First, here’s the big news that everybody already knows about. We’re getting a movie! Three movies! And at least the first one will be written by J.K.! I am over the moon about this. It’ll be set in the 1920s and will take place in New York. American wizards and witches? Even MORE magical creatures? I CAN’T WAIT.
So J.K. Rowling released Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages in 2001 as a charity effort for Comic Relief U.K. They expanded the world without expanding the story and it was a really big deal when the books were released. Someday we will get our Harry Potter Encyclopedia and it will be even better than these.
One of the best parts about this book is that it’s been “vandalized” by Harry and Ron, with a few rare asides from Hermione. We get to see their handwriting, which feels like a gift. Hermione’s is neat and tiny, Ron’s is messy and scrawled, and Harry’s is thin and connected. Harry really does swoop his g’s—just like his mom did—and I can’t think about that without getting emotionally worked up.
About the Author:
Newton Artemis Fido Scamander was born in 1887. His mom sounds like the coolest woman ever, as she bred fancy hippogriffs. Newt worked in the Beast Divison and spent his holidays searching for new and fantastic creatures. He eventually married a woman named Porpentina and I feel like J.K. kind of wrote herself into a hole on that one because she’s gonna have to be in the movie and the only decent way to shorten her name is to call her Tina. But then, she’s a writer who turned the name Hermione into a thing, so maybe she can pull it off.
Albus Dumbledore provides the foreword for this edition of the book. It starts off being really interesting. For instance, we find out that there’s a large publishing house named Obscurus. I want to know everything about the magical publishing industry. Are there any other large publishing houses? Do they have imprints? How are they dealing with e-content these days?
But then, Dumbledore starts to tell us about Comic Relief U.K. And I get it—I really do. This is a way to educate muggles about the work of Comic Relief U.K. and we muggles tend to listen whenever Dumbledore tells us stuff. But it still seems weird to me to have the voice of Dumbledore talking about this subject and using the terms for muggle currency, etc. Finally, there is a thief’s curse on the book, which I wish we could use in our muggle realm. That would really cut down on piracy issues, I think.
For an in-depth look at the history of magical classification and the role that muggles play in evading knowledge about magical creatures, the intro has everything you need to know and more. There are footnotes and proper citations, which warms my cold, academic heart.
An A-Z of Fantastic Beasts:
Since I’m not going to get into all seventy-five creatures mentioned in the book, I’m gonna do this Yearbook Superlative Style instead.
Most Effing Terrifying: Acromantula
Right off the bat, we have the contender for the beast I would least like to meet in a dark alleyway or forbidden forest. A million times NOPE. “Rumors that a colony of Acromantula has been established in Scotland are unconfirmed confirmed by Harry Potter and Ron Weasley.” Darn straight.
Least Delicious Use of a Chicken Egg: Basilisk
Hatching a chicken egg under a toad will produce a basilisk. This seems relatively easy. Why are there not, like, a thousand basilisks slithering around? Try not to think about that too much.
The Mars is Bright Tonight Award: Centaur
Most Likely to Act and Look Like a Sexually Transmitted Disease: Chizpurfle
Ew. Ew, ew, ewwww.
Best Pet for Dog People: Crup
What’s the story, Wishbone?
Just the Straight-Up Coolest Beast Ever: Dragon
I mean, did you think I was gonna give it to anything else? Let’s take a look at the facts. They’re magic and famous and they act like they know they’re famous. The Antipodean Opaleye is the most beautiful, with its iridescent scales and scarlet flames. I want one. The Chinese Fireball was chased by Viktor Krum in the Triwizard Tournament. The Common Welsh Green is probably super pissed off at being called Common. The Hebridian Black has batlike wings and probably looks like Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. (Sidebar: Have y’all seen pictures of Hiccup from the new HTTYD sequel? A cartoon character went and pulled a Neville Longbottom on us.)
The Hungarian Horntail is kind of a dick. Hagrid knows all about the Norwegian Ridgebacks. The Peruvian Vipertooth is small and would be really cool to have around your city, if it weren’t for the breeds’ penchant for humans. The Romanian Longhorn makes me wish that my school mascot was a dragon instead of a cow. (Hook ‘em!) The Swedish Short-Snout faced off with Fleur Delacour in the Tournament and sounds rather pretty. Finally, the Ukranian Ironbelly is the largest of the dragons. It’s probably best just to stay out of the way. Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus.
Beast with the Best PR Agent: Fairy
Fairies are not all that we’ve set them up to be. I, for one, find this massively disappointing. I’ll stick with my muggle-based fairy view, thank you very much.
Most Likely to Be Confused with a Pokemon: Fire Crab
They have jeweled shells and shoot fire out of their butts. Sweet. If I were rich, I’d own at least six.
