Fantastic Beasts and the Glaring Red Herring (spoilers!!!)

When the news first hit that JKR was writing a screenplay based on Newt Scamander’s travels in search of magical creatures, I was like, “Okay. Not exactly the project I would have picked, but I’ll check it out.”

I did scrunch up my face just a bit, though, when Rowling later started pushing Fantastic Beasts as the dawning of the “Age of Hufflepuff.” Not that I have anything against Hufflepuff. My sister is one. So is Newt Scamander. But as a Slytherin with a vested interest in the Slytherin/Gryffindor dichotomy, I did kind of think: “Boring!”

Meanwhile, Rowling did do one of the projects I would have picked – the adventures of Albus Severus Potter. I know a lot of people were put off by Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It got labeled “glorified fanfiction,” and even “non-canonical” (though I’m not sure how you can support the “non-canonical” notion when no less an authority than Pottermore called it the official 8th Harry Potter story, and the play’s own website terms it “the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage.” That seems pretty definitively canonical to me).

Potter fans were concerned with the play’s alt-timeline depictions of our favorite HP characters. (My response: These were ALT-timelines! Not a problem that the characters are different!). And fans were of course concerned about the play drawing on some classic fanfic tropes. But most of those tropes were in the Alt-Timelines, which is actually kind of clever when you think about it… kind of like in that Sherlock episode that brings in the fanfic as a plot device.

I suspect, though, that there is an unstated issue behind a lot of the concerns – i.e., that the play demonstrated conclusively that Slytherin isn’t all dark wizards and power hungry freaks. Instead, the play gave us an Albus Potter sorted into Slytherin, making besties with (a completely freakin’ awesome) Scorpius Malfoy, and even allowing a malevolent Slytherin prat like Draco to grow up into a fairly decent adult. That’s bound to cause some consternation.

So I’ve got a theory about these projects, and it goes like this: They were part of an elaborate Fake-Out. A Distraction. A Misdirection. A Real-World Red Herring. JKR was playing us, just like she played us with Snape.

No, I’m not saying that JKR was not committed to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child independent of Fantastic Beasts. I’m sure she was. And I’m not saying that Newt Scamander and friends are nothing but misdirection. I strongly suspect that our main cast from Fantastic Beasts will play a crucial role in the wars to come.

At the same time, though, the timing of the play and the film’s focus on Newt both work really well as a blind for what JKR was really up to the whole time  –  developing a story that fans have craved since the release of Deathly Hallows… the oldest core-character tragedy in the HP universe, hidden in the background of the first 6 HP books and brought into the light only in the 7th.

J.K. Rowling was bringing us Dumbledore vs. Grindelwald. And she hid that project in plain sight all the way through the first hour of Fantastic Beasts.

Why?

Well, can you imagine audience expectations going in to Fantastic Beasts if we’d known for the past two or so years that the movie was really setting us up for 1945 and the greatest Wizard Battle of all time? We would have had entire websites devoted to the shooting of the first film, possibly with drones videotaping any elements that fans could get near. We would have seen every bit of the same madness we see each year between seasons of Game of Thrones.

Instead, by hiding Dumbledore vs. Grindelwald behind the Fantastic Beasts front and distracting us with The Cursed Child, JKR could lower the temperature, allow the film to develop in peace, and then surprise and delight fans with this fantastic gift.

And Fantastic Beasts is a fantastic gift.

Here are a few of my first impressions. (I’ll go into more depth when I’ve had a chance to see the film a second time):

I had my eye on the Colin Farrell character from the first time I saw the trailers. He just had that “bad guy” vibe.

From the moment I saw the Grindelwald headlines at the beginning of the film, I kept a very close eye on the Colin Farrell character. I assumed from the start that the headlines were meant to put the audience on alert that Grindelwald could actually play a role in the film. (I hadn’t paid much attention to the Grindelwald/Dumbledore rumors, so I did not actually walk in to the theater with that expectation).

I found the opening hour of the film entertaining enough, and I certainly enjoyed being back in the Wizarding World, but I was finding the plot a bit thin. The sheer creepiness of the New Salem Philanthropic Society added an interesting flavor to the story, but it took the unveiling of the actual threat to get me fully engaged…

The Obscurial. As soon as Newt Scamander started talking about the Obscurus and the Obscurial, the alarms went off. I know the insight I had in that moment was not unique because – from what I can tell – nearly every fan who has seriously read and discussed the books had pretty much the same insight. It went something like this: “Graves is Grindelwald. Graves is looking for an Obscurial so he can use the Obscurus to gain power. An Obscurial is a magic-suppressing child preyed upon by an Obscurus. Grindelwald has seen such a child before. OMG!!! This is all about Arianna!”

