the opening bracket, of course. As with the story of Voldemort’s murdering the Potters and Harry’s miraculous survival in Stone, we are left largely in the dark with respect to the backstory of Fantastic Beasts, the first episode. These blindspots are openly marked in the first screenplay, however, and we can use these tags or clues and add them to the Deathly Hallows reports to begin writing the story-not-provided — and speculate about how Rowling will reveal the same in the next four films. The important thing now, though, is to get the back story we have straight so we can figure out the big questions implicit to this story the rest of the films have to answer.

These films will be blockbuster stories about Newt’s confrontations with Gellert Grindelwald as Albus’ agent and each will give us more of the back story of Ariana, Albus, and Gellert that leads at last to the Dumbledore-Grindelwald face-off in 1945.

One Ariana’s Story bracket and five films gives us six pieces. The seventh story and closing bracket of this series? That would be Harry Potter’s story and his success in bringing together the Deathly Hallows at last in his fight against Lord Voldemort (expect to see Tom Riddle, Jr., as a student after some fashion and seeming disciple of Grindelwald in the shadows of the last Beasts film).

So what do we know about Ariana’s Story? We get the greatest part of it, as I said, in the testimonies of the Dumbledore brothers to Harry in the Hogwarts Saga finale. As this is so important, I print out those eye witness recollections en toto without Harry’s interruptions or pauses for tears and sighs in grief. If you’ve re-read these lengthy passages recently, feel free to scroll past the colored quotations; if you’re like me, however, you’ll find a fresh reading of what Aberforth and Albus say about Grindelwald — “and then he came” — illuminating in light of Gellert’s re-appearance in Fantastic Beasts.

Aberforth tells Harry, Ron, and Hermione in his rooms above the Hog’s Head:

f4220838When my sister was six years old, she was attacked, set upon, by three Muggle boys. They’d seen her doing magic, spying through the back garden hedge: She was a kid, she couldn’t control it, no witch or wizard can at that age. What they saw, scared them, I expect. They forced their way through the hedge, and when she couldn’t show them the trick, they got a bit carried away trying to stop the little freak doing it….

It destroyed her, what they did: She was never right again. She wouldn’t use magic, but she couldn’t get rid of it; it turned inward and drove her mad, it exploded out of her when she couldn’t control it, and at times she was strange and dangerous. But mostly she was sweet and scared and harmless.

 And my father went after the bastards that did it, and attacked them. And they locked him up in Azkaban for it. He never said why he’d done it, because if the Ministry had known what Ariana had become, she’d have been locked up in St Mungo’s for good. They’d have seen her as a serious threat to the International Statute of Secrecy, unbalanced like she was, with magic exploding out of her at moments when she couldn’t keep it in any longer.

We had to keep her safe and quiet. We moved house, put it about she was ill, and my mother looked after her, and tried to keep her calm and happy.

I was her favorite…  Not Albus. He was always up in his bedroom when he was home, reading his books, and counting his prizes, keeping up with his correspondence with ‘the most notable magical names of the day. He didn’t want to be bothered with her. She liked me best. I could get her to eat when she wouldn’t do it for my mother, I could calm her down, when she was in one of her rages, and when she was quiet, she used to help me feed the goats. 

Then when she was fourteen… See, I wasn’t there. If I’d been there, I could have calmed her down. She had one of her rages, and my mother wasn’t as young as she was, and… it was an accident. Ariana couldn’t control it. But my mother was killed.

So that put paid to Albus’s trip round the world with little Doge. The pair of ’em came home for my mother’s funeral and then Doge went off on his own, and Albus settled down as head of the family. Ha!

I’d have looked after her. I told him so, I didn’t care about school, I’d have stayed home and done it. He told me I had to finish my education and he’d take over from my mother. Bit of a comedown for Mr. Brilliant, there’s no prizes for looking after your half-mad sister, stopping her blowing up the house every other day. But he did all right for a few weeks… till he came.

gg1Grindelwald. And at last my brother had an equal to talk to, someone just as bright and talented as he was. And looking after Ariana took a backseat then, while they were hatching all their plans for a new Wizarding order, and looking for Hallows, and whatever else it was they were so interested in. Grand plans for the benefit of all Wizardkind, and if one young girl got neglected, what did that matter, when Albus was working for the greater good?

But after a few weeks of it, I’d had enough, I had. It was nearly time for me to go back to Hogwarts, so I told ’em, both of ’em, face-to-face, like I am to you now. I told him you’d better give it up now. You can’t move her, she’s in no fit state, you can’t take her with you, wherever it is you’re planning to go, when you’re making your clever speeches, trying to whip yourselves up a following.

He didn’t like that. Grindelwald didn’t like that at all. He got angry. He told me what a stupid little boy I was, trying to stand in the way of him and my brilliant brother…. Didn’t I understand, my poor sister wouldn’t have to be hidden once they’d changed the world, and led the wizards out of hiding, and taught the Muggles their place?

And there was an argument… and I pulled out my wand, and he pulled out his, and I had the Cruciatus Curse used on me by my brother’s best friend — and Albus was trying to stop him, and then all three of us were dueling, and the flashing lights and the bangs set her off, she couldn’t stand it —

— and I think she wanted to help, but she really didn’t know what she was doing, and I don’t know which one of us did it, it could have been any one of us — and she was dead.

Gone. Gone forever.

‘Course, Grindelwald scampered. He had a bit of a track record already, back in his own country, and he didn’t want Ariana set to his account, too. And Albus was free, wasn’t he? Free of the burden of his sister, free to become the greatest wizard of the —    

The shade of Albus tells his version of the story to Harry at King’s Cross:

f38722022You know the secret of my sister’s ill health, what those Muggles did, what she became. You know how my poor father sought revenge, and paid the price, died in Azkaban. You know how my own mother gave up her own life to care for Ariana.

I resented it, Harry.

I was gifted, I was brilliant. I wanted to escape. I wanted to shine. I wanted glory.

Do not misunderstand me. I loved them. I loved my parents, I loved my brother and my sister, but I was selfish, Harry, more selfish than you, who are a remarkably selfless person, could possibly imagine.

