Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is in theaters as of today, and there are a few questions that some movie goers who aren’t as embedded in the world of Harry Potter might have. Like, for example, is Harry Potter even a part of this movie?
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is based on a book by the same name that was written by J.K. Rowling in 2001. The book itself is supposed to be the textbook that Harry had to purchase in the first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and was written by the “magizoologist” Newt Scamander. In the textbook, Scamander details his journeys across five continents and the discovery of 85 magical species from around the world.
The actual “textbook,” which can be bought or downloaded to read if you’re interested, is more of a detailing of the species than anything else. In an interview with Scholastic in 2001, Rowling said she chose the topic of magical creatures because it was a subject that fascinated her when she was writing the original series and already had much of it planned out. Due to the nature of the textbook format, however, Warner Bros. Entertainment had to come up with ways to make it more engaging for movie goers and appeal to a crowd outside of the Potterheads. That means more original storylines, more action and, most importantly, more connections to the better known franchise.
Before you head out to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, here’s everything you should know about how it pertains to Harry Potter.
Is anyone from the Harry Potter universe in Fantastic Beasts?
Yes! Fantastic Beasts takes place in 1920s New York, much earlier and further away from Hogwarts, London and essentially where anything in Harry Potter takes place. That being said, the time period that the movie takes place in is incredibly important, as is the social issues wizards were facing at the time. Rowling has already said that the last film, the fifth in the franchise, will take place in 1945 — the year that famous Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore defeated the evil Grindelwald in a duel.
I’m getting to that. Grindelwald is considered one of the most dangerous wizards of all time, even usurping Voldemort, and during the turn of the century, he was plotting to create a wizard army that overtook the muggles all around the world. He saw their race as the superior one and didn’t think they should have to hide in the shadows. This is a pretty big theme in Fantastic Beasts — the divide between non-magical folk and magical people — and Grindelwald’s relationship with Dumbledore is crucial to telling the story.
Stop interrupting, self! Grindelwald had become friends with Dumbledore while he was a student at Durmstrang Institute, a school that some may remember from the fourth Harry Potter installment, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. They had plans to be benevolent leaders together, but their friendship fell apart quickly after a mishap during a duel lead to the death of Dumbledore’s sister, Ariana. Following those events, Grindelwald left Britain, stole the Elder Wand, and set up a base in a different part of Europe, committing a series of vicious crimes and murders.
What’s the Elder Wand?
Good question! The Elder Wand is one of the first Deathly Hallows ever created, and before you can even ask, the deathly hallows are three artifacts created by Death himself and handed out to the Peverell family. The three — a wand, ressurrection stone, and invisibility cloak — were split among the three brothers. According to legend, if someone possesses all three artifacts, they become the Master of Death. Even still, just on its own, the Elder Wand is the most powerful wand of all time.
What does that have to do with Fantastic Beasts?
Well, dear friend, this is where the timeline of all the events that happened during the time before Harry Potter become absolutely crucial. We know that between the period of 1900 and 1926 Grindelwald was busy tracking down and stealing the Elder Wand so he could set up his base and rise to power. It just so happens that two very important things happen in December of 1926, with one of those events forever changing the course of the magical world: Newt Scamander, our main character from Fantastic Beasts, arrives in America to conduct more research and Tom Riddle, otherwise known as Lord Voldemort, is born.
Will we see a lot of Grindelwald and Dumbledore in the film?
I’m not going to go into great detail, but there are hints of it. You have to remember this is the set up for an entire series. There are going to be four more movies after this, and if we continue looking at the all important timeline, it’s only going to get more dire as the series progresses.
Remember, we know that Rowling is planning to end the series in 1945. It’s when Dumbledore and Grindelwald have their big duel that results in Dumbledore reclaiming the Elder Wand and restoring a bit of peace in the world. But, before this can happen, something crucial to the development of Harry Potter happens that can not be ignored: Tom Riddle starts school at Hogwarts, the school the Dumbledore teaches at, in 1938. He finished school in 1945 — the same year that Grindelwald was defeated.
The damage that Grindelwald did, however, with his ideology about muggles and wizarding folk, can’t be ignored. Just as one hateful wizard is essentially brought to his knees, another is ready to take his place. The events of the Fantastic Beast series will directly lead into the period just before Harry’s era — the time when his parents and the Marauders were around — setting up the franchise that most know and love today.
How does Newt Scamander fit into this?
That’s a little trickier, since we don’t really know. What we do know, however, is that Scamander publishes Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the textbook, in 1927, a year after arriving in America. He doesn’t stay in New York, though, and eventually heads back to Europe to try and find other beasts. His timeline will directly co-relate to the unrest that’s happening around him, but whether or not he remains the focal point of the next four movies is unknown.
I just have one more question.
So Harry Potter is definitely not in this movie?
Sigh. No. No, he is not.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is now playing in theaters worldwide.