What We Can Get from JKR’s New Information on the Potter Lineage
Many fans find themselves disappointed with the new information J.K. Rowling reveals through her website Pottermore. There is even arguments about whether that information should be considered canon or not despite the fact it comes from the author herself. Nevertheless, to launch the new Pottermore website design, the Pottermore team paired the grand opening with JKR revealing more tidbits about the wizarding world, this time about the lineage of the Potter family.
It begins by telling us the name “Potter” did not make the list of the so-called “Sacred Twenty-Eight” pure-blood wizarding families due to it being a somewhat common name in the Muggle world, derived from “potterer.” This is actually a very cool bit of information because it doesn’t change anything we already know. It solidifies what we know about the legacy of the Potters, being that they are a family who does not care for the pure-blood status.
The anecdote about Linfred is actually quite endearing, given he was just an old guy potting plants in his garden while simultaneously magically healing his Muggle neighbors. Being the originator of Skele-Gro and the Pepperup Potion, this may linger in a few people’s minds as they recall Harry having to regrow his bones in his second year and the Pepperup Potion used on students who caught bad colds or flus at Hogwarts. This information, however, is meant to act as secondary to what is presented in the series, not to make us reevaluate every scene in which these two potions appear. Linfred is not the main character of the Harry Potter series: Harry and his friends are, and when we read the books we shouldn’t dwell on the supplementary material we are given.
Reading about how the Peverell family comes into play is interesting because this is information about lineage we are not given in the series itself. In fact, it is so important that JKR provides this supplementary material about Iolanthe Peverell, Ignotus’s granddaughter, inheriting the Cloak because it makes a female the catalyst in combining the Potter family with the Peverell artifact of the Invisibility Cloak. This is giving a female centuries ago more agency and promoting this productive representation.
The fact two Potters sat on the Wizengamot (and one of them being Harry’s great-grandfather) is also really interesting information. Does it affect our reading of the canonical series? No. Is it cool to hear? Um, YEAH! There’s also some Muggle historical crossover with mention of the First World War, which is really cool, and we often do not see that sort of specific crossover in that way. This also solidifies the fact the Potters were excluded from the “Sacred Twenty-Eight” list, bringing us full circle.
But wait! We’re about to have Harry’s father, James, enter the picture. Henry “Harry” Potter named his son Fleamont, to which we get a comical tidbit about him dueling so many people at Hogwarts for getting made fun of for his name. We find out why Harry is so rich, though: Fleamont creates Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion and quadruples the family fortune. James was certainly quite the spoiled only child! Apparently, Fleamont and his wife Euphemia lived to see James wed Lily but not to see Harry born since they died of dragon pox within days of one another. This brings us to the beginning of the series and why Harry has no wizarding grandparents or aunts and uncles to go to, only his mother’s sister Petunia, a Muggle. It also brings the inherited Invisibility Cloak to James.
This is all really fascinating, but many people are sitting here arguing about what is canon and what isn’t. I say this: Let’s compromise. Primary canon consists of the original Harry Potter series (and primary movie canon is that of the movies instead of the books). Everything else is supplemental, from this new material to even anything JKR revealed over the course of the series’ publication. Supplementary material still matters, and it still exists in the world of the canon, but it does not primarily affect the way someone will initially read the series, nor should it. It is supplementary for a reason. Let’s just enjoy it, regardless if J.K. Rowling created it ten years ago or yesterday.
Links to previous MuggleNet “canon” debate: