With the new Pottermore text, did J.K. Rowling legitimize Voldemort’s weird death?

July 1, 2016.

This week, Pottermore revealed a new writing by J.K. Rowling: Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The new text, that comes with a trailer, tells the story of the North American Wizarding School – not to be surprised since we are just six months away from the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is set in the United States of America.

The text is more than 5000 words long. This is the longest text published in Pottermore, passing Wands, which had ~4800 words. And it shows one of the best skills of J.K. Rowling: to tell stories about magical families in the wizarding world. She makes us revisit the Gaunt (and Slytherin) family, and now we know more about the most criticized founder of Hogwarts, and his wand.

However, there is a detail in the middle of the text that does not fit in her style:

The old witch had indulged in all manner of Dark magic in an attempt to make herself invincible, and these curses now reacted with the Pukwudgie’s venom, causing her to become as solid and as brittle as coal before shattering into a thousand pieces.

That death resembles Lord Voldemort’s death in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Voldemort's death
Voldemort’s death

As you may be aware, the way the filmmakers decided to portray that event generated discussions among the fandom: that is not how Tom Riddle (or what is left) dies in the book. He just dies, as anyone who received an Avada Kedavra, with no signs. Rowling even writes about his corpse in the middle of the Great Hall.

The same happens with Bellatrix Lestrange – who in the movies explodes after being hit by a curse cast by Molly Weasley. In the same manner, this was widely discussed on the online forums. Is this canon? Can wizards explode or shatter into pieces?

It seems Rowling decided to verify, to make it canon, this kind of death. But why? She always marked a difference, a limit, between the movies and the books. Why take something from the movies and put it into her world?

Well, this would not be so weird if we consider the new role Pottermore plays in the Wizarding World brand. Since Rowling has become the writer of the upcoming Harry Potter films (we know Fantastic Beasts is not about Harry Potter, but it belongs to the same franchise), Pottermore has become the official website about it – not only about the books, but the movies and the theater play. Do you remember when Pottermore used only illustration for the chapters? Now you can see photos from the movies used in the characters profiles.

We can deduce that, for commercial reasons, the team behind the Wizarding World brand wants to combine the aspects from every media, mixing books, movies and plays. It looks like an effort to bring them all together into one version of canon. Considering this, it would not be weird if Warner Bros. suggested Rowling to imply that one of the most condemned parts of the last movie was actually canon.

With this text coming directly from her pen, Rowling legitimizes this version of wizards and witches shattering into dust – which may be a problem. The artistic vision of the filmmakers is now part of the Harry Potter canon. We will never know the reason.

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