Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

J.K. Rowling has added a ton of Wizarding lore since the last Harry Potter book. Here's what you need to know.

Contributed by
Nov 7, 2018

Over the course of seven books and eight films, the world fell in love with the adventures of Harry Potter, the "Boy Who Lived." When the final book had been read and the final movie watched, some may have thought that J.K. Rowling was finished with the massive mythology of the Wizarding World. That would turn out to not be the case.

Since the end of the classic Potter series, there have been vast amounts of canon added to Rowling's universe. Some of it has come from the new Fantastic Beasts films — 2016's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and the upcoming Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald — some has come from short stories on Rowling's website (Pottermore), and some has even come from a play. A play! Merlin's beard, will wonders never cease?

There's been so much added to Potter canon that if I listed all of it, we'd be here until Scorpius Malfoy is old and gray. I wouldn't wish that on anyone, so instead let's take a look at some of the most notable additions.

WITCHES AND WIZARDS IN AMERICA

Wizards aren't just based in England, or even just in Europe — they are everywhere, and America is no exception. In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we get a good look at how the Wizarding World operates in the United States.

For one thing, they don't use the term muggle; any non-magical person is called a "no-maj," which seems more than a little rude. Instead of a Ministry, the American wizards are governed by MACUSA, the Magical Congress of the United States of America. During the events of the film, this body is governed by President Seraphina Picquery.

According to Pottermore, this institution was created in 1693, soon after the enacting of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy. This act was taken especially seriously in the States (mostly due to the Salem Witch Trials), and we see in the film that MACUSA deals with the statute in a very strict manner.

MACUSA made it illegal for magical folk to intermingle with no-maj's in any way, shape, or form with "Rappaport's Law" in 1790. This law was still in effect in 1920, though MACUSA had relocated their headquarters from Washington to the Woolworth Building in New York City. Another fundamental difference between MACUSA and the British magical government was the treatment of criminals — in Britain, lawbreakers would be sent to Azkaban. MACUSA simply had them executed. Cool, cool cool cool.

One of its most notable achievements took place in 1920 when MACUSA captured the dark wizard Grindelwald. Though the American wizards didn't do any of the heavy lifting and they didn't hold him for very long. Ace job, MACUSA.

ILVERMORNY (AND OTHER SCHOOLS OF MAGIC)

If there are wizards and witches in America, they've got to have someplace to study magic, don't they? The greatest institution of higher learning for the American witch or wizard was/is Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, founded in the 17th century.

The school was directly influenced by the way things were done at Hogwarts, as the schools share more than a little history. You can read more about Ilvermorny's founding here. Like Hogwarts, Ilvermorny placed students in four separate houses: Thunderbird, Wampus, Pukwudgie, and Horned Serpent. If you are curious about what your Ilvermorny house might be, you can take the test. (For the record, I'm a proud member of Wampus.)

Notable Ilvermorny alums include both Tina and Queenie Goldstein, the latter of which defends the honor of her school in the first Fantastic Beasts movie against Newt Scamander. Ilvermorny is still in operation today and is generally thought of as the most democratic and least elitist of the wizarding schools. The school emblem is the Gordian Knot.

Aside from Ilvermorny, Hogwarts, Durmstrang, and Beauxbatons (the latter two schools had students featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) there is Mahoutokoro in Japan (featuring a very small student body, as well as young students who commute back and forth from home and school via giant storm petrels), Uagadou in Africa (the largest of all the wizarding schools), and the temple-like Castelbruxo, located in the rainforests of Brazil.

OBSCURUS, OBSCURIALS, LET'S CALL THE WHOLE THING OFF

When a young witch or wizard suppresses their powers, they develop what is known as an "Obscurus," which takes the form of a dark cloud. It is a parasitic force that feeds off of the witch or wizard who created it, making that young person an "Obscurial." Obscurials have often suffered psychological and physical abuse.

The most direct mentions of Obscurials is in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, in which an Obscurus is ravaging New York City and nobody knows who it is originating from. We discover that the abused Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) is the Obscurial, and is much older than most. Because of his age, his Obscurus is a great deal more powerful. Grindelwald attempts to use this to his advantage, but fails. Serves him right.

Another possible case where an Obscurus could come into play is in the history of the Dumbledore family. Albus' sister Ariana stopped using magic completely after she was abused by some local muggle children. She was never fully healthy again, and it is highly possible that she became an Obscurial before her tragic death. If this is the case, we'll likely learn more about her tragic story in future movies.