So that, when my mother died, and I was left the responsibility of a damaged sister and a wayward brother, I returned to my village in anger and bitterness. Trapped and wasted, I thought! And then of course, he came…

gg4Grindelwald. You cannot imagine how his ideas caught me, Harry, inflamed me. Muggles forced into subservience. We wizards triumphant. Grindelwald and I, the glorious young leaders of the revolution.

Oh, I had a few scruples. I assuaged my conscience with empty words. It would all be for the greater good, and any harm done would be repaid a hundredfold in benefits for wizards. Did I know, in my heart of hearts, what Gellert Grindelwald was? I think I did, but I closed my eyes. If the plans we were making came to fruition, all my dreams would come true.

And at the heart of our schemes, the Deathly Hallows! How they fascinated him, how they fascinated both of us! The unbeatable wand, the weapon that would lead us to power! The Resurrection Stone — to him, though I pretended not to know it, it meant an Army of Inferi! To me, I confess, it meant the return of my parents, and the lifting of all responsibilities from my shoulders.

And the Cloak… somehow, we never discussed the Cloak much, Harry. Both of us could conceal ourselves well enough without the Cloak, the true magic of which, of course, that it can be used to protect and shield others as well as its owner. I thought that, if we ever found it, it might be useful in hiding Ariana, but our interest in the Cloak was mainly that it completed the trio, for the legend said that the man who united all three objects would then be truly master of death, which we took to mean ‘invincible.’

gg2Invincible masters of death, Grindelwald and Dumbledore! Two months of insanity, of cruel dreams, and neglect of the only two members of my family left to me.

And then… you know what happened. Reality returned in the form of my rough, unlettered, and infinitely more admirable brother. I did not want to hear that I could not set forth to seek Hallows with a fragile and unstable sister in tow.

The argument became a fight. Grindelwald lost control. That which I had always sensed in him, though I pretended not to, now sprang into terrible being. And Ariana… after all my mother’s care and caution … lay dead upon the floor.

Well, Grindelwald fled, as anyone but I could have predicted. He vanished, with his plans for seizing power, and his schemes for Muggle torture, and his dreams of the Deathly Hallows, dreams in which I had encouraged him and helped him. He ran, while I was left to bury my sister, and to learn to live with my guilt and my terrible grief, the price of my shame.

Years passed. There were rumors about him. They said he had procured a wand of immense power. I, meanwhile, was offered the post of Minister of Magic, not once, but several times. Naturally, I refused. I had learned that I was not to be trusted with power.

I had proven as a very young man, that power was my weakness and my temptation. It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.

f39159462I was safer at Hogwarts. I think I was a good teacher… But while I busied myself with the training of young wizards, Grindelwald was raising an army. They say he feared me, and perhaps he did, but less, I think, than I feared him.

Oh, not death. Not what he could do to me magically. I knew that we were evenly matched, perhaps that I was a shade more skillful. It was the truth I feared. You see, I never knew which of us, in that last, horrific fight, had actually cast the curse that killed my sister.

You may call me cowardly: You would be right. Harry, I dreaded beyond all things the knowledge that it had been I who brought about her death, not merely through my arrogance and stupidity, but that I actually struck the blow that snuffed out her life.

I think he knew it, I think he knew what frightened me. I delayed meeting him until finally, it would have been too shameful to resist any longer. People were dying and he seemed unstoppable, and I had to do what I could do.

Well, you know what happened next. I won the duel. I won the wand.

fb4Fantastic Beasts opens in 1926, twenty-seven years after the death of Ariana, during the “years passed” part of Albus’ version of the events. If Aberforth is right and he and his brother “learned secrecy at our mother’s knee. Secrets and lies, that’s how we grew up, and Albus… he was a natural” (Hallows, p 562), we can be fairly confident that neither brother is telling Harry and us everything they know about their family’s past.

The story we see on screen in Beasts suggests that Dumbledore was not sitting on his hands, reflecting on his shameful role in the death of his sister, until he was dragged into confronting Grindelwald. It seems instead that he and Grindelwald are pursuing secret knowledge, to include the Deathly Hallows, albeit for antagonistic ends in the interim between Ariana’s death and their battle to the finish in ’45.

Dumbledore is working to defeat Gellert Grindelwald in the shadows — and he has agents working for him in this effort. Newt Scamander is one of these earliest ‘Order of the Phoenix’ members, hence his ability to have a wand though expelled from Hogwarts for cause.

Don’t see it?

Think back. We learn in Beasts’ pivotal Interrogation Room scene that Albus Dumbledore is remarkably “fond” of Newt Scamander. When Graves/Grindelwald asks Newt why Albus Dumbledore made such an effort to keep Newt from being expelled because he had “endangered human life with a beast,” the Magizoologist only says, “I really couldn’t say” (p 157).

fb29Read that line literally, rather than as the idiomatic and figurative way of saying “I don’t know.” What Newt says is that he cannot say why Dumbledore is fond of him, He’s not allowed or supposed to say anything about their relationship. I’m guessing this is verboten because it would mean betraying his mission. A mission almost certainly he has been assigned by Dumbledore — and one which involves finding and stopping Grindelwald.

This, of course, makes Newt a liar. But we knew that already. His first deception is when he tells ‘Tina that he has come to the United States “to buy a birthday present,” an Appaloosa Puffskein, which he can only get in New York. ‘Tina blows up that excuse when she tells him that “we closed that [breeder] down a year ago” (pp 37-38).

fb10He tells Jacob later inside the Suitcase Habitat-Menagerie that Frank the Thunderbird is “the real reason I came to America. To bring Frank home” (p 101). This turns out to be nonsense, too, we learn at the finish, because Frank could have been released the day after Newt’s suitcase cleared Customs in New York. Newt lets the Thunderbird go to seed the clouds Frank gathers, seeding them with the Super Obliviate Potion and Data Detergent (No-Maj’s Only) Super-Plot-Bind Fix-It to make everything right at the end. Newt doesn’t call or expect the grandest of his beasts to come back. Frank flies off to Arizona and, sentimental fare-well aside, no worries on Newt’s part.

