The first two installments in J.K. Rowling‘s mini-series, “History of Magic in North America,” focused on the broader historical events of the times. However, today’s entry focuses on the tragic story of a big-hearted but dimwitted young witch whose mistakes led the entire wizarding community in America to go even deeper into seclusion.
Aristotle Twelvetrees, the Keeper of Treasure and Dragots (dragots being the American currency of wizards) for the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), had a daughter named Dorcus. A poor student, Dorcus “was living at home, hardly ever performing magic, but concentrating mainly on her clothes, the arrangement of her hair and parties,” until she fell in love one day with a young man named Bartholomew Barebone, a No-Maj.
Unfortunately for Dorcus, Bartholomew happened to be the descendant of a Scourer, an evil group of wizards that had terrorized the magical community prior to MACUSA’s formation. (You can read more about the Scourers in yesterday’s historical account).
Though his magic-imbued relatives had died out, Bartholomew’s “belief in magic was profound and unshakeable, as was his conviction that all witches and wizards were evil.” Dorcus was the perfect witch to help bring down the the wizarding community. What came next was “one of the most serious breaches of the International Statute of Secrecy,” as Dorcus proceeded to tell Bartholomew everything.
“She confided the secret addresses of both MACUSA and Ilvermorny, along with information about the International Confederation of Wizards and all the ways in which these bodies sought to protect and conceal the wizarding community.”
Using that information, Bartholomew stole Dorcus’ wand and shared it with the media, sent leaflets out with the addresses of wizards and witches, told other No-Majs about his discovery, and even “gathered together armed friends and set out to persecute and, ideally, kill all the witches and wizards in the vicinity.”
Bartholomew was only stopped when he accidentally shot some No-Majs he thought were wizards, leading to his imprisonment. Needless to say though, this entire affair was a colossal and embarrassing disaster for MACUSA, one that would have long-lasting and significant effects.
The MACUSA president of the time, Emily Rappaport, could not be sure they had Obliviated every No-Maj’s memory of the information, forcing them to relocate MACUSA headquarters. The biggest consequence of the episode, though, was the passage of Rappaport’s Law in 1790, which was “designed to create total segregation of the wizarding and No-Maj communities.”
“Wizards were no longer allowed to befriend or marry No-Majs. Penalties for fraternising with No-Majs were harsh. Communication with No-Majs was limited to that necessary to perform daily activities.”
This is obviously very different from the European magical world, which befriends, marries, and even works with the government of Muggles. Rappaport’s Law “drove the American wizarding community, already dealing with an unusually suspicious No-Maj population, still deeper underground,” and as a result, No-Majs came to be viewed as “the enemy.”
Considering this series is part of the build-up for the Harry Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is set in America in the 1920s, this entry gives us a much deeper understanding of the type of vastly different world a visiting English wizard would encounter in America, and why a bunch of magical creatures getting loose in New York City would be far more dangerous and problematic than anywhere else.
As for poor Dorcus, calls for her execution went unanswered, and after a year in prison the “disgraced, utterly shellshocked” Dorcus “ended her days in seclusion, a mirror and her parrot her dearest companions.” A sad ending to a sad story.
Dorcus’s story has echoes of Tom Riddle’s lovesick mother and her relationship with a Muggle, each resulting in long and dire consequences for the entire wizarding community.
Tomorrow’s entry will take a deeper look at one of the “the greatest magical establishments in the world,” the American school of magic, Ilvermony.
Curious about the first installment of North America’s wizarding history? Check out our recent Nerdist News episode all about it:
What’s your biggest take away from today’s entry? We want a historical record of your thoughts, so tell us in the comments below.