[WARNING: This article contains potential SPOILERS for Fantastic Beasts]
There was a time when the masses believed that the days of witchcraft and wizardry in the world of Harry Potter had come to a close – but author J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. had a different idea. So was born Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, named for an in-universe book following the adventures of Newt Scamander, a Magizoologist who researched and explored magical creatures from around the globe, laying the foundations of knowledge and education that Harry, Ron, Hermione and others got to enjoy. And those adventures were most definitely worthy of some big screen time themselves.
The first entry in the Fantastic Beasts series has arrived, and already, the connections to the Harry Potter series have been documented, the strange new threats and magical entities introduced have been explained, and the differences between Britain and America’s magical community have begun to show. Of course, that also leaves the playful references to the movie series that started it all, and subtle connections and details even devoted Potter fans may have overlooked… until no.
Needless to say, there will be SPOILERS in our look at Fantastic Beasts: Every Harry Potter Easter Egg & Clue.
14. Hufflepuff Pride
When Newt arrives in America, he learns fast that Americans don’t play around with security. As unassuming as he may be, his suitcase catches the attention of a Customs agent, who requests to see what he’s bringing into the country. Audiences don’t yet know just what’s inside the case, but the squeals and sounds coming from it are enough of a tip off that it’s not going to pass inspection. A simple flick of a switch to make the contents “Muggle Worth,” and the problem is solved.
The contents of the suitcase, as they appear to the agent, are everyday items. From the first glimpse of the above shot in early trailers, fans were quick to focus on one item in particular: the grey and yellow scarf. Since Newt Scamander is one of the most famous wizards that the Hufflepuffs of Hogwarts ever produced, it only makes sense for him to carry the scarf from his school days on his travels. While the colors of Hufflepuff are actually yellow and black, not grey, we can’t say unequivocally that that scarf is a Hogwarts keepsake. But it clues viewers in that his choice of yellow wardrobe is no coincidence, either way.
13. “Are You a Seeker?”
Not long after Newt has made his entry into the city of New York, he stumbles across a group of people decrying the dangers of witches in their society. The group is known as the ‘Second Salemers,’ and Newt soon grabs the attention of their leader, Mary Lou (Samantha Morton)… but not for the reasons you might expect. Newt’s interest in his escaped Niffler is mistakenly taken as interest in the group’s cause – prompting Mary Lou to ask if Newt is “a Seeker?”
Given the time and the religious context of the Second Salemers, we can assume they were asking if Newt was “seeking” some kind of help, divine or otherwise. But to fans of Hogwarts’ favorite sport, the role of the “Seeker” in a game of Quidditch is obviously what comes to mind. Harry Potter himself may be the most famous Quidditch player to ever attain the position, but Newt replies with an inside reference of his own that also reveals his preferred position during his younger years. Apparently, he considers himself more of a “Chaser.”
12. The Niffler
The first “fantastic beast” that audiences get to enjoy at length is a small, platypus-looking creature with a hunger for anything shiny (and a belly capable of holding a bank vault). The creature is known as a Niffler, whose name is likely based on the colloquial term “niffle,” meaning to pilfer or steal. Their appearance has changed a bit for Beasts from prior video game cameos, but they should be well known to fans of the original Harry Potter series of novels – unfortunately, not the movies.
In the “Order of the Pheonix” book, Lee Jordan turns to a Niffler when Dolores Umbridge is beginning her reign of terror at Hogwarts. Releasing one into Umbridge’s office caused an uproar… and releasing a second drew even angrier results. Those scenes didn’t make it into the film, but their fallout did. It was the attack of the Nifflers that caused Umbridge to add the extra security to her office – the reason she later caught Harry intruding – and put Hagrid’s job in jeopardy, since he got blamed for the pests.
11. Frank The Thunderbird
He makes a memorable entrance in the film when Newt and Jacob descend into the former’s suitcase, so audiences are likely to tune out when Frank, the massive bird of prey appears on screen. He’s claimed to be the reason that Newt has come to America, having acquired Frank in his travels and seeking to finally release him back to his home – Arizona. Since it’s magic, not mythology that’s usually at work in the Harry Potter world, it’s worth pointing out that Frank isn’t a magical invention, but a well-known figure of Native American spirituality: the Thunderbird.
The belief in the “thunderbird” is spread across too many Native American tribes and nations in North America to name, and each with their own unique teaching and significance. But generally speaking, Frank’s feathers – seeming to contain and reflect sunlight itself – and ability to conjure a thunderstorm with the flapping of his wings fit with Native American teachings. Considering how large a role Frank plays in the film’s story, he’s proof that Beasts is even more of an (older) American story than fans might realize.