So what is Newt really doing in New York?

What we know from Ariana’s Story is that the young girl had to be hid because

if the Ministry had known what Ariana had become, she’d have been locked up in St Mungo’s for good. They’d have seen her as a serious threat to the International Statute of Secrecy, unbalanced like she was, with magic exploding out of her at moments when she couldn’t keep it in any longer.

When Graves/Grindelwald interrogates Newt in Beasts, you’ll note that his accusation echoes the Dumbledores’ fear from years ago.

fb17Graves: So setting a pack of dangerous creatures loose here was just another accident, is that right?

Newt: Why would I do it deliberately?

Graves: To expose wizardkind. To provoke war between the magical and non-magical worlds.

Newt: Mass slaughter for the greater good, you mean?

Graves: Yes. Quite.

Newt: I’m not one of Grindelwald’s fanatics, Mr. Graves.

A tiny change of expression tells us that Newt has scored a hit. Graves is looking more menacing.

Graves: I wonder what you can tell me about this, Mr. Scamander?

With a slow move of his hand, Graves raises up the Obscurus from Newt’s case. He brings it onto the desk — it is pulsing, swirling and hissing.

CLOSE ON TINA as she stares disbelieving

Graves reaches a hand toward the Obscurus — he’s utterly fascinated. At his sudden close proximity, the Obscurus swirls faster, bubbling and shrinking backward.

Newt turns instinctively to Tina. Without fully realizing why, it is she whom he wants to convince.

obscrurial-fantastic-beasts-4Newt: It’s an Obscurus — (off her look) But it’s not what you think. I managed to separate it from the Sudanese girl as I tried to save her — I wanted to take it home, to study it — (off Tina’s shock)  But it cannot survive outside the box, it could not hurt anyone, Tina!

Graves: So it’s useless without the host?

Newt: “Useless?” “Useless?” That is a parasitical magical force that killed a child. What on earth would you use it for?

Newt, anger finally boiling within him stares at Graves. Tina, reacting to the atmosphere, also looks to Graves — concern and trepidation written across her face.

Graves realizes his mistake. He stands, brushing off the questions, turning the blame back onto Newt.

Graves: You fool nobody, Mr. Scamander. You brought this Obscurus into the city of New York in the hope of causing mass disruption — breaking the Statute of Secrecy and revealing the magical world —

Newt: You know that can’t hurt anyone, you know that!

Graves: — you are therefore guilty of a treasonous betrayal of your fellow wizards and are sentenced to death.

fb13Newt’s repeated “You know that!” is curious here. Wizards are ignorant about Obscuri and Obscurials for the most part. We learn this in the MACUSA Pentagram Office, the Hall where we saw that an international gathering of witches and wizards thought Senator Shaw’s death was caused by a beast, and Newt tells Jacob and Tina what few know in their holding cell.

Newt’s looking Graves in the eye and telling him in response to a question about Dumbledore that he is not a Grindelwald man, followed by this “You know that!” suggests that they both recognize each other. Newt knows Graves is Grindelwald and Gellert knows Newt is Dumbledore’s agent in New York. Hence the hasty death sentence.

Back to the reason the two would be hunting the Obscurus in New York. Graves has accused Newt of  bringing “this Obscurus into the city of New York in the hope of causing mass disruption — breaking the Statute of Secrecy and revealing the magical world.” Grindelwald’s speech as Graves in the Subway after Credence has been executed by the Aurors shows that this was almost certainly his own plan:

fb20Graves: What was done here tonight was not right!

Madam Picquery: He was responsible for the death of a No-Maj. He risked the exposure of our community. He has broken one of our most sacred laws —

Graves (laughing bitterly): A law that has us scuttling like rats in the gutter! A law that demands that we conceal our true nature! A law that directs those under its dominion to cower in fear lest we risk discovery! I ask you, Madam President — (eyes flashing at all present) — I ask all of you — who does this law protect? Us? (gesturing vaguely to the No-Majs above) Or them? (smiling bitterly) I refuse to bow down any longer. (pp 254-256)

Before we go on to the Obscurus Mission, note what follows this exchange — a battle beneath the streets in which Graves/Grindelwald, one of the two great wizards of the age, easily parries and responds to the attack of America’s finest Aurors but is subdued by a Swooping Evil and a “crackling rope of supernatural light” that Newt releases from his wand “with a sense that he’s been holding this one back.” That bit of impressive work along with his knowing to use the Revelio charm to expose Grindelwald suggests that this Hogwarts drop-out and uncertified wizard who works for the Ministry (p. 274) has had some private tutoring from a certain Transfiguration teacher.

fb6Remember Dumbledore’s comment to Harry at King’s Cross about his and Gellert’s disdain for the Invisibility Cloak? “Both of us could conceal ourselves well enough without the Cloak.” It looks like Newt has been told to look for a wizard with an unusual interest in Obscuri and taught the counter-spell that will reverse the magic that conceals Grindelwald.

One reading of the Graves outburst of Grindelwaldian rhetoric contra the International Statute of Secrecy, one corresponding to Ariana’s Story, is that Gellert’s efforts in New York to gain mastery of the super-powered Obscurial possessed by the Obscurus “parasitical magic force” were made in order to create havoc and destruction. Make that “Sufficient havoc and destruction so that No-Majs and Muggles everywhere would be unable to deny the existence of the Wizarding World existing alongside their own.” This is a continuation and natural extension of the world-transformation he planned to do with Dumbledore before Ariana’s death. As Professor Freeman notes in her brilliant first post on Beasts, quite a few observers in Harry Potter fandom have connected the dots and concluded that Ariana, though older than 10, was an Obscurial.

