What was changed in the new Fantastic Beasts book, and what it means for canon
March 16, 2017
A few days ago, J.K. Rowling released a new edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, originally published as a mock-textbook in 2001. A few sections were removed, including all of Rowling’s handwritten parts, some new content was added, and a handful of lines were edited to ensure consistency with the new movies. While Rowling added substantial new content, it came at the cost of abandoning the original textbook theme, and the book now looks more like a movie tie in.
What was added
- A new 660-word forward from Newt
- 6 new beast entries, totaling about 730 words
What was removed
- Dumbledore’s 570 word foreword
- Harry and Ron’s 26 annotations (roughly 160 words)
- J.K. Rowling’s artwork (Note that a very similar design for the Billywig is still used)
What was changed
- Newt is no longer said to have graduated Hogwarts.
- Fantastic Beasts is no longer in its 52nd edition.
(There are also other minor typographical changes, such as capitalization, the ordering of the contents, or the numbering of footnotes.)
What this all means for canon
- Previously, there were countless fan theories of how Newt could have graduated Hogwarts if he got expelled. These had ranged from simple explanations of him returning later, to grand conspiracy theories involving the name of the year seven exams. The new edition replaces the About the Author’s phrase “after graduating from Hogwarts” with a more ambiguous “after leaving Hogwarts”. This looks like a retcon, but it may just be an attempt at removing spoilers. (Though then one would think they would also edit out his wife’s name.)
- The six new beasts which appear in this book (Hidebehind, Hodag, Horned Serpent, Snallygaster, Thunderbird, and Wampus Cat) are all native to America. Rowling’s excuse for not showing them before is that President Picquery had requested Newt to keep them out of his original book to “to deter wizarding sightseers”. In line with this change, Rowling has retconned the in-universe publication history. While the 2001 edition had claimed to be the 52nd edition, there are now only two editions. Rowling (or her editors) have removed all three references to the version number.
- Newt’s foreword tells us some updates about the current Wizarding World. Newt Scamander is still alive, (though he’ll now be 120-years-old, bless him). Rita Skeeter, whom we had last heard about in 2014, is still alive as well, her newest book being titled Man or Monster? The TRUTH About Newt Scamander. If we believe her words from Goblet of Fire, she’d be about 65 right now, but at less than three years between her bestselling biographies, she doesn’t show any signs of stopping.
- The Ministry is in the process of declassifying documents about Newt’s story, and J.K. Rowling is in the process of writing Muggle movies about Newt. Correlation generally implies causation in works of fiction, thus adding another point to the Rowling-is-a-character theory.
- The popular theory of Newt being Dumbledore’s spy receives some support. Rita had claimed as such in her book, demonstrating that the theory also exists in-universe. Newt calls the theory “absurd”, pointing out that “No undercover wizard would have chosen to pose as a Magizoologist in that period.”, but then later says that he cannot give any details without “breaching the Official Magical Secrets Act” and Dumbledore’s confidences. While we can probably assume that Rita’s version isn’t accurate, it sounds like there is some truth to the rumor. (This is also the first we’ve heard of the Official Magical Secrets Act.)
- Newt says that in 1927, “President Seraphina Picquery instituted a Protective Order on Thunderbirds, an edict she would eventually extend to all magical creatures.” It is unknown whether this preceded the publication of Newt’s book.
- Phineas Fletcher (probably related to Mundungus) accidentally bred the Hidebehind. This appears to have been before much legislation existed against this practice. (New York seems to have only banned experimental breeding in the 1920’s, and Britain didn’t ban it until 1965.)
- We learn about some new MACUSA divisions such as the Department of No-Maj Misinformation, (similar to the Ministry’s Department of Misinformation) and the Snallygaster Protection League in Maryland.
- Newt describes the story about the Horned Serpent and Isolt Sayre (which Rowling included in her Magic in North America trilogy) as “a legend”. The Ilvermorny School Song showed us that there exist multiple accounts of Ilvermorny’s founding.
- It is interesting that the Snallygaster can be said to “tie with the Loch Ness Monster for ‘Most Publicity-Hungry Beast’” if one is an entire type of beasts while the other is just the name of a particular Kelpie.
- Only the Cherokee are capable of obtaining Wampus Cat hair for wand cores. We therefore probably assume that muggle-born wandmaker Johannes Jonker had purchased the hairs from them.