10. “Ukrainian Ironbellies”
It isn’t just Jacob who served in World War I, as Newt also reveals that he engaged in military service, as well. Well, perhaps not “military” service, although Newt clarifies that he spent plenty of his time on the Eastern Front of the war, dealing with Ukrainian Ironbellies. Casual fans of the Harry Potter franchise will probably guess that it’s a type of dragon by the wording alone, but even more devoted fans will realize that it’s actually a call-forward to the films starring Harry and his friends, when an Ironbelly appears.
The security at Gringotts relies on a Ukrainian Ironbelly, a massive, pale-colored dragon that Harry, Ron and Hermione eventually end up riding out of the bank to safety. The sequence from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is memorable in its own rite, but seeing it tied to Newt Scamander’s service in Ukraine amidst the backdrop of World War I is just icing on the cake.
9. Picket the Bowtruckle
If modern blockbusters have shown us anything, it’s that nothing warms the hearts of a movie audience than a sentient tree or stick. While Picket the Bowtruckle may not have reached the status of, say, Groot of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Newt Scamander’s pocket-inhabiting pet is on his way there in no time. Bullying may have led to Picket being kept away from his fellow Bowtruckles (using a “cold” as a cover story), but Harry Potter fans know these little creatures can be downright dangerous if pushed to the breaking point. Or if the wand-wood trees they occupy are threatened by an outsider.
The Bowtruckles are not only mentioned as one of the likely subjects on Harry, Ron and Hermione’s OWLs in the books, but studied directly in the pages of “Order of the Phoenix” when Hagrid is unavailable. The Bowtruckles will typically use their long fingers to gouge out their enemies’ eyes, but when Harry accidentally squeezes one too hard while listening to Draco Malfoy mock the absent Hagrid, it lets him off easy (and is later heard mouthing off to Harry when he ventures into the Forbidden Forests).
8. Newt’s Expulsion From Hogwarts
When Newt and Tina are captured by MACUSA and interrogated, Newt’s history in the magical world is explained for the audience. Graves’ mention of his days at Hogwarts got fans excited when the scene was shown in trailers, and their hearts downright soared when it was mentioned that Newt had one notable defender trying to keep him enrolled at the school. Albus Dumbledore may have only been a professor at the time, but he could clearly spot a hero when he met one… and there’s evidence that Albus knew the truth behind Newt’s expulsion.
The official reason given is that Newt “endangered lives” during his offense, and thus was removed from the school (not a wild accusation, given how many deadly animals he’s seen working with throughout the film). But author and screenwriter J.K. Rowling has since implied that Newt’s charge wasn’t the whole story, or quite as simple as it might seem. The obvious deduction is that Newt was either not alone in the act, or was mistaken to be the guilty party. Considering the mention of another student close to his heart later in the movie, the idea that he would take the hit for a woman he loved seems perfectly in keeping with his character. Either way, expect that event to be explored in later films.
7. Death by Pensieve
The American wizarding community has thought up a new take on just about everything, including the Death Penalty. When Newt and Tina are sentenced to death for their misdeeds involving magical creatures, they’re taken to sterile, white room to see their punishment carried out. But it isn’t exactly what audiences would expect – no Killing Curses here, instead a solution that removes any one wizard or witch from committing the deed. It’s a solution that boils down to an acidic death potion that slowly rises up and consumes the victim.
But they’ve also concocted a sinister means of subduing the condemned. It may slip by fans who don’t recall each and every spell or device seen in the Harry Potter films, but the death potion room seems to be a form of Pensieve – the device used to bring distant memories back to life, and allow viewers to enter them on their own. Dumbledore used one a few times throughout the later films to give Harry a glimpse into the truth behind Barty Crouch, and Dumbledore’s own past. The wizards pull a happy memory of Tina’s mother to lure her into the death potion, and while the outcome is different, the idea is the same.
6. Leta Lestrange
It’s a name that no Harry Potter fan could ever forget, which means all ears will perk when Queenie recognizes the photo in Newt’s suitcase as belonging to “Leta Lestrange.” It’s a brand new character introduced by J.K. Rowling for the movie, and her ties to the most well-known Lestrange – Bellatrix, the Death Eater – are completely unknown (and separated by decades). While Leta is only played by actress Zoe Kravitz in a moving photograph, fans can expect to see her relationship with Newt revealed and explored in sequels.
Before anyone assumes that Leta lived up to the evil connotations of her name, it’s worth remembering that it would have been a younger brother, or perhaps even a son who fist befriended Tom Riddle prior to his rise to the role of Lord Voldemort. And keeping in mind that Bellatrix only married into the family, the doors are open for Leta’s morality. But there’s no question fans are meant to assume some sinister happenings are on the way.