That makes sense, though it means, if true and if Dumbledore is coaching Newt in his hunt for Grindelwald and Obscuri, that Dumbledore has not told his secret agent about his fourteen year old sister and has not shared with Newt how he knows so much about Gellert Grindelwald. We have seen that Newt in his interactions with Queenie is not gifted or trained in Occlumency so this secrecy may be a function of more than Dumbledore’s native gift for “secrecy and lies.”

fb26Ariana’s Story, though, what we have from the Dumbledore Brothers in Deathly Hallows, is not complete. Grindelwald is not hunting the Obscurial in New York just because of the power he saw Ariana display. Her Obscurial explosions, if that really is what it was that killed her mother and herself (rather than a stray curse in the duel between Gellert, Albus, and Aberforth as the brothers tell the tale), could hardly have been so impressive as to launch a decade’s long search for another parasitical magic force in a host; the outburst they saw at close quarters only killed the young teen. Certainly Grindelwald was capable of much greater magical mischief-making himself than that explosion, one on a murderous scale which would make the International Statute of Secrecy crumble.

fb12What does Graves/Grindelwald mean when he begs Credence “Come with me — think of what we could achieve together” (p. 235)? In all his grooming and cajoling of Credence through the screenplay there is no mention of his wanting to team up with the Obscurial he is hunting, only of helping her, keeping her from danger (“Your sister’s in grave danger, we have to find her,” p. 223). The Dumbledore brothers are undependable narrators, but there is no hint or suggestion in their stories about Ariana that either of them thought of her (or the Obscurus within her) as a magical force to harness, foster, or just ‘contend with.’

So there must be parts of the first film’s back story, Ariana’s Story, that exist between the beloved sister’s death and the drama of Fantastic Beasts that we do not know but which we will learn in the coming installments. The one we know about already because of the repeated references to it in Beasts is Grindewald’s vision.

Graves/Gellert says to Credence that he has had a vision (or, a possibility we have to note from what we learned in Order of the Phoenix in the Hall of Prophecies, he has seen a vision someone else had about him via a Prophecy Globe like those kept in the Department of Mysteries).

fb28Graves: Have you any news?

Credence: I’m still looking. Mr. Graves, if I knew whether it was a girl or a boy —

Graves: My vision showed only the child’s immense power. He or she is no older than ten, and I saw this child in close proximity to your mother — she I saw so plainly.

Credence: That could be any one of hundreds.

Graves’s tone softens — he’s beguiling, comforting —

Graves: There is something else. Something I haven’t told you. I saw you beside me in New York. You’re the one that gains this child’s trust. You are the key — I saw this. You want to join the wizarding world. I want those things too, Credence. I want them for you. So find the child. Find the child and we’ll all be free. (pp. 88-89)

Note that if Ariana was an Obscurial and is the genesis of the story-line beyond the Dumbledore-Grindelwald conflict, either Grindelwald didn’t know she was 14 years old at her death or he is lying to Credence about the parameters of his search. Which wouldn’t make much sense, right? Or that he is as surprised as he is that the older teen Credence is the Obscurial?  Just sayin.’

gg3The vision Gellert Grindelwald has had or has seen, assuming for a moment that he is a dependable narrator here (I think his comments about Credence have to be held in doubt as potentially only grooming flattery), revealed a “child in close proximity” to Mary Lou Barebones, a child with “immense power,” power sufficient that her discovery will mean “we’ll all be free.” To Grindelwald that means magical power equivalent to that of Albus Dumbledore, a partner with whom he can launch the revolution to subject Muggles and elevate magical folk to their rightful dominance.

And we know that Grindelwald is not looking for just any Obscurus in an Obscurial. If he were, the hunt would stop with the Obscurus he found in Newt’s bag. Newt has told us that Graves/Grindelwald “knows that” that Obscurus cannot hurt anyone. Note, too, Newt’s hesitation when talking about the Sudanese Obscurus: 

Tina (to Newt): Obscurials can’t survive long, can they?

Newt: There’s no documented case of any Obscurial surviving past the age of ten. The one I met in Africa was eight when she — she was eight when she died. (p. 151)

That catch in his throat when talking about her death could just be sentiment, a halt to catch his breath at the grief he feels. Or it is a marker that the girl Obscurial was tortured and murdered, say by Grindelwald, and her Obscurus did nothing to defend her. Because that Obscurus cannot hurt anyone. Newt pauses there to say “died” rather than “was murdered” because the latter would have meant a rather more complicated explanation of “by whom,” “how,” and “why.” None of which answers we are supposed to know until the adventures of the films-to-come reveal them en route.

fb3Here’s what I think can be deduced so far about the back story to Fantastic Beasts and Newt’s mission from Dumbledore:

1. The story begins with the break between Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald at the death of Ariana. Gellert continues to seek a partner with sufficient power with whom he can overthrow the International Statute of Secrecy and raise wizards to rule over Muggles. He also remains fascinated with the acquisition of the Deathly Hallows. Dumbledore dedicates himself to thwarting Grindelwald’s ambitions, efforts short of pursuing him and confronting him himself (You may call me cowardly, Harry: You would be right).

fb192. Grindelwald learns about a “parasitical magic force” that in young witches and wizards repressing their magic has murderous power, the Obscurus. He pursues a sighting of one in the Sudan; Dumbledore gets Newt Scamander a leave from his job (one the thoughtful professor has found for him at the Ministry post-expulsion?) so that his protegee and secret agent can follow up this sighting as well. Newt is able to save the Obscurus from the Obscurial tortured by Grindelwald in east Africa but not the child. Traveling home or to New York from Sudan, he discovers Frank the Thunderbird in Alexandria, Egypt, a British port at the time, and either purchases him for repatriation or just liberates him magically into his suitcase for the trans-Atlantic voyage.

fb233. Grindelwald’s vision brings him to New York to find the Obscurial living close to Mary Lou Barebones, Puritanical No-Maj persecutor (?) of witches and wizards. He murders or magically imprisons the real Graves a la Barty Crouch, Jr., and Alastair Moody in Goblet of Fire and assumes Graves’ position in the Major Investigation Department at MACUSA. Dumbledore gets word of this vision as well and re-routes his agent Magizoologist to Gotham to protect the Obscurial and capture Grindelwald. Newt immediately tracks down the Second Salemers on arriving in New York but is kept from further tracking of Mary Lou and her adopted progeny by his need to rescue the beasts Jacob has inadvertently loosed on New York City.

fb334. When all the beasts except the Billywig (just what does become of the Big Blue Bug?) are safely back in his case, Newt returns to the mission impossible he’s been given and hands off his suitcase and book to ‘Tina on the rooftop. In the subway Newt Obscurus-whispers Credence (a skill he has learned from Aberforth?) back into human form but Graves/Grindelwald and the American Aurors blow his save, as they say in baseball. Obscurus and Obscurial are blasted to smithereens (well, actually, not really — Credence lives); Grindelwald, however, is subdued and captured. Gellert’s enigmatic aside to Newt as he exits, “Will we die, just a little?” is a message for Dumbledore, a reference to their first encounter in Sudan, or some other back story touchstone or poetic reference we do not yet know.

