[WARNING – This article contains SPOILERS for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.]
Almost 20 years ago the world first met Harry Potter in the pages of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, only to be re-introduced to him a few years later with the film adaptation, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The books and movies were a certified phenomenon and made Harry Potter known the world over – not to mention Dumbledore and Hogwarts and hippogriffs and countless other people, places, and things from J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World.
Now five years after the release of the final Harry Potter film, a new movie arrives to transport audiences back to the Wizarding World – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. But instead of a young schoolboy learning of magic for the first time, we’re following Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a magizooloigist on assignment from the Ministry of Magic, returning home from a year abroad spent studying and collecting all sorts of magical creatures. Set in 1926 (some 65 years before Harry ever steps foot inside Hogwarts!), Fantastic Beasts chronicles Newt’s stopover in New York City, where he had only meant to stay for a few hours. Of course, once some of those magical creatures get loose and starting running amok, all of that changes.
Hippogriffs & Hufflepuff
Newton Artemis Fido Scamander was born to wizarding parents in 1897. His mother bred hippogriffs, leading Newt to develop a keen interest in magical creatures at a very early age. Modest and a little eccentric, Newt is said to have been more comfortable in the company of animals than people and therefore didn’t make friends all that easily. Like all British wizarding children, Newt began attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry when he was 11 years old, where he was sorted into Hufflepuff (note the Hufflepuff scarf Newt wears in the film). That same patience, loyalty, and diligence which selected him for Hufflepuff, also helped Newt to continue his study of magical creatures in earnest, though his growing obsession wasn’t without setbacks. At some point during his studies, Newt was involved in an incident with a magical creature that endangered the life of another student and was expelled. His Transfiguration teacher, Albus Dumbledore, was said to have argued against the expulsion and it’s since been revealed (by none other than Ms. Rowling herself) that Newt was actually taking the blame for someone else.
Interestingly, we learn during Fantastic Beasts that during his time at Hogwarts, Newt became quite close with Leda Lestrange – a family name which looms large throughout the Harry Potter saga, and are more often than not connected with dark wizards like Grindelwald and Lord Voldemort. However, we also learn the two are no longer close and didn’t part on good terms, with Newt seeming quite sad and bitter about their relationship, remarking on how over time people change. In the film, Leda is portrayed by Zoe Kravitz, but is only seen in a photograph which Newt keeps. Director David Yates has said that in the sequel film we’ll learn more about Leda, a character he describes as “quite complicated, a little damaged, and confused… she’s kind of tragic figure in a way.” Whether Leda was somehow involved in the incident which got Newt expelled, either as victim or culprit, isn’t clear but it seems a likely scenario, one that will undoubtedly be at least partially revealed in Fantastic Beasts 2.
Even though he never graduated from Hogwarts (and there’s no year given for his expulsion), Newt was able to secure a job at the Ministry of Magic in, shockingly, the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Perhaps it was on a recommendation from Dumbledore or just his Hufflepuff nature to work extra hard, but after two years in the Office for House-Elf Relocation, Newt was transferred to the Beast Division and eventually, after making a name for himself as a top magizoologist, was approached by Obscurus Books to write the now world-renowned Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
New York City, 1926
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them covers the time Newt spent in New York City on his way back home after studying and collecting creatures as research for his book. What was intended as a short stopover becomes a huge mess when after bumping into the no-maj, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), some of those creatures Newt had tucked away in his briefcase escape, running amok and causing chaos throughout the city. While recovering the assorted beasts set loose in the city, Newt meets Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) – former Auror, now a Federal Wand Permit Officer and his future wife – as well as her sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol), a Legilimens with a desk job at the Magical Congress of the United States of America.
1926 is also a tense time for the wizarding community in America, with a renewed fear of witches and magic being fanned by groups like the New Salem Philanthropic Society, and MACUSA enacting strict laws prohibiting any fraternizing between wizards and no-majs. There have also been an unusual string of attacks on no-majs, and the blame is place on Newt’s escaped creatures as the most likely suspects. In addition to the tense atmosphere from beasts on the loose, unexplained attacks, and the general intense secrecy surrounding the American magical community, there’s also a growing anxiety over the actions of Grindelwald and his fanatics in Europe. And as Grindelwald grows in power, there’s a fear that America will also be embroiled in a war against the dark wizard.
Fantastic Beasts & Beyond
The first edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was published in 1927. The book was wildly popular, soon becoming a staple textbook of wizarding education; the version that Harry later uses while attending Hogwarts is its 52nd edition! Newt continued to work at the Ministry of Magic until he retired in the early 1990s, though even then, he never stopped studying magical creatures and regularly contributed to the new editions of his book. In 1947, Newt created the first Werewolf Registry and later, in 1965, helped enact the Ban on Experimental Breeding. He was awarded the Order of Merlin, Second Class in 1979 for his contributions to magizoology and was even featured on his own Chocolate Frog Card. After his retirement, Newt visited Hogwarts during Harry’s third year for reasons that aren’t exactly known, but his visit can be verified by the appearance of his name on the Marauder’s Map (as seen in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).
Newt and Tina had at least one child, who then went on to have at least one child – Rolf Scamander. Rolf later went on to marry Harry’s classmate, Luna Lovegood, and the two had twins, Lorcan and Lysander. It isn’t entirely out of the question, then, given this personal connection that Newt Scamander likely meets Harry Potter at some point after the defeat of Lord Voldemort and before the events of the play, Harry Potter and Cursed Child, perhaps even at Rolf and Luna’s wedding. That’s assuming, of course, they hadn’t already crossed paths as the world’s most famous magizoologist and the Boy Who Lived (they’d be such a great billing for a late night talk show). Either way, these two would certainly have stories to share of both the creatures they’ve seen and the dark forces they’ve fought.