Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Published in 2001, Fantastic Beasts is a “companion book” to the Harry Potter series – written for charity and designed to imitate the book of the same title that Harry carries around Hogwarts (right down to his notes in the margins). The book is a fun read, but its real treasure is the encyclopedia of magical creatures. Some creatures are based on legends and others entirely made up, but depictions of these animals are rare. Here are some of the better drawings I’ve found.
About the Author
Newt Scamander was awarded the Order of Merlin, Second Class, in 1979 in recognition of his services to the study of magical beasts, Magizoology….
(by Edgar Torné)
A monstrous eight-eyed spider capable of human speech…. Despite its near-human intelligence, the Acromantula is untrainable and highly dangerous to wizard and Muggle alike.
(by Michael Dunn)
Augurey (Irish Phoenix)
The Augurey has a distinctive low and throbbing cry, which was once believed to foretell death…. Patient research eventually revealed, however, that the Augurey merely sings at the approach of rain.
Herpo the Foul, a Greek Dark wizard and Parselmouth, discovered after much experimentation that a chicken egg hatched beneath a toad would produce a gigantic serpent possessed of extraordinarily dangerous powers.
The Bowtruckle, which eats insects, is a peaceable and intensely shy creature but if the tree in which it lives is threatened, it has been known to leap down upon the woodcutter….
Being intelligent and capable of speech, it should not strictly speaking be termed a beast, but by its own request it has been classified as such by the Ministry of Magic.
A tree-dwelling creature, in appearance something like a cross between a monkey and a frog….
Like the fairy, it has a minute human form, though in the Doxy’s case this is covered in thick black hair and has an extra pair of arms and legs.
Probably the most famous of all magical beasts, dragons are among the most difficult to hide.
It is larger than a gnome, with a pointed face and a high-pitched cackle that is particularly entrancing to children, whom it will attempt to lure away from their guardians and eat.
The Erumpent will not attack unless sorely provoked, but should it charge, the results are usually catastrophic.
(by Stephanie Schmidt)
Though at first enjoyable, Fwooper song will eventually drive the listener to insanity….
The Glumbumble is a grey, furry-bodied flying insect that produces melancholy-inducing treacle….
Mountain trolls can occasionally be seen mounted on Graphorns, though the latter do not seem to take kindly to attempts to tame them and it is more common to see a troll covered in Graphorn scars.
A horned, pale-green water demon…. the Grindylow has very long fingers, which, though they exert a powerful grip, are easy to break.
(by Tealin Raintree)
It can be tamed, though this should be attempted only by experts.
It resembles an overgrown ferret in most respects, except for the fact that it can talk…. the Jarvey tends to confine itself to short (and often rude) phrases in an almost constant stream.
It makes no sound until the moment of its death, at which point it lets out a long scream made up of every sound it has ever heard, regurgitated backwards.
Having lured the unwary onto its back, it will dive straight to the bottom of its river or lake and devour the rider.
The Lethifold… resembles a black cloak perhaps half an inch thick (thicker if it has recently killed and digested a victim), which glides around the ground at night.
Merpeople exist throughout the world, though they vary in appearance almost as much as humans.
When pickled and eaten, Murtlap growths promote resistance to curses and jinxes, though an overdose may cause unsightly purple ear hair.
Though the Niffler is gentle and even affectionate, it can be destructive to belongings and should never be kept in a house.
The Nogtail is exceptionally fast and difficult to catch, though if chased beyond the boundaries of a farm by a pure white dog, it will never return.
(by C. W. Bexiga)
A gigantic leopard that moves silently despite its size and whose breath causes disease virulent enough to eliminate entire villages….
The Occamy is aggressive to all who approach it, particularly in defense of its eggs, whose shells are made of the purest, softest silver.
Phoenix song is powerful; it is reputed to increase the courage of the pure of heart and to strike fear into the hearts of the impure….
(by Sanna Lorenzen)
Merpeople… deal with it by tying its rubbery legs in a knot; the Plimpy then drifts away, unable to steer, and cannot return until it has untied itself.
The Runespoor rarely reaches a great age, as the heads tend to attack each other.
(by Stephanie Schmidt)
The Golden Snidget’s feathers and eyes are so highly prized that it was at one time in danger of being hunted to extinction by wizards.
Notable for its equally prodigious strength and stupidity….
(by Edgar Torné)
Humans turn into werewolves only when bitten.
about the book
Some Things You May Not Have Noticed
There are quite a few interesting tidbits thrown in that pertain to the Harry Potter stories:
- It’s mentioned that Bathilda Bagshot first published A History of Magic in 1947. Hermione tells us that Bagshot doesn’t cover anything beyond the nineteenth century, so it seems subsequent editions of the book have probably born few, if any, changes from the original.