I am hesitant to accept that Grindelwald has really had a vision. It seems at least as likely that his “vision” comments to Credence in alleyways throughout Beasts are just the ugliest kind of psycho-sexual manipulation of the emotionally starved. I think the vision narrative credible and include it in the points above only because of one thing, one thing beyond the echo with the Hogwarts Saga’s Prophecy, a mystery I pointed out in last Sunday’s HogwartsProfessor post. How else are we to explain that this high-voltage wizard was unable to find the Obscurial in New York on his own? How else did he know it was close to Mrs. Barebones?

Knowing what he does, vision or from report, why not introduce himself to Mary Lou Barebones and, on his visit, check out the children in the NSPS Church for signs of magical activity? I assume that the magical technology that alerts wizarding schools like Hogwarts and Ilvermorny of the birth of potential students already exists and that Grindelwald is aware of it. His interaction with pathetic Credence, Graves’ dependence on him really, is the best argument that Gellert has indeed seen a vision that tells him this is what he must do, the only way to find the Obscurial.

With that back-story in place, where are we headed? To a story of Dumbeldore’s behind-the-scenes efforts in resistance to Gellert Grindelwald’s plans to foment revolution and subdue Muggle-kind to wizard rule. 

Here are my first guesses off-the-cuff about our magical destinations and events in the films to come:

  • Bracket: United Kingdom, 1899, death of Ariana Dumbledore, genesis of Dumbledore-Grindelwald conflict, Deathly Hallows pursuit, Muggle subjection for Greater Good.
  • Film 1: United States, New York City, 1926, revelation of Grindelwald’s pursuit of “immense power” to free wizarding world, Obscurus/Obscurial story line, introduction of Fab Four ensemble, Leta Lestrange mention, Hallows symbol shown, Fantastic Beast — Frank the Thunderbird.
  • fb16Film 2: France, Paris; UK, London/Hogwarts, 1930, depression England and France, quite the change from Roaring 20’s America, Leta and Newt relationship, Credence resurrection and Dumbledore’s attempt to educate him, Grindelwald’s vision and plans for revolution (and stealing the Death Stick), Queenie and Jacob in France, Shrieking Shack-esque revelation of back story.  Oh, yeah, and why Newt got to keep his wand after being expelled from Hogwarts will be explained. Fantastic Beast — Marisa the Manticore
  • Film 3: Nazi Germany, Berlin, 1936 (according to the ‘ring rules’ this should be in the UK if echoing the brackets or in the US if pointing to films 1 and 5; I have to hope, though, as one more Quidditch World Cup centerpiece resonance, that the story-turn in Newt’s adventures will be at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin) Story pivot — second encounter and battle of either Newt-Gellert or Dumbledore-Grindelwald (by proxy?), big Gellert win with his Elder Wand/Hallow, Credence’s revenge with the Barebones backstory explained, ‘Tina/Leta conflict and Newt’s first choice between the two, Queenie-Jacob marriage or first child. Fantastic Beast — Quentin the Quintaped
  • not-newt-5Film 4: Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, Alexandria, 1940 (this installment should be like Film 2 as a parallel across the story axis so the German blitzkrieg invasion of France and English evacuation at Dunkirk, 1940, are more likely, but I want a trip to Egypt in the story as a not-quite parallel echo of the Sudan adventure) Problems plague Leta/Newt as the Lestrange lady gets really strange, even Grindelwaldy, Jacob enlists (with the Free French — and Queenie?)  to fight the invading German army, Credence and Grindelwald cause chaos in preparation for the reveal of the Wizarding World when wartime Muggle life in Britain and Europe could not be worse, the nigredo of the Newt movies. Dumbledore paralyzed emotionally and not equal to finding and fighting Grindelwald. Tom Riddle, Jr., gains the Gaunt family ring and Resurrection Stone. Fantastic Beast — Alexey the Abraxan
  • Film 5: Ruhr Valley/Dresden, 1945, Climax — Dumbledore-Grindelwald battle after Credence betrayal, Credence is the secret that gives DDore the edge over the Death Wand/Hallow, Tina saves Newt after Leta deserts him for GG, Jacob and Queenie escape concentration camp, revelation of Barebones psychological history, Voldemort plays Magician’s Apprentice to Grindelwald, which entree signals the beginning of VoldeWar I five part film series with DDore and the original Order of the Phoenix (not to mention Dan Radcliffe playing James Potter). Fantastic Beast — Usenko the Ukrainian Ironbelly
  • Bracket: United Kingdom, 1998, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Let me know what you think of the back story speculations and future film guesses! Is Newt Scamander Albus Dumbledore’s agent in the private war between Gellert Grindelwald and Dumbledore? 


  1. I love the thought of the series going to the 1936 Olympics! I’m unabashedly hoping for that now!

    I wonder if Grindelwald originally wanted to fool Albus into traveling with him but was more interested in bringing along Ariana as their secret weapon, and if he thought he was going to establish the same setup with Credence and Modesty. It would be a parallel to his wanting the Resurrection Stone to amass an army of Inferi or the Death Eaters using Fenrir Greyback as their secret weapon.

  2. A report just in from J. K. (not Mr Kowalski):

    “This [Dumbledore/Grindelwald relationship] is something that I knew a lot about when I was writing Potter, but it was pre-history,” she said. “It was hinted at in the Potterverse. Now I get the chance to say what I know.”

