It's been more than a decade since the Harry Potter series came to a close, do you think we're over it? Pfft! Heck no, we are not. How could we be? With thrilling additions to the Potterverse, like Harry Potter and The Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, there's still so much to love!
Since J.K. Rowling sees fit to continue adding to her mystical, magical universe, what can we do but continue to obsess over it? Today we're delving deeper into the realm of whimsical Harry Potter wonder. Here are ten little-known facts about animagus in the Harry Potter world!
10 Wizards Can't Control Their Animagus
Here's a good news/bad news situation. The good news is, if you're a witch or wizard in the world of Harry Potter, then with time, dedication, and practice, you'll be able become an animagus and turn into an animal at will! Yay, hooray! Doesn't that sound so cool? Who doesn't want to be able to turn into an animal? That's rad all the way around.
Now, here's the bad news. Witches and wizards don't know what kind of animal they'll be, and they have no control over it. If they luck out, they'll be something neat, like a stag or a black dog. If they're not so lucky, they'll be a rat or a beetle. It's a crapshoot.
9 Animagi Must Register
The magical world is, well, magical - and that does make sense when you think about it. But, just because it's magical doesn't mean it's all anarchy. Witches and wizards must be governed, just like muggles, so while there are plenty of neat-o magical things magic folks can do that non-magic folks can't, they're all highly regulated.
Every animagus must register with the Ministry of Magic. Not doing so puts them at risk of being thrown into Azkaban prison. Of course, Harry's dad and his buddies ran around Hogwarts for years as unregistered animagi, but as clever as the Marauders were, they're the exception, not the rule.
8 A Wizard's Animagus And Patronus Are The Same
Not every wizard will be willing to take the time needed to become an animagus, and though it seems hard for us muggles to believe, not every wizard will care about becoming an animagus. It sounds crazy, we know.
Fortunately, even if a witch or wizard is never able to become an animagus, for whatever reason, they can still find out which animal they would be if they were to become one. How? With the patronus charm, of course! A person's patronus - a bit of magic that's pretty complicated in its own right - takes on the appearance of the animagus form of the person who casts it. For instance, Professor McGonagall's animagus is a cat, and so is her patronus.
7 North American Animagi Are Called "Skin Walkers"
The Harry Potter series takes place in Britain, but there are witches and wizards all over the world. We get a glimpse at how different these wizarding societies are, in spite of their many similarities, in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise, where famed magizoologist meets American witches and wizards and learns their ways.
In North America, animagi are sometimes referred to as "skin walkers", thanks to Native American stories that describe these beings. These legends were twisted and retold by no-maj people, who described skin walkers as evil witches and wizards who achieved their powers by sacrificing people.
6 Becoming An Animagus Is A Long And Complicated Process
As it happens, the process of becoming a skin walker/animagus in the Potterverse doesn't involve human sacrifice at all, but it is definitely a complicated process that requires a lot of commitment.
In order to become an animagus, a wizard must keep a Mandrake leaf in their mouth for an entire month - even when eating and sleeping. Next, the wizard must place the leaf in a vial in the presence of a full moon, and dew that has neither been stepped on nor been exposed to the sun must be added. After all of this has been done, the resulting potion must be stored in a dark place, and the incantation "Amato Animo Animato Animagus" must be recited every morning until an electrical storm arrives, at which point the potion can finally be taken.
5 A Wizard's Physical Characteristics Can Still Be Observed In Their Animagus Form
Though becoming an animagus is quite the transformation, it's not a complete transformation. We mean, yeah, going from human to animal in a matter of seconds, like some kind of Disney Cinderella fairy godmother song and dance sequence, is a big deal. But to say that the person is unrecognizable as their animal self isn't entirely true.
See, animagi often keep some physical traits in their animal form, even if only to a small extent. Professor McGonagall's cat form, for instance, had spectacle-shaped markings around the eyes, as did Rita Skeeter's beetle, and Peter Pettigrew was missing a finger, even as a rat.
4 An Animagus Maintains Their Human Lifespan
In the early books in the series, it's mentioned here in there (in a very sneaky foreshadowing way) how old Scabbers is. The Weasley's have had him for 12 years, which is well beyond the lifespan of a rat, which isn't even a magical creature.
As it turns out, an animagus never adopts the lifespan of the animal that they turn into, even if they stay in their true animal form for years and years. Had "Scabbers" never been forced out of hiding by the surviving Marauders, he might have gone on living as a rat up until he - Peter Pettigrew, that is - died. Makes ya think, don't it?
3 Animagi Can Communicate With Other Animals
One of the many benefits of being able to turn into an animal is the ability of the animagus to communicate with real animals - which would come in so handy, because then, we could tell our dogs how sorry we are for all the times we accidentally stepped on their toes, and explain to them why they can't eat chocolate.
Anyway, this ability is seen a few times throughout the Harry Potter series - particularly when Sirius Black escapes Azkaban prison. He is forced to go into hiding in order to avoid being captured, which he manages to do fairly easily by transforming into his black dog alter ego, Padfoot.
2 An Animagus Can Be Forced Out Of Its Animal Form
Several times throughout the Harry Potter series, animagi rely on their animagus forms to hide in plain sight. Rita Skeeter turns into a beetle to catch all of the hot gossip for her column in The Goblet of Fire, Sirius Black takes on his Padfoot persona to evade the law after The Prisoner of Azkaban, and we all know how Peter Pettigrew masqueraded as the Weasley family pet for years. That's just creepy, Wormtail.
Anyway, since it's not out of the realm of possibility for animagi to use their animagus forms for less than legal purposes, it necessitates a spell that can force them out of their animagus form. Such a spell was never written about in JK Rowling's books, but it was seen in the third Harry Potter movie, when Remus Lupin and Sirius Black force Peter Pettigrew out of his animagus form in the Shrieking Shack, and made him 'fess up to the truth.
1 Animagi Don't Need Wands To Transform
Another fun factoid about animagi is they don't need wands to transform. And, when you think about it, that makes sense, since becoming an animagus is more of a magical process than a spell or incantation.
As to whether or not an animagus can perform magic in their animal form, that remains to be seen, although all evidence points to the contrary. For instance, in The Goblet of Fire, Hermione trapped Rita Skeeter's beetle form in a jar, and Rita was unable to apparate out of it again. So, while it looks like animagi maintain their capacity for human thought and reasoning while in their animal form, they don't seem to keep their magical abilities.