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The Rowling Magazine Issue #16 · April 2018

What the W.O.M.B.A.T.s are and what they mean for canon

2044 words

On March 31st of 2006, JK Rowling released a new addition to her website. By solving a certain puzzle, fans could open a secret door and discover a Harry Potter test known as “W.O.M.B.A.T. Grade One”. For the next five days, fans could take this test and submit their answers.

Various fansites of the time, such as Mugglenet and the Harry Potter Lexicon, posted commentary and guides to this test, but most of them offered different answers. To quote the test’s introduction:

“This is still not a straightforward Harry Potter trivia test. While a thorough knowledge of the books is essential to achieving a good grade at all levels of W.O.M.B.A.T., you will need inspiration as well as information, applying what you know, whether by deducing the correct answer or by making intelligent guesses.”

A handful of answers could be directly derived from a close study of things Rowling had written in the Harry Potter books, or said in interviews, but for the most part the questions all required some level of intuition and guesswork.

On April 4th the door closed again and fans received their results a few days later in the forms of the six in-universe letter grades used for the O.W.L.s – from “O” for Outstanding to “T” for Troll.

Rowling later said in a podcast interview that her husband only got an “Acceptable” despite being “in the room while I was writing the questions and was listening to me telling him the answers.”

Rowling would later follow up the first WOMBAT with a Grade Two in September 2006, and the final Grade Three in June 2007 (one month before the release of the final Harry Potter book).

These tests covered various topics of the magical world, including Magical Law, Magical Transport, Wizarding Current Affairs, Muggle Studies, Magical History, International Wizardry, and Magical Theory.

Rowling’s primary purpose in making the tests was to put out stuff for fans during the wait to the seventh book without releasing things directly foreshadowing it, (like the chapter titles she posted before book six), as per her lawyer’s advice. However, a few of the questions and answers in Grade Three actually contained some hints to the seventh book, such as references to the goblin conflict over the Sword of Gryffindor.

On October 31st 2007 all three tests reappeared on Rowling’s website with instant grading. There they remained until February of 2012, when the entire website was taken down and replaced with a more generic author website.

During this period where the test had instant grading, a fan by the name of Roonwit took each test multiple times to determine how the scoring system worked. (Click here to read more about that.)

Using Roonwit’s answer key, as well as countless archived screenshots and videos, we have painfully reconstructed all three W.O.M.B.A.T. tests in their entirety. If you never had a chance to take them on Rowling’s website or simply want to relive the nostalgia, this is probably the closest you’ll get to that experience.

[Click here to take them.]

Be careful: the rest of this article will contain spoilers for the contents of the tests.

1. A few example questions from the tests

Please be aware that not all questions have answers that can be accurately determined from published sources alone. However, a lot more are currently possible than when this test was first released thanks to the eighty or so writings that Rowling has since published on Pottermore. What follows are three examples of questions whose answers can be deduced from existing canon.

Which of the following does NOT require a Ministry of Magic license? (G1-Q4)
☐ Crup ownership
☐ Sale of magical artefacts
☐ House-elf ownership
☐ Apparition

We can solve this one by process of elimination:

Three of these things are mentioned in the books as requiring a license.

“Crup licenses may be obtained from the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures on completion of a simple test to prove that the applicant wizard is capable of controlling the Crup in Muggle-inhabited areas.” (FB – “Crup”)

“I was selling in Diagon Alley and she come up to me and asks if I’ve got a license for trading in magical artifacts. Bleedin’ snoop.” (DH 11 – “The Bribe”)

“The Department of Magical Transportation had to fine a couple of people the other day for Apparating without a license. It’s not easy, Apparition, and when it’s not done properly it can lead to nasty complications.” (GoF 6 – “The Portkey”)

The only choice left is “House-elf ownership”.

Which of the following did NOT provoke one of the bloody goblin rebellions of the 17th and 18th centuries? Choose ONE. (G3Q2)
☐ The allegation by goblin king Ragnuk the First that Godric Gryffindor had stolen his sword
☐ The pursuit and imprisonment of Ug the Unreliable, who had been peddling Leprechaun Gold
☐ The accidental death of Nagnok, Gringotts Goblin, at the hands of an untrained security troll sent by the Ministry of Magic
☐ The imprisonment of the notoriously violent Hodrod the Horny-Handed, who had attempted to kill three wizards
☐ The public ducking in the village pond, by a gang of young wizards, of goblin activist Urg the Unclean
☐ The Ministry of Magic Decree of 1631, preventing all magical beings other than wizards carrying a wand.

The trick to this one is to realize that Hodrod the Horny-Handed previously appeared in the obscure Daily Prophet newsletters that JK Rowling wrote in 1999. The incident mentioned here is part of the riots that form the subject of the cover article of issue #3. Since it occurred during the twentieth century it couldn’t have influenced rebellions that took place a few hundred years before.

Match the dangerous being, plant or potion with the spell, substance or object that will conquer it. — Werewolf (G3Q7P7)
☐ Aconite
☐ Asphodel
☐ Bezoar
☐ Chocolate
☐ The Patronus Charm
☐ Fire
☐ Phoenix tears
☐ Riddikulus
☐ Sunlight
☐ Will
☐ Wingardium Leviosa
☐ Wormwood
☐ NO CURE

The obvious answer is wolfsbane, but that isn’t a choice here, so we need to remember Snape’s speech from the first book: “As for monkshood and wolfsbane, they are the same plant, which also goes by the name of aconite.” (PS 8 – “The Potions Master”)

2. What these tests mean for canon

These tests were written directly by Rowling and are a wellspring of Harry Potter canon. Each test consists of the following elements:

  • The introduction
  • The questions
  • The answers
  • The knowledge of which answers are correct and incorrect
  • The letter/certificate accompanying the final grade

The introduction and grade certificates are straight out writing. They don’t contain much info about things other than the test itself though.