    As in, “the whole point of the five film series”?

  3. I’m confused by the timeline of Grindelwald’s escape from the Swiss chateau and his arrival in New York. The script actually states that it’s “the next day” when Newt disembarks. Since inter-continental apparition is not possible, how does Grindelwald get to New York, overcome Graves, and ingratiate himself to Credence in less than 24 hours?

  4. Great catch, Steve! I think though, there’s an explanation for “the next morning” in Scene 2’s caption. Sort of!

    It is not the morning after the chateau escape depicted in the first scene but to the newspaper montage’s closing shot of the Statue of Liberty. In the newspaper headline and magical photographs we are shown after the White Light escape, we learn that significant time elapses between Gillert’s break for freedom and Newt’s arrival. “Grindelwald Strikes Again in Europe” Where is Grindelwald? Is Anyone Safe?” are there, as The Script Lab says, “to deliver information and time passage in an economical way.”

    As you point out, this montage being an elapsed time tool, the “Next Morning” marker in the Scene 2 headline is a little goofy, even if you assume, as I have, that it refers to the Statue of Liberty photo. The montage, however, tells us that sufficient time has elapsed for GG to travel, do whatever he does to supplant Graves, and be on the scene when Newt arrives. Newspaper Montages.

    I’m guessing you saw the montage as I did, namely, an echo of and hat tip to Citizen Kane. The Shaws continue the tribute, especially in the scene where Senator Shaw’s name and face are on a large canvas behind the platform where he speaks to an audience of big-wig supporters before the Obscurus kills him. That name and picture are visual quotations from Charles Foster Kane’s speech as he runs for governor in Citizen Kane.

    Great hearing from you, Steve!

  5. Suzanne Lucero says

    One question, two answers. (And a very long, rambling post. Sorry.)

    Question) Why didn’t I connect all those little plot points?

    Answer 1) Jo Rowling is beyond brilliant at keeping her secrets “hidden in plain sight.”

    Answer 2) I’m hopeless at puzzles and riddles. (I would have “failed on an epic scale” at Gollum’s riddles in the dark. Seriously. Also, I’m a terrible burglar. But I digress …)

    I finally watched the movie last night, and it was visually worlds beyond the scripted page. (I should note, however, Queenie didn’t insert a memory into Jacob’s head via her wand at the subway entrance, which I think you mentioned in your last post. She was holding a magical umbrella, which I’m sure you know by now.) I was stunned by David Yate’s skill at bringing the magical world alive once again.

    MinaLima is seriously challenging Weta Workshop as my favorite cinematic design team. As an example, the colors in the scenes where magic held sway were deep and rich, in wonderful contrast to drab New York, which looked more like early sepia-toned photographs. Jacob’s bakery seemed to me to be like a middle-ground between the two. It was in slightly brighter tones–lighter-colored wood and a few pastels, like it was a hand tinted photograph–than those of the street outside, as though his forgotten brush with the magical world had subtly colored his own. Then he sees Tina, an obvious part of the magical world. I like to think that her bright contrast to the No-maj world was what helped Jacob recall those forgotten memories.

    That’s about it for my “original” thoughts. I caught only an occasional glimpse of things that you pursued more deeply. For instance, Graves’s touching and embracing Credence. Well of course (I thought, after I read the screenplay and realised Graves was Grindelwald) Graves used the power of physical closeness over one who is emotionally damaged in order to use him, Credence, to lead him, Graves/Gridelwald, to the obscurial. Totally, TOTALLY forgot Grindelwald’s strongly implied, if not outrightly stated, homosexuality. Now it makes sense.

    Oops, I lied when I said I didn’t have any more original thoughts on FB. As you were pointing out some things, my brain began jumping to conclusions about other things. See what you started?

    Anyway … for your consideration:

    When Graves tells Credence the first time we see them in the alley, “So find the child. Find the child and we’ll all be free,” there are two possible meanings, I think. One, Wizardkind will be free to be in the open, no longer “scuttling like rats in the gutter … [concealing] our true nature,” to prevent being discovered. Two, (keeping in mind this is Grindelwald talking) an implied promise–probably empty–that after the wizard/muggle (or no-maj) war, Graves and Credence will be free to be together.

    Next … (There’s more? Yes! More!)

    In the vision Graves saw (I’m thinking you’re probably right that it was not his vision but another’s), Graves said he could not see the obscurial, only it’s great power, but it was standing beside Credence’s mother, “her I saw so plainly.” (Which mother, his real or adoptive one? Did Graves even know that Credence was adopted? Did he think Mary Lou was his real mother? Maybe she was.) Just tossing around ideas here, but maybe Graves could see Mary Lou and Credence clearly because they were both magical. Stay with me, here. Maybe Mary Lou is magical but has rejected her magic. She did not become an obscurial because she was older when she gave up using her powers and could control them, whereas a child can’t.

    As to why Mary Lou rejected her own magic (if she had any), remember when she told Credence “Your mother was an unnatural woman”? She may have been splitting hairs. If she was Credence’s birth-mother, she may have rejected her magic after Credence was born, therefore allowing her to keep the pretence that she– the New Salem zealot–was not his mother. Or, in keeping with the whole Puritanical “unnatural” pronouncement, maybe Mary Lou was a lesbian who fell in love with another witch but was rejected, causing her, Mary Lou, to not only reject her own magical abilities but to loathe Wizardkind. Maybe she became involved with a no-maj, and they started the New Salem Philanthropic Society. Mary Lou had a child and when the husband died, she continued with the NSPS, carrying on with the attempted persecution. She told Credence that he was adopted so that if he showed magical ability, she could disown him. Also, Tina told Newt that although Mary Lou beat all her adopted kids, ” … she seems to hate [Credence] the most.” That would make sense if Credence was her own child and she knew his being a wizard was a possibility. (When she asked, “What’s this?” just before she was killed, I’m convinced she knew bloody well what “this” was. Just saying.)

