This list is focused on new canon bits and how they relate to other canon. It doesn’t strive to summarize the original articles and therefore will not serve as a substitute for reading them. This guide will also include some Harry Potter and the Cursed Child spoilers if you care about that.
Should I buy these ebooks? How much is new? The majority of the content (close to all of it) is old content, which was has been (and still is) available on Pottermore for several years. There are two reasons which I can think of for buying the ebooks.
- The new content
- Having an offline ebook of the Pottemore writings.
I don’t see much in the second reason, as these three ebooks combined only give you about two thirds (68%) of the Pottermore writings. There are (and have always been) many fan-compiled ebooks that do what is in my opinion a much better job at this. I don’t see any benefit of having the writings separated into three ebooks while still missing parts.
So what’s new? There are two new writings (Animagi, and Slughorn), one majorly updated piece (McGonagall), and six articles with minor additions (Hogwarts Express, Sorting Hat, Mirror of Erised, Kettleburn, Polyjuice Potion, Peeves).
If you don’t feel comfortable buying all three books, here is the new content per book:
- Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide: 184 words of new content (460 counting things new only to Pottermore)
- Heroism Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies: 1881 words of new content
- Power Politics and Pesky Poltergeists: 2505 words of new content
While I use the word “new”, these writings weren’t newly written, just newly released. For example, we know that the Animagi writing was written before 2014. Most of the additions feel like they were written with their corresponding articles, but left out due to the structure of Pottermore, and would have been included as updates in the Deathly Hallows moments if only Pottermore hadn’t already been on the way out.
So, what did we learn?
- We get another historical theory. (We had a lot of these in the third WOMBAT.) The Hogwarts thestrals are rumored to be descendants of ones ridden to school before the Hogwarts Express. This one is most likely false, when you realize that the Hogwarts Express was created before 1835, and look at Hagrid words from Order of the Phoenix, “Yeah, I was gonna tell yeh how come we got a herd. Yeah, so, we started off with a male an’ five females. This one, name o’ Tenebrus, he’s my special favorite, firs’ one born here in the forest”.
- We got some clarification about how pulling the Sword of Gryffindor from the hat works. The sword isn’t stored inside the hat, but is transported from where it is. To do it, one must be wearing the hat while calling for help. The magic is in both the sword and the hat.
- The Time-Turner writing has been included and restored to Pottermore as well. The whole drama is kind of puzzling seeing how this actually fit with the Cursed Child. My take on what happened is the following: Jack Thorne writes Cursed Child, not being aware that Rowling’s Time-turners had only constraints. An editor notices the blatant discrepancy and flags the Pottermore article for deletion. Then a different editor sees the discrepancy and adds a few lines to Cursed Child referencing the article and explain that it was a “different time-turner”. The Pottermore team forgets that it was deleted, and includes it in Pottermore Presents. After this, they notice what happened, and quickly restore it to Pottermore to prevent backlash of having deleted it to increase sales.
- Nearly Headless Nick’s ballad is included. This isn’t exactly new, (posted to Rowling’s old site in 2004; handwritten copy auctioned off in 2005, put on display in 2010), but it was never on Pottermore. The one thing that catches my eye though, is that the poem is here broken up into stanzas of four lines. Compare this to J.K. Rowling: A Bibliography, which says the stanzas were each 8 lines. Either-way it’s inclusion here does add to its canon status, though some may think the reference to it in Hogwarts Ghosts was enough.
- We get closure on what happens to the Mirror of Erised. Mainly that it was returned to the room of requirement and is now destroyed. Notice though that Jo uses a somewhat indirect way of confirming its destruction.
- We get a short sentence about McGonagall which helps fill in Dumbledore’s timeline a bit. (Nothing really new, but with the upcoming Fantastic Beasts movie playing loose with this part of canon, the more that we know about his early timeline, the better.)
- We see that even after leaving the Ministry, McGonagall still had ties with them. Also some more info about what registered Animagi actually do. Come to think about it, this adds a whole dimension to the first chapter of series, explaining why McGonagall was walking around as a cat at the time.
