10:00 am EDT, March 14, 2017

The new ‘Fantastic Beasts’ book is out: Here’s what J.K. Rowling adds to canon

The updated edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was published on Tuesday, March 14 (as was the audiobook edition narrated by Eddie Redmayne)! So what’s so “updated” about it?

Fantastic Beasts was originally published wayyy back in 2001 alongside Quidditch Through the Ages. After Rowling decided over a decade later to write a five-part film series starring Newt Scamander, the Harry Potter author has gone back to the source material to align it with her ideas for the movie.

The big differences between the 2001 and 2017 editions of the book are the addition of six beasts and a forward by Newt Scamander, but the “About the Author” section at the end has a critical change as well.

In the 2017 edition of Fantastic Beasts, we learn…

  1. Newt could be a spy for Dumbledore — at least according to rumors around the Wizarding World. On theories that Newt was working as a spy for Dumbledore, as revealed by Rita Skeeter in a “recent” book titled Man or Monster? The TRUTH about Newt Scamander, the wizard writes:

    “In her recent biography, Man or Monster? The TRUTH About Newt Scamander, Rita Skeeter states that I was never a Magizoologist but a Dumbledore spy who used Magizoology as a ‘cover’ to infiltrate the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) in 1926.

    This, as anyone who lived through the 1920s will know, is an absurd claim. No undercover wizard would have chosen to pose as a Magizoologist at that period. An interest in magical beasts was considered dangerous and suspect, and taking a case full of such creatures into a major city was, in retrospect, a serious mistake.”

    He doesn’t flatly deny that he was a spy, does he? If true, it would be one hell of a twist in a future movie.

  2. Newt’s relationship with Dumbledore is a close one: In clearing up other rumors in Rita Skeeter’s report, Newt reveals he was the first person to capture Grindelwald, and Dumbledore is something “more to me” than a teacher:

    “It is true that I was the first person ever to capture Gellert Grindelwald and also true that Albus Dumbledore was something more than a schoolteacher to me. More than this I cannot say without fear of breaching the Official Magical Secrets Act or, more importantly, the confidences that Dumbledore, most private of men, placed in me.”

    These secrets must have to do, at least in part, with Grindelwald. But what else is going on between Dumbledore and Newt, who share 16 years of age between them?

    Rowling is also withholding the secrets because they’ll undoubtedly appear in future Fantastic Beasts movies. We know Dumbledore will be appearing in the next movie — casting for young Dumbledore is already underway. With Newt being so close to Dumbledore, not to mention the upcoming fight between Grindelwald and Albus, it seems likely the latter will be a major player in the rest of the film series.

  3. Newt’s still alive. Later, Newt references the original release of Fantastic Beasts in 2001, confirming the character is still alive when the Harry Potter books take place.
  4. About six new beasts. One of the original selling points of this updated edition was the promise of six new beasts (a few of which come from the movie). They are: The Thunderbird, Wampus, Horned Serpent, Hidebehind, Hodag, and Snallygaster.
  5. Newt “left” Hogwarts. Finally, the About the Author section no longer says Newt “graduated” from Hogwarts. Instead, it says he “left.”

When the second Fantastic Beasts trailer revealed that Newt had been expelled from Hogwarts, I made a big fuss about that plot point not aligning with the original book, which again, said he graduated. Some people thought I was overreacting — “maybe he just graduates later,” a few fans told me.

Changing “graduated” to “left” doesn’t necessarily prove if Rowling is indeed changing canon, but it certainly doesn’t eliminate the possibility. What’s clear is she’s purposely using a broader verb so as to not spoil what future Fantastic Beasts films hold. After all, Newt says in his forward that some information was withheld from this book.*

Still, it’s interesting that they did change “graduated” so it fit with Fantastic Beasts 1.

In summary

Newt spends much of his time in this book’s forward taking on rumors spread by Rita Skeeter. Did Rowling do this to connect it with the world of Harry Potter? It certainly elevates Newt’s status as a well-known wizard, earning himself a book similar to The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore.

*In his rumor-denouncing introduction, Newt keeps several revelations hidden away due to “further documents” (aka movies) that “are to be released” in the future. That’s fair, but can we please avoid re-re-releases of this book just to add information from the movies?

What do you think of the new ‘Fantastic Beasts’?

Grab it on Amazon here (the same link will let you purchase the audiobook narrated by Eddie Redmayne):

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