    Here, let me put in a few thoughts about why Harry didn’t develop an Obscurus. Yes, he was mistreated by the Dursley’s, but it seems the only one who actually hit him was Dudley, and Harry was often able to avoid the physical punishment by simply avoiding Dudley or actively running away. He was neither beaten on a regular basis by his aunt and uncle, nor sexually assaulted, as was poor Arianna. Harry was thin and mistreated, but he didn’t know he was a wizard so he wasn’t trying to suppress his magic. His mother’s protection may have had something to do with it as well.

    A few other thoughts …

    At the second meeting of Graves and Credence, Graves asks to see Credence’s hands, which are cut and bleeding. Graves doesn’t recognize them as marks left on the host body when the Obscurus breaks out and goes on a rampage; he believes they are marks left by the abusive mother. This only underscores that Grindelwald really didn’t know much about the obscurial he was trying to subvert to his cause.

    One spot that surprised me as being out of character was Newt’s reaction when Graves calls the Obscurus “useless” without its host body. I expected Newt to defend the Obscurus but instead he called it “a parasitical magical force that killed a child.” That jolted me. Newt was dissing the Obscurus he had managed to capture when I thought he was going to explain that being useless did not make it unworthy of being studied. But you explained why he answered the way he did.

    And that brings up something that seems so obvious to me now, but barely ruffled my curiosity when I first read it. Newt told Graves in the interagation room, “I’m not Grindelwald’s man.” That, of course, echoed Harry Potter in Deathly Hallows saying “I’m Dumbledore’s man, through and through.” But for some reason, I only thought of the two phrases as touchstones between the two stories. I didn’t ask the obvious follow-up question: if you’re not Grindelwald’s man, WHOSE MAN ARE YOU? Duh, he’s Dumbledore’s man, of course. NEWT’S WORKING FOR DUMBLEDORE! (I’m such an idiot sometimes.)

    OK, one more thing. (Yes, just one) It’s a Flint and has probably been pointed out somewhere else, but I haven’t seen it. In my copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, there is an “About the Author” page in back that says Newt graduated from Hogwarts. In the film, Graves consults some paperwork that says Newt was expelled from Hogwarts for “endangering human life … with a beast.” I’m open to explanations. 🙂

  6. waynestauffer says

    for the Hogwarts Professorate…

    an observation and a few questions (I finally got to see the film…)

    observation–regarding the AD/GG backstory: I also remember the fragment of the GG backstory in Deathly Hallows that Viktor Krum brings to the wedding. He’s ready to throw down with Xeno Lovegood because Xeno is wearing the DH pendant. Krum tells of the symbol being all over Durmstrang from GG’s time there. pretty strong effects if, 90 years later, Krum is still incensed at the symbol…

    the questions –now that we have seen an Obscurial/Obscurius in FBWTFT, and John has put out there that maybe Ariana Dumbledore was an Obscurial, could this be what prompts Albus’s interest in the boy Tom Riddle in the orphanage–he wants to confirm whether or not Tom is an Obscurial? Why does it have to be Albus who goes to the orphanage to see about Tom?

    What could possibly draw Dumbledore/Wizarding community attention to a Muggle orphanage, except this potential? yes, i know the “magic sensor system” is in place to monitor magical activity and alert the MoM to underage magical activity, especially in non-magical surroundings. so that would be enough to warrant a discreet visit. (at this time in the storyline, the showdown between AD/GG has not yet happened, so GG is still at-large.)

    BUT we know that Albus’s sister had magical control issues (and may have been an Obscurial), and now, after Newt’s report back to Albus after FBWTFT, we know that Obscurials CAN live into at least young adulthood/adolescence. we know that poor Creedence was adopted and abused and this was enough to repress his magical abilities to the point that he couldn’t control them.

    young Tom Riddle also grew up in the orphanage and was neglected and shunned (to put it mildly) and considered odd by the Muggles around him. yes, when we see Albus’s memory of first meeting Tom in HBP (at not quite 11 years old), Tom does not seem to be repressing his magical abilities as much as using them in a sneaky way, but at the time of that visit his magical parentage is still unknown. and ophanages of the time could be cruel places…

    it seems reasonable to me that AD wanted to take in young Tom to monitor him closely and possibly guide (mentor) him so that, if he were an Obscurial, he does not become a tool for GG to use, as he had tried to do with Creedence. AD has some previous experience with his sister and knowledge of Newt’s encounter to inform him.

    hoping this makes sense and contributes maybe a bologna sandwich to the intellectual feast,

  7. waynestauffer says

    i forgot to add that Tom’s mother Merope Gaunt was abused and grossly mistreated in her magical family, so maybe that predisopsition to suppress herself passed on to Tom, and could have made him more disposed to have outbursts , hwich as a child he would not have understood or been able to control…

  8. waynestauffer says

    another question for the faculty…

    What do we consider “canon” for the FBWTFT series? films only? films and screenplays? screenplays?

  9. Brian Basore says

    I really like the Newt Scamander film. I saw it twice last week. I almost never go to the movies. Yes, the textbook says Newt graduated from Hogwarts, but as long as the films don’t play too loose with the HP seven volumes, okay. (That’s quite a concession for an obsessive/compulsive person like me to make.) That is, I agree that JKR is a good enough writer to lead her readers on so we’ll stay interested.
    Two comments: 1) It can’t hurt the popularity of the movie that Newt comes across as Dr. Who at times; and, 2) I hope JKR appreciates John Granger as much as HogPro fans do. Go, John, go!

  10. Dolores Gordon-Smith says

    That’s a brilliant post, John, with mouthwatering speculation about the films to come. I’d just love them to go to Berlin in the 1930s. I’m absolutely fascinated to see the various story hares – to call them that – that you’ve flushed out of the long grass. The only thing I don’t think is going to happen is that poor Creedence will be resurrected. His end seemed very final to me. The villain to watch for is surely Leta Lestrange. I wonder if we’ll get to see inside Askhaban? Surely Grindlewald would want the Dementors on his side? It’s great to have a new lot of stories to think about and I’m loving the comments on the post!

  11. Thanks, Dolores! One of the few things we’ve been told happen fer shur in the second film is that Credence survives.

    As I hope to explain at some length this week, Credence may very well be the true star (anti-hero?) of the Newt Scamander series.