- We also get a nice outlook on the power balance during the first war. It was Ministry vs Voldemort, with the Order as renegades.
- Dougal McGregor’s wife and children were also killed, so there’s no chance of future stories involving his descendants.
- We see more of Voldemorts respect for magical talent. This concept was mentioned in the books, but here it is spelled out as the reason why both McGonagall and Slughorn were kept alive and allowed to continue teaching at Hogwarts.
- Jo does talk about McGonagall becoming headmistress, but she doesn’t clarify for how long. So this provides nothing for nor against The Cursed Child. (I really hope the Pottermore team didn’t just edit out some line about her retirement.)
- McGonagall is our 6th Chocolate Frog Card mentioned in a writing. (as opposed to in a list.) I wonder how many of the other ‘good guys’ got this. (We know that Harry did.)
- I also wonder how many of the other main characters got awarded Order of Merlins. Notice that although Slughorn’s final actions during the battle are described similarly to McGonagall’s you don’t see him getting one. Maybe he already had one? Though he doesn’t seem the type to value honorific titles.
- We get some more about Snape’s portrait. Harry was involved, but it was ultimately McGonagall’s decision. We don’t know how old Harry was at the time, but it would appear to be sometime after McGonagall made the Chocolate Frog Cards. Although these points aren’t always completely new, they in a sense serve as a way of entering her interview comments into a more established type of writing.
- The Animagi writing is one of the pieces that we had known about since 2014. (Still waiting for that Koldovstoretz writing.) I wish we could get more context for this piece, as it appears to be written in the style of a book extract (Possibly from Intermediate Transfiguration.) Maybe Pottermore was originally planning to have more readable book extracts? Maybe Rowling originally wrote it as content for a video game or another of those Dragon Breeding drawings?
- Many of the conflicting points about animagi are clarified, such as why a wand is only sometimes required, where it goes, and why clothes are occasionally left behind.
- Death’s-head Hawk Moth is actually a real insect (according to Google), but the last two words are usually concatenated (Death’s-head hawkmoth). Anyways, new potion ingredient.
- We learn that Animagus also requires potions talent, not just transfiguration talent.
- New spell: Amato Animo Animato Animagus
- Another usage of Mandrakes. We’ll add it to the list.
- Animagi and Patroni are the same. There goes years of me corrected people online.
- So Kettleburn had retired to Hogsmeade. Do other professor do the same? Either-way in the four years since his retirement he must have somewhat calmed down, as all that he had at the time were flobberworms. (Or maybe that was just all he was willing to spare?)
- We had known about the Slughorn piece ever since last year, when the new Pottermore had posted his factfile. (Though we still don’t have the Dementors one.) The lines in this fact file about “family” wasn’t in the Pottermore one. (Remus Lupin also got a “Patronus: Wolf” addition to his, but we had already known that.)
- The Slughorn writing isn’t that much new canon, but it gives an interesting look on events from his point of view. We get a slight tease on how the Triwizard Tournament looked for a regular person. And what his thought were while on the run.
- Slughorn and Snape were both teaching at the same time. Kind of like McGonagall getting a job under Dumbledore in the Transfiguration department. Maybe back then Snape wasn’t “Potions Master”? Maybe Hogwarts used to have more than 12 professors to teach its 300/600/1000 students? Maybe we should just leave Rowling to her bad maths and stop trying to count teachers and students?
- Yaxley’s first name is Corban. (While this sounds like a reference to current politics, Jo wrote these articles long ago.)
- We get some in-universe talk about overcoming Slytherin stigma. Now we just need some about Hufflepuff.
Slughorn and Cadogan are now the only two non-headmasters with portraits in Hogwarts about whom we know their life story.
- Kinglsey’s entry has not been updated with a date of leaving office. Assuming this was deliberate, it would extend the lower bound on Hermione’s promotion by another two years. I’m still hoping that Rowling gives us live coverage of the election, like she did by the Quidditch Cup a few years ago.