This Friday, November 18, the magical world of J.K. Rowling returns to theaters with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first of five prequels that will bring Harry Potter fans back to the land of spells, wands, wizards, witches, Dark Lords, and–of course–magical creatures.
So to celebrate the film and animals of all shapes and sizes (and all of the ones in-between), this week we are looking at the book the movie is based on, the textbook read by Harry Potter and every student at Hogwarts, the bookshelf staple of wizarding houses around the world: Newt Scamander‘s encyclopedia of magical animals.
You might be familiar with the famous Magizoologist’s seminal work, first published in 1927 and updated countless times since, because it’s referenced throughout the Harry Potter novels. However, you might not know it was actually made available for purchase by Muggles/No-Majs everywhere in 2001, an exact replica of Harry’s own copy, complete with handwritten notes from Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them alphabetically lists 75 different magical beasts (though it is not complete, since no three-headed dog species is named–poor Fluffy), ranging from the disappointingly tame to the completely insane. So we’ve decided to imagine a magical (very humane) zoo, one where all of Newt’s listed specimens reside, and tried to answer which one magical animal we’d most want to see when we visited.
Every beast was compared to every other, with one main question as our guiding principle: “If you could only see one of these, which one would you pick?” While 75 beasts are listed, some have multiple types, but we’re going to treat those as one category for the purposes of our rankings (we’ll sub-divide them when we get to them).
However, we are starting this whole thing with some exceptions, because we are going to begin with three “beasts” that we aren’t ranking at all, because they are really “beings.”
In his book Newt explains the difficult history of trying to label certain, magical creatures as “beasts” or “beings,” but three are just too problematic to include in a magical zoo, even though they are technically listed as beasts in his book: centaurs, merpeople, and werewolves.
Centaurs and merpeople are only listed as beasts because they asked to be labeled that way, but they should be also considered beings, since they are closer to humans than anything else. They have their own societies, complex language, and customs. Part of the troubled history with labeling which creatures should be beasts or beings led to centaurs and merpeople asking for their current designation, but that doesn’t mean they would be comfortable as exhibits in a magical zoo, or that we would be okay with seeing them in such a state.
The same goes for werewolves, which are merely humans with a medical condition. Yes, once a month they turn into horrible beasts, but that’s not who they really are.
But since we are going to spend this week ranking magical living magical creatures, we’ll give these three their own mini-rankings by answering a different question: which being would we most like to meet?
Nope. Don’t meet a werewolf. They will eat you, or at the very least turn you into a werewolf. That’s called a lose-lose. Now, would there be a part of us that would still watch one, from a safe place, roaming around an enclosed space? Of course, we’re not going to pretend otherwise, but we know it’s wrong and we feel badly about it. We would like to hope we would definitely pass on a chance to watch the transformation take place though, since it’s a horrible moment of pain for a real human. A lack of empathy for werewolves is what made Remus an outsider for most of his life, and we should know better.
It might be hard to meet a merperson. They live and breath underwater and though we don’t have gills, we know it can be done. Not only did Dumbledore do so, he also communicated with them (they should offer that as a language-class in high school). And even though appearance-wise they aren’t exactly what we imagined the first time we saw Ariel talking to Sebastian, they seem fascinating. Give us some gillyweed and we’ll get together for dinner.
(Would merpeople serve fish, or is that literally the last thing they would serve? What would we wear? And what would we bring? This imaginary dinner is giving us a lot of anxiety.)
The head, torso, and arms of a human, but with a horse’s body? Centaurs are awesome! But we’d probably be too awed by their presence to be able to carry an intelligent conversation with them, which is a shame since they are so smart. That might be why they want nothing to do with us humans–we’re boring. Considering their expertise with divinity, they probably know we aren’t getting smarter any time soon, so what’s the point of socializing with us? I can’t even blame them, since this whole paragraph I’ve just been thinking about how cool it would be to be a centaur.
That leaves us with 72 beasts to see at the zoo, and tomorrow we’ll start at the bottom and begin to work our way up. Our first batch includes fancy lobsters, walking fungus, and a dog. Like, an almost totally normal dog.
Hey, even a magical zoo has some parts you can just sort of walk through without stopping.
Which of these magical beings would you most want to meet? Tell us why in the comments below.
Images: Warner Bros. Studios