5. The Deathly Hallows
It may seem like a shameless moment of linking Fantastic Beasts with the larger Harry Potter series, but it’s actually a bit of a clue, in hindsight. When Percival Graves is reassuring Credence, encouraging him to continue operating as his spy within the Second Salemers, keeping watch for a child afflicted with an Obscurus, he gives him a gift. Well, a gift with a purpose: a necklace that, when touched, will alert Graves and he will come as quickly as possible. The symbol on the necklace? That of the triangle, circle, and line of The Deathly Hallows.
Referring to the classic story of the brothers who won three gifts from Death – Invisibility Cloak, Resurrection Stone, and Elder Wand – the necklace may not seem to carry any actual meaning in this movie. But when Graves is revealed to be Gellert Grindelwald in disguise, a bit more significance is added. Since Grindelwald’s obsession with finding the Hallows was what brought he and Albus Dumbledore together as children, the necklace could mean Grindelwald really did care for Credence enough to entrust him with the trinket. Either that, or he just happened to have it on him at the time.
It wouldn’t be a British hero’s adventure in America without some cultural competition, and it begins with America’s own school of witchcraft and wizardry. Queenie is the one to fill Jacob in on the school’s existence, explaining that Ilvermorny is the best school for magical training in the world – a fact that Newt Scamander, having attended Hogwarts, obviously challenges. The American school doesn’t actually appear in the film, but fans already know plenty about its unique place in Harry Potter history.
The founder of Ilvemorny, Isolt Sayre has a truly tragic story of familial betrayal and murder in the name of preserving Salazar Slytherin’s lineage – set behind her when sailing to America aboard the Mayflower disguised as a boy. After slipping away from the Puritans before she could be discovered as a witch, Isolt founded the school with some help from magical creatures and magic-born children. Those curious can read up on the story here, since the school is expected to be a major location in future films.
3. Porpentina Scamander
Fans hoping to see a love connection between Newt and Tina Goldstein left the theater disappointed, since the Magizoologist and Auror never quite crossed the line from colleagues to potential romance. Fortunately for those who had read the books and extended fiction of the Harry Potter universe – including the original book for which the movie is named – there’s no real suspense here: Tina is obviously short for Porpentina – the name of Newt’s future wife, and mother to his children.
We don’t know exactly when the two will tie the knot (or even begin their romance) but Newt has found his leading lady, according to the author information in the original book. According to that fiction, Newt and Tina live happily ever after, and even wind up with their grandson married to Luna Lovegood. So the family’s interest in magical creatures, and aversion to “normal” behavior turned out to be genetic.
2. The Gellerts Grindelwald
Instead of a somewhat-disguised reference to other films or franchises, how about a twist of happenstance so strange, movie fans might miss it completely? Enough time has passed since the final instalments of the Harry Potter series for some to have forgotten the role played by Gellert Grindelwald in that narrative. It was confined to the past, but his childhood friendship with Albus Dumbledore and successful mission to steal the Elder Wand are important – and in photographs and flashbacks, the young Grindelwald is played by actor Jamie Campbell Bower.
Adding several decades to his age (Dumbledore is in his 40s by the time of Fantastic Beasts) meant casting a new actor in the part, and the job went to Johnny Depp… and Colin Farrell. But those faces of Grindelwald young and old should ring some bells, since they both appeared together in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. All things considered, the look and feel of both stories fit together better than we would have expected – and it’s not the weirdest coincidence in the movie’s cast and characters…
1. Percival Graves
Colin Farrell may have been playing the villain Gellert Grindelwald the entire time, but at some point, he donned the identity of ‘Percival Graves’ to infiltrate the Magical Congress of the United States of America. It’s a name that fits in with the stranger examples in the film, but strangely enough, it’s also the name of a character played by actor John Hurt in the John Goodman comedy King Ralph, in which an every day American schlep winds up as British royalty.
Why is that relevant? Well it’s weird, for one, and the cultural connotations there are free to be deciphered as readers please. But most importantly, John Hurt happens to already be a familiar face in Harry Potter history, having played Ollivander and selling Potter his wand in the very first film. We would assume Grindelwald is a fan, but considering he chose the name decades earlier, there’s some truly dark magic at work here…
So there you have it, our breakdown of each and every easter egg, Harry Potter connection, and hint at more connections still to come in Fantastic Beasts. If you’ve spotted anything we’ve missed, or have questions unanswered, let us know in the comments!
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