Where Newt Got His Memory-Wiping Idea
While the epic memory wipe at the end of Fantastic Beasts seemed like the wizarding world’s biggest deus ex machina, it’s possible that Jo foreshadowed it with a historical precedent. I sure hope so, because that would go a long way toward giving me respect for the climax of the movie.
Buried on Pottermore amid the listicles, in an article about the history of the Quidditch World Cup, is a fascinating story under the heading “The Tournament [T]hat Nobody Remembers.”
The ICWQC insists that a tournament has been held every four years since 1473. This is a source of pride, proving as it does that nothing – wars, adverse weather conditions or Muggle interference – can stop wizards playing Quidditch. There is, however, a mystery surrounding the tournament of 1877. The competition was undoubtedly planned: a venue chosen (the Ryn Desert in Kazakhstan), publicity materials produced, tickets sold. In August, however, the wizarding world woke up to the fact that they had no memory whatsoever of the tournament taking place. Neither those in possession of tickets nor any of the players could remember a single game. However, for reasons none of them understood, English Beater Lucas Bargeworthy was missing most of his teeth, Canadian Seeker Angelus Peel’s knees were on backwards and half the Argentinian team were found tied up in the basement of a pub in Cardiff. Precisely what had – or had not – taken place during the tournament has never been satisfactorily proven. Theories range from a Mass Memory Charm perpetuated by the Goblin Liberation Front (at that time very active and attracting a number of disaffected anarchist wizards) or the breakout of Cerebrumous Spattergroit, a virulent sub-strain of the more common Spattergroit, which causes severe confusion and memory impairment. In any case, it was deemed appropriate to re-stage the tournament in 1878, and it has been held every four years since, which accounts for the slight anomaly in the ‘every four years since 1473’ sequence.
This is the kind of stuff that Pottermore is so great at: amusing stories that enrich the world (and answer an outstanding question about the HP books). Fans who are mathematically inclined quickly realized, upon the publication of Quidditch Through the Ages in 2001, several puzzling things about the timeline of Quidditch World Cups. QttA stated that the World Cup has been held every four years since 1473. First of all, that would make the World Cup from Goblet of Fire the 130th, not the 422nd. That remains an unanswered question to this day. But the other issue was that every four years since 1473 would hit 1993 (Prisoner of Azkaban), not 1994. So when this story was released on Pottermore all those years later, its primary purpose seemed to be retconning this mistake, and it’s one of Jo’s most delightful retcons.
But Jo is nothing if not a multitasker when she writes, so it’s my belief that this serves to foreshadow another very significant event: the memory wipe at the end of FB. So let’s dive deeper into this.
The Swooping Evil venom, the key ingredient, only erases bad memories. The fact that absolutely no one remembers this tournament means it was a terrible ordeal for everyone involved. Judging by the fact that “English Beater Lucas Bargeworthy was missing most of his teeth, Canadian Seeker Angelus Peel’s knees were on backwards and half the Argentinian team were found tied up in the basement of a pub in Cardiff,” this checks out. But I’m very curious what other horrible things happened that people forgot.
In terms of location, this took place in Kazakhstan. According to Pottermore, “The Thunderbird is unique to North America, but Frank was found in Egypt.” So this means that there is likely a good story about how a Thunderbird ended up in the Ryn Desert, but such a thing is clearly possible. We don’t know anything about where Swooping Evils can be found.
And now the key point: the timing of when this was written. Would Jo have already been thinking about Fantastic Beasts when she wrote this entry for Pottermore? Yes, it checks out! The Fantastic Beasts movie was announced in September 2013. The Pottermore piece was released half a year later, in March 2014, so Jo would have already been working on the script for the movie! I think this is the most compelling bit of evidence: that the piece about the forgotten tournament was published just as Jo was in the thick of writing Fantastic Beasts.
So if we assume that the mass forgetting of the Tournament That Nobody Remembers (TTTNR) in 1877 is due to a combination of Thunderbird and Swooping Evil, what more can we guess about it? Unfortunately, not much, due to its place in the timeline. The latest apocrypha seems to indicate Dumbledore was born in 1881, though that has always been up for debate due to Jo saying in an interview that he was born around 1844. But if Dumbledore and his contemporaries were born in 1881, then he was not around for TTTNR.
Indeed, the only people we know who were around at the time are some wizards from the Black family tree and Oswald Beamish (a goblin rights activist born in 1850 – probably a leader of the Goblin Liberation Front mentioned above). Certainly, Newt has little to do with it, having been born in 1897. However, this could well be where Newt got the idea if he was anywhere near as ardent a student of magical history as he was of Magizoology.
But it’s more likely that this will tie into the FB narrative in ways we can’t think of yet. Just because it happened half a century before the movies’ narrative begins doesn’t mean it’s not relevant. After all, the HP books had relevant events spanning across a century, going back to the tragedy of the Dumbledore family in the late nineteenth century.
So do you think I’m as woefully wrong as Humphrey Belcher? Or do you agree that Jo foreshadowed the memory wipe of Fantastic Beasts with the Tournament That Nobody Remembers?