The questions and answers by themselves are harder to learn from, since they don’t always say truths, but the wording often makes it clear certain related events happened.

The answer key enables us to look further and learn canon info from the fact that certain answer choices are right and wrong. However, not always is it clear if the choice which receives the most credit is the only correct choice.

The following is a (non-exhaustive) selection of new canon that we can learn from the W.O.M.B.A.T.s. The list focuses on canon exclusive to the Wombats. Much other content merely corroborates things we know from interviews, pottermore writings, the Daily Prophet newsletters, and the famous wizard cards. (The WOMBATs are actually the only source that includes info found on the PoA FW cards.)

  • St Mungos seems to be protected from apparition.
  • There are no female centaurs and no male veela. Vampire bites are curable nowadays, and ghosts can cause movements in liquids and gases.
  • Hags eat small children and have four toes on each foot, but only have rudimentary magic, similar to trolls. The Ministry considers Hags “less dangerous” than Werewolves and Inferi.
  • Giants clans are patriarchal, and the males tend to be bigger. Giants have at least the same level eyesight as humans. Many are cannibals.
  • House-elf ownership is possibly worse than what we see in the books. They can be ordered to commit suicide, they can only breed with their master’s permission, and no Ministry license is even required for their ownership. (Though the Ministry did have an unenforced set of ‘guidelines on house-elf welfare’). However, their magic is stronger than wizard magic, they’re loyal to the house rather than its occupants, and their average life expectancy may be 200 years. Hermione wasn’t the first one to notice this either. There was an ‘Appeal Against House-Elf Slavery’ which got defeated in 1973.
  • A Muggle cannot produce magic even with access to a wand and a book of spells. Muggle-borns usually have a magical ancestor somewhere up the distant family tree. However they’re no more likely to father squibs than a pureblood, and are no slower to show signs of magic.
  • The WOMBAT confirms that there are wizards living in every country, though no countries have wizard royal families. Not all countries have magic schools, but the largest Centre for Alchemical Studies is in Egypt. The wizarding legal age seems to be 17 everywhere. (In Book of Spells we learned that it was also 17 since ancient times.)
  • International travel is often regulated. (This concurs with the stuff Rowling said about Newt needing to take a Muggle ship to avoid the wizarding customs.) Inter-country Apparition has been outlawed due to splinching, and although no “serious injury” will result from letting go of a portkey mid-trip, international portkeys still require authorization from both countries’ Ministries of Magic. Flying carpets are banned everywhere except the Far East. International owl mail is unregulated.
  • Sometime shortly before the adoption of the Statute of Secrecy in 1692, a magical delegation approached King William and Queen Mary asking for protection under British Law. (They didn’t succeed.)
  • During World War Two, a secret task force of wizards helped the allies. It remains to be seen whether this will show up in the last couple of Fantastic Beasts movies.
  • Rowena Ravenclaw came up with the name and location for Hogwarts after being shown it in a dream by a warty hog.
  • There was a particularly bloody goblin rebellion in 1612 fought over the right for goblins to carry wands. The goblins lost and a Wand Ban was passed in 1631, forbidding all Non-Human Magical Beings to carry wands.
  • There’s been a long history of strife over the control of Gringotts bank. The Ministry kept on trying to interfere with its management at one point even sending a poorly trained security troll which resulted in the death of a Goblin named Nagnok. After much ensuing bloodshed an 1865 decision was reached to leave Gringotts in Goblin hands. This background really helps us understand Griphook’s anger in Deathly Hallows.
  • The great fire of London in 1666 was started by a Welsh Green Dragon kept in the basement of the house next door to the muggle bakery.
  • One cannot transfigure animate objects into inanimate objects or animals into humans. Knowledge of an object’s original state is required to untransfigure it.
  • No spell can block the Cruciatus Curse.
  • Of course, we learn a lot things specific to the WOMBATs. They have the same grading system as the O.W.L.s and are also administered by Wizengamot elder Professor Griselda Marchbanks (who we now learn has the unexplained titles ‘CDMG, APMD, fbBB’). For practice she recommends people to take Concentration Capsules and Kwikspell’s ‘Wallop the Wombat Revision Course’. The grade you receive seems to have some effect on where you can expect to receive employment.

To read about how Roonwit cracked the scoring algorithm, click here.

To read the interview where J.K. Rowling discussed the W.O.M.B.A.T.s, click here.

To take our recreation of the W.O.M.B.A.T.s , click here.

Please note that many people are to thank for this recreation of the quiz. J.K. Rowling and Lightmaker Studio wrote and designed the original test. Without them there would be nothing to recreate. Various websites archived screenshots, videos, and copies of the text including Lee Hi, HarryLatino, and the Harry Potter Lexicon. Roonwit figured out how the original test was scored. Also to thank are the people who remembered the original tests and provided helpful feedback along the way.

You are reading an article from The Rowling Library Magazine Issue 16 (April 2018).
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