  12. Kelly Loomis says

    I have really enjoyed reading the articles on this site. I’ve just discovered it. I listened to your group lesson #55 and it was my first podcast.

    Your theories are very thought provoking. I would like to see some backstory on Credence and Mary Lou come out at some point. There has to be more than meets the eye in that situation. Some significance to either Credence’s parents or Mary Lou’s background. In the screenplay it pointedly says “a midwestern” woman. As we all know that no detail is too small or insignificant for JK, why would that have been in there?

    Will there be some kind of struggle for Credence between AD and GG? Also, it says the obscurus is looking to reconnect with its host. Where is Credence’s body -how does the obscurus eventually connect with him or does he go on without it somehow? Can an obscurus somehow invade someone else?

    Also, will there be more back story on Queenie and Tina as Tina’s MACUSA ID shows she’s a half blood? How did this happen with such a restriction on non fraternization between witches/wizards and no-majs? Could there be a connection to Mary Lou – her adopted kids etc?

    So many exciting things to come. It brings back the excitement of the HP books in trying to pick up clues and guess what was coming!

  13. Brian Basore says

    JKR’s 1926 New York wizard folk say they don’t fraternize with “No-Maj”, but they use electricity, gas, and the other technology of the muggle city. This makes them different from the UK wizarding world, which does not use or understand muggle science and technology. Queenie and Tina live in a muggle boarding house and abide by the landlady’s rules, in contrast, for example, to Sirius Black’s family home that is magically separated from the muggle world.

    There’s such a difference between the British and American worlds. Remember that Mr. Weasley is always bugging Harry to explain muggle stuff (though, oddly, he never seems to think to ask Hermione). I like the Newt movie, but I don’t want to be an American while I watch it. As a HP fan I axiomatically accept that the UK model is the way a wizarding world should be. “No-Maj” is a crude perjorative. I reject it.

    In my head canon I suppose that the Ministry of Magic employed Vernon Dudley after the Dudleys went under the Ministry’s relocation program, since he had the right attitude and enough knowledge to strengthen the wall between the Muggles and the Wizarding worlds. He might as well, since the Ministry was already watching him and his family. Also, Hermione’s parents had the use of Diagon Ally and Gringott’s Bank. The Prime Minister of England had a wizard body guard and contact with the Wizard Prime Minister. JKR told me all these things in the HP books.

  14. Kelly Loomis says

    In movie 2, is the backstory the Goldstein sisters and Jacob?

  15. Kelly Loomis says

    Do you think Credence is basically equivalent to Snape in some ways?

  16. Kelly Loomis says

    Suzanne, there is a form that is pictured in The Magical Case: Explore the Wizardry of FBAWTFT. It is a MACUSA document that says Newt was expelled by the Ministry but it wasn’t enforced due to Dumbledore’s defense and he name was cleared. It occurred when he was 16 – so 6th year. Therefore he was able to sit his NEWT’s.

  17. Suzanne Lucero says

    Thank you for that, Kelly. All’s right in the magical world again 😉

  18. Brian Basore says

    Maybe it’s a small thing, but Grindel/Graves was revealed to be Grindenwald by a spell, not by waiting for the effects of Poly Juice potion to wear off.

    This leaves open the idea that the author chose to remove the knowledge of the disguise spell from later generations of the Wizarding World, leaving them instead the lesser option of relying on Poly Juice potion. So what? It’s the author’s story to write. It’s inconsiderate, though, at the very least, to Hermione Granger, of the cat hair accident, and to the members of the broom squadron of aurors assigned to escort Harry Potter from the Dudleys’ house to the Weasleys’ house. And no matter how one feels about (boo, hiss) Barty Crouch Jr, the things that Crouch, the aurors, and Hermione shared were the vileness of the potion to drink and the concern about the temporariness of its effect. If that more effective long-lasting disguise spell, or whatever it was, that even two teenage boys, Dumbledore and Grindenwald knew about and used with such confidence that neither of them cared about the Deathly Hallows cloak of concealment, was still to be found later, Hermione would have rooted it out, either from books or by asking Hogwarts teachers. (Dumbledore, who might have told her, was Hogwarts Headmaster, and no longer a teacher. Besides, Dumbledore didn’t go into detail with Harry about it either, when Dumbledore was briefing Harry about Grindenwald.) But she had no idea such a thing existed, and neither did Snape, Crouch, the aurors, or even, evidently, Lord Voldemort. It’s like when someone is trying to do something, and the common solution is awkward, complicated, difficult, and in the end unsatisfactory. The person thinks there must be a better way to do this, and there’s nobody to answer “There was, but it’s gone now.”

    In the everyday world, that happens when industrial methods change, say, from mechanical to digital. Change is not always progress but it is different. Sometimes you can’t get there from here anymore, for whatever reasons. I suppose JKR had reasons for withdrawing that more effective and convenient method of magical disguise.

    Or maybe I’m just crazy for bringing it. I was going to ignore it, but that decision only brought it more forcefully to my attention.

  19. Great thinking, Brian.

    I’m inclined to think, because Heyman said Grindelgraves uses Polyjuice Potion, that this was just sloppiness on the screenwriter’s part. We’re seeing that on the history side of things and with the magical story-telling. All the film makers comment on the close-to-overnight speed with which Rowling writes her movie re-drafts; it’s just not getting her attention and care the way her novels do (i.e., two months reviewing plans and notes before writing).

    If you want to make more of it or find Rowling an out, as you are, than I think the way to go is not (as I say in the piece above!) “there is a new disguise spell out there” because that creates the “reversal of magical technology” obliviate spell jam you point out. While “you can turn back the clock,” it is unlikely.

    If we have to find an out, look to the white light capture spell Newt uses that the text highlights (sic) as something secret or special. There’s something about ‘white light’ spells because the story begins with Grindelwald using one as a blanket knock-out or Avadra equivalent…

  20. Brian Basore says

    Thanks, John.
    I’m going to watch the movie Galaxy Quest again as a reminder to keep a better perspective about movies and being a fan.

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