- We also learn that in 1965 the Ministry of Magic enacted a Ban on Experimental Breeding, which criminalized the creation of new creatures. In other words, when Hagrid created Blast-Ended Skrewts – a creature which he seems to admit to Rita Skeeter was a cross between a manticore and a fire crab – he not only should have been “closely observed” by the Ministry, as Rita pointed out, but was almost certainly directly breaking the law. Given the publicity in the Daily Prophet, it’s rather curious that we never hear of any ramifications for that particular incident.
- How exactly Hagrid managed to breed anything with a manticore, on the other hand, is an even greater mystery. They live only in Greece and are far more dangerous than even the Acromantula, with a sting that “causes instant death.” Did he get a baby manticore, somehow, and bring it to Britain like he did with Aragog? Is there a manticore roaming the Forbidden Forest now?(!) For that matter, what would have happened if the Skrewts had inherited the manticore’s venom? How would Hagrid have found out that they didn’t? Yikes.
- Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Hagrid break the law, either – both Acromantula eggs and dragon eggs are illegal to trade or sell. The man is willing to take some serious risks for the sake of his “interestin’ creatures.”
- There’s an interesting line in the basilisk’s entry: “If the food source is sufficient, the serpent may attain a very great age.” If the food source is sufficient? It seems a bit of a stretch to suggest that there have been enough rats in the Chamber of Secrets to sustain Slytherin’s basilisk for a millenium; after all, why would the rats go down there, when there’s no food source present that would interest them to begin with? Perhaps Slytherin anticipated this and set up some sort of magical, self-reproducing rat food? Seems to me like a rather unglamorous side to the legend of the Chamber of Secrets….
- Not that we needed another indication of Dumbledore’s greatness, but there are some hints in this book that some of the things he’s accomplished are exceedingly rare. “Very few” wizards are reputed to have successfully domesticated a phoenix, yet Dumbledore calls Fawkes “highly faithful.” Meanwhile, sufficiently few people have learned Mermish that the merpeoples’ lives are a mystery to wizards; while thanks to Dumbledore’s relationship with the Hogwarts mermaids, Harry was able to swim right through their village as part of a Triwizard task. Dumbledore was a skilled magician, but we also see more and more evidence that he had uncommon kindness and understanding as well.
The Power of Magic
One of the most enjoyable aspects of reading through Fantastic Beasts (and especially the footnotes!) is the references Rowling makes to our everyday unexplained phenomena, and how they are actually the work of magical creatures. Electrical devices dying without explanation? An infestation of chizpurfles, of course. The dodo’s gone extinct? No, it only seems that way because it’s really a diricawl. Crop circles, the abonimable snowman, fairy tales, and the Loch Ness Monster are similarly explained. Rowling’s ability to blend the magical world with our own mundane reality is one of the things that make her stories so special, and she showcases that special talent magnificently in the pages of this book.
There’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that must be involved in reading this textbook – after all, it would of course make no sense that Harry’s actual book would ever have been anything like this small, yet we understand that it also wouldn’t have made sense for J.K. Rowling to have written a full novel-sized encyclopedia for her fictitious creatures. However, at the same time, there are some glaring omissions from the book: creatures we discover reading the seven novels that go mysteriously unmentioned here. Boggarts, dementors, and hinkypunks had all featured prominently in the books well before Fantastic Beasts was published; several other seemingly magical creatures (the bicorn, blood-sucking bugbear, cockatrice, and flesh-eating slug) had been mentioned in passing as well. It’s hard to say why these creatures might have been left out; whether by some choice or mere oversight. But it’s a shame that these creatures aren’t catalogued along with all the rest.
The Final Word
“I’ve taken horrible liberties with folklore and mythology, but I’m quite unashamed about that, because British folklore and British mythology is a totally bastard mythology. You know, we’ve been invaded by people, we’ve appropriated their gods, we’ve taken their mythical creatures, and we’ve soldered them all together to make, what I would say, is one of the richest folklores in the world, because it’s so varied. So I feel no compunction about borrowing from that freely, but adding a few things of my own….
Children… know that I didn’t invent unicorns, but I’ve had to explain frequently that I didn’t actually invent hippogriffs. Although a hippogriff is quite obscure, I went looking, because when I do use a creature that I know is a mythological entity, I like to find out as much as I can about it. I might not use it, but to make it as consistent as I feel is good for my plot. There’s very little on hippogriffs… they don’t seem to have been closely observed by many medieval naturalists, so I could take liberties.”–J.K. Rowling, December 2005