Minerva McGonagall hero

Credit: Warner Bros.

HATSTALL MCGONAGALL: BIRTH OF A LEGEND

One of the best entries that J.K. Rowling wrote for her website involves the history of Professor Minerva McGonagall. Played by Dame Maggie Smith in the Potter films, McGonagall is one of the greatest characters in the franchise, so getting to know more about her was a treat.

Unfortunately, much of Minerva's life was not a treat in any way. She was the child of a muggle minister and a witch who had attended Hogwarts (good thing they weren't American), and she grew up in the Scottish Highlands. Her father was unaware that her mother was a witch when they eloped, and though he eventually got the truth from his wife, his trust was broken. Minerva was born before the secret came out, but her two brothers, Malcolm and Robert Jr., were born after. All three of the McGonagall siblings showed signs of magical ability.

Minerva caused quite a scene during her first night at Hogwarts. Something known as a "Hatstall" took place, which is what occurs when the Sorting Hat takes an unusually long time to decide where to sort a student. The usually decisive hat couldn't decide whether to put Minerva in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor, but it ultimately chose the latter. (Incidentally, Minerva's future colleague Filius Flitwick also triggered a Hatstall.)

Minerva excelled in her studies, befriending future colleague Pomona Sprout and learning how to become an Animagus from her Transfiguration professor, Albus Dumbledore. She had her mother's talents and her father's strict moral code. After graduating, she fell in love with a muggle boy named Dougal McGregor. He eventually proposed, and she accepted. History, though, was repeating itself, as Dougal did not know the truth about who Minerva really was. Instead of telling him the truth (breaking the Statute of Secrecy and losing her new job with the Ministry for Magic), Minerva broke things off with Dougal. She gave him no reason why, and he was devastated. She kept letters from him in a secret box under her bed.

Minerva eventually ended up teaching at Hogwarts thanks to a direct invitation from Dumbledore. The two formed an incredible bond of friendship, and it is believed that Dumbledore was the only one who ever heard about Minerva's heartbreak over what had happened with Dougal. Minerva eventually did marry her old boss from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Elphinstone Urquart, though they never had children. Their marriage was a happy one, but it was short — three years after they married, Urquart died due to a bite from a Venomous Tentacula.

ALBUS SEVERUS POTTER AND THE... WAIT, WHAT?

Here's a real kicker, and if you want to avoid spoilers, it's best to stop reading now. One of the weirdest new additions to Potter lore comes from the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. In an effort to "keep the secrets" and not spoil the story for anyone, I am tempted to leave this alone for now... but it's too huge not to include.

FINAL WARNING: If you do not want to be spoiled for the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, please turn away now. I'm trying to keep the secrets, but I have a job to do.

The play follows the story of young Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy during their time at Hogwarts. Fairly quickly we learn that young Albus Severus' fears about the sorting ceremony were dead-on, as he is sorted into Slytherin. He is shunned by most of the school, with the exception of the very nice Scorpius Malfoy.

Potter and Malfoy become inseparable (something I never thought I'd write), much to the annoyance of Harry. They also mess around with Time-Turners a lot and completely screw up the history of the entire story that came before them. Throughout all of this, there is a mysterious character named Delphi who is pushing their buttons and, eventually, we learn who she is.

Delphi is, get ready for this, Voldemort's daughter. In perhaps his last ditch effort to put yet another immortality iron in the fire, Voldemort fathered Delphi with Bellatrix Lestrange. Guess his nose didn't match his, um... I'm gonna abandon this metaphor immediately.

Gross, but also: what?

The timetable for this is a little weird — for it to make sense, Bellatrix would have given birth sometime during the events of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. This makes sense, as she is not present during the attack on Hogwarts at the end of the book. In the movie, however, she's there — she's there in a big way, and she doesn't look pregnant at all while she's kicking plates around and lighting Hagrid's hut on fire.

Whether or not this is a plot hole is anyone's guess. Normally, I'd just chalk it up to changes in book/movie continuity. The issue now, though, is that the movie continuity now includes new films being written by Rowling herself... so… which version of these stories is the accurate one?

I don't really need an answer, I just need to keep believing that the cackling shrunken head from the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban film isn't canon. That thing belongs in a cannon, not canon. Get it?

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald will shoot a metric ton of new lore out of the canon cannon on November 15. Wands out, everyone.


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