Best Footnote: Fwooper
“Uric the Oddball attempted at one time to prove that Fwooper song was actually beneficial to the health and listened to it for three months on end without a break. Unfortunately the Wizards’ Council to which he reported his findings were unconvinced, as he had arrived at the meeting wearing nothing but a toupee that on closer inspection proved to be a dead badger.”
(Sidebar: Compared to this, Muggle textbooks are SO BORING, you guys.)
Most Likely to be Loved by Tina Belcher: Hippocampus
It’s essentially a horse-fish. Like Tina once said, horses are the most magical of the non-magical creatures. So it only makes sense that horses could be made even more magical Also, they give birth to Tadfoal. Isn’t that the most freaking adorable thing ever?
Best Conversationalist: Jarvey
Okay, it’s not a conversationalist at all, but it IS a ferret that can talk. Not only that, but it speaks in short, rude phrases. How is there not a Seth Macfarlane show about this already?
Runner-up for the Most Likely to be Loved by Tina Belcher Award: Kelpie
Book recommendation: Want to read a cool book about water-dwelling, man-eating horses? Read The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Also, apparently the Loch Ness monster is a Kelpie and not a sea-serpent. They’re shape-shifters. Clever girl, Nessie. (For other possible contenders of this award, see Winged Horses, Hippogriffs, and Porlocks. And Unicorns, duh, but I’ll talk more about those later.)
Best Pet for Cat People: Kneazle
Second-Best Use for the Patronus Charm: Lethifold
Summoning a Patronus is useful for dealing with Dementors, but it has a lesser-known use of fighting off the beast also known as the “Living Shroud.” Flavius Belby is a wizard who survived to tell the tale of battling a Lethifold. He admits that he summoned his Patronus by thinking about the day he was elected as President of his local Gobstones Club. I can’t decide whether that is pathetically sad or endearingly sweet. I’m banking on a Lethifold appearance in the movie. I wonder what Newt’s Patronus will be. I bet it’s something awesome.
The Dancing in the Moonlight Award: Mooncalf
Mooncalves emerge at the full moon to dance in the fields. They’re also responsible for crop circles. Finally! Now we know.
“Arguably the Most Dangerous in the World”: Nundu
So says the textbook, which defines a Nundu as a “gigantic leopard that moves silently despite its size and whose breath causes disease virulent enough to eliminate entire villages… .” I’ll take their world for it, but I’m still more scared of Acromantula.
Most Likely to Actually Save the Wizarding World: Phoenix
Harry Potter did a lot to save the world, sure, but he would’ve been SOL without Fawkes on multiple occasions.
Best Pet for Furby People: Puffskein
Alternately, Best Pet for Tribble People. I would’ve begged hard for a puffskein as a kid. It bothers me that the puffskeins sold at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are bright pink and purple. They are custard-colored! Read the book! (Edited to add: Never mind. They sell pygmy puffs at the WWoHP. I have no idea what I’m talking about.)
Best Family Rivalry: Quintaped
The legend says that the McClivert family turned the entire MacBoon family into five-legged creatures. In turn, the newly changed quintapeds destroyed every single one of the McCliverts. It’s a good thing that the Hatfields and McCoys didn’t have magic.
Most Likely to Scare Indiana Jones: Runespoor
It’s a three-headed snake. And it produces eggs in its mouth. This is another creature that I don’t like to think about too much. This book is a lot creepier than I remember it being. On the bright side, the book really does sell the notion that all of these beasts are fantastic and amazing, even though most of them give me the creepy-crawlies.
Best Quidditch Through the Ages Crossover: Snidget
The Golden Snidget was used in the early games of Quidditch until the creature went nearly extinct and Bowman Wright developed the Golden Snitch as a substitute.
Most Likely To Disappoint Young Kids Everywhere: Unicorn
Listen, I was once a seven-year-old. I remember finding out that unicorns weren’t real. I’m still pissed off. I would briefly turn into Lavender Brown if I ever had the chance to see a unicorn.
Most Likely to Break My Heart: Werewolves
While werewolves have a long and complicated history with the magical community, I just barely finished reading Deathly Hallows and I’m not ready to talk about it yet. I can’t even begin to think about werewolves without getting torn up about Lupin and Tonks. I…can’t.
-Let’s play a game called Pitch the Movie! What’s your pitch for the Fantastic Beasts movie?
-We had a brief casting session over in the comments of this post. Any additional ideas?
-The book is not complete in its listing of creatures, perhaps due to an oversight from Mr. Scamander himself. From Wikipedia, “The book does not have entries for Blast-Ended Skrewts (which makes sense, as they are an illegal crossbreed), Boggarts, Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, Dementors, Hinkypunks, Bicorns, Cockatrices, Banshees, Three-Headed Dogs or Blood-Sucking Bugbears.” I found this out when I went searching for an answer as to why Dementors were not listed.
-Go Chudley Cannons!