And that brings us back to that intriguing moment from the trailer, when Graves (Grindelwald) wondered why (his former friend) Albus Dumbledore was “so fond of” Newt Scamander.

I think I might know. If, by chance, Newt’s interest in helping Obscurial children dated all the way back to Hogwarts, that would certainly endear him to Dumbledore – whether Arianna was technically an Obscurial or not (and I think this movie hints that she was). Whatever the case, though, we can infer that Dumbledore revealed nothing of his own family tragedy, given that Newt believes that the oldest Obscurial lived to age 10. Arianna was 14 (and Credence older still).

I’ll wrap this up with one thought: The aftermath of the first Grindelwald/Dumbledore duel in Godric’s Hollow – the duel that resulted in Arianna’s death –  provides a stark contrast between the two former friends.

Gellert Grindelwald saw the kind of power Arianna wielded and only wanted to harness it for his own benefit.

Albus Dumbledore never forgave himself for Arianna’s death, relinquished his desire for political power, and trained up wizards to fight against the darkness manifest in wizards like his friend.

This is the story behind Fantastic Beasts. And we are going to get to see it unfold!

 

Fantastic Beasts… and We’re Back!

Yes, I’ve let the site slide for quite awhile, but now is the time to bring it back. There’s a lot to talk about!

Item #1: Fantastic Beasts. It’s much, much more than just a story about magical beasts lost in the streets of New York. It strikes at the core Potter mythology in unexpected ways.

Item #2: A complete re-read of the Harry Potter series, with a focus on the role of power – who seizes it and who gains it without seeking. I think that the Fantastic Beasts series will also be moving in this direction.

I’ll give the movie a day or two to sink in, and then I’ll start writing about it.

Glad to be back!

Living Together in Harmony?

Are you ready for some Harmony?

If my HP-related feeds this morning are any indication, JK Rowling’s latest bombshell is the spark that could re-ignite the fandom. What was the bombshell, you ask? Just that little tidbit that she now regrets the Ron/Hermione relationship.

According to those who participated in the HP fandom pre-Deathly Hallows, the “Shipping Wars” made the infamous “Snape Wars” pale by comparison. According to Morgoth (founder of the Chamber of Secrets forum), reading through Shipping War threads was like reading lengthy dissertations in which even the footnotes had footnotes.

So what’s with the “Harmony” at the top of my message? It’s the name of the Harry/Hermione ship. Followers of this ship are known as “Harmonians.” JKR just give this ship new life. No, she didn’t come out and say that Hermione should have ended up with Harry, but that IS how the Harmonians will read it.

Last night at supper, I was in the process of saying to my husband, “And this is just sooooo irresponsible. JKR knows about the Shipping Wars. She knows what happened the last time Harry/Hermione was on the table.”

And then, in mid-sentence, I stopped and turned around and said… “But wait. All the forums are closing. There’s really NO PLACE anymore for engaging in a Shipping War. What if…. What if this is all just a ploy to bring back the forums? What if she did this just to give fans something to buzz about?”

One little comment re-opens the Shipping debate… and also sparks questions about “What constitutes canon?” Will those Hermione/Ron shippers who have been so certain that any random utterance out of JK Rowling’s mouth is canonical gold still believe that point now that she has demolished their ship with a single random utterance?

Anyway, get ready for the fireworks. It looks now like the Chamber of Secrets may not be closing…

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 10.44.19 AM


The Chamber of Secrets Has… Huh?

I had planned to write a post tonight with the headline: “The Chamber of Secrets Has Closed.”

The Closure has been months in the making. Forum owner Morgoth (Matt) announced it at the end of March. Then came the postponements, and finally came the announcement of a Closure Date: Jan. 31.

The Forum came alive again in the past few days, with members “coming home” and putting in their last words on the various debate threads, or saying their goodbyes and thanking the Staff.

Then, this afternoon, came this:

Greetings

MuggleNet have contacted me about a possible new arrangement. At this stage I’m not revealing anything about the fate of the site. Whatever happens, the site will need to close for maintenance anyway over the next few days.

MuggleNet want to be more involved with CoS and its running. Up until now I’ve paid for the site out of my own pocket and allowed volunteers to help maintain the site. MuggleNet is part of a wider corporate entity owned by Emerson Spartz through his company Spartz Media.

I haven’t had this option before now because MuggleNet & CoS have operated very independtely over the years and our two respective teams rarely talked, mainly because we had no real need to. However, that said, MuggleNet want to be more involved now and have opened up a dialogue with me about the site.

It may mean, as I said above, that the site will close for a bit whilst we change some of the behind-the-scenes features. A lot of the staff will possibly leave the site and they’re free to do so. I expect as part of any formal change in ownership, should that be the final call, I’ll leave the site myself and new staff will take over management.

Please discuss in the usual thread, here

Morgoth

With that announcement, what was seeming like a tranquil passing turned in to a big debate over whether a Mugglenet takeover would be a good thing or a bad thing. Everyone seems pretty sure, though, that it will at least be a “different” thing.

So this brings me to the point…

I have let this blog slide because I have had other interests arise, and I really thought that I was finished with the blog. But the last few days on CoS have made me realize that I would like to revive it if for no other reason than to give my CoS friends a place to come where they can tell me just how wrong I am!

I’m not sure how much Pottermore focus the blog will maintain – though I do think we could continue with some casual scavenger hunts. I do know that I would like to discuss Pottermore content written by JKR. But for the most part, I think the blog will return to its origins with book content – and move back to a re-read of the series.

In the meantime, here is something from what is almost certainly my last post in the Lily thread at CoS… at least under the original ownership:

To clarify: The point I was making – and I think the point [my friend] was making – was that Lily’s choices were not so limited. It did not have to be either James or Severus. It could have been somebody entirely different – someone who did not engage in disturbing behavior.

Now, I like Lily. I admire her strength in standing up to Severus, and I have maintained that point consistently throughout the years of debate on CoS. But here is what I find problematic in her ultimate choice of James:

James not only attacked Lily’s friend, but he held her friend hostage in an attempt to blackmail a kiss out of Lily. As a woman, I find this to be degrading and extremely disturbing “flirting” behavior, and as a woman, I find it hard to imagine Lily getting past that before her graduation from Hogwarts.

Now I realize that this is my subjective reaction, but it is based on how I actually have reacted when I have had similar things done to me – hence my comment that I would not have given either one of them the time of day after SWM.

So… how wrong am I? Care to discuss?

Pottermore’s New Layout: Completion Bars (and replenishable points?)

In the new layout, there’s a completion bar at the bottom of each scene. When the completion bar moves all the way to the right, you have collected everything – AND performed every animated action – that you can perform in that scene. So yeah, in order to complete a scene all the way, you will probably also need to hover your cursor and make things happen… like make plaster fall from the walls or cause a spider spin from the top of some curtains or make a Hinkypunk move.

What I found this afternoon, though, is that when I went back in to some of the scenes I’d completed a couple of days ago, the completion bar was no longer full. And items that I had previously collected were right there to be collected again. And yes, I got House Points for them a second time – without having lost any House Points from the other day!

This makes me wonder if Pottermore has added new ways to gain House Points or if this is just a glitch that they will fix when they find out about it. ;)

We’ve always known that you can replenish your Potions ingredients after you’ve used them up. But you didn’t get points for them a second time. And in this instance, I had NOT used up ingredients. I got to collect items I’d already collected and earn new points GRATIS!

So now, I’ve scrolled all the way back to the opening scene in PS/SS on Privet Drive and guess what… ALL of my completion bars in the earlier books are empty. I’m pretty sure that I still have the collectibles in my trunk. But there’s a possibility that I may get to collect the collectibles agaon – FOR POINTS. At any rate, I’m sure going to try! I’ll let you know how I fare.

UPDATE: No replenishable items to collect so far in the earlier chapters. No alarm clock, no postcard, nothing. So it looks like we don’t get a shot at those points a second time. :(

UPDATE 2: Here’s some information on the new layout from the Pottermore Insider: http://insider.pottermore.com/2013/07/whats-new-on-pottermore.html

Pottermore, PoA Chapter 22 (what I’ve found so far…)

DISCLAIMER: This is not exactly a live blog and it’s definitely not a Finder’s Guide. It’s what I’ve found so far. Judging by the new completion bar, I do appear to missing items from both scenes. :(

Here’s what I’ve found so far (DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED!)…

CHAPTER 22: OWL POST AGAIN

Scene 1 (“Professor Lupin’s Office”)

  • Zoom 1:
    • Hover cursor to make the door to Lupin’s cabinet open and shut. Once it’s open…
    • COLLECT an empty inkpot.
    • COLLECT a chocolate bar.
  • Zoom 2:
    • COLLECT a roller.
    • COLLECT an old quill.
    • UNLOCK “Remus Lupin” (JKR-exclusive content).
    • Use cursor to unroll a scroll and knock a candle from its sconce. (Thanks, Let’s Call Me Lily… I knew about the scroll but not the candle).

Scene 2 (“Back to London”)

  • Zoom 1:
    • Riding on the Hogwarts Express.
  • Zoom 2:
    • Double-click makes you enter the compartment.
    • Use cursor to open and shut the window.
    • Hover cursor to make Pig hoot and Crookshanks purr and move his tail.
    • COLLECT a Pumpkin Pasty.
    • COLLECT Exploding Bonbons.
    • COLLECT a Gobstone. (Be quick! It’s hard to catch!).
    • COLLECT a Galleon from the rack above Crookshanks. (Thanks, Madam Pince!)
    • CLOSER LOOK at Sirius’ letter to Harry.
    • CLOSER LOOK at Sirius Black’s note giving Harry permission to visit Hogsmeade.

Key to Zoom Levels:
I am using the conventions I’ve seen used elsewhere when discussing Pottermore zoom levels:

    • Zoom 1 = the original zoom level.
    • Zoom 2 = zoom in one level from Zoom 1.
    • Zoom 3 = zoom in two levels from Zoom 1.
    • Zoom OUT 2 = zoom out one level from Zoom 1.
    • Zoom OUT 3 = zoom out two levels from Zoom 1.

Pottermore, PoA Chapter 21 (what I’ve found so far…)

DISCLAIMER: This is not exactly a live blog and it’s definitely not a Finder’s Guide. Apparently, I found everything, so…

Here’s what I’ve (DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED!)…

CHAPTER 21: HERMIONE’S SECRET

Scene 1 (“Time Turner”)

  • Zoom 1:
    • Now that’s some awesome animation! I’ve never envisioned the Time Turner looking like that before!
  • Zoom 2:
    • Double-click and the doors open, and we see the jewels for the different Houses moving backwards.
    • UNLOCK “Time Turner” (JKR-exclusive content). We learn a lot more about the limitations of time travel in the Harry Potter universe, and JKR reveals why she destroyed the entire stock of Time Turners during the Battle in the Dept. of Mysteries. NOTE: Rowling’s problem arose because she used the “time paradox” trope of time travel. However, since Time Travel itself is a convention, time paradox is not the only way in which Time Travel can play out. But it’s the best trope to use if you need to change the past!
    • COLLECT 5 Galleons.
    • COLLECT Bertie Bott’s Cheese-Flavoured Bean.
    • COLLECT Montrose Magpies badge at base of Ravenclaw statue. (Thanks, Ramona!)

Scene 2 (“Buckbeak’s Rescue”)

Hmmm… this looks an awful lot like “The Committee.” ;)

  • Zoom 1:
    • But since this is the same scene through the Time Turner, there’s new stuff to collect!
    • COLLECT Unicorn Tail Hair.
  • Zoom 2:
    • Hover cursor to get Buckbeak to move his head.
    • COLLECT Dried Billywig Stings.
    • COLLECT a Galleon

Scene 3 (“Prongs”)

Thanks to Let’s Call Me Lily for helping me straighten out the Zooms…

  • Zoom 1:
    • COLLECT a Murlap Tentacle (known for their healing properties).
  • Zoom 2:
    • UNLOCK “Patronus” (JKR-exclusive content).
    • COLLECT Tubeworms.
  • Zoom 3:
    • COLLECT Slimy Seaweed.

Scene 4 (“Sirius and Buckbeak Escape”)

  • Zoom 1:
    • Hover cursor to make Buckbeak flap his wings.
    • COLLECT a Galleon.
    • COLLECT an Owl Treat.
  • Zoom 2:
    • COLLECT Hesper Starkey Chocolate Frog Card. (She studied the phases of the moon in Potions making).
    • Move cursor over top of tower to make an owl fly and ring a bell.

Key to Zoom Levels:
I am using the conventions I’ve seen used elsewhere when discussing Pottermore zoom levels:

    • Zoom 1 = the original zoom level.
    • Zoom 2 = zoom in one level from Zoom 1.
    • Zoom 3 = zoom in two levels from Zoom 1.
    • Zoom OUT 2 = zoom out one level from Zoom 1.
    • Zoom OUT 3 = zoom out two levels from Zoom 1.