Fantastic Beasts and Where They’’ll Pop Up

by Jen Cunningham

As we all know, J.K. Rowling just loves to drive us Potter-heads crazy with a combination of slightly subtle and obscenely obvious clues. To propel us further into insanity, she released two books who’s proceeds go to a charitable cause (Comic Relief) shortly after the publication of the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (GoF). These books, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander, and Quidditch Through the Ages, by Kennilworthy Whisp, were created to resemble actual literature from the wizarding world and their purpose is to let Muggles like us have a little more insight into the wonderful fantasy world created by Rowling.

In particular, Beasts hold the most interesting information regarding the wizarding world. Upon first reading it, Potter-heads immediately recognize several creatures that Rowling had already mentioned in her first four books, including unicorns, werewolves, red caps, dragons, flobberworms, hippogriffs and many more.

Some recognized the descriptions of creatures to match previously unnamed beasts from the books; for instance, close examination reveals that Aragog and his motley crew of gargantuan ravenous arachnids are actually Acromantulas, a species that originates from Borneo. A statement in the book reads, “Rumors that a colony of Acromantula has been established in Scotland are unconfirmed confirmed by Harry Potter and Ron Weasley.” Further sleuthing has led to the discovery that Crookshanks, Hermione’’s ginger cat, is actually part Kneazle (a cat-like creature known to be highly intelligent and able to accurately characterize humans as well as being faithful pets to witches and wizards), a fact that has indeed been confirmed by Rowling.

After discovering these interesting little tidbits, some may have gone back to thinking that Beasts is a very nice little book to have (others might just be amazed that Rowling could come up with such imaginative creatures, of course excluding those from actual mythology) and pushed it aside in anticipation for the “real” Harry Potter books.

Then, after an agonizing wait, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released and once again people began to search and analyze clues and formulate theories for the remaining two novels. This book, having been published after GoF and Beasts revealed that the latter is still very purposeful. Getting past the seemingly useless mentions of and references to creatures such as crups, bowtruckles, murtlaps and chimaeras 00– which may just make the unseeing Potter-head merely say, “”Hey, I remember those from that funny little book! Cool!”” –– we are introduced to a creature called a thestral.

Harry first encounters the thestrals as he exits the Hogwarts Express in OotP. After a nice doubletake, Harry notices that horse-like creatures now pull the once horseless carriages that transport students to the castle.

They were completely fleshless, their black coats clinging to their skeletons, of which every bone was visible. Their heads were dragonish, and their pupil-less eyes white and staring. Wings sprouted from each wither – vast, black leathery wings that looked as though they ought to belong to giant bats… the creatures looked eerie and sinister.
(US OotP, Ch. 10, pgs 196-197)

The average person would pick up their copy of Beasts, follow the alphabetical template, search for “Thestral,” and turn up nothing. That’’s because Rowling had hidden it not under its technical name, but in the more general category of “Winged Horses.” They are simply described as: “… rare… (black, possessed of the power of invisibility, and considered unlucky by many wizards).” (I find it interesting myself that with several varieties of winged horses that more in depth descriptions are not given as with the “Dragon” category, and the thestrals seem to be of more symbolic and literal use than dragons.) The thestral is proven highly significant in OotP, as it is revealed that only those who have witnessed death can see them and that they are falsely tethered to the rumor of ill luck. In fact, the creatures, known for amazing sense of direction, aid Harry to reach the Ministry of Magic.

The intelligent sleuth then deduces that Beasts most likely holds the key to other important creatures that will be mentioned in the last two Harry Potter books, some that may have already been mentioned in passing, and others that have yet to be introduced.

First, we must analyze the contents of the book and break it down into categories based on similar characteristics or qualities: (Placed in parenthesis if previously mentioned in another category).

