First, I want to say J. K. Rowling seems like a lovely person. Despite creating one of the most popular – and lucrative – fantasy series in the world, she has never glossed over her experiences with poverty and depression. She founded a neurology clinic in honor of her mother and is a champion of disadvantaged children and single parents. She dropped off the Forbes billionaire list partly because she donated so much to charity, and until lately, her Twitter game has been killer. Unfortunately, some of the additions to the Harry Potter franchise are dimming the fuzzy glow I feel for the original books.
The Hogwarts Collection
Okay, so Pottermore is being only slightly misleading here. These are not short stories, unless you consider the Wikipedia page a form of short story. These are more detailed descriptions of people, places, and magical objects that appear in the Harry Potter books, as well as Rowling’s notes on her inspiration and research. I did enjoy some entries – the histories of Professor McGonagall and Remus Lupin, finally learning about the Hufflepuff common room – but these ebooks are probably for completionists only.
What really bothered me was that I knew I had seen most of these “revelations” before on various incarnations of J. K. Rowling’s website. And she has shared much more interesting backstories and notes that were not chosen for this collection. So why would anyone pay for these ebooks when the content – and more – is available on Pottermore for free? I hate to say this, but *whispers*this honestly just feels like a cash grab*runs away*
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Eddie Redmayne gives a very charming performance as Newt Scamander. He perfectly captures the tone of an awkward young man who is actually THE best in his field. And just let me say, I love mythical creatures. When I was little, I wanted to be a cryptozoologist. There are lesser-known (European) beasts alongside the obvious dragon and unicorn, and Rowling’s own creations, such as occamies and nifflers, are delightful. I especially love the idea that the Loch Ness Monster is actually a fame-hungry kelpie.
This audiobook, of course, was released to tie in with the first Fantastic Beasts film, which takes place in America. So in this edition, J. K. Rowling added entries on North American beasts like horned serpents, wampus cats, and thunderbirds. Unfortunately, these creatures feature significantly in Native American culture, traditions, and spirituality. I mean, I’m sure this was a well-meaning attempt at inclusivity. But it’s well-meaning in the sense that giving a person with a severe nut allergy a homemade almond torte is well-meaning.
I do appreciate that Rowling is trying to make Harry Potter more diverse, but she is definitely at her best when she writes about British people doing Britishy things. When she incorporates another country or culture into the wizarding world, she tends to either appropriate (see above) or else fall back on stereotypes. I remember wincing at Quidditch Through the Ages when “Kennilworthy Whisp” describes the Japanese tradition of setting fire to one’s broom after defeat.
Even her depictions of European characters in Goblet of Fire are less than flattering. Do I think J. K. Rowling is racist or xenophobic? Of course not! I just think she should stick to writing about British people doing Britishy things.
Oh, and fire Johnny Depp. She should do that too.
Hey Jo! I’m right over… Nope, I guess not…