The Magizoology of Fantastic Beasts
For those fans who were most excited to see fantastic beasts in a movie titled after them, all our wishes came true in Scene 47, when Newt takes Jacob on a tour of his suitcase. While I am thus far unable to freeze-frame that entire scene, we do have the script book, and I’ve read that scene over and over to catch all the little things. So let’s see what insights can be gleaned from that scene about Newt’s work in Magizoology.
We can identify most of the fantastic beasts present, either through explanation in the film or through the book version of Fantastic Beasts. However, there are several creatures that are unnamed and unexplained.
- The large dung beetles that are always in the background. We know what they are, but what is magical about them besides their prodigious size?
- What’s up with “what appear to be golden ‘leaves’ falling from a tiny tree” in Newt’s suitcase? The quotation marks signify that they are not simply leaves… is this another kind of magical beast?
- What is the creature Newt is handling as Jacob feeds the Mooncalves? The script says Newt is “cradling a luminescent creature with sprouting alien-like tendrils. He feeds the creatures with a bottle.”
- Glow Bugs, part of the swirling mass floating through the air of Newt’s suitcase. While their name seems self-explanatory, we don’t know anything about them besides them being bugs that glow since they’re not in the book.
Hopefully, all will be made clear sometime in the future!
Another thing that puzzled me about the suitcase scene was why the Obscurus was being kept in the snowscape. But this is one mystery that intrepid HP fans already have a solution for. When the Group That Shall Not Be Named had a brunch to discuss the movie, several brainy members floated the idea that this was to deter any of the other beasts from approaching the Obscurus, which makes sense.
Newt introduces the idea of the extinction of magical beasts when he talks about the Graphorn: “So they’re the last breeding pair in existence. If I hadn’t managed to rescue them, that could have been the end of Graphorns – forever.” It would appear this happens to several of the creatures we see in the film, which do not appear in the Fantastic Beasts textbook. Among the candidates are Thunderbirds and Swooping Evils, and possibly Glow Bugs (whatever they are). There is no reason for these beasts not to appear in the book, given that the book describes all the creatures Newt has come in contact with and contains creatures from all over the world. The only reason that makes sense in-universe is that those creatures went extinct before the 52nd edition was published.
I anticipate magical creature conservation to be an important theme going forward in the films, given the dichotomy between Newt trying to preserve the beasts and Tina’s immediate assumption that he’s writing an extermination guide (Scene 24) being indicative of general attitudes toward fantastic beasts.
While it seems that Tina’s mind will be changed about the fantastic beasts as she spends more time with Newt, it’s going to take a lot more to change the attitudes of the general wizarding populace. And it seems that as Newt’s love of beasts rubs off on Tina, she will also be influencing him in some ways. Note that Tina says they banned the breeding of magical creatures in New York in 1925 (Scene 19). Newt says in his book that the 1965 Ban on Experimental Breeding is his proudest accomplishment (FB vi), so he must have drawn the inspiration from American wizarding society and Tina.
Where Newt Has Been
I kept tally of all the fantastic beasts present in the film, and cross-referenced them with Fantastic Beasts the book, to get an idea of where Newt has been in his worldwide travels. And it appears that he really has been all over the world.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, half of the beasts in the suitcase can be found in Britain; we can assume that these are creatures Newt has had a long time. Certainly, some of the creatures Newt is closest with can be found in Britain. The Graphorn, Niffler, Bowtruckle, Doxy, grindylow, and Murtlap are all found in Britain. The Mooncalf and the Ashwinder are found worldwide, so presumably they might hail from Britain as well.
After Britain, Newt has the most creatures from Africa, though this could be because he just stopped there before the events of the movie. The Erumpent, Nundu, Fwooper, and Diricawl are all from various parts of Africa.
Newt has also been in the Far East, since that’s where he picked up the Demiguise and the Occamy. This explains why the Demiguise babysits the Occamy; that’s a relationship that can be found in nature since they inhabit the same corner of the globe.
The only creature that doesn’t fit any of those three locations in the Billywig, which hails from Australia. So we can add Australia to the list of places Newt’s traveled; he’s done a pretty thorough job canvassing the Eastern Hemisphere.
It’s worth noting that there are still over 30 beasts described in the pages of Fantastic Beasts that we’ve yet to interact with. Some are aquatic (Remora, Shrake, sea serpent, Lobalug) and quite a few are Greek (Chimaera, griffin, hippocampus, manticore), so perhaps that’ll be a future destination of Newt’s in the upcoming films. And the British Isles still have plenty of fantastic beasts we haven’t met yet (Quintapeds, Porlocks, Jarveys, Augureys). So there’s still plenty to look forward to.