Birds Augurey, Diricawl, Fwooper, Jobberknoll, Phoenix, Snidget
Reptiles/Reptilian Ashwinder, Basilisk, Dragon, Fire Crab, Moke, Occamy, Runespoor, Salamander, Sea Serpent
Insects/Parasites Billywig, Chizpurfle, Flobberworm, Glumbumble, Streeler
Demons Grindylow, Kappa, Kelpie, Nogtail, Pogrebin
Water Creatures (Grindylow, Kappa, Kelpie) Hippocampus, Lobalug, Mackled Malaclaw, Merpeople, Plimpy, Ramora, Shrake
Elf, Fairy, or Pixie-like Doxy, Erkling, Fairy, Imp, Leprechaun, Pixie
Crosses and Half-Humans (Hippocampus, Merpeople) Centaur, Chimaera, Griffin, Hippogriff, Manticore, Sphinx, Werewolf
Horses (Centaur, Hippocampus) Unicorn, Winged Horses [Abraxan, Aethonan, Granian, Thestral]
Misc. Bowtruckle, Bundimun, Clabbert, Crup, Demiguise, Dugbog, Erumpent, Ghoul, Gnome, Graphorn, Horklump, Jarvey, Knarl, Kneazle, Lethifold, Mooncalf, Murtlap, Niffler, Nundu, Porlock, Puffskein, Quintaped, Red Cap, Re’em, Tebo, Troll, Yeti

Now with the information in front of us, we have to decide which creatures may be important in the upcoming books. Many of the creatures in Beasts have already been mentioned and though some have recurring roles in the book (Fawkes, Crookshanks, Professor Lupin, Buckbeak), other beasts were likely to be one time mentions that were only important at particular moments in the books (Leprechauns in GoF, the Basilisk in CoS and so on), and some have never been mentioned. Therefore we have to look at all creatures and evaluate their usefulness.

Potions

Though many of the creatures may not physically appear in the books, some of them have proven to be useful to our heroes by way of potions. Several creatures named in Beasts provide ingredients that are vital in the making of very important potions or solutions. In OotP, Hermione provides Harry with essence of murtlap to heal his cuts from his detention with Umbridge. Though the murtlap does not physically appear in the book, we can see how the creature became helpful to Harry. Several creatures in Beasts are described as having potion making potential, including the Chizpurfle, Billywigs, Jobberknolls and Graphorn. Could these creatures provide for a potion that will be helpful or possibly vital in the war against Voldemort?

Water Creatures

From observing the categories listed above, we can see that there are several creatures that inhabit bodies of water. In GoF, Harry encountered Merpeople and Grindylows during the second task in the lake. Some people speculate the importance of the lake and other sources of water (such as under Gringotts) and in The Plot Thickens…: Harry Potter Investigated one such article dives into the possibility that these bodies of water may prove to be vulnerable spots for the “good guys.” Could water-dwelling creatures then become as vulnerable and possibly join Voldemort, or will they take the side of good?

Half-Human Creatures

There has been much importance placed on these creatures. Centaurs, half man, half horse, are great thinkers and look to the heavens for answers. They could cause trouble in the future, as they are not fond of humans. Already the centaurs of the Forbidden Forest have banished one of their own for working with Dumbledore. Could the Dark Lord convince them to join his ranks? The Merpeople, though they seem to have only been important during the second task, may again become important. Dumbledore can communicate with them, which may help the Merpeople side with good. Professor Lupin, our favorite werewolf, has already proven his value as a part of the Order of the Phoenix and proves that werewolves aren’’t so bad after all.

Birds and Flying Creatures

Fawkes, Professor Dumbledore’’s prized phoenix, has in several cases proven to be a highly important creature. In CoS, Fawkes delivered the Sorting Hat to Harry and gouged the eyes of the Basilisk. In GoF the phoenix’’s song echoed as Harry fought Lord Voldemort (remember that Fawkes provided a feather to both of their wands). In OotP, Fawkes sacrificed himself to Voldemort’s Killing Curse to protect Dumbledore and was once again reborn. I believe that Fawkes will continue to be important, but will other birds put their wing in the ring? The Augurey seems an unlikely candidate, as it doesn’’t do much other than predict the weather. The Fwooper, however, has a song that drives the listener into insanity. Could Voldemort use this creature?

Other flying creatures are important to the books. The Thestrals brought Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Neville, and Luna to the Ministry of Magic in OotP. Buckbeak, the Hippogriff, helped Hermione and Harry rescue Sirius in PoA, then escaped with Sirius. Are there other winged beasts (See Mystery Creatures)?

Dark Creatures

It is likely that the Dark Lord will employ the use of several Dark Creatures to fight against the Order and Ministry. Most obvious are the snakes, which are commonly associated with Dark Wizards, specifically Voldemort. It is possible that he could use creatures such as the ashwinder or runespoor. He has already used the Basilisk, known as the King of Serpents, to his advantage as a Parselmouth. This also creates the possibility that Harry, also a Parselmouth, could turn these creatures back against Voldemort.

Other creatures the Dark Lord may use include demons, and many of the creatures listed in the Miscellaneous category are extremely dangerous. Voldemort, as is known, is trying to get the Dementors of Azkaban and the Giants to form an alliance with him (See Mystery Creatures).

Guards

Our first experience with a guard creature in the Harry Potter series was Fluffy, a gigantic three-headed dog that was used to protect the Sorcerer’’s (Philosopher’’s) Stone. Fluffy is in fact an ancient Greek creature called a Cerberus, used to guard the underworld. In PoA, Dementors were introduced as prison guards at Azkaban. Strangely, neither creature is mentioned in Beasts (See Mystery Creatures).

However, there are creatures in Beasts that are also mentioned to be guards. Griffins are used to guard treasure. Perhaps there are a few Griffins working at Gringotts as part of its legendary security system. The Sphinx is also named a guardian of treasures as well as secret hideaways. GoF displayed this as the Sphinx guarded the quickest route to the Triwizard Cup.

Symbolism

I believe that some of the creatures in the books are used very symbolically. Fawkes represents the good, power, strength, and loyalty. Buckbeak represents freedom and escape. Dementors represent fear. Snakes are often evil. Thestrals, though associated with death, also, in my opinion, symbolize new beginnings after death. What other creatures may be used in a symbolic sense?

One creature in Beasts particularly catches my eye.

It transpires from their records that each of the Runespoor’’s heads serves a different purpose. The left head (as seen by the wizard facing the Runespoor) is the planner. It decides where the Runespoor is to go and what it is to do next. The middle head is the dreamer (Runespoors may remain stationary for days at a time, lost in glorious visions and imaginings). The right head is the critic and will evaluate the efforts of the left and middle heads with a continual irritable hissing. The right head’s fangs are extremely venomous. The Runespoor rarely reaches a great age, as the heads tend to attack each other. It is common to see a Runespoor with the right head missing, the other two heads having banded together to bite it off. (FB 37)

Is this a glimpse of what will happen in the future? Notice the description of each of the three heads. Does it seem familiar? It should. The Planning head is Harry. Harry often decides for the other two (Ron and Hermione) of what they will do. Harry is the leader, and the others often follow him and his decisions (such as attempting the rescue Sirius in OotP). The Dreaming head is Ron. Ron is often very imaginative, coming up with wild stories and dreaming of a different life that is unlike his own (Ron wishes to be rich and famous). The Critical head is Hermione. Hermione often lectures Ron and Harry on their homework and thinks they should follow her advice. Now we look at the last part of the Runespoor description. The heads often turn on each other. Already we have seen the Trio fight, Hermione and Ron constantly bickering and Ron and Harry’’s fight in GoF. Will this tear them apart? Is this their weakness that the Dark Lord can use against them? The description says that the right head is sometimes missing. Will Hermione meet a tragic end, possibly at the fault of her friends?

Mystery Creatures

Then we must also consider creatures that Rowling has not mentioned yet. House elves, goblins, giants, veela, a cerberus, and dementors have appeared in the books, but have had no mention in Beasts. What creatures can Rowling be hiding from us? Will they prove to be important to the story?

I think that it is safe to assume that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will continue to prove itself as a very useful book that is full of secrets waiting to be revealed.

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