The Three Broomsticks Centenary: Beyond Harry
Considering this is a column named after a location in Harry Potter, published on a Harry Potter fansite, you would expect most of my output to revolve around the seven published books. However, there is so much Harry Potter-adjacent content out there that I have frequently branched out into discussions of Jo’s other books and into the films of the wizarding world.
I’m sure some of these topics may not be of interest to every reader – and I will confess, I am never happier than when doing a very deep dive into the yellowing pages of Harry Potter paperbacks to pull forth a new theory or analyze a bit of minutia. But if these offshoots of Potter interest you – or if you’re on the fence about them – please explore the Three Broomsticks essays beyond Potter.
Harry Potter Films
Chances are, unless you have been a reader from the very beginning, you’ve never read anything by me on the topic of the Harry Potter movies. That’s because I haven’t seen most of them in at least a decade and am generally not a fan. But in my column’s humble beginnings, the films were still relevant to our fandom experience, so I did actually broach the topic.
In 2008, well before I had a column here, I submitted an editorial to MuggleNet’s “Burrow” section (a forerunner of the Quibbler that collected editorials on a prompted topic each month). When the rumors first surfaced that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would be split into two films, I argued in favor of that in Three Broomsticks (referred to as “TB” from here on) #3: “Going Out With a Bang.” I also wondered what such a two-part film would look like. Oh, the optimism of my 15-year-old self.
Regrettably, two movies did not turn out to be the panacea I’d hoped for, and I expressed my disappointment in TB #9: “The Movie Eight Paradox.” My final word on the subject came in 2012, where I made the argument that the new Hunger Games film adaptation succeeded in just about every way that Harry Potter failed in TB #13: “Where WB Went Wrong.” (And oh, what a brouhaha that article started!) I maintain that Catching Fire is among the most perfect book-to-film adaptations I’ve seen, and I will insist on Francis Lawrence directing any and all Harry Potter reboots.
Jo’s Other Works
When I love a book, I am usually very diligent about reading the author’s other works – so naturally, I have eagerly devoured all of Jo’s non-Potter books. I have reviewed all of her adult novels for MuggleNet:
TB #22: The Casual Vacancy
TB #30: The Cuckoo’s Calling
TB #34: The Silkworm
TB #40: Career of Evil
TB #65: Lethal White
TB #88: Troubled Blood
I have a suspicion that if The Casual Vacancy were a better book – I think it’s by far Jo’s weakest work and titled my review “The Quality Vacancy” – the fandom would have been much more excited about Cormoran Strike. And that’s a shame because they’re missing out.
The thrust of these reviews is that I have really enjoyed the Cormoran Strike books, despite some growing pains after the first one. In particular, The Cuckoo’s Calling, Lethal White, and Troubled Blood have all been excellent and display Jo at her mystery-writing best. The Silkworm was not great, but I’m glad to see the series recover from its sophomore slump. And though I haven’t written about it at MuggleNet, I highly recommend the TV adaptation, C.B. Strike.
In fact, the Strike books are rich enough for analysis of their own. I have not had the time to reread the books multiple times aside from the first one, but I still tried my hand at some analysis after the last installment. I explored the themes of the fifth installment in TB #90: “The Themes of ‘Troubled Blood.'”
And I tried, for the first time, to put some predictions on record for the future of the series in TB #89: “‘Troubled Blood’ Foreshadows Troubled Times.” It is one of my largest laments that I was not a columnist back when the Harry Potter books were coming out. (My first essay was published on MuggleNet in the months leading up to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but back then, I just read with awe what the other columnists came up with and debated that into the ground on the forums.) Now I get to be on the ground floor of Strike predictions, and that is so exciting.
We shall see if I was on the mark or not when The Ink Black Heart is released on August 30. You can be sure I’ll report back about Strike and Robin’s latest adventures this fall – and since The Ink Black Heart will correspond to my favorite Potter book (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), I have very high hopes.
But of course, the Potter fan in me will find a way to tie almost anything back to Harry Potter, and that includes Jo’s other works. I thought The Cuckoo’s Calling was highly reminiscent of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, so I wrote a trio of articles about Goblet of Fire’s counterparts to The Cuckoo’s Calling. These were TB #31: “The Psychopaths,” TB #32: “The Suspects,” and TB #33: “The Minor Characters.” This is also an opportunity to offer up a mea culpa: “The Psychopaths” originally included the name of the book’s villain in the subtitle, and I am so sorry if I inadvertently spoiled the book for anyone.
