“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” – That Shocking Reveal Actually Makes Perfect Sense
SPOILERS AHEAD: PROCEED WITH CAUTION
The final trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald revealed that the name of Claudia Kim’s Maledictus character is Nagini. That’s correct; Voldemort’s murderous pet snake and final Horcrux was once a human woman who carried a curse in her blood that eventually caused her to permanently transform into a beast. Potter fans remain deeply divided over this new information and its implications, both for the events of the Potter series and for the plot of the Fantastic Beasts films. Fans have identified problematic elements of this new plot point, including racist and sexist implications, that absolutely deserve our thoughtful consideration. Within the context of the story, however, the reveal that Nagini was once human makes perfect sense, and I am excited to discover how the Fantastic Beasts films reconcile this new character that I already love with the vicious snake we all love to hate.
According to Dumbledore, “Voldemort was still at least one Horcrux short of his goal of six when he entered [Harry’s] parents’ house with the intention of killing [Harry].” It was “some years” after Voldemort failed to kill Harry that “he used Nagini to kill an old Muggle man, and it might then have occurred to him to turn her into his last Horcrux.” We do not know the magical process by which a Horcrux is made, but it is not unlikely that Voldemort had the magical means to create one while still disembodied. This does raise the question of when exactly Voldemort and Nagini first met. Tom Riddle only graduates Hogwarts in 1945, and it is highly likely that Nagini will meet her fate and permanently transform into a snake in that same year, at the end of the final Fantastic Beasts film. However, it is not until the late 1980s, according to Dumbledore, that Voldemort makes her his final Horcrux. Nagini and Voldemort did not have to know each other while Nagini was still human; Voldemort could easily have found out about her life through Parseltongue, Legilimency, or possession.
My theory is that Voldemort must have found Nagini while he was hiding out as a disembodied consciousness in the forests of Albania. We learn from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that while in hiding, Voldemort tried to possess small animals but was unable to do so for long periods of time because they would always die from the trauma. If in the 40 years after permanently transforming, Nagini made her way to Albania and encountered Voldemort, then Voldemort would have quickly realized not only who she really was but also that he could possess her without killing her. Moreover, Voldemort would have realized that, unlike a regular, non-magical snake, incapable of withstanding the strain, Nagini could successfully be transformed into a Horcrux without perishing in the process.
Most of Voldemort’s Horcruxes were either objects of personal significance or extraordinary magical artifacts. Though a snake is an obvious connection to Voldemort’s Slytherin ancestry, it’s hard to believe that Voldemort would pick any ordinary snake to hold a fragment of his soul. Bestowing this “honor” on a rare and powerful magical being seems much more Voldemort’s style, but as Dumbledore pointed out to Harry in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, turning animals into Horcruxes is generally inadvisable because “to confide a part of your soul to something that can think and move for itself is obviously a very risky business.” Voldemort would not have taken that risk unless he could be entirely sure that Nagini would remain loyal and devoted to him.
There’s so much we don’t know about what it means to be a Maledictus. We do not know if Nagini will lose her humanity when she permanently becomes a snake. If she did lose her humanity, it may have been easier for Voldemort to control her and maintain her loyalty. If she still had a human mind in her snake body, then perhaps it was Voldemort’s constant possession of her that ensured her devotion to him. The mental damage of continuous possession could compare to the mental damage Voldemort inflicted on Bertha Jorkins through torture. By turning her into a Horcrux, Voldemort may have essentially permanently possessed her and thereby ensured her permanent loyalty. In any case, Voldemort’s eerie fondness for Nagini and Nagini’s loyalty to Voldemort take on all sorts of creepy, frightening dimensions now that we know she was once a human woman.
Part of me wishes that Nagini’s name hadn’t been revealed in the trailer. Imagine if her name had been dropped in the middle of the film after we’d grown to love her character; the theater would likely have erupted. My biggest worry is that now that we know her fate, that fate will define her character more than anything else. I hope Nagini is given the chance to be a full, complex human being in Crimes of Grindelwald and beyond. I already know that I will love her and I’m already heartbroken when I think about her story ending. I am so excited to see how her character is developed. November 16 cannot come quickly enough.