In March 2001, J.K. Rowling released two companion books to the Harry Potter series for the U.K. charity Comic Relief. “They are two titles that appear in the novels,” Rowling explained in an interview at the time. “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is a book that Harry buys to go to Hogwarts so it’s one of his school textbooks and Quidditch Through The Ages is a library title. I always write more than I need for the books so bits of them were just written for my own fun. So when Comic Relief asked me to write something I thought I would just love to write them, I just thought it would be so much fun and I was completely correct. It was more fun than I’ve had writing the others.” For both books, Rowling writes under the name of the authors who are listed in the Harry Potter universe: Newt Scamander and Kennilworthy Whisp.
Given that Fantastic Beasts is a textbook, following an introduction by Albus Dumbledore, it launches into a discussion of magizoology — the study of magical creatures — and a description of the various laws and regulations in place to keep wizards safe and Muggles from discovering the existence of such creatures. Scamander also explains the controversial distinction between “beings,” creatures such as merpeople who are deemed intelligent enough to understand the laws of the magical community, and “beasts.” After this somewhat lengthy introduction, the book describes the Ministry of Magic’s official classifications for magical creatures and lists all of them, complete with descriptions.
According to Rowling’s website, the sales of the two books have generated more than £17 million ($27 million) for Comic Relief.
Newton (“Newt”) Artemis Fido Scamander is a famous naturalist in the wizarding world and the author of the “worldwide bestseller” Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, in its 52nd edition as of 2001.
Born in 1897, Scamander graduated from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in 1916. He joined the Ministry of Magic in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures immediately after graduation and soon found a place in the Beast Division, “where his prodigious knowledge of bizarre magical animals ensured his rapid promotion.” He wrote and published the first edition of Fantastic Beasts in 1927.
Scamander was instrumental in the creation of the Werewolf Register (a comprehensive, constantly updated list of all known werewolves in Great Britain) in 1947 and the Ban on Experimental Breeding in 1965. He was awarded the Order of Merlin, Second Class, in 1979 in recognition of his services to magizoology. He has his own Chocolate Frog card.
Scamander is retired as of 2001 and lives in Dorset with his wife Porpentina and their pet Kneazles: Hoppy, Milly, and Mauler. Although Fantastic Beasts does not mention any children, given that J.K. Rowling has confirmed that Scamander’s grandson Rolf marries Luna Lovegood, it can safely be assumed that Newt and Porpentina had at least one child.
Although it’s not necessary to read the two to understand and enjoy the Harry Potter books, Fantastic Beasts in particular provides background information that becomes relevant in the later books.
For example, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Mrs. Weasley tells Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Fred, and George to take care of a Doxy infestation at 12 Grimmauld Place, but doesn’t really explain what the beasts are (evil, biting fairies with venomous teeth). Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince introduces “Pygmy Puffs,” a type of Puffskein (a fluffy hedgehog-type creature).
The best example of this can be found in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, where the horn of an Erumpent, one of the creatures described in the book, is a major plot point. Hermione’s ability to correctly identify the creature’s horn allows her, Harry, and Ron to escape from a group of Death Eaters.
7. For us Muggles, the actual, physical book that you can buy is supposed to be Harry Potter’s textbook, and there are lots of “notes” from Harry, Ron, and Hermione scattered throughout.
According to JKR: “That’s Harry and Ron graffiti-ing the book, as you do to your schoolbooks. You do doodle on them, I always wrote all over mine. Teachers reading this will not be happy that I’m saying it but you do, don’t you? So they’ve just scribbled things on them and said rude things in them, the name of their favourite Quidditch team and stuff in the book.”
11. Plus, Fantastic Beasts is full of inside jokes for readers.
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