Jo’s children’s books from the last two years have provided even more fertile ground for connections with Potter. Most recently, I connected the magic of The Christmas Pig to Harry Potter in TB #99: “Alivening ‘Harry Potter’ Through ‘The Christmas Pig.'” The prior year, I attempted to predict what would happen in The Ickabog based on a pattern established in Harry Potter in TB #80: “Chapter 13.” I give myself partial credit: We did get the information I expected in Chapter 13, and it turned out to be one of the possibilities that I mentioned, but it was a possibility I’d dismissed as unlikely compared to the theory I had.
Lastly, and also concerning The Ickabog, is the essay I have called “The Avengers of the Three Broomsticks” because it’s a team-up of all the topics that have most fascinated me over the years here. TB #81: “Roderick Roach and ‘The Lightning-Struck Tower’” pulls together The Ickabog, Albus Dumbledore, Draco Malfoy, and Machiavelli’s The Prince and weaves them all together in one. Literary obsessions, assemble.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Articles About Them
As I mentioned above, I yearned to revisit the days when we theorized about what would happen in the next installment of a series by Jo. It looked like I would get my chance with the Fantastic Beasts franchise. In the two years between the release of the first movie and the second, I tried to predict what would happen in the films. I used every resource I could think of to find clues: the Fantastic Beasts book, obscure Pottermore articles, Greek mythology, and even the Mamma Mia! film franchise. The results, you can judge for yourself, but I did get a few things right.
The topic that most intrigued me was Leta Lestrange. In TB #45: “The Mystery of Leta Lestrange,” I first theorized that Leta’s son would be the Lestrange who’s a classmate of Tom Riddle’s. I built on that in TB #57: “Hippolytus… Lestrange?” using Greek mythology and in TB #62: “Fantastic Beasts! Here We Go Again” using the music of ABBA. To my credit, I did correctly predict Leta’s untimely demise and her association with babies who are crucial to the plot. The latter essay also contained perhaps my favorite line I’ve written in this column: “Upon reflection, the biggest difference between Fantastic Beasts and Mamma Mia! is the mortality rate.”
Back in the halcyon days from 2016 to 2018, I thought that the Fantastic Beasts franchise would comply with the established canon of the wizarding world and we could therefore use all the information available to us in our sleuthing. I used that in these essays:
TB #46: “The Big Bads: Grindelwald vs. Voldemort” (which I believe holds up as a solid analysis of the characters from the books, even if ignoring the Fantastic Beasts films)
TB #47: “The Magizoology of ‘Fantastic Beasts'”
TB #49: “Seven Things to Ponder About Grindelwald”
TB #54: “Where Newt Got His Memory-Wiping Idea”
I got even more into it in fall 2018 when we found out about Nagini’s involvement in the second movie. It provided me with a venue to explore one of the most disturbing questions in the wizarding world: How did Voldy go from Vapormort to Babymort? I am now convinced that the original theory, about Bertha Jorkins, was the correct one – but this made for a fascinating (and revolting) line of inquiry in TB #63: “Nagini and Voldemort’s Twisted Relationship” and TB #64: “Nagini and Dumbledore’s Connection.”
Unfortunately, all of that hopeful theorizing went out the window as soon as I saw the second film. I thought the first film was enjoyable, though flawed, and said so in TB #48: “The Seven Biggest Problems of ‘Fantastic Beasts.'” But the more that came out about Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the warier I became about the direction of the franchise, as I enumerated in the really-hope-I’m-wrong essay TB #59: “Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Repeating the ‘Potter’ Series.”
It turned out to be far worse than I feared. In my two-part review of Crimes of Grindewald – TB #66: “The Real ‘Crimes of Grindelwald’ Is the Movie” and TB #67: “It Is No Longer Our Choices: The Mediocrity of ‘Crimes of Grindelwald'” – I panned the film as an unqualified disaster. Regrettably, my views have not been ameliorated in the years since. I declared, in TB #69: “A Reckoning at the Three Broomsticks,” that this column had instituted a “No Pets” policy and would no longer be engaging with the franchise. And since then, we haven’t. There are plenty of corners of the Internet where Fantastic Beasts discussion is thriving, and I wish them well, but beyond a quick response piece to the future movies, I’m happy staying away from the franchise.